Woodruff (Galium Odoratum, or Waldmeister in German)
has a long tradition here in Germany as the main ingredient for Maibowle, or May Wine, still a popular feature of May Day celebrations.
Its strong sweet scent comes from the fragrant organic chemical compound coumarin, the fragrance growing stronger as the plant wilts after picking. The coumarin content apparently increases once the plant starts to flower and, as too much coumarin can cause (instead of cure) headaches, the recommendation is that you pick your woodruff just before it goes into flower …
You will find the recipe for May Wine as featured in a delightful little cookery book I translated a couple of years ago below:
Considered the greatest painter of the Northern Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) came from Nuremburg where the Albrecht-Dürer-Haus remains as a museum and memorial to the man and his times.
This little cookbook takes a look behind the scenes in the Dürer household with seasonal recipes of the kind that would have been known to Albrecht Dürer’s wife Agnes, adapted for easy cooking in the modern kitchen, a number of them having since become set features of Franconian culinary tradition: Schäufele (Roast Pork Shoulder), Krumme Krapfen (Crooked Fritters) and Storks’ Nests… Accompanied by interesting details about life at that time: what foodstuffs where available to the Nuremburg housewife in around 1500, what were the different meals served during the course of the year, and what were table manners like?
2 bunches of sweet woodruff
50 g honey or sugar
2 bottles of white wine, chilled
500 ml of light red wine, chilled
Wash the woodruff and pat dry. Tie the stems into a bunch and leave to dry overnight in a well-aired place.
Combine the honey or sugar with ½ a bottle of wine. Suspend the bunch of woodruff upside down in the wine, making sure that the ends of the stems do not come into contact with the wine. Cover and leave to draw for 30 minutes.
Remove the bunch of woodruff and pour the base wine mixture into a jug or large bowl. Add the rest of the red and white wine and serve immediately.
Agnes’ tip: oh how we enjoyed drinking this light, aromatic May wine! Sparkling wine is not something we know yet and so, instead, we simply added a light red wine to the base mixture, even though this did not make the punch sparkle, of course. For special occasions I sprinkle a few fresh wild strawberry or redcurrant leaves, as well as tarragon, sage or mint over the punch. That looks pretty and adds extra aroma.
Dürer’s Little Cookbook
Yesterday’s recipes for today’s food lovers
Compiled by Petra Teetz, Translated by Katherine Taylor, Published by ars vivendi verlag
Original edition © 2009 English edition © 2013 www.arsvivendi.com