Dioscorides Omphacomel

Dioscorides held primacy in the botanical world for almost 1500 years. In the 16th century, that began to change. In among the religious upheavals, political strife, and innumerable changes of the age of exploration, science and technology also began to emerge as topics in their own right. With this the world of botany and medicine also began to change. As a result, books based on Dioscorides became outdated and fewer. Many of the new books continued to feature recipe for mead and related drinks just as Dioscorides did.

Today’s recipe is for omphacomel, a mead made with unripe grape juice – or verjuice.

Making Verjuice c. 1375 is from the Taquinum Sanitatis at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Latin 9333)

1516 Baptista/Barolo Book V Omphacomeli DCCCLXIII

Omphacomeli sie condunt: uvis districtis semi acerbic nee dum mutantibus colorem in sole triduano habitis: mox expressis ad tres partes succi una optimi & despumati mellis addita. Huic insole cadis inveterato vis comprimendi refrigerandique est. Ideo laborantibus stomach alvinisque laudatur, usus anniculo non ante.

TRANSLATION (Laura Angotti): Omphacomel is thus laid up. Sharp and somewhat sour grapes not yet changed in color, held three days in the sun. Then express the juice, and to 3 parts of juice add 1 of good and scummed honey. This is placed in the sun in casks established to prevent compromise and which is cool. It is good for those who suffer from stomach flux, use it after a year, not before.

The 1:3 ratio of honey:juice is fairly high, and probably helps to offset the acid and sourness of unripe grapes (although verjuice is characterized as less acid than vinegar). The 1 year aging period is one seen before in Dioscorides, but is probably helpful for flavors to meld. It also might reflect a slow fermentation due to high acidity.

I have not made this recipe. The relatively high price of verjuice makes it drop down the list of priorities. Perhaps I can find a way to access some unripe grapes and make my own verjuice.

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