As i find myself with some free time on my hands away from home and hearth, I suddenly remembered I still had one more panel entry to write about. For my third and final trick, I present to you, the Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook’s Cheering (Cough) Syrup:
The Great Cheering Syrup: Way of Making It (1)
Take half a ratl each of borage, mint, and citron leaves, cook them in water to cover until their strength comes out, then take the clean part and add it to a ratl of sugar. Then put in the bag: a spoonful each of aloe stems, Chinese rhubarb, Chinese cinnamon, cinnamon and clove flowers; pound all these coarsely, place them in a cloth, tie it well, and place it in the kettle, macerate it again and again until its substance passes out, and cook until [the liquid] takes the consistency of syrups. Take one û qiya with three of hot water. Benefits: It profits [preceding two words apparently supplied; in parentheses in printed Arabic text] weak stomachs, fortifies the liver and cheers the heart, digests foods, and lightens the constitution gently, God willing.
Take 15.5oz(2) each of Borage, Spearmint and Citron Leaves, cover them in water and steep like tea until their oil/essence comes out, then strain and add 15.5 oz of sugar. Then in a bag put a spoonfull each of aloe stems, chinese rhubarb, chinese cinnamon, cinnamon and clove flowers; pound all these coursely. Tie the bag together and hang it in the kettle (much like a bouquet-garne) and pound it continously until the substance passed through the cloth. Cook until the liquid thicket to syrup. Once finished, take 1 1/3oz of the syrup with 4oz of hot water.
Benefits: it benefits weak stomachs, fortifies the liver and cheers the heard, digests foods and lightens the constitution, God willing.
- 1 Stainless Steel Pot
- 1 Wooden Spoon
- 1 Mortar and Pestle
- 1 Muslin Bag
The original Arabic was hard but searching for ingredients was far harder. I had a friend that went to the Caribbean and posted pictures of herself in front of Citron Trees. Had I known, I would have had her smuggle some back in her luggage but my timing was off. Then I searched at over 7 grocery stores and thought I had found Citron, only to discover they had sold out the week before. Then I had to try to find borage which you’d think would be pretty easy to find but only if you want it in pill or oil based form. So we had to settle; I started by mixing French Citron (a bastardized combination of lemon and mandarin orange) peel, with lemon leaves. Then I found Borage online and ordered a 2 oz package, and finally, the one thing I had was the spearmint which I had grown in my own garden the year before and dried and stored.
As you can see in the picture Lemon leaves (far left), Borage (close left) French Citron (close right) and the whole mix was put into a pot (far right). The mix was covered with water and I drowned the whole mix to make sure it was covered and applied heat. The smell was amazing. It had a menthol effect and between the lemon leaves, mint and the borage the whole house had clear sinuses in a matter of minutes.
Then we took Aloe stems, Chinese Cinnamon, regular Cinnamon, Rhubarb, cloves, and wrapped them up in a muslin bag before dropping it into the mixture.
The mixture in the pot took on this purplish brown color. It was so beautiful, the pictures here don’t do it justice. Strangely, along with the color change, I also noticed something about pounding the muslin bag. As I took it out and crushed it more and more, the liquid it exhuded had a whitish color and the consistency of phlegm or some other viscous liquid. This mixture was blended into the borage/citron/mint wash and over a slow simmer I reduced the mixture to a slightly thick syrup. I didn’t make it like molasses but it was probably about maple syrup consistency by the time it was done.
By the time the mixture was done I probably only had about 4-5 oz of actualy Cheering Syrup. One of my judges luckily seemed to be having a tickle in her throat so this particular recipe was fortuitous. I poured them about 1 1/3 oz in their cups and mixed it with 4 oz of warm/hot water. They both felt the beverage had been successful and the viscous texture along with the menthol effect earned me a score of 77 (Master’s Score).
Still wishing I had real citron leaves (4). I’d be curious how it would change the flavor of the syrup itself. Otherwise I’m pretty impressed. I even managed to find a bottle to present it in that was similair to the blue one in this Islamic Pharmacopia picture:
(1) 14th Century Andalusian Cook Book (http://italophiles.com/andalusian_cookbook.pdf)
(2) a Ratl is a Middleastern unit of measurement that changed with reigns. I went with the last one. The most significant ranges were :
- 8th Century /1 Ratl = 300g – Marcinkowski, Measures, 41.
- 10-12th Century/ 1 Ratl = 437.5 g – ibid.
- Later 12th Century/ 1 Ratl (also known as ‘ratl fulfuli’ used for spices and finer commodities = 450g (15.5oz) -ibid
(3) û qiya= 1/12 ratl (1 1/3 oz) / http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Andalusian/andalusian10.htm
(4) Origins of Citron- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citron