Several months ago, I finally put scissors to fabric and began putting together an early 16th century German dress. I’d been researching for some time, but it took a lot of mental preparation to work myself up to the idea of constructing a late-period garment on my own. For this dress, I drew inspiration primarily from two Hans Holbein sketches of a Basel woman from 1523.
I began with my own measurements and looking at patterns from both Katafalk and Reconstructing History, but found that neither really worked for my body. So I ended up fitting myself and making my own, which was a long and infuriating process — next time I’m having a friend help me fit a new pattern.
When I finished my bodice pattern (which was slightly modified after these photos), I cut an interlining of heavy linen and the wool shell, then attached them mostly following Katafalk’s tutorial. I cut the guards out of black wool and attached them after the bodice was all put together, then moved onto the skirt.
Using Mistress Genoveva’s Rolled Pleat Calculator, I came up with the length needed for my skirt, which I think was about 6 yards. I had a whole bolt of red wool from JoAnn Fabrics, and I only used a half-width of the fabric for the top portion of the skirt. I spent several hours with a ruler and chalk, and by the end of it I had my skirt pleated.
I ended up piecing the bottom stripes together in three panels of stripes, then sewed them together and attached them. Next time, I’ll likely attach the stripes before I pleat the skirt, but it didn’t create any major inconveniences doing it the other way.
It was after I completed the skirt that I started running out of time leading up to Fall Coronation of Marcus and Margerite, so I decided to put my plans for the sleeves on the back burner — it would be easy enough to take the middle-class route and simply sew the exaggerated stitching at the joints over the chemise. The proper chemise also wasn’t going to happen in time, so I pulled a cheater shirt out for the event.
The last piece of the outfit that I could accomplish in time was the hemd and steuchlein, which I made following Katafalk’s tutorials. The hemd was even more difficult to fit by myself than the bodice pattern was, and I was extremely glad to cover it and all the mistakes I made on it with the steuchlein.
There weren’t a great deal of photos of the good-enough dress I took to the event, but I was pretty pleased with it. I’m currently working on the more-correct sleeves, a pleated chemise, and fixing some general mistakes on the dress. Ideally, there will also be a structured linen kirtle to go under this dress and over the chemise.
See Astridr’s blog here for more of her sewing and culinary adventures.
In the year 1487, Maximillian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, formed the first regiments of the mercenaries known as the Landsknechts. They went on to fight in almost every 16th century military campaign, sometimes fighting on both sides of the engagement. These warriors fought in units of pikemen called a Fahnlein with a Hauptmann as leader and training captain. These units lived as a family, often with wives and children marching with the soldiers to their next campaign and setting up a small movable town as the entire army moved across Europe.
In devising my 16th century army camp meal, I started by looking at several German cookbooks, a list of which can be found in the bibliography. One of my favorite cookbooks to reference is Sabina Welserin’s because she was cooking for her family at home, not for a royal court. It was important to me that all the foods included in this class were able to be cooked in an outdoor camp situation and to be stored and eaten by hard-working men and women on the go. This is not meant to be a feast, but to be hardy working class fare. Dried, pickled, and smoked items come heavily into play for longevity’s sake.
Landsknecht camp woodcut circa 1500
In my cookware deductions, I used several woodcuts of Landsknecht camp life, assessing what tools were available to a camp cook. There are also some extant pieces that add to this list.
spoons and ladles of several sizes in wood and metal
metal pots and pans of various sizes for cooking over the coals
large metal and ceramic cauldrons for stewing and boiling
small ceramics for baking and roasting (pipkin and piggie pots)
several different stand and tripod configurations
Popular Food Choices for Landsknecht & 16th century Germany
Dried items: beans, lentils, peas, rice to add to stews or mains
Pasties or tarts: fruit, veg, meat fillings (easy to pack and carry)
From Ein New Kochbuchby Marx Rumpolt
German: Erbeßsuppen mit klein gehackten Zwibeln/ die geschweißt seyn/ pfeffers vnd gelbs/ so ist es auch gut.
Pea soup with small chopped onions/ that (have been) sautéed/ pepper and yellow (saffron)/ so it is also good.
2 oz. butter
2 medium onions
1 T garlic
16 oz. green split peas
12 c. vegetable broth
Pinch of saffron Salt and pepper to taste.
Sauté the chopped onions in butter until clear. Add garlic, being careful not to let it go brown as it will be bitter. Add peas and coat in butter. Add broth, salt, and pepper and allow to simmer till peas are tender. Additional water might be needed during the simmering phase. Add saffron and smash to puree. Serve warm.
Fast Day Krapfen
From Ein Buch von Guter Spise
German: So du wilt einen vasten krapfen machen von nüzzen mit ganzem kern. und nim als vil epfele dor under und snide sie würfeleht als der kern ist und roest sie mit ein wenig honiges und mengez mit würtzen und tu ez uf die bleter die do gemaht sin zu krapfen und loz ez backen und versaltz niht.
So you want to make a fastday krapfen of nuts with whole kernels. And take as many apples thereunder and cut them diced, as the kernel is, and roast them well with a little honey and mix with spices and put it on the loaf, which you do to make krapfen, and let it cook and do not oversalt.
4 t. yeast
4 T sugar
1⁄2 c. warm water (or milk) *
3 eggs (or 1⁄2 c water)*
1⁄2 c. nuts
1⁄2 c. apples diced to match nuts in size.
2 T honey
1⁄2 t. cinnamon
Combine yeast, sugar, and water or milk in a small bowl. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes to allow yeast to proof. Mix this with flour and eggs and kneed to form dough. Allow to rise to double the size (about 1 hour). Sauté the nuts, apples, honey, and cinnamon over low heat to toast nuts and soften apples. Allow to cool. When dough is ready: Heat oil to 325 ̊F. Cut off dough balls and flatten. Spoon in the apple mixture, close to form a ball, and drop into the oil, fry to golden. Drizzle with honey.
*As this class is not taking place on a fast day, I will be making this recipe with milk and eggs.
Note on Krapfen: This has modernly come to mean a filled jelly donut, but based on the descriptions above, I believe the 16th c. version is similar to the “traditional” style of krapfen, much more like a drop fritter. This is mainly because the modern donut is baked first and then filled, while the recipe calls for adding the filling to the krapfen and then baking.
To Make a Good Roast
From Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin
German: Ain gút brates zú machen Nim kelberis oder ain lembratten von ainem ochsen, legs jn ain wein jber nacht, darnach stecks jn an ain spis, thú jn dan jn ain haffen, thú daran ain gúte fleschbrie, zwiffel, wein, gewirtz, pfeffer, jmber, negellen vnnd lasß woll daran sieden, versaltz es nit.
Translation: Take veal or a sirloin of beef, lay it overnight in wine, afterwards stick it on a spit. Put it then in a pot. Put good broth therein, onions, wine, spices, pepper, ginger and cloves and let it cook therein. Do not over salt it.
6 lbs. sirloin beef
1 c. red wine
1 c. apple cider vinegar
8 bay leaves (can use juniper berries as well)
1/2 t each ginger, cloves, cardamom
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinade the beef overnight in a mix of red wine, vinegar, ginger, cloves, cardamom, salt and pepper.
If working with a spit: Spit the beef and roast over high heat to achieve a browned crunch on the outside. Retain the drippings. Keep the marinade for later steps.
If working with a pan: Seer the beef in a VERY hot pan (I use cast iron) on every side. Remove the beef. Keep the pan drippings. Keep the marinade for later steps.
Place the beef in a pot or slow cooker. Cook the sliced onion in the beef drippings, deglaze the pan with 1⁄2 c of marinade. Pour this over the beef. Add bay leaves, remaining marinade, and salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for 5 or more hours till beef is tender and falling apart. Stir to avoid beef sticking to the bottom of the pot. To thicken the sauce, add lebkuchen and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
From Ein Buch von Guter Spise
German: Brat Ruben/ vnnd schel sie/ zerschneid sie/ vnnd geb sie in eine Schuessel/ vnnd gibs warm auff ein Tisch/ bestra:ew sie mit Zucker/ seind sie auch gut.
Fry roots/ and peel them/ cut them up/ and give them into a bowl/ and give it warm to the table/ sprinkle it with sugar/ they are good too.
3 carrots of various colors
1 T sugar
Peel and cut the root vegetables to equal sizes. Slice the leeks finely. Pour into a pan and roast till tender, sprinkling the sugar over top for the last minute or two to glaze and serve warm.
Field kitchen by Bartolomeo Scappi, Venice, 1570
From Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin
German: Ain pastetentaig zú machen zú allen auffgesetzten pasteten at Nempt ain mell, das pest, so jr bekomen múgen, vngefarlich 2 gút gaúffen oder darnach jr die grosß oder klain haben welt, thiets auff den disch vnnd riert 2 air mit ainem messer daran vnnd saltzt ain wenig, macht jn ainem pfenndlin ain wasser vnnd wie 2 gúte air grosß schmaltz, last es als anainander ergan vnnd sieden/ darnach schit es an das obgemelt mell ob dem disch vnnd mach ain starcken taig vnnd arbait jn woll, wie dich gút dúnckt, wan es jm somer jst, músß man an des wasser stat ain fleschbrie nemen vnnd an des schmaltz stat ain abscheffet von der súpen nemen, wan der taig gearbait jst, so machent jn zú ainer rúnden kugel vnnd thenet jn fein mit den fingern vornen aus oder mit ainem walgelholtz/ das jn der mit ain hechin beleib, darnach lands erstaren an der keltin, darnach setzent daig aúf, jn maß jch eúch gezaigt hab/ aúch balten ain taig zú der teckin vnd welget jn zú ainer deckin vnnd nempt ain wasser vnnd bestreichts oben an der deckin vnnd oben an der aúffgesetzten pasten vnnd thiets mitt den fingern woll zusamen, last an ainem ort ain klain lechlin, vnd das es woll zúsamengedruckt sey, das nicht offenstand/ blassen jn das lechlin, das jr gelassen habt, so wirt die deckin hibsch aúfflaúffen, so trúcken das lechlin von stúnd an zú, darnach thits jn offen, set vor ain mell aúff die schissel/ secht, das jr den offen recht haitzt, so wirt es ain schene pasteten, also macht man all aúffgesetzt pasteten den taig.
To make a pastry dough for all shaped pies
Take flour, the best that you can get, about two handfuls, depending on how large or small you would have the pie. Put it on the table and with a knife stir in two eggs and a little salt. Put water in a small pan and a piece of fat the size of two good eggs, let it all dissolve together and boil. Afterwards pour it on the flour on the table and make a strong dough and work it well, however you feel is right. If it is summer, one must take meat broth instead of water and in the place of the fat the skimmings from the broth. When the dough is kneaded, then make of it a round ball and draw it out well on the sides with the fingers or with a rolling pin, so that in the middle a raised area remains, then let it chill in the cold. Afterwards shape the dough as I have pointed out to you. Also reserve dough for the cover and roll it out into a cover and take water and spread it over the top of the cover and the top of the formed pastry shell and join it together well with the fingers. Leave a small hole. And see that it is pressed together well, so that it does not come open. Blow in the small hole which you have left, then the cover will lift itself up. Then quickly press the hole closed. Afterwards put it in the oven. Sprinkle flour in the dish beforehand. Take care that the oven is properly heated, then it will be a pretty pastry. The dough for all shaped pastries is made in this manner.
German: Ain erbertorten zú machen Mach das bedellin vnnd laß erstarcken jn der tortenpfanen darnach nim die erber vnnd legs daraúf vmber aúfs allernechst zúsamen, darnach zúckeres woll aúfs allerbast, laß darnach ain klain weil bachen, geúß ain malúasier daraúf vmber vnnd laß ain weil bachen, so jst er gemacht.
A Strawberry Tart
Make a pastry shell and let it become firm in the tart pan. Afterwards take strawberries and lay them around on top as close together as possible, after that sweeten them especially well. Next let it bake a short while, pour Malavosia over it and let it bake a while, then it is ready.
Redaction: For the Pastry:
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup fat, lard, or Crisco
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
To make the pastry dough:
Heat 1/4 cup water to just under a boil, and add the lard, simmering until it has melted. Pour half of this over the flour and salt, and mix thoroughly. When the dough is reasonably cool to the touch, add the eggs and mix. If the dough is still too dry, continue adding the water until the dough comes together in a nice mass.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface to just under 1/4′′ thick. Press the dough into tart pans, and set each on a baking sheet. Chill the prepared tart shells for a couple of hours, or until the dough is stiff.
To make the filling:
Slice the strawberries thinly, and arrange as closely as possible in the tart shells, layering until all the berries are used up. Sprinkle with the sugar, and bake for 15 minutes at 375F.
Remove from oven and pour an equal amount of the wine over each tart, and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
*Malvasia is an ancient Mediterranean family of grapes and the wines they produce can have several different flavors. There are dry wines and even the occasional red, but the majority are light and sweet. Malavosia, Malmsey, and Madiera are made from Malvasia grapes, as are several dessert wines.
For the Filling: 2 quarts of strawberries, sliced thin 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup Malavosia Wine *
Sabina Welserin’s Cookbook can be found in English here: