Last week I introduced Nicholas Abraham de La Framboisiere’s 1600 ‘Le Govvernement Necessaire a Chacun Pour Vivre Longuement en Sante’ (Governance required for everyone to live long in health), and a somewhat ambiguous recipe for Mead for the Eyes.
Cinnamon Plant (1578)
The ambiguity in that recipe is not uncommon. Ambiguity in recipes can take many forms: uncertainty of measurements, uncertainty of ingredients, and perhaps most significant – uncertainty of process. In both last week’s recipe and this week’s, the primary uncertainties are of measurement and process. In this respect they both barely meet the minimum level of what I consider a recipe.
This week’s recipe provides instructions for making a braggot (mead with grain sugars). It appears in a general discussion of beer.
La biere se fait d’orge avec du houblon, & de l’eau. Aucuns y adjoustent de l’avoyne, autres du bled froument, pour la render plus nourrissante. Quelquefois on y mesle de l’yuraie, pou irriter davantage le goust. Les Anglois pour la faire plus plaisante, apres qu’elle est brassee, jettent dans le tonneaus de sucre, de la canelle, & des clous de girofle. Las Flamans Y mettent quelquesfois du miel & des espices.
TRANSLATION (Laura Angotti): Beer is made of barley with hops, and of water. Some add flour, others wheat, to make it more nourishing. Sometimes darnel-grass is mixed with it to make it taste better. The English, to make it more pleasant, after it is brewed, throw into the vessel sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. The Flamans put in sometimes honey and spices.
Darnel grass is white darnel or buckwheat. The word Tonneau is specific to a large wooden vessel. Flamans are Flamonds, from Flanders. Flanders, the northern portion of Belgium, and also a region of France.
The sugar sweetening attributed to the English in this 1600 text would almost certainly have been honey in an earlier time. However, given that sugar is specified, I do not count this as a potential mead recipe.
The Flanders recipe adds honey and spices to beer of water barley and hops (which itself may have flour/wheat or buckwheat added). The timing of this addition is not clear, and can be argued to be either prior to or after primary fermentation. But even if the honey is added after the beer ferments, the new sugar source will most likely restart fermentation. The specific spices added are not specified, but this ambiguity is not uncommon, and several possible spices are mentioned in the previous sentence. I consider this a valid recipe because the information presented is sufficient to create a drink.
Fortunately, most recipes are more detailed than this. Fear not, next week’s offering provides many more details.
Cinnamon woodcut from Wellcome Library.