Here is an article talking about a recent book find containing ales made by the former monks of an abbey in the 11th Century. Here
Personally I don’t think this would be considered kosher but hey, the benefits of investigation are probably worth it. Here
It’s not hard to believe that with the production of wine, beer, mead or other alcohols, that people want to be sure the beverage comes out tasting nearly the same every time.
A recent find shows the results of a winery with a specific layout to guarantee repeatable results. Here
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
See what I did there? Anyway, my second entry to the Panels at EKBC was a wine that was a bit of a time traveler. In Oct I was given a list of recipes from the Folger’s Manual (which strangely enough turned out not to be a treatise on making bad coffee). This Manual was actually a collection of Recipes from the Folger’s Shakespeare Library over in England and taught me a valuable lesson in doing “complete” research before engaging in a project.
Something was incredibly suspicious about this recipe. They specifically state the recipe is from 1560 but it names Ale Yeast in the recipe. The fact that they were mentioning yeast in this time period was suspicious. Further, the fact that they were using Ale yeast in a wine was a 2nd strike but it didn’t dawn on me right from the beginning.
- Steel Pot 3. Knife
- Wooden Spoon 4. Strainer
I started by chopping the raisins and combining them together with water and bringing the temperature up to boiling. At that point we added the sugar and gave it some mighty stirs using my grape pounding stick. The mixture was boiled for an hour and we put it in the container to sit and cool overnight. I then went to the local herb shop and picked up the next ingredient, the elder flower petals (dried was all they had available)
This was when we discovered the flaw in our plan. You see, I would have to stuff all those flowers into the carboy with the raisins and sugar which was already at capacity (5 gallons). It was quickly decided that the mixture would go back into the pot and the elder flower was stirred into the mixture until thoroughly immersed. It created a sort of “raft” on the top of the wine so I mixed in the lemon syrup (half lemon juice/half sugar) and the ale yeast. The whole batch was let sit 2 months.
And now we get to the troubling part of the recipe. I had not read through the entire article that I obtained. Instead of a simple recipe with source listed but to my shock, discovered it was merely the collection of recipes from multiple sources. I soon started to hunt down the recipe and the results were going the wrong direction.
The additional research started this way:
1) Chamber’s Cyclopædia of English Literature: A History, Critical
2) Excerpt from The Familiar Letters of James Howell (10th Edition from 1737) Published by James Nutt in the Strand, Edited by Joseph Jacobs; Balantine,Hanson and Co., Life 1594-1666 Copyright wrote of Frontiniac Wine in his account of the wine countries: pg 456
3) Excerpt from The works of Mary Russell Mitford: prose and verse, viz Our village, Belford 1850:
He made wine this year of his white muscadine and white frontiniac, better I thought than any French white wine. He keeps a shop of seeds, and plants in pots- next the street. Jan. 26, 1691. J. Gibson
Ok, so we now have a reference for the original wine which is made with GRAPES. Not sugar and Raisins, let’s see what else we can find.
4) Recipe shown in Warner’s Antiquitates Culinarie 1791 which drew the recipe from Eliza Smith’s “Compleat Housewife” Or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion of 1736 or 1739.
5) Definition: FRONTINIAC, Subst. (a luscious kind of rich wine made at Frontiniac, near Montpelier, in France )- The Royal Dictionary, French and English, and English and French By Abel Boyer, 1699, / just a bit outside period.
6) The Works of John Locke, Volume 10/ 1780. Describes a sweet wine- Musquat blanc, or white muscat ; this is usually planted and pressed alone, and makes the wine we usually call Frontiniac, from Frontignan, a town on the Mediterranean, near two or three leagues from Montpelier,
7) Excerpt from Sir Joseph Banks: (1743-1820) / wrong way in time
2 walnuts; 2 Spanish chestnuts; 2 oaks; 4 pomegranites; 2 plaintains; some mint; and of the grapes, Tokay, White Frontiniac, Black Frontiniac, Constantia for wine making, and only the White Muscadine and Muscat of Alexandria for eating.
8) On Alcohol: A Course of Six Cantor Lectures Delivered Before the Society of Arts 1878 mentions Wines of Spain and Portugal “Frontiniac” is among the listings. / still not headed the way we want to go
It isn’t until we finally get to this point the truth comes clear. This is a recovery wine. Somewhere along the way. Grape harvests of this Frontenac Grape become either scarce or there’s a plague that kills the grapes off slowly. So slow that they are trying to get what few grapes they can and they are using them the best way they know how. Preserve them by drying and re-hydrating them with additional sugar and flavoring:
9) The final link of the false Fronteniac Wine with the real wine is the recipe for when the wine grapes yield a poor harvest: The Whole Duty of a Woman: Or, an Infallible Guide to the Fair Sex
10) To Make Stepony: A Sip Through Time. Cindy Renfrow, Originally from Martha Washington’s Boke of Cookery, 1550-1625) / the corresponding similair recipe which shows the technique itself was period. Although obtained from a Tertiary source. If you’re ever forced to go with a choice between Martha Washington’s Recipe Book and Digby’s Closet Opened, go with Digby.
The final correlation ends up being through a Tertiary source which is where my points cost me. The recipe is period (sort of) but is not the direct Fronteniac Grape Wine recipe we hoped for.
Coincidentally, the end of the 2 months happened about 2 weeks before the EKBC which was just enough time needed to drain the mixture out, let it settle and then bottle it for display. The scent was probably it’s greatest aspect. One sniff and you’re hit with a bouquet of flowers right in the snoot. The taste is both sweet and floral (as expected) and the alcohol is pleasant. I suspect it probably could ferment further but the recipe said 2 months so that’s where we stop. If you do bottle this, I’d recommend champagne bottles so any additional fermentation doesn’t create a hand grenade. The final grade ended up being a 74 (Master level).
Incidently, the reason I was so hot to trot on making this recipe was because of the name which correlates with the location that the East Kingdom Brewers’ Collegium happens. It’s called Frontenac Lodge
I presented a large bottle to the owners in appreciation of all the years they’ve had us. I do hope they enjoyed it.
2 Weeks ago was the 2019 East Kingdom Brewers’ Guilde Collegium. This is the SCA’s big brewing get together where anyone who is anyone shows up and we do a series of classes on various brewing subjects, do panels for advancement within the guilde, and generally taste each others wares and latest experiments. The weekend was great although we were missing a few faces we normally see. This event always charges me up and inspires me to try new recipes and think about where my brewing is going. And until recently it was pretty across the board.
The hardest thing about brewing is that you are chained to the seasons. Spring is my rhubarb wine, dandelion wine season, summer is a variety of meads and cordials, fall is ciders, perrys and grape wines, and then winter is the world of beers. on top of that, new royal couples come in at about the same time so the need for Royal Brewing Donations is always there. But I digress
If you remember, not so long ago…ok maybe pretty long ago now that i’ve checked…. I did a brief discussion on using large clay vessels buried in the ground for protection of making wine: Roman/Georgian wine.
So I felt it was time to prove the technique by actually making my own wine using the same process. The hardest part of this endeavor was to scale the recipe down. The reason is because first, I don’t need 200 gallons of wine, regardless of how good it comes out. If it failed, I also didn’t need 200 gallons of vinegar either. Another obstacle was that although clay may have been cheap in both Roman and Georgian times, it is at best $20/5 lb block today. By the time I made a 200 gallon Dolum, I might have better spent that money purchasing a new car. Let’s not talk about the 3 to 4 days of heating the clay to cure it, then line the inside with either wax or pitch the way it was done in period. The cost of the grapes… well I could go on and on about how expensive this would be. Suffice it to say, we’ve scaled it down.
The first thing we did was visit my friend up the road who sells food grade barrels to see what he had available. Lo and behold! these wonderful plastic food grade barrels for 5.00 each met our requirements wonderfully. They formerly held olives packed in olive oil so I knew there would be little to no off flavors (possibly period but I haven’t really researched that aspect). I cleaned the barrels thoroughly and set them aside for when this project would be started. In the meantime I had to do some research. In the Roman research, I found reference too “Golden Wine”(1) which was a combination of many grape types thrown together and fermented out. This wine came out looking gold/yellowish and was given to the soldiers who were out serving their Empire. Usually the wine was cut half and half with water to drink. Drinking straight wine was considered uncouth.
The references I found concerning Georgian wine spoke of grape varieties such as Rkatsiteli, Mcvane, Hihvi, Kisi, or Kakhuri mcvane . All of which were grapes grown locally. Whether they were mixed or kept seperate, it was not clear but, the process required the grapes to be loaded into the giant vase, which was already in the ground and then capped and left for most of the winter undisturbed. Come spring, the container would be opened and the “now wine” would be drawn off, possibly into another container where it was held to use later and also clarify.
So, it was November when this project was started which was unfortunate because my selection of grapes was not good. I had a choice of 4 or 5 varieites. The prime time to go get your grapes apparently is August and the choices are much wider and fresher.
Muscat Canelli was suggested to me by the produce distributors. I purchased 3 flats which was guaranteed to give me 5 gallons of juice. The grapes were put directly into the containers and crushed using a pounding staff that I made by hand using a draw knife.
After all the of the grapes were pounded the lid was lightly secured to allow gases to escape but not allow bugs or bacteria to get in. The containers were originally going to be put into the ground but after speaking to several people we realized 2 things; the container was not clay but plastic, and too small to not freeze placed into a 3 ft hole. The other thing was that the container would not go below the permafrost line to get the earth’s heat to keep it from freezing. It was decided the containers could simulate the effect by placing them in the darkest, coldest section of the basement for the duration. The temp ranged between 40*F-50*F for most of the winter. As per the documentation, it was supposed to sit there from Harvest time (Oct/Nov) to the first weeks of Spring (April/May). As planned, the containers were brought up and filtered into a holding container allowing time for the residue to settle out before bottling for presentation.
The initial draw of the liquid was very cloudy as seen above, however even after the first overnite period, the heavy yeasts were settling out. By the time it was bottled we had a beautiful color in the rackoff.
This picture doesn’t do it justice but the color is a bright orange color that goes right to the edge of the bottle and doesn’t become watery or fluctuate in any way. The aroma is very light and hardly alcoholic in nature although the grapes do come through. There’s no tannic tang. The flavor was also very enjoyable. It had a light alcohol taste with a young fruit. No doubt if this was allowed to age the alcohol would end up being low but the fructose sugars would bloom and it would be very smooth.
So at the paneling it scored a 77 (Master’s Score). As always there were things the judges wanted changed about the research. I will have to delve more into an “actual recipe” for this but I am overall impressed with how well it came out. There was some talk about trying to get a more period type flavor. We had discussed possibly using a piece of pottery like a flower pot dipped in beeswax to influence the same kind of flavors that the vintning container would have but we were more worried about what kinds of chemicals could be found in those pots. As always, there’s room or improvement and ways to attempt a more period product.
- Wine process- http://www.romeacrosseurope.com/?p=2248#sthash.sluVNTns.dpbs
If every one of my brewing experiments was a success, I would be dissapointed. This may shock you, or you may understand that success doesn’t always produce learning. Sometimes the failures you come across can be just as educational. Thomas Edison was once asked why he continued to test substances for the filament in the lightbulb. At this point he had 500 failed tests. A scientist of the time asked him “You have 500 failures, doesn’t that discourage you?” To which he replied “No, I’ve learned of 500 substances that can’t be used for my needs.”
For example: Chickpea Beer. I found a source (sort of) that spoke of a Medieval Beer made of Chickpeas. It talked about how to sprout the chickpeas, roasting and grinding them, and then boiling them with hops and fermenting with ale yeast.
The beverage was being brought back by an Israeli Brewery and based on the information given, it seemed to be fairly straight forward.
- 5lbs Chickpeas
- Ale Yeast
- Hops (1 oz of Tetnanger)
- 2 Sheetpans
- Glass Jar
- Metal Spoon
- Mortar and Pestle
So oddly enough, the reference I used the first time that had the original recipe is now unavailable. The webpage doesn’t exist anymore. This was after I followed the instructions but before I could copy the original recipe and post it here. This probably should have been a key off there was something fishy. The original Israeli Brewery page no longer claims it’s a medieval beverage.
So to start we got a large quantity of Chickpeas and soaked them in water for 3 days until they started to sprout:
As you can see, two days of soaking and the chickpeas were sprouting just like you’d malt grain. I rotated the peas several times so that none of the peas were sitting directly in the water too long. Also the water started developing a funky smell, not unlike warm cheese so I drained the water and replaced with fresh a couple times over 2 days until the sprouting was complete.
The Chickpeas were then layed across 2 sheetpans and at 160 degrees I dried them out over the span of 12 hrs (overnite) so that the chickpeas became dry and brittle (it was malted). The drying and malting process was pretty unpleasant as it continued to smell like hot cheese (and not the good kind, more like the artificial mac n cheese variety).
The chickpeas were then ground using a Mortar & Pestle until it was mostly powder with a few lumps. Sparge water was put over the mix at 170*F and let sit for 2 hrs. Did I mention that the cheese smell wasn’t getting better?
The mixture was then drained off into a pot and boiled with 1 oz of Tetnanger hops. Strangely the hops didn’t improve the smell. It was then covered and yeast was pitched. It was allowed to ferment for 2 days before I became concerned that a rabid racoon had gotten in a fight with a skunk and they both died under the counter somewhere in my kitchen. Removing the top was a mistake and I didn’t dare taste it for fear of Ptomaine poisoning.
At this point the entire batch was dumped in the woods. Over the next couple of days I noticed the coyotes weren’t howling each night anymore. This may not be related but it seemed rather coincidental. Regardless, the beer is now being touted as a Gluten Free alternative and for all my efforts it probably wasn’t a period recipe to begin with but a nice marketing gimmick. Live and learn.
Some of my other favorite failures are the “Pictish Heather Ale” I tried to impress my wife with. It needed the heather to be heated above 1408F before brewing with it. Ended up being very sour. My first attempt at Sake (never did get the deposit back from the apt) and a chili beer I once made that would eat the glass mug it was served in.
Don’t let failures get you down. They can be expensive but they make you aware of common problems that can occur. Like my father says “Betcha won’t do that again”.