Jul 302021
 

Today is the birthday (1751) of Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, called “Marianne” and nicknamed Nannerl, the older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) and daughter of Leopold (1719–1787) and Anna Maria Mozart (1720–1778). She and Wolfgang were the only 2 of 7 children of their parents who survived infancy.

Marianne Mozart was born in Salzburg. When she was seven years old, her father Leopold Mozart started teaching her to play the harpsichord. Leopold took her and Wolfgang on tours of many cities, such as Vienna and Paris, to showcase their talents. In the early days, she sometimes received top billing, and she was noted as an excellent harpsichord player and fortepianist. However, owing to the gender biases of the time it became impossible as she grew older, and reached what was considered marriageable age (i.e. menarche) for her to continue her public career any further.

There is evidence that Marianne wrote musical compositions, as there are letters from Wolfgang praising her work, but the voluminous correspondence of her father never mentions any of her compositions, and none have survived. In contrast to her brother, who quarreled with their father and eventually disobeyed his wishes with respect to career path and choice of spouse, Marianne remained entirely subordinate to her father. She fell in love with Franz d’Ippold, who was a captain and private tutor, but was forced by her father to turn down his marriage proposal. Wolfgang attempted, in vain, to get Marianne to stand up for her own preference. Eventually, Marianne married a magistrate, Johann Baptist Franz von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg (23 August 1783), and settled with him in St. Gilgen, a village in Austria about 29 km east of Salzburg (and where her mother had been born). Berchtold was twice a widower and had five children from his two previous marriages, whom Marianne helped raise. She also bore three children of her own: Leopold Alois Pantaleon (1785–1840), Jeanette (1789–1805) and Maria Babette (1790–1791).

An unusual episode in Marianne’s life occurred when she gave birth (27 July 1785) to her first child, a son who was named Leopold after her father. Marianne had traveled from her home in St. Gilgen to Salzburg for the birth. When she returned to St. Gilgen, she left the infant in the care of her father and his servants. The elder Leopold stated (by a letter that preceded Marianne back to St. Gilgen) that he would prefer to raise the child for the first few months himself. In 1786, he extended the arrangement to an indefinite term. Leopold continued to care for his grandson, taking delight in his progress (toilet training, speech, and so on), and commencing with the very beginnings of musical training. Marianne saw her son on occasional visits, but in general was not involved in his care. The arrangement continued until the death of her father, on 28 May 1787.

Biographers differ on the reasons for this arrangement. Little Leopold was ill in his infancy, and perhaps needed to be kept in Salzburg for this reason, but this does not explain why he was still kept there after his recovery. Another possibility attributes the arrangement to Marianne’s delicate health or her need to take care of her stepchildren. Biographer Maynard Solomon attributes the arrangement to Leopold’s wish to revive his skills in training a musical genius, as he had done with Wolfgang.

When Wolfgang was a toddler, Nannerl (four and a half years older) was his idol. At age three, Mozart was inspired to study music by observing his father’s instruction of Marianne, and he wanted to be like her. The two children were very close, and they invented a secret language and an imaginary “Kingdom of Back” of which they were king and queen. Wolfgang’s early correspondence with Marianne is affectionate, and includes some of the scatological and sexual word play in which Wolfgang is known to have routinely indulged in with intimates. Occasionally Wolfgang wrote entries in Marianne’s diary, referring to himself in the third person. Wolfgang wrote a number of works for Marianne to perform, including the Prelude and Fugue in C, K. 394 (1782) and the four Preludes K. 395/300g (1777). Until 1785, he sent her copies of his piano concertos (up to No. 21) in St. Gilgen.

Authorities differ concerning the precise relationship between Wolfgang and Marianne in adulthood. It seems likely that they drifted apart but it is not clear why nor the extent of the distance between them. After Wolfgang’s visit to Salzburg in 1783 (with his new wife Constanze), Wolfgang and Marianne never visited each other again, they never saw each other’s children, and their correspondence diminished to a trickle, ceasing entirely in 1788. Wolfgang died on 5 December 1791. Sometime around 1800, Marianne encountered Franz Xaver Niemetschek’s 1798 biography of Wolfgang. Since this biography had been written from the perspective of Vienna and of Constanze, much of its content was new to Marianne. In an 1800 letter, she wrote:

Herr Prof. Niemetschek’s biography so completely reanimated my sisterly feelings toward my so ardently beloved brother that I was often dissolved in tears, since it is only now that I became acquainted with the sad condition in which my brother found himself.

When Marianne’s husband died in 1801 she returned to Salzburg, accompanied by her two living children and four stepchildren, and worked as a music teacher. In her old age, Marianne had her first encounter in person with Wolfgang’s widow Constanze since the visit of 1783. In 1820, Constanze and her second husband Georg Nikolaus von Nissen moved to Salzburg. Although Marianne had not even known that Constanze was still alive, the encounter was apparently “cordial”, though not warm. Eventually, Marianne did the Nissens a great favor: to help them write a biography of Wolfgang, Marianne lent the Nissens her collection of family letters, including Wolfgang and Leopold’s correspondence up to 1781.

In 1821, Marianne had a visit from Wolfgang’s son, Franz Xaver Mozart, whom she had never met during her brother’s lifetime. The son had come from his home in Lemberg to conduct a performance of his father’s Requiem in remembrance of the recently deceased Nissen. In her last years, Marianne’s health declined, and she became blind in 1825. Mary Novello, visiting in 1829, recorded her impression that she was “blind, languid, exhausted, feeble and nearly speechless” as well as lonely. She mistakenly took Marianne to be impoverished, though in fact she was frugal and left a large fortune.

Marianne died on 29 October 1829, at 78 years, and was buried in St Peter’s Cemetery, Salzburg.

I have already given regional recipes for others in the Mozart family, so here I thought I would be slightly sideways in my reasoning by including a recipe for St Giles gingerbread – St Giles being the English name for the town where Marianne lived most of her life, and where her mother was born. I am a big fan of gingerbread, and this recipe is suitably rich and spicy.  The quantities of the various spices are suggestions only.  Alter as you see fit.

St Giles Gingerbread

Ingredients

3 eggs, beaten
1 cup honey
½ cup chopped suet or lard
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp ground ginger (or more to taste)
1 tbsp fruit-based hot sauce
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 apple, peeled and grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup fresh grated ginger

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F

Grease and flour a bundt or ring pan, or regular cake tin.

Mix the eggs and honey together in a small bowl.

Place the remaining ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, and stir well to mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Add the eggs and honey mixture, and combine to form a thick batter.

Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake for about one hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Turn out on to a cake rack and serve warm or cool with whipped cream or butter cream.

(Note: You can also make the batter into a steamed pudding if you wish. Place the batter in a greased and lined pudding basin or mold, cover tightly, and steam for about 3 hours).
 

Oct 172015
 

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The London Beer Flood occurred on this date in 1814 in the parish of St. Giles in London at the Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road. A vat containing over 135,000 imperial gallons (610,000 L) of beer ruptured, causing other vats in the same building to succumb in a domino effect. As a result, more than 323,000 imperial gallons (1,470,000 L) of beer burst out and gushed into the streets. The wave of beer destroyed two homes and crumbled the wall of the Tavistock Arms Pub, trapping teenage employee Eleanor Cooper under the rubble. Within minutes neighboring George Street and New Street were swamped with beer, killing a mother and daughter who were taking tea, and surging through a room of people gathered for a wake. The brewery was among the poor houses and tenements of the St Giles Rookery, where whole families lived in basement rooms that quickly filled with beer. At least eight people were known to have drowned in the flood or died from injuries.

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The brewery was eventually taken to court over the accident, but the disaster was ruled to be an Act of God by the courts, leaving no one responsible. The company found it difficult to cope with the financial implications of the disaster, with a significant loss of sales made worse because they had already paid duty on the beer. They made a successful application to Parliament reclaiming the duty which allowed them to continue trading.

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The flood was the result of the general method of brewing porter. Porter is a dark style of beer developed in London in the 18th century from well-hopped beers made from brown malt. The history and development of stout and porter are intertwined. The name “stout” as used for a dark beer is believed to have come about because strong porters were marketed under such names as “Extra Porter”, “Double Porter”, and “Stout Porter”. The term “Stout Porter” would later be shortened to just “Stout”. For example, Guinness Extra Stout was originally called Extra Superior Porter and was only given the name Extra Stout in 1840.

Porter was originally a more-aged development of the brown beers already being made in London. Before 1700, London brewers sent out their beer very young and any aging was either performed by the publican or a dealer. Porter was the first beer to be aged at the brewery and dispatched in a condition fit to be drunk immediately. It was the first beer that could be made on any large scale. Early London porters were strong beers by modern standards. Early trials with the hydrometer in the 1770s recorded porter as having an OG (original gravity) of 1.071 and 6.6% ABV. Increased taxation during the Napoleonic Wars pushed its gravity down to around 1.055, where it remained for the rest of the 19th century. The popularity of the style prompted brewers to produce porters in a wide variety of strengths. These started with Single Stout Porter at around 1.066, Double Stout Porter (such as Guinness) at 1.072, Triple Stout Porter at 1.078 and Imperial Stout Porter at 1.095 and more. During the 19th century the porter suffix was gradually dropped.

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The large London porter breweries pioneered many technological advances, such as the use of the thermometer (about 1760) and the hydrometer (1770). The use of the latter transformed the nature of porter. The first porters were brewed from 100% brown malt. Now brewers were able to accurately measure the yield of the malt they used, and noticed that brown malt, though cheaper than pale malt, only produced about two thirds as much fermentable material. When the malt tax was increased to help pay for the Napoleonic War, brewers had an incentive to use less malt. Their solution was to use a proportion of pale malt and add coloring to obtain the expected hue. When a law was passed in 1816 allowing only malt and hops to be used in the production of beer (a sort of British Reinheitsgebot), they were left in a quandary. Their problem was solved by Wheeler’s invention of the almost black patent malt in 1817. It was now possible to brew porter from 95% pale malt and 5% patent malt, though most London brewers continued to use some brown malt for flavor. Until about 1800, all London porter was matured in large vats, often holding several hundred barrels, for between six and eighteen months before being racked into smaller casks to be delivered to pubs.

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By the mid-20th century porter had fallen out of favor and was widely discontinued in favor of stout. But it started to make a comeback in the latter part of the century and has a certain vogue in England and the continent, as well as in the U.S. It is not as heavy and bitter as the more common stouts and is sometimes produced with fruit flavorings similar to some German and Belgian beers. Either plain or flavored, porter makes an excellent choice for braising beef. Here’s a fairly standard recipe for braising a brisket which I used all the time when I lived in beer country. Like porter, this dish is much better if “aged” in the refrigerator for a day or two.

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Porter Braised Brisket

Ingredients

1 tbsp coarse kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dry English mustard
2 tsp chopped fresh sage
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
6 lb flat-cut brisket, trimmed but with some fat still attached
2 tbsp rendered bacon fat
beef broth
12-oz bottle porter
2 tsp dark brown sugar
6 cups thinly sliced onions
8 whole garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 lb medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise
2 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tbsp malt vinegar

Instructions

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.

Mix salt, pepper, mustard, sage and thyme in small bowl. Rub herb mixture all over brisket. Heat the bacon fat in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the brisket and brown on both sides. Transfer the brisket to a platter. Add 2 cups of beef broth to the pot and bring to a vigorous boil, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Stir in the porter and brown sugar, and bring to boil. Return brisket to pot, fat side down. Layer the onions on top of the brisket

Cover the pot, place in the oven and cook for 1 hour. Remove the pot from oven and turn the brisket over so that the onions and garlic are now on the bottom in the liquid. Return the pot to the oven and braise uncovered 30 minutes. Add 1 cup of broth. Cover and bake for another 1 hour 30 minutes.

Transfer the brisket to a platter. Add 1 more cup of broth to the pot, then add the mushrooms and carrots. Return the brisket to the pot. Cover and return to the oven and braise until the meat and carrots are tender, adding more broth if needed to cover vegetables (about 45 minutes). Cool, then refrigerate covered for 1 to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spoon off any fat from the surface of the brisket pan juices and discard. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and thinly slice across the grain. Place the brisket slices in a large roasting pan. Bring the pan juices with vegetables to a simmer in a pot and add the Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper, adding more vinegar if desired. Pour the pan juices and vegetables over the brisket in the roasting pan. Cover the roasting pan tightly with heavy-duty foil and cook in the oven until brisket slices and vegetables are heated through (about 1 hour)

Serve meat, vegetables and sauce together on a heated platter with crusty and a green salad.