italian

Alessio Piemontese’s Hippocras

Hippocras is a mulled wine made from wine mixed with sugar and spices. It is found in many medieval cookbooks, featuring a variety of spices; Forme of Cury, Menagier de Paris, and Viandier de Tallievent sport their own different recipes, to name a few.

I chose to redact this recipe because I was already working in this book for my lip balms, and I’d just happened to stumble over it. The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemont, 1558, translated to English from the 1557 French version, which was translated from the original 1555 Italian, is a fascinating set of books. They provide instructions, recipes, and tips and tricks for a variety of pursuits, from medicine to dyeing to metallurgy. It struck me that the author, whose sense of humor is not lost in the formulas of this ‘scientific’ tome, chose to include a recipe for what is likely his favorite hippocras — there are very few recipes for food or drink not intended for medicinal purposes in these books.

Excellent Ipocras. p120/736

“Take anne once of sinamon, of ginger two dragines, melligetta three dragines, cloves twoo deniers, nutmegs, galanga, of eche of them a denier, stampe all put it in a jelly bagge or strainer, then take a pinte of the best redde or white wine  you can gette, or a pinte of good malmesie or other stronge wine, mixe will all togethers, then take a pounde of Suger fined, and hauvng stamped it, putte it into the other wine, and so pouce it upon the straynour, where in you did put the saied wine with the spices, then having taken it out, you muste poure it on againe, so often until it become as cleare as it was before, stirring it sometime in the strayner or bagge: and here note that this is to make but a flagon full. Wherefore, if you will have more, you must take a greater quantitie of the said thinges. And for to make it very excellent, you maie bind a little musk in a fine linnen clothe at the end of the strainer, so that al the substances maie passe over and uppon it, the which by that meane will receive the odour and sent of the same muske.”

Notes:

melligetta = grains of paradise (Aframomum melegueta)

I had some trouble with the measurements for this, possibly given that it was translated twice before appearing in English. Ounces and pints were fine enough, deniers (French for ‘penny’) could be found, but dragines still eluded me. So I did what most do and Google’d it, which lead me to the Units of Measurement in France before the French Revolution Wikipedia page. (This chart is really fantastic!)

The Table of Mass Units cites Denis Février’s “Un historique du mètre”: the law of 19 Frimaire An VIII (December 10, 1799). “The kilogramme is equal to 18,827.15 grains. The kilogramme is, in addition, defined as the weight of 1 dm3 of distilled water at 4 degrees centigrade, i.e. at maximum density,” and the table’s calculations are made from that law.

The once is listed as 30.59g, roughly 2 Tbsp – a standard ounce. The denier is listed as 1.275g, or roughly 1/5 tsp. Since the dragine was listed between the two, I assumed it fell somewhere between.

My final spice mixture did not follow these measurements precisely, because I found the cinnamon to be overwhelming. I also excluded musk, because it’s not readily available in my cupboard. 😉

Hippocras Recipe

Spice Blend:

2 Tbsp Cinnamon, powdered
2 tsp Ginger, powdered
3 tsp Grains of Paradise, ground
2 tsp Cloves, powdered
1 tsp Nutmeg, powdered
1 tsp Galangal, powdered

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 cups wine, 3 Tbsp sugar, and 3 tsp spice blend over medium heat, then set aside to cool. (Do not boil!)
  2. Strain at least twice through cheesecloth or linen, until the liquid runs clear.
  3. Serve warm or cold.

Citations

Ruscelli, Girolamo, d. ca. 1565; Ward, William, 1534-1609. The secrets of the reverend Maister Alexis of Piemont : containing excellent remedies against diverse diseases, wounds, and other accidents, with the maner to make distillations, parfumes, confitures, dying, colours, fusions, and meltings. https://archive.org/details/secretsofreveren00rusc

Pimontese, Alessio. 1555; 1682 edition. De’ secreti del R. D. Alessio Piemontese. Parti quattro. Nuovamente ristampati, e da molti errori ricorretti. Con quattro tavole copiosissime per trovare i rimedi con ogni facilità. https://web.archive.org/web/20070617103524/http://www.abocamuseum.it/bibliothecaantiqua/Book_View.asp?Id_book=76

Table of Mass Units. “Units of measurement in France before the French Revolution.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Units_of_measurement_in_France_before_the_French_Revolution

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16th Cent. Italian Lip Balms

A few years ago, someone on an online forum I belonged to asked the question, “What did people in medieval times do for chapped lips?”, and I went searching for an answer for them. I found this book, The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemont, 1558, translated to English from the 1557 French version.

I had no experience making my own cosmetics when I started these projects, but they were easy enough to work out even with the medieval recipes provided. I will be revisiting both of these balms in the future to experiment with consistencies. I also included the only other recipe for lip balm included in this book for information and posterity’s sake.

Violet Lip Balm

Recipe:

p. 146 – (301/736 in web view)
“To heale lippes that be cleft and full of chinkes, by meanes of cold or wind.
Take gum arabicke and Dragant, as muche of the one as of the other, and make pouder of it, and incorporate it with oile of violets, and anoint your lippes therewith.”

Notes:

Dragant is the medieval term for gum tragacanth. (http://www.thousandeggs.com/glossary.html#gum%20Tragacanth)

Redaction:

Violet Lip Balm

  1. Take equal parts of powdered gum Arabic and powdered gum tragacanth and mix. Hydrate with water until the desired consistency is reached. Add a few drops of violet oil and mix.

The resulting ‘balm,’ which I would rather refer to as a very wet gum paste, is tacky as it dries, but absolutely seals chinks on the lips. It is more difficult to remove than wax-based lip balm, and left my lips feeling smooth and moisturized after I wiped it off. Because of the consistency I reached with this batch, I would feel comfortable calling this balm more medicinal than cosmetic.

 

Tinted Lip Balm

Recipe:

p. 303 – (614/736 in web view)
“Against chappings of the lippes, and of the heads of womens brests.
Take the brain of a goose, and meddle it with the brains of an Hart, and anoint the lips: or els take of Litarge of silver, of Myrrha, of ginger, of eche as you please: and make thereof pouder, and with Virgin waxe, honie and oile olive, as much as sufficeth, make an ointment, which will be marvelous. But before you lay on the ointment, wash y lips, with spittle, and then with a litle peece of Linnen cloth, lay the ointment upon the griefe.
Take Ink and mixe it with the powder of Hermodactiles, and lay it upon them: and in the beginning take Sal armoniacke and beate it finely, and lay of the powder upon the griefe.”

Notes:

  • Maister Alexis approached this recipe with a sense of humor – first stating to blend goose and hart brains, but then gives us a quite lovely recipe for a tinted cosmetic.
  • “Litarge of silver” is lead monoxide, which lends the red-orange lip and cheek color found in Renaissance cosmetics. Because we now know about lead poisoning, I have chosen to substitute iron oxide in its place, which is an acceptable natural substitute to retain the red-orange color that is used in modern homemade cosmetics.
  • Hermodactiles, or hermodactylus, is Iris tuberosa, also called snake’s-head iris or black iris.

Redaction:

Tinted Lip Balm

  1. Prepare balm containers by opening and setting near work space.
    Combine 1/32 tsp iron oxide, 1/32 tsp ginger, 1/32 tsp myrrh gum powder and set aside.
  2. Take 1 Tbsp of beeswax pellets, 7 Tbsp of olive oil, 1 Tbsp of honey, and combine in the upper bowl of a double-boiler. (I used a small glass jar suspended in a pot of boiling water.) Stir until the wax melts completely and the ingredients are blended.
  3. Stir in dry ingredients.
  4. Pour into container(s) and let cool.

After some experimentation, I found that roughly a 1:7 ratio of beeswax to olive oil creates an ideal consistency (with a good melting point) for lip balm. The sediments ultimately sank to the bottom of the mixture, but enough pigment was still suspended to lend a tint to the lips.

 

Lees Balm

I have not redacted this recipe, but chose to include it because it is actually the second recipe listed in this book for chapped lips.

Recipe:

p. 270 – (549/736 in web view)

“Against the chapping of the lips.

Take dried lees of white wine called tartar, and burn them in the fire, and temper them with rosin and grease of an hen, or duck, medled with a little honie, and so use it.”

 

Citations

Ruscelli, Girolamo, d. ca. 1565; Ward, William, 1534-1609. The secrets of the reverend Maister Alexis of Piemont : containing excellent remedies against diverse diseases, wounds, and other accidents, with the maner to make distillations, parfumes, confitures, dying, colours, fusions, and meltings. https://archive.org/details/secretsofreveren00rusc

Pimontese, Alessio. 1555; 1682 edition. De’ secreti del R. D. Alessio Piemontese. Parti quattro. Nuovamente ristampati, e da molti errori ricorretti. Con quattro tavole copiosissime per trovare i rimedi con ogni facilità. https://web.archive.org/web/20070617103524/http://www.abocamuseum.it/bibliothecaantiqua/Book_View.asp?Id_book=76