Introduction & Who was Sabina Welserin?

I was first introduced to Sabina Welserin’s cookbook back in the Fall of 2003 when I was gifted with a large bag of quinces and needed a recipe.  I asked a friend, a member of the Madrone Culinary Guild, where I could find a recipe for them, and they pointed me to Sabina’s cookbook. Thus recipe 107: To make a quince tart became my first reconstruction from Sabina’s cookbook in 2003.

I started my reconstructions by following the English translation prepared by Valoise Armstrong in 1998. On recipes where there were no specific amounts mentioned, the recipes worked fine, but then I attempted the recipe for 163, To make Nürnberger Lebkuchen. This resulted in a puddle of spicy bubbling goo when I baked it, not the nice molded cookie that should have resulted based on the text’s instructions on molding the dough.

I then decided that I would go back to the Middle High German (MHG) original text and translate the ingredient amounts from that.  This resulted in quite a bit of research into the period weights and measures, and their modern equivalents, as to my knowledge there was no one who had yet done this.  I developed the table of Augsbergian weights and measures using several weights and measure books published in the 1800’s, shortly before and after metrification in Europe.

In the next section, I have included my table of period weights and measures used in Augsburg during this time and found in Sabina’s recipes, and their conversions to metric.

When there are specific weight and liquid measurements mentioned in the recipe, I have included the MHG original amounts, my English translation, my conversions of those amounts to metric and US amounts, and Armstrong’s translation for the mixing and baking section.  Otherwise, when no specific amounts are mentioned, I have just used Armstrong’s translation.

Who Was Sabina Welserin?

The Welser family, along with the Fuggers, were one of the “commercial nobility” families of Augsburg.  The Welser Brothers banking firm provided major financing to the Spanish Crown and received the right to establish a colony in Venezuela in exchange (Fiske, p.433).

There are two ladies in the Welser family with the name Sabina who could have written the cookbook.

The first Sabina, born in 1532, was the daughter of Ulrich Welser and married Conrad Voehlin, an Augsburg citizen, in 1550. He later became Mayor in 1562. She died in 1599. If she wrote the cookbook, she would have written it at age 21 (Classen, p. 351).

The second Sabina was born in 1515 to Anton Welser and Felicitas Baumgartner. In 1535 she married Leonhard Hirsvogel, a Nuremberg citizen. It was a short lived marriage, as she divorced him four years later. She died in 1576 If she wrote the cookbook, she would have written it at age 38 (Classen, p. 352).

Whichever of these two Sabina’s wrote the cookbook, it reads to me like a collection of family favorite recipes written down for a bride to take to her new house.  It has both the special fancy dishes for feasts and holidays and the comfort food for everyday.

Valoise Armstrong’s translation of Sabina’s cookbook found online

Thomas Glonig’s transcription of the Middle High German text is available online at Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin c.1553

Fiske, John, Appletons‘ Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1889.

Classen, Albrecht. The Power of a Woman’s Voice in Medieval and Early Modern Literatures: New Approaches to German and European Women Writers and to Violence against Women in Premodern Times. Fundamentals of medieval and early modern culture, 1. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.