May Dish from the Kuenstlichs und Fürtrefflichs Kochbuch

A different take on the theme of ‘May dish’:

5 A May Spoon Dish (Mayen muß)

First, take eight eggs, break them into a pot and beat them well with a spoon until they become nicely clean/clear (fein lauter). Then take a maß of milk and pour it into a pan. Let it boil until it firms up (herdt wirdt). Then take a strainer (durchschlag) and strain the eggs into the boiling milk. Sprinkle a little vinegar through it over the eggs in the pan. Let it all boil together nicely. Push it together with the spoon and let it boil as long as soft eggs. Take it out of the pan with the spoon and put it into a small sieve (Syblein) so that it drains finely through it. Then place it in a clean flat grinding bowl (scherben) and grind it well. Add May butter (Mayen Schmaltz) the size of a nutshell and grind it again for a time. Afterwards again another one (repeat the step), and you shall add May butter six times and cook it down well (einsieden) each time and also grate sugar into it, as much as the butter and very finely so that it melts in the mouth like the butter. Then put it into a bowl like other porridge, and strew ground sugar on it. Thus you have a Mayen muß.

There are several surviving recipes for ‘May dish’, Maienessen, cibus Maiis or, in this case, Mayen muß, from a number of sources and the unifying feature seems to be butter and sugar. Butter, of course, was a seasonal pleasure of spring when cattle returned to pasture and gave more copious milk again. May butter referred to fresh butter that was neither salted nor clarified to preserve it. At the time, this was not available year round.

This recipe is not entirely clear, but it seems to involve combining butter and custard in a laborious process, adding small quantities and possibly heating it repeatedly. It seems to be fairly closely related to the cibus Maiis described in the libellus de lacte. The use of custard instead of cheese seems like a major difference, but as we see from Anna Wecker’s Koestlich New Kochbuch of 1598, the two were often considered interchangeable. That is also interesting because it suggests that while there is little or no textual connection between Anna Wecker’s work and this recipe collection, they belong to the same culinary culture.

This short book was first printed in Augsburg in 1559 and reprinted in Nuremberg in 1560 and subsequently. Despite ist brevity, it is interesting especially as it contains many recipes for küchlein, baked or deep-fried confections, that apparently played a significant role in displaying status. We do not know who the famous cook‘ referenced in the title may have been or if he ever existed.

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Autumn Porridge from the Kuenstlichs und Nuetzlichs Kochbuch (1559)

I owe thanks to my friend Katrine de St Brieuc who drew my attention to a source I had dismissed as derivative on the basis of an old survey. It pays to look twice – thank you! Here is a recipe to whet the appetite:

3 An autumn spoon dish (Herbstmüß)

Take a handful (each?) of almond kernels, Weinperlin and Rosin (two kinds of raisins) and remove the pips. Blanch the almonds. Take one as much as the other and chop all three ingredients together, not too small, but nicely coarse. Then add caraway, (possibly omission here: Take bread,) grate it and fry (roests) in fat, and pour on Reinfal or another good, common wine and pour that onto the bread that has been fried (geroestet). Let it boil and add sugar. Then take the three ingredients that were chopped, add them to the bread and season it nicely. You must not colour it yellow. It must be seasoned like a Weinmueß. Let it boil down so that it thickens like an oat porridge (haberbrew). Thus you will have a good autumn spoon dish (Herbstmueß)

The source in question is a small printed volume of 50-odd pages, Ein sehr Kuenstlichs und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch von allerley Speisen auch wie man Latwergen und Zucker einmachen soll unnd sunst von anderen gutten haimlichen Kuensten Ainem jeden im hauß sehr notwendig und nuetzlich zu gebrauchen. It was first printed in Augsburg in 1559 and went through several reprints, but never reached the popularity of the Kuchenmaistrey tradition or Staindl. A comparison with the surviving manuscript sources from Augsburg which date to a slightly earlier time seems promising. The book itself does not appear connected to any of the other print traditions, but the first recipe for wine-based bread porridge is reminiscent of #44 in the recipe collection of Sabina Welser.

This third recipe is interesting for its seasonal association. It could obviously be made at any time, but it is a Herbstmüß, an autumnal dish. The association may lie in the colours as a brown bread porridge is enriched with darker raisins and lighter almonds (we assume the existence of bread, either as a misprint – the caraway – or an omission before the instruction to grate and fry it, which parallels the first recipe). The entire dish is obviously quite luxurious. Raisins – I assume that Weinperlin describes a softer, larger kind and Rosin a smaller, drier one, but am not quite sure yet – almonds and Reinfal, a fashionable wine of the Ribolla gialla grape, were all expensive status ingredients. The instruction to season it like a Weinmueß refers to recipe #1 in this collection which is sweetened with sugar, coloured with saffron, has ginger added and is served strew with Trisanet. I looked at that spice powder in an earlier post.

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Cherry Wine from the Oeconomia

An interesting recipe for fortified cherry wine from Johannes Coler’s Oeconomia.

Cherries courtesy of wikimedia commons

Of Cherry Wine

(marginalia: To make cherry wine)

Pull the cherries off the stalks and discard the stalks. Then remove the stones from the cherries and grind them up separately (for if you grind the stones with the cherries, they splash away too much juice). Put them back with the flesh of the cherries and place both of them into a long, small white cloth sack, and add anise. Suspend it in red wine and the wine will draw to itself all the virtue of the cherries and the stones. They must be ground in a stone vessel, not in the (regular i.e. metal) mortar or a copper dish otherwise it tastes too much of copper. Item, add sugarcoated anise into it, or plain anise and cinnamon bark, thus it will be all the better. Sugar and sugar coated anise makes it sweet.

(marginalia: to make cherry beer)

You also make cherry beer this way. First, you insert the cloth bag through the bunghole, then you pour the cherries into the bag.

(marginalia: to make cherry wine: how to remedy it)

But if you become aware that this wine loses its strength (matt wird), as commonly happens in summer, prepare the cherry wine thus: First, lay down a layer of aspen chips or other woodchips, then one of cherries, and so forth, one after the other until the cask is full. Then fill in the wine, and in three or four days it is good and clear enough.

(marginalia: cherry wine, a useful drink in summer)

Cherry wine is a good and useful drink in summer because it quenches thirst in great heat and pleasantly moistens the overheated internal members, and if there are ground stones in it, it opens the liver, drives out urine, and moves the stone to exit the body.

Many people also make it thus: They take the juice of cherries and a stuebichen (measure of capacity – ca. 3 litres) of honey with it, item a Loth (measure of weight – likely about 15 grammes) of cloves, two Loth of galingale, and one Loth of cinnamon bark, grind it all up small and suspend it in the cherry wine. Or they take the honey, melt it well in a cauldron, and then cool it well again, then add it to the wine in the cask. Thus it turns out good.

This is not as single recipe, but a variety of ways of approaching a known goal that we, unfortunately, only partly understand. With the addition of cherry juice and sugar or honey, I suspect some secondary fermentation took place to produce something that was both sweet and aromatic as well as highly alcoholic. The ground cherry pits, something we frequently read of being added to food at the time, added flavour, but also very likely a high concentration of cyanide-producing amygdalin.

Interestingly, we find a recipe that seems broadly related in the Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch:

47 Item if you would know how to make the good cherry drink that is carried in a bottle, take many cherries when they are ripe and break and grind them up well all raw. And let them stand over night. Take off the thin part of them (the juice) and put it into a cookpot. Set that by the fire. Let it boil. Add sugar, ginger and cloves. Let it cool. Then store it in many bladders. Hang them in an airy place during the day so that it dries. And when you need it because you wish to make cherry drink, take wine or mead a stoyveken (measure of capacity – often around 3-4 litres) and lay into that as large (a piece) as a walnut of that (the cherry mix). Let it stand half the night. If you would have it better, add more sugar and some ginger. That way it is a good cherry drink.

This is not easy to interpret, but it seems to be aiming for the same basic outcome – spiced, cherry-infused alcoholic drinks.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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Coler on Ice

Just a small note today. We know that ice was stored underground for summer use in the sixteenth century, but it tends to be associated with extremes of courtly luxury on the tables of Renaissance princes. Coler can hardly be suspected of keeping that kind of company, but he writes in his agricultural calendar:

Ice

(marginalia: to bring ice into the cellar)

Have ice brought into your cellar in winter so that you may have a refreshing drink (einen frischen trunck) in summer. But beware that you do not gulp too cold things into you (in dich saeuffest) in the hot dog days and thus cause yourself a fever or death.

The worry that very cold drinks could cause illness was widespread in the sixteenth century, but we know that chilled drinks were widely appreciated and especially wine cooled for drinking in dedicated vessels. Adding ice to such a wine cooler would have been a welcome boost to the refreshing quality of kühler Wein. It seems that this was done a good deal further down the social ladder than we usually think if a rural clergyman in Mecklenburg recommends it.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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Coler on Chestnuts in Alsace

Chestnuts are a winter delight in Germany, sold on Christmas markets fresh off the coals. They were never as plentiful here as they were in the Mediterranean, but Coler writes about them being common food in Alsace. That is indeed one of the few parts of Germany where they would grow well:

image courtesy of wikimedia commons

(marginalia: there are entire forests full of chestnuts in Alsace)

In Alsatia, the county of Alsace that has its name from the water of Alsaß, the capital is Strasbourg. In the same county, there are great forests entirely full of chestnut trees so that they fatten the pigs on chestnuts there like the Mecklenburgers do it with their acorns and beechnuts. Whoever likes to eat chestnuts should thus go to that place and eat while he can, emptying several pans full of chestnuts every day, for the peasants most like to eat them roasted (gebraten).

This is not something you would likely find in a cookbook since it involves no recipe as such, but it is interesting from a historical perspective and suggests that chestnuts played an important role in feeding the people of the Rhine valley at least seasonally. Roasting them over the fire seems to already have been the favoured way. There is no suggestion they would be boiled as was the custom in Northern Italy earlier.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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Dumpling Recipes from the Oeconomia, Part Three

These two recipes conclude the entries in the dumpling section (they are followed by fish recipes). They look like ancestors of modern Semmelknödel:

Die Knödelesserin, image courtesy of wikimedia commons

In another way

(marginalia: another way)

Take a three-pfennig Semmel loaf and cut it into slices across its length. (Also take) half a noeßlein (measure of capacity, here probably about a cup) of cream and beat three eggs into it. Cut an onion and a little bacon into it along with green herbs (gruenen Kraeutericht) such as parley, sage, or ground ivy, chopped and salted and (all of it) stirred together, poured over the sliced Semmel and allow it to steep (laß es drein kriechen). Then add wheat flour with a spoon so that it becomes thick, and also add melted butter. When the water boils, lay the dumpling into it with a spoon.

To make flour dumplings (Meelkloesse)

(marginalia: to make flour dumplings)

Cut the crust off a Semmel and cut cubes (viereckichte stuecklein) of bacon and fry it together in a pan. Throw it into a bowl, take milk, salt it, and stir in an egg. Then scatter (schuette) fine wheat flour on the fried matter (das geroehste), pour on the mixed matter (das gequirlete), and do not make the dumplings too hard and not too thin. First of all, set water to boil by the fire, and when it boils, lay the dumplings into it with a spoon. If you wish to cook meat with them, boil the meat in a separate pot and add it to the dumplings.

Unlike the previous two, these are actually cooked like dumplings and look a lot like what is served in South Germany as Semmelknödel today. They even come with rough guides to quantity, which makes replicating them at least broadly plausible. It is definitely something I want to try. The exact weight of a three-pfennig Semmel differed by place and economic circumstance, of course (bread prices were usually regulated by varying the weight of a loaf sold at a fixed price according to the cost of grain in a given year), but a Semmel is always an individual portion, and the quantity of half a Nössel of cream gives us a baseline. The Nössel usually amounted to between 400 and 600 ml. This also indicates that the recipe is intended as a portion for the master’s table, not something to be shared by the servants or kept for reuse. These dumplings were a luxury.

There are two interesting points specifically in the second recipe. The first is the instruction to first combine dry and liquid ingredients separately. The versatility of German participles allows for this to be explained in an intuitive manner, though the English rendering is clunky. Secondly, the instruction to boil the meat separately indicates that dumplings were cooked in hot water at a very specific temperature. German culinary terminology of the time only had one word (sieden) for cooking in hot water, but cooks obviously understood the difference between cooking things at a simmer (as we do with Knödel today) or a rolling boil (as you would fresh meat). It also tells us that these dumplings would be served in a bowl with boiled meat, which makes an attractive dish reminiscent of later seventeenth and eighteenth-century presentation.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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More Dumplings – Except These Aren’t

The Oeconomia continues its dumpling recipes with – bread pudding and a pancake.

More dumplings – image courtesy of wikimedia commons

Semmelkloesse in a different way

(marginalia: Semmelkloesse in a different way)

Take semmel (white breadrolls) worth three pfennig (coin), cut them into small pieces, also cut onions, and fry it all together in butter. Break a few eggs into good cream and also put in the fried mass (das geroeste). If you wish, you may also add small pieces of fried bacon and a spoonful or a few of wheat flour and stir it all together. Melt a little butter in the pan, pour in the mix and let it bake in the baking oven or stove compartment (Roehren). You may also place a brain sausage or a bratwurst sausage or a nice piece of smoked pork or mutton under the stirred mass.

Semmelkloesse in a different way

(marginalia: a different manner)

Take thick (i.e. curdled) milk, break an egg into it, crumble white bread (Semmel) into it and salt it. You may also add saffron. Stir it together, then put a little butter into the pan and pour in the mixed mass. This is a good dish.

The recipes as such are not terribly interesting. Basically, one is a savoury bread pudding, the other a bread pancake. The addition of sausages or smoked meat is interesting and potentially delicious, but at the same time it is a luxury dish fit for a time of meat scarcity, when even the wealthy need to make a sausage stretch. What makes them very interesting indeed that both are referred to as Semmelkloesse, bread dumplings, despite the fact they clearly are no such thing. It seems the idea of what a Semmelkloß is was so soundly established at that point that an entirely different kind of dish made with its characteristic ingredients could inherit the name.

We should probably address the accompanying image, too. The picture is known as the Knödelesserin, the dumpling eater, from the castle chapel of Hocheppan in South Tyrol. Its paintings probably date to the early thirteenth century, and the figure is often cited as the earliest evidence for dumplings being eaten in the Alpine regions. In reality, fascinating though it is, we really cannot say with any certainty what she is eating other than that it is broadly round.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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Dumplings with Boiled Veal from the Oeconomia

Johannes Coler has a few Knödel recipes, and this is an interesting section:

“Die Knödelesserin” Romanesque painting from Eppan, courtesy of wikimedia commons

Of veal dumplings

(marginalia: Making veal dumplings)

Chop raw veal together well and chop good pieces of bacon with it. Add finely cut parsley and chop it with the rest. Break 3 or 4 eggs into it and strew in pepper, saffron and ginger. Bring pure butter to the boil, drop in the dumplings with a spoon and let them boil. But you must only cook them over coals or they will become too burned (prüntzlich). And you must also not stir them with the spoon, but only shake the pot. Then take them out and lay them with boiled veal and let them cook along with it. The rear quarters of the calf are the best, they are nicely meaty.

(marginalia: To make dumplings in another way)

Or take white bread (Semmel), lay them in water and let them soften in it. When it is soft, press out the water cleanly and put fried bacon on it, take finely chopped thyme and stir that in. Then break pure (bahr) eggs into it and add pepper and saffron. Then take flour and stir it all together so that it becomes like a dough and place one dumpling (klüp) after another into the (boiling) veal with a spoon when the meat is done, and let it boil up together.

(marginalia: dumplings in another way)

Or take veal as it pleases you, as much as you want, chop it small, break two or three eggs into it until it is very small. Then pour in a little cream and add spices and salt. Make small dumplings and let them boil. Or whisk (quirle) the eggs in the cream. Put a piece of meat or several into pure water, set it by the fire, and when it boils up, lay in the abovementioned dumplings and let it cook until it is done.

Book III p 79 (228 in pdf)

Coler sometimes throws in a salutary reminder that Renaissance German cuisine is not all intense and over-the-top. These veal dumplings are reminiscent of Königsberger Klopse, a symphony of mild flavours and careful spicing, and the middle recipe is one of the first detailed recipes for Semmelklöße we have (but not the only one in the Oeconomia, as we will see). Bread dumplings are likely much older than this, and recipes dating to the fifteenth century suggest that something like that was made then, but we only get detailed descrtiptions in the sixteenth century. I will try to post some more tomorrow.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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Galantine with Live Fish from the Oeconomia

You know blackbirds in a pie, get ready for gudgeons in a jelly:

Common gudgeon, courtesy of wikimedia commons

To make a floating galantine (Gallart)

(marginalia: To make galantine float)

If you would make a floating galantine that is to float over the bowl, have an iron tube made to fit the bowl, one that is like those that you fit large candles (groß Liecht) into, and have a grille made of wire that is as wide as the bowl and round. Pass a piece of wood through the center of the grille. Have a proper small vat (Schaefflein) made so that the grille can be laid into it. Then boil fish or meat until they are done. Prepare the broth well with isinglass and season it with all kinds of spices. Lay this (the grille?) on the fish or meat and pour on this broth, and set it so that it gels. When it has gelled, strike the hoops off the vat and take out the galantine carefully. Yet it into the tube in the bowl, have it gilded nicely, stuck it with almond kernels and strew it with raisins, and decorate it nicely. Pour water into the bottom of the bowl and set into it live gobies or gudgeons or other live fish and serve it. Thus you will have a lovely dish.

This is a very pretty piece of culinary sleight-of-hand and if done correctly will result in a bowl whose surface is cooked fish in clear jelly, but which has visible live fish moving around in it. Making it, especially without refrigeration, must have been quite challenging. I am sure it was not made commonly, and having a bowl with a socket mounted in it just to this end must have represented an extravagance.

Incidentally, while a Grundel and a Kressling in modern German are different fish, I suspect the original’s Grundeln oder Kressen is a reference to the same fish – most likely the common gudgeon, gobio gobio – that takes account of dialectal variants.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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Beer Yeast from the Oeconomia

The Gründliche und Nütze Beschreibung is a lengthy text and I will probably not be able to post a section of it anywhere near daily, but in the process of looking through it I leafed through the Oeconomia again and found this reference to beer yeast:

Of the foam or yeast (Schaum, Hefen oder Gest) of the beer and of brandy

(marginalia: Beer, how it is known to be good by its foam (Gescht))

A little must also be said of these things here, that many are accustomed to judge beers by their foam. If a beer keeps its foam long, it is taken for a good beer. But beers have two kinds of foam (Gescht oder Schaum).

(marginalia: Beer has two kinds of foam (Gescht oder Schaum))

One derives from an internal cause when the beer is first brewed and foams and ferments strongly, and this is, as it were, the flower of the beer. It is thin, uneven, solid, and floats on the top of the beer, and when the beer has finished fermenting, it becomes thick and gradually sinks to the bottom.

The other kind derives from an external cause, that is from shaking or pouring, and it goes away and eventually disappears. Barley beers have copious, but thin foam, wheaten ones have less, thicker, whitish, and it barely covers the surface of the beer in the pitcher.

The yeast or barm (Hefen oder Bermen) are a thick, earthy and heavy matter that sinks down in the beer and settles at the bottom of the cask, and it is warm and dry by nature, and bloating, as we see from the beers that cause belching (auffstossend machen) and the doughs that it causes to rise and blows up (gehend machen und auffblasen).

From these, a good husbandman customarily makes a good brandy or aqua vitae (Brandtenwein oder Aquam vitae) for his household so he needs not seek out or buy it elsewhere.

(marginalia: Yeast, what use it is)

The yeast that is left over after this when the brandy has been drawn off are good to maintain his livestock and especially the pigs that thrive on it mightily well, grow and fatten, which is why some people derive their income and maintenance specifically from brandy and pigs.

This is an interesting text for several reasons: Firstly, because it states clearly that beer yeast was used as a leavening in the context of private households. Second, because it gives us an idea of what beers were expected to look like. Such visual cues are uncommon, and they can help us understand what to aim for in reconstructing foodstuffs. Third, it gives us an insight into the frugal resource management expected of even wealthy households. Beer would be brewed in the home, the barm distilled to produce liquor, and the residue fed to pigs. Very little would go to waste here.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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