Stockfish Pastry

A short recipe today: It’s three days of school holidays around Ascension Day here and I’m spoiling my son rotten, which is much harder work than work. Anyways, from the recipe collection of Philippine Welser:

81 To make stockfish pastry

Take the stockfish and parboil it in salt water that is well salted. Take it out and pick out the bones thoroughly, break it up and put it into a pastry crust. Season it well and add butter the size of half a semel loaf and a glass (seydlin) of wine, and bake it for half an hour.

This is thoroughly unsurprising. Just about every recipe collection describes some way of preparing stockfish, and it is frequently quite cursory. Some of those recipes can be interesting and inspiring, some are full of technical detail. This is neither. I would have liked to learn how stockfish was processed in the Welser household, how long it was soaked, whether it was beaten or treated with lye. It would also have been interesting to read more about the spices (though chances are it would again by the same spice mix for pastries served warm). What this recipe does reinforce is the impression that stockfish was not appreciated much. The military writer Leonhart Fronsperger notes that just about anything else was preferable because it stockfish tasted unpleasant and required large amounts of expensive fat to prepare it. We can certainly see that here. While exact proportions are hard to establish, the recipes in this collection generally do not seem to call for very large quantities. Assuming this is a regular-sized pastry, the amount of butter going in is quite remarkable. A semel loaf would be fine, white bread loaf designed as an individual portion, slightly larger than a Brötchen is today. That suggests something like 150 grammes of butter along with a generous glass of wine. Since I don’t know how the fish was processed and how much liquid it would still absorb in that state, I cannot say what consistency this would come out as, but it sounds more like a fish-flavoured butter spread than a pie.

At the risk of repeating myself, I will once again quote the opinion of the inestimable Marx Rumpolt on stockfish in a noble kitchen:

Recipe 12: Of the Manscho Blancko that is made from stockfish you can make many dishes as is stated before. And if you were to make however many dishes of a stockfish, it is still just a stockfish and remains a stockfish, do what you will, it still is a stockfish. It goes through all the lands except Hungary, because they have enough fish there and a Hungarian says rightaway “Bidesk Bestia” that is, the rogue stinks. And you can make many dishes from stockfish, but it isn’t worth the trouble.

Marx Rumpoldt, Ein new Kochbuch, 1581, p CXXXII v.

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Carp in Pastry

A recipe in two variations that I may try come winter, from Philippine Welser’s recipe collection.

Carp, sixteenth-century drawing courtesy of wikimedia commons

79 If you want to make a fish pastry

Take a fish, be it a carp or another kind, scale it and next cut it through up and down on both sides (make cuts along the sides?). Open its belly and take out the gall. They take spices as are written in the first capon pastry, but with a fish, you must use more salt than with meat. You must look to that because fish are sweeter. Then take the fish and season it first under the fins. Then remove the innards and season it well inside. Also season the innards and return them into the fish. Then rub the fish with spices on both sides and see that it is well salted in the cuts you made. Then lay it on the dough which must be made as though for venison pastry. (Have) two parts and fold one over it. But beforehand, lay fat worth 4 batzen (a small coin) and close it. Shape it like a fish and stick in a small tube (rerlin – cinnamon stick?) on top so you can pour in a sauce and let it bake for 2 hours.

80 A pastry of cut-up fish

Take the fish and cut it. Then make it into pieces as though you wanted to boil it. Then make a round pastry crust from the dough and sprinkle spices on the bottom as described in the first (recipe), but stir in more salt or otherwise salt the fish more strongly. Lay the fish into the pastry and sprinkle on spices and salt and put two good pieces of fat on top. Close it and brush the pastry with egg, and let it bake properly. When it has baked for an hour, take the white of an egg and good wine, beat it well together, make a hole at the wreath (ain krentzlin – at the edge of the top crust?) and pour in this sauce (brie) with a small funnel. Then let it bake well. You shall treat all fish pastry this way, with the sauce.

This recipe is interesting and very different from the way fish are usually cooked. Carp, of course, have a strong flavour that can take the rather strong spicing with ginger, pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon recommended here. The whole fish would be enclosed in a pastry following its natural outline and no doubt aretfully decorated. Once the fish is fully cooked, it should be possible to detach the top crust and flake it off the bones, seasoned and juicy, though I am not sure how I feel about leaving in the innards. They may be meant to add flavour, or to be eaten on their own. The pastry of fish pieces would be opened at the top to remove individual ready portions, a convenience for serving.

Note the relatively large amount of fat added to both pastries; A batzen, while not a large sum, is a sixteenth of a guilder which is not insignificant. Estimating how much fat this would buy is hard since prices fluctuated seasonally, but it is more than most families coiuld comfortably have afforded on a daily basis. Another question is the tube that is inserted into the fish pastry. The word rerlin used to describe it is normally used for cinnamon, and it may well have been a cinnamon stick. It would certainly be another instance of conspicuous consumption.

Finally, this recipe contains two cross-references (to venison and capon pastry) connecting it with other recipes in the collection. Clearly, there is a plan of some sort in evidence and unlike in many fifteenth-century sources, these references lead somewhere (see the links in the recipe text).

Philippine Welser (1527-1580), a member of the prominent and extremely wealthy Welser banking family of Augsburg, was a famous beauty of her day. Scandalously, she secretly married Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1557 and followed him first to Bohemia, then to Tyrol. A number of manuscripts are associated with her, most famously a collection of medicinal recipes and one of mainly culinary ones. The recipe collection, addressed as her Kochbuch in German, was most likely produced around 1550 when she was a young woman in Augsburg. It may have been made at the request of her mother and was written by an experienced scribe. Some later additions, though, are in Philippine Welser’s own hand, suggesting she used it.

The manuscript is currently held in the library of Ambras Castle near Innsbruck as PA 1473 and was edited by Gerold Hayer as Das Kochbuch der Philippine Welser (Innsbruck 1983).

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On Beards and Table Manners

This poem by the König vom Odenwald has got to be the longest-winded lesson in table manners I have ever seen.

14th-century beard fashion: John of Luxembourg (d. 1346 of archery), courtesy of wikimedia commons
VII Of the long beards of people
that they wear nowadays for ten reasons

Hear of the rare tales
That I will relate
They walk about in the world;
As many ideas as there are heads.
I saw in a dream
Underneath a tree
A beautiful woman met me
And received me honourably
I thanked the virtuous lady
She spoke to me politely:
“Say,
kunig, what is your wish?”
I said “Lady, I would sit with you.”
She said “I would ask you one thing
If it does not make you overproud
You shall tell me one thing
This I ask of you,
kunig.”
I said “Lady, ask me
I will tell you if I can.”
She said to me quietly:
You shall counsel me on this:
Men who wear long beards
You shall tell me about those
What they mean to signify
That you must answer me.
If a wearer feels it a pleasure or a pain (
als sur siech oder als suz)
Or whether he is forced to wear it.”
“Lady, I will not say that of them”
Said I “I know of a different meaning”
The lady said properly
“You shall let me know this, then.”
Why the first one wears a beard
I said: “Lady, one man bears another ill will
Who has lost his friendship
For he did him an ill deed
And so he vowed by himself
That he will never cut his beard
Until he has avenged himself.
That is why he wears his beard
Whether others like or dislike it.”
Of the second beard
The lady said “So tell me more
What is the matter with the other one?”
“The second has a different intent
For he is guilty of a transgression
And he will not cut off his beard
Until he has made restitution
And he intends to hold himself to this
So he will not cut his beard.”
Of the third beard
The lady now asked mannerly
“Now tell me of the third.”
“The third would go on pilgrimage
That is why he is wearing his beard
So he will not be rid of it
Until he has completed his pilgrimage
And therefore he wears it
On smooth roads and on crooked ones.”
Of the fourth beard
The noble lady then asked me
What the fourth was thinking
“The fourth thinks himself too tender (of age)
And lets his beard grow out
To signal his manhood
That is why he is now wearing a beard.”
Of the fifth beard
The lady said “Then tell me now
Something of the fifth man.”
“The fifth thinks highly of his beard
And is free in his choice
He thinks to do it for other people’s sake
And wears his beard boastfully
My simple mid teaches me so
It is said of him, so it is.”
Of the sixth beard
The lady said “Then tell me quickly
How is it with the sixth?”
“The sixth is a prisoner
Who longs to be free
So he wears his beard until
He is at liberty again.”
Of the seventh beard
Then the noble lady said gently
“What motivates the seventh beard?”
“The seventh man wears it
For the same reasons as anyone (lit: this and that one)
So he thinks by himself
To also wear a beard (i.e. copy the fashion).”
Of the eighth beard
The lady said: “Now say,
How does the eighth live?”
“The eighth is crazy within himself
He foolishly resolved
To make love to a lady
And he has her on his mind
So he resolved not to cut his beard
Until he has had his will with her
That is why he wears his beard
And see how hard it is on him.”
Of the ninth beard
The lady said: “Tell me now
How do you like the ninth?”
“The ninth wears it for his love
And is no secret admirer (
minnendieb)
For he seeks nothing else
But to also be lovely in her eyes
And thinks of the lady of his heart
When he shows himself with a beard
In her service at all times
See how much it affects him.”
Why the tenth wears a beard
Then the honoured lady said
“Now tell me this finally
If you know anything of the tenth
You shall not keep silent”
“I tell you, lady, quickly,
The tenth is obliged to
Those who wear beards in his order
Suffer such pain for God
I cannot think of any other reason
Why they should be bearded.”
The lady said: “I am richer
To have learned this from you.”
She said: “
Kunig, may God reward you”
She turned around and walked away
When I could no longer see her
She called to me and said:
“Kunig, you forgot one thing
That you must also consider”
“I said “Lady, gladly,
Tell me, what is it?”
She said: “I would be pleased
If they did not let their beards
Hang in the wine as they drink.
So that it drips off them.
It is better to drink
From clean twigs
Of sage or hyssop
Than from the hair of their beards.”
I said: “Lady, very well,
So go forth and tell them
I, my gentle lady,
Will not need the reminder.”

This is an entertaining poem, but it doesn’t tell us very much. The style follows earlier courtly poetry in which a pure beloved lady teaches a knight important lessons and asks questions that precipitate great deeds. The König vom Odenwald, of course, subverts this trope by bringing it quite solidly down to earth. Here, the narrator is questioned about beards and taught to mind his own while drinking wine. This is not really a difficult feat, but it may have appeared so; In the early 14th century, beards returned to fashion in Western Europe after a long period when clean-shaven was the preferred look. Thus, it would have seemed reasonably to asky why men would choose to wear facial hair, much as the question was raised in the 1960s why men chose to wear their hair long. There was no established etiquette for managing beards yet.

Der König vom Odenwald (literally king of the Odenwald, a mountain chain in southern Germany) is an otherwise unknown poet whose work is tentatively dated to the 1340s. His title may refer to a senior rank among musicians or entertainers, a Spielmannskönig, but that is speculative. Many of his poems are humorous and deal with aspects of everyday life which makes them valuable sources to us today.

The identity of this poet has been subject to much speculation. He is clearly associated with the episcopal court at Würzburg and likely specifically with Michael de Leone (c. 1300-1355), a lawyer and scholar. Most of his work is known only through the Hausbuch of the same Michael de Leone, a collection of verse and practical prose that also includes the first known instance of the Buoch von guoter Spise, a recipe collection. This and the evident relish with which he describes food have led scholars to consider him a professional cook and the author of the Buoch von Guoter Spise, but that is unlikely. Going by the content of his poetry, the author is clearly familiar with the lives of the lower nobility and even his image of poverty is genteel. This need not mean he belonged to this class, but he clearly moved in these circles to some degree. Michael de Leone, a secular cleric and canon on the Würzburg chapter, was of that class and may have been a patron of the poet. Reinhardt Olt whose edition I am basing my translation on assumes that the author was a fellow canon, Johann II von Erbach.

I only translate the poems that deal with aspects of food or related everyday life here. There are several others which are less interesting as sources. They can be found in the newest extant edition by Reinhard Olt, König vom Odenwald; Gedichte, Carl Winter Verlag, Heidelberg 1988.

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Eel Pastry

Two more recipes from the Philippine Welser collection, and we are finally out of the fruit with sugar and cinnamon section:

Fishing; Image from the Tacuinum Sanitatis Casanatense courtesy of wikimedia commons

77 To make an eel pastry

Take an eel and remove its skin. Make nice pieces out of it and remove the innards carefully (eders wol). Lay it in as bowl and salt and spice it, and swirl it all together. Then put it into as prepared pastry crust and put a piece of sweet butter between them (the pieces). Then close it and brush it with egg, that is proper, and bake it.


78 To make an eel pastry

Take the eel and remove its skin and take out the innards (eder jn schen). Then cut it into pieces and stick it with cloves, cinnamon, rosemary, and sage. Roast (uber brott) it a little and then season the pieces nicely with all kinds of spices. Prepare a good sauce (brielin) with spices and butter, and you can also add green herbs and sugar, if you want to have it sweet, and sweet wine. Put this into a pastry crust, close it, and let it bake slowly.

This is an interesting set of recipes, simple, but potentially good. Eels were a popular and relatively plentiful fish, though all fresh fish was a luxury. Putting it in a pastry crust with spices and butter or, in the second case, wine and sugar is a fairly conventional thing to do. I think I would prefer to combine the cloves and rosemary of the second recipe with the butter of the first, though.

Philippine Welser (1527-1580), a member of the prominent and extremely wealthy Welser banking family of Augsburg, was a famous beauty of her day. Scandalously, she secretly married Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1557 and followed him first to Bohemia, then to Tyrol. A number of manuscripts are associated with her, most famously a collection of medicinal recipes and one of mainly culinary ones. The recipe collection, addressed as her Kochbuch in German, was most likely produced around 1550 when she was a young woman in Augsburg. It may have been made at the request of her mother and was written by an experienced scribe. Some later additions, though, are in Philippine Welser’s own hand, suggesting she used it.

The manuscript is currently held in the library of Ambras Castle near Innsbruck as PA 1473 and was edited by Gerold Hayer as Das Kochbuch der Philippine Welser (Innsbruck 1983).






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On Bathing

This is not really culinary content, but too interesting not to share. The König vom Odenwald also wrote a short poem about why people bathe:

An extremely luxurious and probably imaginary bathing scene c. 1470, courtesy of wikimedia commons. Note the food, drink, and entertainment provided lavishly. This is the medieval equivalent of the Playboy Mansion – such a place may well have existed and fascinated people, but it was far from their everyday experience.
IV This is about bathing
Which never hurt anyone


From the treasure of my art
I must write about bathing.
For how many reasons do people bathe?
I will tell you if I am able.
My mind tells me
One man bathes for cleanliness
Another to escape the cold
More than dirt
The third thinks it is of some use to him
And bathes to combat boredom.
And who would criticise the fourth?
He bathes so he can sleep.
The fifth is of the opinion
To bathe so he can be bled.
The sixth bathes noisily
Because his skin itches
The seventh bathes quickly
To have his head washed
The eighth is not at home
And bathes slowly
Until his clothes have been washed
That is why he takes his time.
The ninth bathes in passing
To have his beard cut
The tenth also goes there
And bathes in order to save effort
The eleventh bathes knowing
That he will get paid for it
The twelfth is smart
And bathes so that he sweats
The thirteenth is of a nature
To want to bathe in company
The fourteenth bathes indoors
And thinks he should make love as well (
er suelle minne)
The fifteenth is displeased and also bathes
To rest and escape his home (lit. the smoke,
den rauch, meaning the hearth)
The sixteenth’s shoes are coming apart
He bathes until they are repaired
The seventeenth is wounded and not happy
He bathes to heal
The eighteenth thinks himself clumsy (ungeberde)
He bathes to sober up.
The nineteenth says “may it do me good”
And bathes so that he can drink.
The twentieth must run to the bathhouse
To escape his creditors
If he cannot do them justice
He hides out in the bath.
The Duke of Saxony – free of shame
Has done likewise, he said so himself
Thus, bathing has many purposes
Thus said the kuenig vom Otenwalde
Adieu - adieu - adieu – adieu
This poem is about the bath.

Contrary to widespread stereotypes, bathing was popular in medieval Germany. Given the labour and fuel expended, running a hot bath, like doing the laundry, was a major chore in a household. Where they did so at home, people often bathed weekly, but especially in cities, communal bath houses offered baths at affordable prices any day of the week. Much has been made of their questionable reputations. Their managers, the Bader, often also served as barbers and surgeons, offering medical services that could shade into the magical, and female bath attendants were suspected of selling more intimate services. Many erotic scenes from late medieval art are set in the bath.

That said, there is no reason to think this was universal. Most bathhouses very likely simply offered bathing and did good business doing so. Just as not everyone could cook at home, not everyone could bathe there, either. Workers’ contracts sometimes stipulate weekly ‘bathing money’, and baths along with distributions of food and drink were part of the charitable legacies wealthy people left to the church to ensure prayers for their souls.

The poem gives us an interesting view of the clientele of a bathhouse. People come to wash, to sweat, or for warmth and rest. Some seek medical treatment – in this case bleeding and relief from skin diseases – provided by the Bader, and while others evidently considered sexual encounters part of the experience, this was not universal or received well. Using a bath to either work up a thirst or deal with the aftermath of drinking also seems to be part of the alcohol culture of the time. Interestingly, the bathhouse is also a refuge for people who seek rest, want to escape the confines of their home, or simply wait to have their clothes laundered or their shoes repaired. It was not uncommon for people to own one set of clothes and one pair of shoes, so they could not easily go out while those were being cared for. Finally, the story of a duke of Saxony hiding from his creditors in the bath no doubt holds an interesting anecdote. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to verify it yet.

Der König vom Odenwald is an otherwise unknown poet whose work is tentatively dated to the 1340s. His title may refer to a senior rank among musicians or entertainers, a Spielmannskönig, but that is speculative. Many of his poems are humorous and deal with aspects of everyday life which makes them quite interesting to us today. The evident relish with which he describes food and the fact his work is first recorded in a manuscript owned by the de Leone family led scholars to consider him the author of the Buoch von Guoter Spise, but that is unlikely.

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Sweet Quince Pastry

I only have a boring recipe today, sorry. From Philippine Welser’s collection:

(C)Guy Ackermans 2005

74 If you want to make a pastry quince pastry (repetition probably accidental) from slices

Make a round pastry crust from the dough and cut the quinces into 4 or 6 slices and cut out the cores cleanly. Peel them and stick each one separately with cinnamon and cloves. Then strew sugar, cinnamon, and a little ginger on the bottom of the crust. Lay in the slices in one layer until it is full and always lay on sugar and cinnamon (between the layers). Do not stint the sugar. Then close it. But also always sprinkle some raisins on each layer. Let it bake properly, almost two hours. Serve it warm or cold.

There isn’t a lot to be said here. Actually cutting the quinces will be a chore, but the result is likely to be quite good, especially if you manageg to keed the crust closed so the fruit steams in its own juices. And since quinces are quite tart, indeed, do not stint the sugar.

Philippine Welser (1527-1580), a member of the prominent and extremely wealthy Welser banking family of Augsburg, was a famous beauty of her day. Scandalously, she secretly married Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1557 and followed him first to Bohemia, then to Tyrol. A number of manuscripts are associated with her, most famously a collection of medicinal recipes and one of mainly culinary ones. The recipe collection, addressed as her Kochbuch in German, was most likely produced around 1550 when she was a young woman in Augsburg. It may have been made at the request of her mother and was written by an experienced scribe. Some later additions, though, are in Philippine Welser’s own hand, suggesting she used it.

The manuscript is currently held in the library of Ambras Castle near Innsbruck as PA 1473 and was edited by Gerold Hayer as Das Kochbuch der Philippine Welser (Innsbruck 1983).

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The Taste of May

In the past, I dedicated a lot of blog space to various dishes associated with the month of May in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Today, I will talk a little about the flavour associated with that month in modern Germany more than any other: Woodruff, and especially the sweet and alcoholic Maibowle. This entry is an updated version of as essay I wrote for the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery in 2017, and you can find the original here.

Woodruff, courtesy of wikimedia commons

Known by its German colloquial name as Waldmeister (master of the forest), this plant with its distinctive white flowers and crowns of leaves around the stem grows in deciduous forests throughout Germany and is foraged in spring and early summer for its leaves and stems which are used to flavour drinks and sweets. This is best done by allowing them to wilt slightly after they are picked and then pouring boiling water over them to extract the aroma. Steeping them for extended periods is not recommended because of their high coumarin content, but happens frequently. The result is an occasional headache.

Neither easy availability nor pleasant taste can explain how this distinctive flavour became so popular. Actual woodruff has not been used in industrially produced foods marketed to children for health reasons since 1974, yet artificially flavoured imitations continue to sell well. The leaves of commercially grown woodruff show up on German street markets in late April every year so buyers can make their traditional Maibowle untroubled by such concerns. Germans love their Waldmeister.

Wandalbertus Prumiensis, courtesy of wikimedia commons

The origin of this love affair is probably connected with the Maibowle or Maiwein traditionally served for May Day celebrations. Today, EU law defines Maiwein as wine flavoured primarily with woodruff while Maitrank also has fruit and sugar added. It is unclear how far back this tradition goes, but many food historians are probably too optimistic in their estimate of deep time. A frequently cited starting point is the poem de mensium nominibus written by the Benedictine monk Wandalbertus Prumiensis around 845. Describing events and activities associated with each month in classical Latin verse, it states for May:

Hoc herbis durum prodest mollire lieum

Now it is good to soften harsh wine with herbs

Unfortunately, the connection seems more tenuous the closer we get to the original text. Nineteenth century sources offer more solid ground: the Grimmsches Wörterbuch states that woodruff-flavoured wine is known by the name Maitrank in the 1830s. A Swiss dictionary quotes a description of Meyentrank dated to 1708 involving fumitory, sage, wormwood, melissa, hyssop, and borage, but no woodruff. That association seems to date no earlier than the 1800s. By 1854, it is firm enough that the best-selling Romantic poem Der Trompeter von Säckingen by Joseph Victor von Scheffel envisions a medieval outdoor celebration involving Maiwein improvised by a fishing party of noblemen. The lord calls for wine, lemons and sugar:

…Yet the ladies,
Gathered many scented plants,
Broke the ground-ivy and strawberries,
Broke the white-flowering,
May-wine flavouring woodruff.

This is, of course, entirely anachronistic for medieval Germany, but it comes very close to what modern Germans know by the name of Maibowle. By 1901, the influential cookbook of Henriette Davidis (39th edition) provides instructions for making Maiwein:

Select young and fresh woodruff (in April and May) before it flowers, removing the lower leaves and lower parts of the stalk. If you have not gathered it yourself, quickly rinse it before use, then, if there is a generous quantity of the herb, place it in a porcelain sieve and strew it with sugar. Now pour as many bottles of Rhenish or Moselle wine as you wish to have of May wine through the sieve into a punch bowl as this is enough to give the wine the flavour of the woodruff’s delightful scent. The drink must now be sweetened with sugar to taste.

The recipe continues by pointing out that woodruff may be steeped briefly if not enough of it is available, but must be removed quickly and thoroughly. It ends by suggesting that May wine may be served as a sorbet, frozen and mixed with beaten egg whites, on hot days. In 1958, the Kochbuch der Büchergilde by the sadly underestimated Grete Willinsky suggests the following procedure:

Maibowle

2 bunches of woodruff, not yet flowering (plucked the previous day and cleaned thoroughly of beech leaves and earth, but not washed), 2-3 bottles of Moselle wine, 150-200g sugar cubes, 1 bottle of sparkling wine


Pour one bottle of Moselle wine into the punch bowl, add the sugar and stir until it has fully dissolved in the wine. Then tie the thoroughly cleaned, but not washed bunches of woodruff together with a string and suspend them in the wine with the leaves downward. Cover it – do not let it steep longer than 20-30 minutes! Now remove the woodruff, add one or – depending on the number of guests – two bottles of Moselle wine and – immediately before serving in glasses – one bottle of sparkling wine. The latter may also be left out. May wine without sparkling wine makes a delicious nightcap.

Few recipes are more elaborate than this, though it is traditional to add fruit, especially oranges or strawberries, to the punch bowl. Maibowle is served for Tanz in den Mai, a late-night party on the eve of May Day that usually features outdoor music, dancing and flirting.

There is more depth to it than this, though – there almost invariably is, with folklore. Herbal wines are often found in cooking and medical recipe sources, straddling the boundary between the culinary, medicinal, and magical sphere. As far as I can tell, they did not use woodruff, but the herbs combined in them were varied and interesting. Whether the aim was simply to improve the wine, give it some seasonal flavour, or impart health-giving or other properties is often hard to say. Certainly, herbal remedies and recipes were widely known. These were not secrets, though some imagine them to be today.

That is not least because the night before May Day is replete with associations of magic and witchery. It is Walpurgisnacht, the night when witches from all over the country gathered at the top of the Blocksberg (actually the Brocken in the Harz mountains of central Germany) to celebrate and boast of their achievements. Long a piece of local folklore, this was popularised by Goethe in his celebrated play Faust and has since become woven firmly into the fabric of the German imagination. Today, touristified versions of the event proliferate while self-proclaimed witches solemnly, though loudly and joyfully, mark the holiday with fires, dances, and herbal drinks whose formulae can be as interesting and powerful as any traditional brew.

Modern celebration of Walpurgisnacht in Heidelberg, courtesy of wikimedia commons

The people enjoying a heady, sweet green drink tonight may well be unaware of the depth of history this chameleon of a holiday. Nonetheless, whatever we do to mark the occasion, from flower-bedecked birch saplings to red banners, we enjoy the warmth of spring and the return of greenery all over northern Europe.

Heia Walpurgisnacht.

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Veal Roulade Pastry

Another short recipe from the Philippine Welser collection today, and one that I think I want to try:

73 If you want to prepare a good pastry of hetalin or haters (cutlets)

Cut broad slices from veal and beat them well with the back of a knife. Then take a little veal and fat from the kidneys or another kind of good fat and chop that together. Put it into a bowl when it is chopped and add a soup broth to stir it with so that you can spread it (to a spreadable, but not liquid consistency). Put in raisins and all kinds of spices, spread it on the meat slices, and roll them up tightly. Then prepare a round pastry case and lay them in neatly. Put sugar on top, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and small raisins. Close it and let it bake. You can also put in the yolks of hard-boiled eggs. When it is almost baked, pour in half an achtalin of malfasyer (malmsey wine) or ronfel (Reinfal, Ribolla gialla wine) and let it bake fully.

This is an interesting idea and an artful conceit, making what is effectively veal Rouladen and baking them in a pie crust. It is also strikingly similar in concept and technique, if not in flavour profile, to the Pye of Alowes in the mid-century Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye. Cookery was very international for the upper crust. The hetalin or hater of the title is a word that refers to slices of meat. We also meet it as hattelet, and it is etymologically related to the word cutlet. The wines, again, are top-shelf luxury items: Malvasier, from the area of Monemvasia in Greece, and Reinfal, grown around the Adriatic, were imported at great cost and graced the tables of the very wealthy. I venture to guess this recipe was not often made with the genuine article even if it only calls for an eighth (achtalin) or a Maß which would come to roughly half a cup.

Philippine Welser (1527-1580), a member of the prominent and extremely wealthy Welser banking family of Augsburg, was a famous beauty of her day. Scandalously, she secretly married Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1557 and followed him first to Bohemia, then to Tyrol. A number of manuscripts are associated with her, most famously a collection of medicinal recipes and one of mainly culinary ones. The recipe collection, addressed as her Kochbuch in German, was most likely produced around 1550 when she was a young woman in Augsburg. It may have been made at the request of her mother and was written by an experienced scribe. Some later additions, though, are in Philippine Welser’s own hand, suggesting she used it.

The manuscript is currently held in the library of Ambras Castle near Innsbruck as PA 1473 and was edited by Gerold Hayer as Das Kochbuch der Philippine Welser (Innsbruck 1983).

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Veal Pastry

There was an accident on the line so trains were late. Time only for a short recipe (actually two), again from Philippine Welser’s collection:

69 A pastry made of veal

Take veal, parboil it well and chop it. Take half as much kidney fat of an ox or more than half and also chop that with it. Salt it, and when it is chopped, put it into a bowl and add ginger, cinnamon, pepper, raisins, sugar, and a good sweet wine. Stir it well together so it becomes as thin as a muß. You can also add the yolks of hard-boiled eggs into it whole, as many as you like. Then put it into the pastry crust and let it bake for one and a half hours, thus it is proper. When it is almost baked, you can put in broth with verjuice, and also put in saffron.

70 Further, a pastry of veal

Take meat for dumplings (knepfel flesch) and boil it well and then take half as much or more kidney fat from an ox and chop it together with salt. When it is chopped, prepare a round pastry case. Take a lot of raisins and ginger and put that into the chopped (meat) and stir it together. Boil hard as many eggs as you want or according to how large the pastry is. Put the filling into the pastry case and lay in the eggs, just the yolks, into it whole. Also add a little saffron, or (do it) in the end when you put in the verjuice, that is better. Close it with a top crust and let it bake properly. When it is half baked, take verjuice and soup broth and a little saffron and stir it together. Make a hole at the top (of the crust) and put in the broth with a funnel. Let it bake fully, about 2 hours altogether.

As seems to happen quite a bit, these two recipes are so similar it is hard to see the point of writing down both. Aside from wine and a different spice mixture, the flavour and consistency aimed for seems close to identical in both. They are also unadventurous; tender, light meat, plenty of fat, rich spices, and a touch of sourness from verjuice added to prevent it from drying out. Of course, much depends on proportions here, but i could see this working for a modern palate as long as they appreciate sweet blandness. One interesting point is that hard-boiled egg yolks are put into the filling whole. No doubt they were visually interesting once the finished pastry was sliced. Whole hard-boiled eggs are still put into traditional German Hackbraten, meat loaf, today.

Philippine Welser (1527-1580), a member of the prominent and extremely wealthy Welser banking family of Augsburg, was a famous beauty of her day. Scandalously, she secretly married Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1557 and followed him first to Bohemia, then to Tyrol. A number of manuscripts are associated with her, most famously a collection of medicinal recipes and one of mainly culinary ones. The recipe collection, addressed as her Kochbuch in German, was most likely produced around 1550 when she was a young woman in Augsburg. It may have been made at the request of her mother and was written by an experienced scribe. Some later additions, though, are in Philippine Welser’s own hand, suggesting she used it.

The manuscript is currently held in the library of Ambras Castle near Innsbruck as PA 1473 and was edited by Gerold Hayer as Das Kochbuch der Philippine Welser (Innsbruck 1983).

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Spanish Pastries

Just a short recipe from Philippine Welser’s collection today. It looks like an early form of puff pastry:

71 If you want to make Spanish pastries

Take good flour and prepare a dough with clear warm water. Salt it a little and work it well, that way it can be made to stand (last er sych auf setzenn). Prepare a sheet as long as your work surface (das bredt) is and quite thin. Roll it out with a rolling pin and spread that same sheet with melted bacon, but only half. Let the fat congeal and roll out the same sheet on top of itself again (read das selb blat yber ain ander for das selb baldt yber ain walger) and make another eight of these sheets, each over a rolling pin. And (make) as many pastry crusts (hefelin) as there are people at the table so that everyody has one. Fill them with what you have of gamebirds, chickens, or other chopped meats of veal or castrated ram. Bake them in the oven or the pan and serve them hot.

This is interesting, and I think it describes a kind of early pate feuilleté. Unfortunately, the key sentence that describes (I think) folding over the layers of dough over layers of fat depends on a reinterpretation. The wording as it stands makes no sense. Interestingly, there is a similar recipe in Marx Rumpolt’s New Kochbuch of 1581 that can help us interpret this one:

46. Prepare a dough with water so that you can roll it out well and thin. Grease it with melted fresh bacon and roll the dough up over itself. Make so much that all on top of each other it is as thick as an arm. And once it is thick (enough), cut it away in pieces, be they for small or large pastries. If you want to roll it out, moisten your hands with melted bacon that is not hot so the dough does not stick to the hands. Again work a pastry case of white dough and set the other one inside it that you have worked from bacon fat. For this dough holds up the Spanish one so it does not collapse. And you can fill them with chopped meat. Cut another piece of Spanish dough so you can make a top crust. Grease paper with olive oil, set the pastries on it, slide them into the voven and let them bake. See they do not burn; they burn easily because there is so much fatness in the dough. Open the lids and pour in good chicken broth so that the chopped meat does not become dry (herb), that way it turns out good and well-tasting. This is how you make small pastries. You can also use this kind of dough with fish. (clxxiv v)

This is still not entirely clear – and cleartly not exactly the same thing – but it is obviously a technique fore layering thin, unleavened dough with fat to achieve a tener, flaky crust. It is served in individual portions, likely because it would not hold up well as a large container. And most importantly, these Spanish pastries are defined not by what is inside them, but by what is around them. You can put in whatever meat you like, as long as it is encased in this kind of proto-puff pastry, it is a Spanish pastry. This looks like it could use some experimenting.

Philippine Welser (1527-1580), a member of the prominent and extremely wealthy Welser banking family of Augsburg, was a famous beauty of her day. Scandalously, she secretly married Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1557 and followed him first to Bohemia, then to Tyrol. A number of manuscripts are associated with her, most famously a collection of medicinal recipes and one of mainly culinary ones. The recipe collection, addressed as her Kochbuch in German, was most likely produced around 1550 when she was a young woman in Augsburg. It may have been made at the request of her mother and was written by an experienced scribe. Some later additions, though, are in Philippine Welser’s own hand, suggesting she used it.

The manuscript is currently held in the library of Ambras Castle near Innsbruck as PA 1473 and was edited by Gerold Hayer as Das Kochbuch der Philippine Welser (Innsbruck 1983).

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