The Prince and Sekanjabin

The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, in my eyes has always received a bad wrap.  Having read the book, you learn that he was a mid-level government official who lived during a very tumultuous time in the history of Florence.  The Medici had just been thrown out (1494) and he took the opportunity to work his way up to Chancelor just in time for the Medici to return and force him to flee (1512).   He semi-retired to his estate and wrote his controversial book “The Prince” and was able to finally work his way back into their good graces to gain a government office.  In 1527, Charles V attacked Rome and again the Medici were cast to the four winds, Noccolo died later that year unable to obtain a spot with the new regime.

Mach·i·a·vel·li·an  (ˌmäkēəˈvelēən,ˌmakēəˈvelēən/
adjective
1.cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous, especially in politics or in advancing one’s career. (1.)

But Machiavelli took the time to write down what he saw happening in politics around him.  Yes, he may have dabbled a bit in politics to achieve his own ends.  He was a politician.  His books were widely available even in his own time so that heads of state whether they be inherited, appointed, or invading could learn from his observations and be better leaders.  Instead the masses took his book to mean “How to knife the competition at their own game”  (thanks to a French translation in 1640) and thus Machiavellian became a political slur used even in society today.

So widely known was this book at the time that even Shakespeare in his Merry Wives of Windsor (2.), does a character ask himself “Am I politic? Am I subtle? Am I a Machiavel?”.  An interesting twist of words since obviously being political was no shame but being a Machiavel denoted a different kind of politics that were considered uncouth and self serving.

And at this point you’re saying to yourself “Thank you for the history lesson Kythe but where is this going, you’re not a politician, you’re a brewer, how does this relate to booze?!?!”

 You’ve got a point, but this brings me to where I am now.  We in the SCA have both the Machiavellian equivalent “Hereditary Princedom”(3.) as well as the “Of New Princedoms Which a Prince Acquires With His own Arms and by Merit”(3.).   Those who want to one day be King of the East first compete by right of arms and if victorious are crowned as Prince.  They later play to the line that they are “Inheriting” the throne with the previous King and Queen’s time is over and are thus familial related on some level.

Each reign brings it’s own nuances of politics, involvement, and expectations.  Thus our new King Ioannes Aurelius Serpentius  and Queen Honig Von Summerfeldt have  ascended the East Kingdom Throne.

Being that this couple was formerly from my Region, I as Northern Warden of the East Kingdom Brewer’s Guilde wanted to help their reign of time be successful and beneficial as they will being King and Queen during Pennsic 46.

I actually met them at Pennsic 44 briefly during my apprentice-sister’s Laurelling Ceremony but at the time I hardly knew them or where they were headed.  When I recognized the name being in line for the Throne it made perfect sense.  I approached them and I spoke to Her (then) Highness Honig and I offered my services and she had many questions about different brewing and choice of brews.  I later approached Ioannes and offered my services with an expectation of my next project being a fantastic beverage of Monarch Proportions for a Monarch to defeat the Midrealm

 And His Highness Ioannes spoke to say “I don’t drink” (alcohol)
/cue the crickets…………………………………….
Suddenly I was a man lost in the jungle wilderness and knowing how to bowl.
And words came to me in that moment of confusion: “If, then, your illustrious House should seek to follow the example of those great men who have delivered their country in past ages, it is before all things necessary, as the true foundation of every such attempt, to be provided with national troops, since you can have no braver, truer, or more faithful soldiers.”(4.)
In short, this was not a barrier, but a challenge to round out my Brewing Bailiwick with alternatives to alcohol.  Their Majesties must be well supplied for a successful reign.
“Fear not your Highness” was my response, “I have alternatives for you.”
He had never heard of Sekanjabin so now was the perfect time to introduce it:
Sekanjabin can be traced back to the 10th Century (5.) in the Middle East.  As many of the populace in those areas were non-alcohol drinkers, they needed something they could trust to be both quenching and safe:

Syrup of Simple Sikanjabîn

(Oxymel)As written in the Andalusian Cookbook ( p. A-74  (6.)

Take a ratl (a.)(7.)  of strong vinegar and mix it with two ratls of sugar, and cook all this until it takes the form of a syrup. Drink an ûqiya (b.) (8.) of this with three of hot water when fasting: it is beneficial for fevers of jaundice, and calms jaundice and cuts the thirst, since sikanjabîn syrup is beneficial in phlegmatic fevers: make it with six ûqiyas of sour vinegar for a ratl of honey and it is admirable.

Footnotes:
(a.)  Ratl = 437.5g  (15 1/2 oz or 1/2 oz less than a US pound roughly)
(b.)  ûqiya= 1/12 ratl (1 1/3 oz)

Redaction:

Take 15 1/2 oz of white vinegar and mix it with 31 oz of sugar.  Put this in the fire and cook it until it forms a syrup.   This mixture is combined  1 1/3 oz of Sikanjabin with about 4oz of water and drank when fasting.  It is beneficial for fevers associated with jaundice and tremors.  It is also beneficial with phlegm when you mix it with 9oz of sour vinegar and 15 1/2 oz of honey.

 

Observations-

It is unfortunate that the top 1/3 of this page was ripped out of the manuscript.   There may have been other instructions or ingredients not mentioned here.  Looking at the multitude of recipes that were both in front of and behind the recipe, it was evident that flavorings were added at some point and then we ended up with the equivalent of Medieval Lemonade (and other flavors).

Ingredients:

  • White Vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Spearmint (grown from my own garden and dried)
  • Water (as prescribed above)

Tools:

  • Ceramic Pot
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Potholders

Process:

So we first needed to make this as authentic as possible.  I’ve make sekanjabin countless times but this is the first time I’ve done a recipe that is strictly vinegar and sugar from the beginning.   But it wasn’t enough to just create the recipe, I wanted to make sure it was authentic in it’s creation process.

We started by getting a good bed of coals started,WP_003831

Too hot a fire and the ceramic pot would crack.  Too cold and we’d end up with sweet and sour cold soup.   I let the fire burn down until it was a huge pile of coals and probably just a little too hot for the ceramic pot.  I put the vinegar in and we put the pot into the now perfect coal bed.

 

Once the vinegar was about blood warm, I added the sugar and stirred it together.  It wasn’t combining into a smooth liquid.  The temperature wasn’t hot enough yet for them to integrade so back into the fire it goes.

At this point I’m watching both the sugar/vinegar mixture and stirring it so it doesn’t burn and I’m attempting to rotate the coals either closer or farther away so the temperature around the ceramic pot is even.  I don’t want it to crack from uneven heat distribution.  After about 30 min I pull the mix out and uncover it.  The sugar stuck a little to the sides above the syrup line but the sugar has now integrated with the vinegar nicely.  My mistake was trying to take a sniff.  Hot vinegar will burn all the hair out of your nose.  I then added the spearmint that I’ve grown in my own yard and dried last fall.  Again we put the ceramic pot gently back into the waining coals and continue to let the vinegar/sugar mix steep with the mint.

The heat continues outside the pot and after another 15 minutes I pulled the mixture out and removed the lid to see the mix bubbling from the residual heat in the ceramic pot itself.  It bubbled probably for a good 5 minutes without any outside influence.  I removed the mixture and strained out the now spent mint.

WP_003848

I let the mixture cool in an open top glass beaker.  The mixture made about a pint of the concentrated sekanjabin.  I then proceeded to follow the remainder of the instructions to add 1 ûqiya (1 1/3oz) of the concentrate to 3 ûqiya (4 oz) of water and served it.

We didn’t have any of this particular pattern but were able to find a couple of similar in style presentation glasses:

We tasted the mixture and were delighted to discover the sour vinegar flavor was almost not existent but that the spearmint flavor was very light.  Chilled with a light middle eastern snack, it would be wonderful to watch the fighters at Pennsic and keeping cool with this.

TTYL

 

Bibliography:

  1. Definition taken from Google Dictionairy  here
  2. Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare
  3. The Prince, Niccolo Machiavellli, Signature Press Edition, (N.H. Thomson’s Edition) Published 2008, Copyright 2008
  4. The Prince, Niccolo Machiavellli, Signature Press Edition, (N.H. Thomson’s Edition) Published 2008, Copyright 2008
  5. http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/cariadoc/drinks.html
  6.  An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century 
  7. https://sites.google.com/site/islamiceconomyuwo/weights-and-measurements/maghribnorth-africa/ratl
  8. Google Books  Fish: Food from the Waters  edited by Harlan Walker
  9. http://bookeofsecretes.blogspot.com/2017/01/arabian-honey-drinks-and-syrups-made.html
  10. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/igls/hd_igls.htm

  11. http://www.flickriver.com/photos/antiquitiesproject/sets/72157624144709586/

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