The Ultimate German Knight Out
German Food and Drink in the Middle Ages.
The discovery in Germany of a long-lost recipe dating back to Medieval Times demonstrates that, just like today, manufacturers had to adhere to strict production methods and ingredients.
The discovery in 2007 of a 600 year-old Bratwurst recipe by a German historian showed how seriously sausage manufacture was taken at the time, with detailed instructions and regulations inscribed on the parchment.
Dating back to 1432, the document details guidelines for Thuringian sausage makers. It turns out in fact that only the purest and unspoiled meat could be used for the sausages, and anyone who broke the guidelines would be slapped with a fine of 24 pfennigs, the equivalent of a day’s wages. Although it was known that Medieval town markets in Germany often formed committees to be in charge of monitoring produce quality, these sausage regulations confirm the strict commitment to consumer protection laws during the Middle Ages.
In a way the old German beer purity law or “Reinheitsgebot” was the forefather of the thousands of consumer regulations that now occupy ever inch of food and drink production in Europe.
By insisting that the “only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be barley, hops and water” it ensured the quality of a product and threatened legal sanction against transgressors hundreds of years before anybody had heard of consumer protection laws.
German “Roggenbier” is a typical medieval rye ale, usually made from a grain bill of about half barley malt and equal portions of wheat and rye malts. Rye ales declined towards the end of the Middle Ages in large part because the absolute rulers of the day decided that certain grains, such as rye and wheat, ought to be reserved for making solid, rather than liquid bread. Especially in years with a poor harvest, the lords reasoned that people might be foolish enough to prefer drinking the fruits of their labor.
There is a dispute as to where the Reinheitsgebot originated. Some Bavarians point out that the law originated in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria on 23 April 1516, concerning standards for the sale and composition of beer. Thuringians point to a document which states the ingredients of beer as water, hops, and barley only, and was written in 1434 in Weißensee (Thuringia). It was discovered in the medieval Runneburg near Erfurt in 1999. Before its official repeal in 1987, it was the oldest food-quality regulation in the world.