wine

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

Wine Jellies

Like most modern Americans, the term ‘aspic’ conjures images of horrific molded ham and pea gelatin creations from 60’s-era cookbooks, and even sweet jello has fallen largely out of popularity. So when I was served aspic at a feast a few years ago, and fish aspic at that, I hesitated, but was overwhelmingly pleasantly surprised when I gave it a fair shot. So when I kept coming across aspics in my recipe research a few years later, instead of skipping them, I bookmarked them for later when I was ready to work up to them. As I continued, I was extremely pleased to find what I’d decided would be my starting point: something simple and familiar to me as a former college student: Wine jellies, or as we laughingly termed them, medieval jello shots.

The concept of what I consider this basic, ‘foundation’ jelly is very simple: Prepare sweet mulled wine, add the gelling agent, let it cool, and serve.

The Research

Master chef Lancelot de Casteau wrote in Ouverture de Cuisine (1604, France):

To make jelly.

Take a pot of white wine, & chafe it very hot, then put therein three quarters of a pound of sugar, one ounce of cinnamon, one ounce of nutmeg, & one ounce of coarsely ground ginger, & put it therein to temper the hot wine, & let it sit three or four hours, then pass the wine through a strainer, at the end to have the spices removed, then have a bag of white cloth like those used to strain hippocras, then cast into the wine three spoons of cow’s milk, & have a little handful of coarsely ground almonds without peels, put them into the bag, then pass the wine through the bag two or three times, until it becomes clear, & take two ounces of good husblat [isinglass?] well washed, & put them to boil with a little wine & water, until well melted, then cast it into the wine, when it is passed, through the bag it will make the prize of the jelly: when the jelly is half cold cast it into plates, & let cool until it becomes firm. Note if it doesn’t become at all firm enough, adding more husblat will help, because it could be that the husblat isn’t as good as others.

Master chef Bartolomeo Scappi wrote an extensive passage in his Opera (1570) regarding wine jelly that details making the it from calves’ feet, how to prepare it in a variety of vessels and moulds, and even using it in a syringe to decorate other moulded jellies. I haven’t included it here because it’s a couple pages’ worth of material, but for those who own the Terence Scully book, you can find it in Book II p. 258 – 241.  To prepare jelly from wether’s and calf’s feet, with which you can fill various moulds and egg shells.

We find in Nyeuwen Coock Boeck (1560, Netherlands):

2.16. To make a jelly of one quarter (liquid measure) wine

One should add two lead ginger, one lead cinnamon, a half lead nutmeg, a half lead cloves, a half lead grains of paradise, a quarter lead saffron, and some sugar, a half lead liquorice (?see glossary), 3 lead thickening, a half lead galanga. First one should cook the thickening with wine, than one must strain it. The spices one must crush and let it steep in the wine. Then one must strain it through a cloth and [add] salt to it. Then one must boil it together and let it settle (=gelatinize).

2.21. To make jelly of a quart wine

Take 4 lead thickening and steep it in wine. Then cook it in a pan and stir to prevent burning and strain it through a sieve. Then take 1 quarter lead cloves, one quarter lead nutmeg, 1 quarter lead galanga, a half lead ginger, 1½ lead cinnamon [and] an eighth lead saffron. Crush this in a mortar not a lot, and pour it in the wine. Bring it to the boil in a new earthenware pot, let it cool, and pour it several times through a wine cloth. Then take 2 lead syrup  with which one colours it, and mingle it with the strained wine. Then take wine and thickener and pour it in the pot and bring it once more to the boil. Stir to prevent burning, then strain it through a cloth and pour it in the dishes.

Note: Turnsole is red cloth with which one can colour red every thing one wants.

The Recipe

Isinglass is a gelatin made from fish bladders and is modernly only readily available from brewing suppliers. In this form, it is mixed with citric acid, among other things, because it used as a clarifying agent, and so it is not a viable modern method to make jelly. Boiling animal hooves in my rental apartment is also not viable, so modern unflavored gelatin packets are the most practical gelatin to use for modern cooks.

I also used a ratio of 1 cup liquid per 3 packages of gelatin, which produces a soft ‘gummy’. In this trial, I learned that 0.75oz of gelatin is enough to produce a solid red wine gummy that holds its form well, but 0.75oz of gelatin makes a more runny white wine gummy — so in the future, a full 1.0 oz of gelatin will be used in the white wine to maintain its shape (and also provide an easier release from the mould).

In the medieval and Renaissance periods, moulds would have been made from pewter or wood. For food safety and practical reasons, my moulds are made of silicone and can be purchased from Amazon or Michael’s.

Ingredients

1 c white wine (steeped in nutmeg, ginger, galangal, and cinnamon to taste)
1 c red wine (steeped in cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and galangal to taste)
Granulated sugar (to taste)
7 .25oz unflavored gelatin packets

This recipe prepares 2 batches – one white wine batch, one red one batch. Each batch is enough to fill more than 2 trays of gummies.

Directions

Bring wine, spices, and sugar to boil, then set aside to steep for a couple of hours. When ready to use it, strain out the spices – it usually takes 2-3 passes through a cloth for the liquid to run clear.

Put the wine mixtures back in their pots, then bring to a boil again. Mix in 3 packages of gelatin into the red wine and 4 packages of gelatin into the white wine, whisking until thoroughly blended. Spoon or pour into moulds, then chill.

Briefly set the moulds in a shallow pan of warm water for 5-10 seconds to assist in releasing the gelatin. (The warm water melts the gelatin, so don’t let them sit too long in hot water!)

Sources

Myers, Daniel. 2012. Translation of “Ouverture de Cuisine” based on the transcription by Thomas Gloning et. al. http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/ouverture.html

Muusers, C. and Gerard Vorselman. Nyeuwen Coock Boeck, (KANTL Gent 15) (1560); Een nieuw zuidnederlands kookboek uit de vijftiende eeuw. Scripta 17. (transl. of title: A new southern Dutch cook book from the fifteenth century). http://www.coquinaria.nl/kooktekst/KA15Gent02.htm

Scully, Terence. 2011. The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570).