16th century recipes still tasty today (2024)

On May 1, 1525, armed peasants forced 50 nuns, including Katerina Lemmel, to leave their German monastery, Maria Mai, and walk 10 miles to exile in a town named Oettingen.

This peasant uprising was an important event in the history of the Ries area in south-central Germany, but it can be hard to relate to something that happened 485 years ago.

ASU professor of art history Corine Schleif and music history scholar Volker Schier, who have just published a scholarly book about the nuns, as seen through the letters of Katerina Lemmel, found an unusual way to bring the book to life.

They organized a “walk and talk” (and eat) during the Rieser Kulturtage, a two-month event celebrating the culture of the Ries area.

During the event, Schleif and Schier led participants in a walk tracing the path that the nuns followed centuries ago, reading from their book at intervals along the way.

They also wanted their guests to experience the food that the nuns ate, and enlisted the help of chefs at the current monastery of Maria Mai and ASU senior student Spring Williams to convert recipes from the era to 21st century tastes.

“Unfortunately there is no cookbook from Maria Mai that has come down to us,” Schier said. “The basic approach was to find dishes and food that were either mentioned in Katerina's letters and could be made out of the ingredients in Katerina's shopping lists that she regularly sent to her relatives in Nuremberg.”

These foods included Nuremberg doughnuts, apple pillows, cheese biscuits and several varieties of pea soup.

Schier, who helped find the recipes, said they came from two sources – a cookbook that was compiled by Sebina Welserin, a wealthy Augsburg patrician who married into a Nuremberg family, and the "buoch von guoter spise" (The book of good food), compiled in Würzburg around 1350 for the protonotary of the bishop of Würzburg, Michael de Leone.

Once the recipes were translated from German, Williams discovered that there were no real measurements in the recipes, and that some of the techniques were hardly suitable for today’s cook, such as cooking over an open fire and using large amounts of lard.

Williams, who is majoring in museum studies, art history, and German, explained: “For example, the recipe for cheese buns said, ‘If you would make cheese buns, then grate an especially good Parmesan cheese and put grated white bread thereon, until it becomes very thick.

“’Afterwards beat eggs into it, until it becomes a good dough. After that make good round balls, the same size as scalded buns, and let them fry very slowly, then they are ready.’"

Other recipes were comparative, with instructions such as "take twice as much flour as you use water and mix until well combined."

Spring, a vegetarian who says she cooks but isn’t “a chef by any means,” prepared the recipes as best she could on her own, then refined them after she tried them out on Schleif’s students and her own friends and family.

“There was this one pea soup recipe, for example, that called for vinegar,” she said. “It did not specify which kind, so I used what I had on hand. It also called for caraway. After trying it everyone agreed that there needed to be less caraway and possibly would be better if red wine vinegar was used.”

The Nuremberg doughnuts were not the typical American donut, Williams said, but like fried finger-shaped pastries that had “the taste of a crispy doughnut in all of its sugary goodness.”

The apple pillows consisted of a puffy dough that was wrapped around an apple slice. “The dough was not crispy but rather like fry bread and cinnamon in flavor.”

Schleif and Schier said they hoped their walk would “help those of our own day experience and imagine the plight of the nuns and that of the peasants. The nuns had worked their way into the spiritual economy of the day. They accepted gifts in exchange for prayers, but the peasants felt disadvantaged and exploited since they were obligated to bring tribute, often leaving little for their own sustenance.

“We both feel strongly that every scholarly project should also have some components that draw broader audiences.”

Those who did not get to participate in Rieser Kulturtage can still think of the Birgintine nuns, who had to leave their spare but comfortable monastery behind (it was nearly destroyed by the peasants) by baking some Nuremberg doughnuts or whipping up a batch of pea soup.

Here are recipes, with comments from Williams, from the era of Katerina Lemmel – still appealing even though nearly 500 years have passed.

Cheese Baskets (krapfen)

2 ¾ c. flour
2 large eggs
1 c. water
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. yeast
2 c. good Parmesan

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. (If using bread machine yeast add it here and boil water before kneading it in. If using regular baker’s yeast add it with wet ingredients). Knead in wet ingredients and Parmesan. Dough will be sticky. Let rest for 10 minutes, knead again then let rest another 10-15 minutes or until dough has slightly risen.

With two small spoons (or hands, but dough is sticky) make 1 ½ inch balls and place on a baking sheet spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until tops are slightly browned.

Alternate baking method: Drop balls into hot oil (I used vegetable, but palm oil would be more historically accurate)

Apple Pillows

2 ¾ c. flour
2 large Eggs
1 c. water
½ tsp. salt
¾ c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
6 medium apples
Oil for frying

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Batter will be rather moist (much like the consistency of sticky pastry batter). Quarter, or eighth, the apples, remove core and peel. Dry off all juices with a towel otherwise the batter won’t stick. Dunk apple pieces in batter; make sure all surfaces are coated. Fry in a pot of vegetable, or palm, oil. Be sure that there is enough oil in the pan that the apples do not sit on the bottom of the pan. Apple pillows will be fluffy, not crispy. Makes about 24+ pieces.

Nuremberg Doughnuts (krapfen)
3 large eggs
1 c. milk
2 tbs. sugar
2 ¾ c. flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, set aside. Place a dry pot into a larger pot of boiling water; be sure to have a lid for the smaller pot. In another pan, bring 3-inch deep oil to frying temperature (about 275-300 degrees, best tested with a small piece of dough dropped into the pan).

With a large spoon, scoop out about a 3-inch ball of dough and drop it in the oil, flattening it as it fries. Do not cook dough all the way through, just enough so it can be pulled out in one piece with tongs. Place fried dough in a dry pot inside pot of boiling water, and cover. (You should be able to get through this amount of dough and let it all sit in dry pot for 5 minutes without burning).

Remove all dough from dry pot and cut into finger-width strips; refry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Serve plain, with powdered sugar, or with honey

A Food of Beans or Peas (Ein spise von bonon)

Version with frozen peas:
20 oz. frozen peas
1 c. beer
1/2 tsp. caraway seed ground
1/8 tsp. pepper
3/4 c. breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 c. water

Cook peas until done. Mix beer, caraway, pepper, vinegar, water and breadcrumbs. Boil mixture. Add peas to mixture. Cook briefly. You may wish to use far less breadcrumbs, and make sauce more fluid. You may also wish to serve the peas and sauce separately.

Version using dried peas:
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds, ground (I would suggest using only 1 or 1/2)
1/4 c. vinegar (mild vinegar like red wine; NOT white)
2 1/3 c. beer
2 slices fresh bread, crumbled
1 tbsp. dried bread crumbs
1 c. water
1 lb. dry peas (equiv. to 6 cups cooked peas)

Soak peas about 8 hours and drain liquid off. Boil in new water until soft. They should be very soft. This takes a while. Mix vinegar, beer, pepper, caraway, and bread crumbs. Boil mixture. Pour mixture over peas. Cook until comes to a boil, or until the peas are soft enough. Add water if necessary; Drained pea water from the first step could be saved and used here.

Leek and Split Pea Soup

3 oz. split peas
1 large onion chopped
2 pints vegetable stock
1 1/2 lb. leeks sliced
Seasoning (I took to mean pepper and salt; but others could obviously be used as well)

Cover peas with boiling water and soak for about 2 hours. (I would soak an extra hour). Drain and reserve water. Fry onion in butter. Add peas, stock and seasonings. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. If water gets low, add reserved pea juice. Add leeks and cook further, 15-20 minutes.

For a look at the original “book of food," go to: http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Auszug_buoch_von_guoter_spise.jpg&filetimestamp=20050829130442

To read more about the “book of food,” go to: http://cs-people.bu.edu/akatlas/Buch/class.html

16th century recipes still tasty today (2024)


What did people eat in the 16th century? ›

A 16th-century CE cookbook gives the following summary of a fairly typical meal for the wealthy: The First Course: Pottage or stewed broth; boiled meat or stewed meat, chickens and bacon, powdered [salted] beef, pies, goose, pig, roasted beef, roasted veal, custard.

When you were going to try a new recipe what is the first thing you want to do? ›

Read the recipe before you start.

“Read the recipe a few times before you make it,” she says, “and make sure it is something you are comfortable doing.” Then, lay out every ingredient you'll need before you begin to cook.

What is the history of recipes? ›

The earliest known written recipes date to 1730 BC and were recorded on cuneiform tablets found in Mesopotamia. Other early written recipes date from approximately 1600 BC and come from an Akkadian tablet from southern Babylonia. There are also works in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depicting the preparation of food.

How to make very delicious food? ›

10 Simple Tips to Make Food Taste Better
  1. Don't Prepare Garlic and Onions in Advance. ...
  2. Don't Seed Tomatoes. ...
  3. Keep Fats Tasting Fresh. ...
  4. Strike Only When the Pan Is Hot. ...
  5. Never Discard the Fond. ...
  6. Season with Sugar, Too. ...
  7. Bloom Spices and Dried Herbs in Fat. ...
  8. Brown Breads, Pies, and Pastries.

What was the most popular food in the 1600s? ›

Meat dishes were eaten at nearly every meal, and for those who could afford it, anywhere from fifty to seventy five percent of dinner (the main meal of the day) was meat.

What did royals eat in 16th century? ›

Food for a King

Dishes included game, roasted or served in pies, lamb, venison and swan. For banquets, more unusual items, such as conger eel and porpoise could be on the menu. Sweet dishes were often served along with savoury.

What are the 7 things needed to be found on a standardized recipe? ›

Here are the main components of a standardized recipe:
  1. Name of the menu item.
  2. Total Yield or Portions and Portion Size created by producing the recipe.
  3. List of all measured ingredients.
  4. Step-by-step instructions on how to prepare, cook, and assemble the recipe.
  5. Plating instructions and garnishes.

What is the most critical part of a recipe? ›

Ingredient List - The ingredient list is one of the most critical parts of a recipe. The ingredients should be listed in chronological order, with the ingredient used first at the very top of the list (Palmer, 2020).

What are the 3 main parts of a recipe briefly explain? ›

A recipe really only needs either ingredients or directions ( the preparation method) to be considered complete. At a minimum most recipes have a title, ingredients list, and preparation method.

What was the first cooked meal ever? ›

A recent study found what could be the earliest known evidence of ancient cooking: the leftovers of a fish dinner from 780,000 years ago. Cooking helped change our ancestors. It helped fuel our evolution and gave us bigger brains.

What was the first food eaten in history? ›

The diet of the earliest hominins was probably somewhat similar to the diet of modern chimpanzees: omnivorous, including large quantities of fruit, leaves, flowers, bark, insects and meat (e.g., Andrews & Martin 1991; Milton 1999; Watts 2008).

Who cooked the first meal? ›

First cooking fires predate hom*o sapiens

The site, called Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, is known to date back to around 780,000 years ago. It is believed that hom*o erectus communities of the so-called Acheulian culture lived in the region.

What is the No 1 most delicious food in the world? ›

Rendang, Indonesia

Source Often called "the world's most delicious dish," Rendang is prepared by simmering beef with coconut milk with a mixture of the best of spices including turmeric, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, chillies, and galangal.

What is the number 1 most delicious food in the world? ›

In addition, Rendang can be stored refrigerated or frozen for a long time. This is Rendang, called the most delicious food in the world.

What food is delicious but hard to eat? ›

And while we were at it, we made sure to include some helpful tips as to how to conquer the challenges ahead.
  • Wings. ...
  • Sushi. ...
  • Ice Cream Cones. ...
  • Mango. ...
  • Pomegranates. ...
  • Snails. ...
  • Crustaceans. ...
  • Coconut.
Feb 20, 2013

What foods did Americans have in the 1600s? ›

Typical dishes among the upper classes were fricassees of various meats with herbs, and sometimes a good amount of claret. Common food among the lower classes was corn porridge or mush, hominy with greens and salt-cured meat, and later the traditional southern fried chicken and chitlins.

What did poor people eat in the 1600s? ›

Bread was a staple food for the poor and it would be eaten with butter, cheese, eggs, and pottage (a vegetable soup thickened with oats). Poor people could not afford much red meat, like beef or pork, so tended to eat white meat, like chicken, rabbit or hare, and birds they could catch like blackbirds or pigeons.

What did peasants eat in the 1600s? ›

The findings demonstrated that stews (or pottages) of meat (beef and mutton) and vegetables such as cabbage and leek, were the mainstay of the medieval peasant diet. The research also showed that dairy products, likely the 'green cheeses' known to be eaten by the peasantry, also played an important role in their diet.

What kind of food did they eat in the 1500s? ›

Barley, oats, and rye were eaten by the poor while wheat was generally more expensive. These were consumed as bread, porridge, gruel, and pasta by people of all classes. Cheese, fruits, and vegetables were important supplements for the lower orders while meat was more expensive and generally more prestigious.

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