Hippocras, or spiced wine

Hippocras is a kind of spiced wine. As Paul Lukacs writes in his book Inventing Wine, wine drinkers at all levels of society in medieval and early modern Europe drank spiced wines, “Spices not only would disguise a wine beginning to turn bad but also could make an otherwise dry wine taste somewhat sweet. And medieval men and women craved sweets. They used cloves, cinnamon, honey, and the like to season” their wines and their foods (43). Wines made before the invention of modern bottling technologies were highly perishable and markedly different from the wines we drink today. According to Lukacs, some were made from raisins and fermented to be sweeter and almost syrupy in texture, others were thin and sour depending on age and style. Fresh from harvest in the autumn, cloudy and fragrant wines were shipped in huge volumes from France, Italy, Germany, and later Spain to wine-consuming countries such as England which did not (at that time) have a local wine industry of its own. Adding spices to these wines as they aged made them more palatable and also added health benefits from the spices themselves. After the wine was infused with spices and sweetener, but before it was served, it was strained through a linen “hippocras bag” to remove the spices and other flavoring. This linen bag was named after Hippocrates, the ancient physician who advised the consumption of spiced wine drinks and was thought to have strained them through his voluminous sleeves.

I’m excited about this post because I developed a hippocras recipe that I think is truly delicious and I learned a lot along the way. After many hours in the reading room at the UPenn library and many more hours clicking through digital images of manuscripts and printed books online looking for Hippocras (or its variant spellings Ipocras , Ypocras, Hypocrass, Hippocris, and Hipocras), I decided to prepare a recipe “To make Ipocras” from Robert May’s The accomplisht cook, a very popular cookbook that was first published in London in 1660. I’ve been thinking about May quite a bit over the last six months and I updated another recipe from this cookbook for the upcoming exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas. (Stay tuned for that recipe!) May’s Ipocras recipe beautifully seasons the wine without eradicating the original flavors. This was especially important to me because I was using a wonderful 2016 Côtes du Rhône made by Clovis thanks to T. Edward Wines. The wine is delicious on its own and I knew, with proper care, it would make a delicious hippocras as well.

Below, you will find May’s recipe, my updated version of it, and quite a few hippocras recipes from manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Clark Library, and UPenn Library. These recipes showcase a range of methods and I’ve including images and transcriptions below. I might make them someday, but feel free to experiment and let me know how things go in the comments.

May’s Ipocras Recipe

To make Ipocras.

TAke to a gallon of wine, three ounces of cinamon, two ounces of slic’t ginger, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of mace, twenty corns of pepper, an ounce of nutmegs, three pound of sugar, and two quarts of cream.

Otherwayes.

Take to a pottle of wine an ounce of cinamon, an ounce of ginger, an ounce of nutmegs, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, seven corns of pepper, a handfull of rosemary flowers, and two pound of sugar.
Robert May, The accomplisht cook, or The art and mystery of cookery. Wherein the whole art is revealed in a more easie and perfect method, then hath been publisht in any language. Expert and ready wayes for the dressing of all sorts of flesh, fowl, and fish; the raising of pastes; the best directions for all manner of kickshaws, and the most poinant sauces; with the tearms of carving and sewing. An exact account of all dishes for the season; with other a la mode curiosities. Together with the lively illustrations of such necessary figures as are referred to practice. / Approved by the fifty years experience and industry of Robert May, in his attendance on several persons of honour. (London: Printed by R.W. for Nath. Brooke, at the sign of the Angel in Cornhill, 1660), Wing M1391. Photo courtesy of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts. (T3r).
I decided to follow May’s instructions for “Otherwayes … To make Ipocras.” As I show below (and you can see above in May’s first recipe), many Hippocras recipes are intended for white wine, add sack, or use milk or cream during the straining process. May’s “Otherwayes” showcases the characteristics of the original wine as well as the added spices.

May’s Ipocras Updated

1 bottle red wine (ideally an earthy Côtes du Rhône like this one from Clovis)
4 cinnamon sticks
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
2 slices of a whole nutmeg, or 1/4 t ground
4 whole cloves
4 black peppercorns
2 springs fresh rosemary
1/3-1/2 c sugar (optional, I preferred it without)

Combine the wine, spices, and sugar (if using). Cover tightly and let infuse at room temperature for 24 hours before you plan to serve it.

Strain out spices before serving using a metal or cloth strainer.

The first scent that reaches my nose is rosemary, then cinnamon, then the aroma of the wine itself. The cloves, pepper, and nutmeg all appear in the first sip. Within hours of first pouring it, the hippocras was all gone. The neighbors that stopped in to taste it loved it. One likened it to a brandy cocktail. Another thought the spice flavors were similar to Charoset, the fruit paste from the Passover seder. We all preferred the unsweetened hippocras. In this, we are probably unlike May’s original audience who had quite a sweet-tooth.

Other ways to make Hippocras
May’s recipe adds the flavors of spice and sweetness to red wine. Other Hippocras recipes take a range of approaches. I’ve also recently tested Mary Baumfylde’s recipe for White Hippocras from Folger V.a.456 for another essay I’m working on. This recipe uses a “milk punch” method to clarify and strain the hippocras. After the initial infusion, milk is added. It curdles and the curdled milk solids are strained out along with the spices. This made a very tasty drink, but I could not taste any of the characteristics of the wine at the base. These hippocras recipes below are all promising, but all showcase fewer of the original wine’s characteristics due to the addition of lemon juice, other alcohol such as sack, or milk.
This white wine and sack Hypocrass is from Elisabeth Hawar’s recipe book now held at the Clark Library in fMS.1975.003. It is likely that Elisabeth, or another owner, lived in East London as the book includes manuscript directions to places in Shoreditch and Spitalfields.

To Make Hypocrass

Take 3 pints of white wine & a quart of Sack & a
pinte of milk, Sinamon 2 oz Ginger 1 oz of Nutmegs
2/1 an oz beaten of Cloves halfe a pennyworth, 2 t of
powder shuger or else all the spice & shuger must be
steeped in the Sack all night, Red Rose water 6 spoonefull
one bunch of Rosemary & 3 bay leaves lett it run throw
a bagg till it be as clear as rock water

This recipe from Judith Bedingfield’s manuscript at UPenn (Ms. Codex 631) is driven by orange flavors, includes apples (pippen), and uses the milk punch method. The wine infuses with the sweetness and the spices and once the milk is added it curdles. When the curdled solids are removed, the mixture is clarified and flavorful.

To Make good Hippocras, red or White

To Make the Quantity of two Quarts, you must take two Quarts of good French White Wine
or Red Wine is much better if it be of a very good Red: on the said two Quarts of wine you’ll
put a Pound of Loaf sugar, the Juice of two Lemons, seven or eight thin Slices of Sevill
orange peel, if you have any Portugal Oranges you’ll put in the Juice of one, with ten
or twelve Zests, or thin Slices of the Peel of the same Orange. if you have none there needs
none. you’ll  put also on the said two Quarts  of wine one Dram of Cinnamon broke a little
four Cloves broke in two, a Leaf or two of mace, five or six Grains of White Pepper, half
broken, & a small handful of Coriander seeds, also half broken or beaten, half a golden Pippen
or, if small, a whole one, peel’d & cut into Slices, & half a Pint of good Milk: then stir them
well together with a spoon, & strain it through a clear straining Bag,  untill it comes clear;
& when it is very clear & transparent, make it run into a jug or any thing else that you’ll
cover with a strainer (that is named Stamine) & so let it run through that into your jug:
then take, on the Point of a Knife, some musk & Amber Powder. #

Alternatively, this recipe from UPenn LJS 165 uses all sack, a sweet wine from Spain or Portugal and precursor to modern sherry.

Hippocris to make

Take 1/2 a pound of Curran seed 3 ounces of long pepper
6 ounces of Cinamon: 2 Ounces of ginger 1 ounce of Nutm[eg]
a Sprig of Rosemary a Lemon Sliced 6 quarts of of Skimed mi[lk]
but not Sower, 6 pound of cleane suger 6 gallons of sack steep
(but the Milke and suger) in the sack 6 dayes Stir it twice or th[xx]
a day put it into a large Tub & poure in the Milke leasurely th[xx]
stirring the sack very fast putting in the suger into the Tub before
let it run through the bag

Lady Grace Castleton’s recipe book Folger Ms. V.a.600 includes a receipt “To make Hipochras” from a “Lady Cauendishe.” This version includes cardamon and, like the previous examples, starts with white wine and is strained with milk.

To make Hipochras L[ady] Chauendishe 85
Take a pound of white lump sugar, two ounces
of symonan, a quarter of ounce of gingar, &
a quarter of an ounce of cloves, bruse these
spices, & put them with the sugar to steep in
a gallon of good white wine, stir them
well together, & lett them stand all night clos
covered in astone pott, in the mourning putt
halfe a pint of new milk in’t, & lett it run
through a jellye bagg, wetting it first in
milkwringe it out again, Lett it
run through the bag, soo often till it be cliar
taste stronge of the spices, a few cardemum
seedes a mongst the spices will give it agood
taste.

Hippocras took many forms. Enlivened with spices and fruit, enhanced with strong sack, or tempered with dairy, Hippocras recipes were designed to healthfully and deliciously amend premodern wines. Despite what Lukacs and others suggest about early modern cooks using spices to amend spoiled wines, the Castleton and Bedingfield recipes insist on starting with good wines. That way, the resulting spiced wines will be as delicious and efficacious as possible.

Special thanks to Daniel Veraldi and T. Edward Wines for supplying the Clovis 2016 Côtes du Rhône.

 

To Make sassages​

On a windy Friday in February, I travelled to the Folger Shakespeare Library with brilliant Penn State Abington students who have been transcribing the Carlyon manuscript all year as part of my “What’s in a recipe?” research project. (PSU wrote a great story about our trip here.) I also asked the wonderful Folger librarians and staff to display a range of recipe books for my students to look at. We were all excited to see Mrs. Carlyon’s book of medicines, but  I was particularly excited to meet Mary Baumfylde’s manuscript recipe book in person for the first time.

I’d already transcribed a lot of the book, made this bisket recipe, and chosen a few more recipes to test this spring. Despite having carefully read the description of the manuscript, it’s small size surprised me. Seeing things in person is always best.

Of course, tasting recipes is always best, too. This time, I decided to try Baumfylde’s recipe for sassages (or sausages). I was intrigued that this recipe provided instructions for both cased and uncased sausages. It’s also one of the rare recipes that comes with a specific date: 24 July 1702. Baumfylde’s sassages are delightfully flavored with sage, mace, cloves, and black pepper.

The Recipe
The 24 of july } 1702​​
To Make sassages
Take the lean of a legg of porke
& mince it Very small with​ 4 pou​nd of beef
suet & a good handfull of sage finely
minc​ed this done take Clous mace and
peper of Each a good quantity & as much
 salt as you shall think fitt to season the
meat with 9 or 10 eggs mix all these
together very well then put your meat in
to a stone morter & beat it very well till
you cant per​seve the suet from the meat
you may put the meate into to skins or rowl
them up which​ you please & soe fry them if you
put them into skins parr boyle them​ a very little

The original recipe makes A LOT of sausages. With a whole leg of pork and four pounds of beef suet, it’s a mighty big batch of seasoned meat. Working from the idea that a leg of pork is between 10-14 pounds, I made 1/10 the original recipe and still had loads of sausage mix to eat. I started with a pound of Stryker Farm ground pork and leftover beef suet from making these mince pies. The ground pork likely has a higher fat content than the lean meat called for in the original recipe. If you don’t have beef suet to hand, you can absolutely use bacon or lard in its place and adjust the amount to your taste.

Our Recipe
(makes more than a dozen small sausage patties)
1 lb ground pork
6.4 oz (1 1/2 c) beef suet (either in pellet form or pulverized in a food processor)
1 egg
sage, one small handful chopped (about 1 T chopped)
1/4 t cloves, pre-ground or ground in a mortar and pestle
1/4 t mace
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/2 t salt
Mix all ingredients well in a big bowl.
When you’re ready to cook the sausage, heat a cast-iron or heavy frying pan over a high heat. Add sausage patties and cook for at least five minutes until brown on the outside and cooked through. I did not need to add butter or oil for frying because of the fat content of the sausages themselves. Flip or rotate the sausages so that all sides brown evenly.
Rest a minute before eating.
The Results
My British spouse, Joseph, loved these sausages. They reminded him of classic British pork sausages and other dishes like pork pie that are flavored with mace and clove. My parents thought they were delicious, too. But, alas, they weren’t my favorite. I think something about the mace, cloves, and beef fat tricked my tastebuds and made me anticipate sweetness, not savory flavors.
That said, they were a big hit. I bet they’d be good encased, too.

To Make bisket​, a recipe from the Baumfylde manuscript

Later this spring, I’m flying to Los Angeles to participate in a workshop entitled “Transcribing and Interpreting Digital Recipe Manuscripts” at the Shakespeare Association of America annual meeting (SAA). I often attend this conference, but I always go to talk about plays.

My research is currently bifurcated between writing a book about plays and cooking historical recipes to post here. SAA is a place where I’ve tried out many of my book ideas in small, collegial seminars. This year, instead of drafting a traditional paper, I’ve been transcribing Mary Baumfylde’s manuscript recipe book, Folger Shakespeare Library V.a.456 alongside other workshop participants. And, in turn, I’ve been reflecting on how I got into this seemingly double practice.

Back in the earliest collaborative google doc draft of our first Cooking in the Archives funding proposal, I wrote the sentence “What are recipes if not instructions for cooking?” A play is a script intended for performance, a husbandry manual tells you how to care for animals, a music book is a provocation to song: What is a recipe book if not a repository of possible action? My simple sentence has migrated from word doc to word doc, abstract to conference paper, paper to article. I keep repeating it, because I keep needing to make this point and this sentence keeps working for me.  I think of recipes as culinary scripts both in my personal cooking and my recipe writing here.

Let’s consider this post a partial recreation of the performance of a recipe “To Make bisket” enacted in December 2017.

When I started transcribing Mary Baumfylde’s manuscript recipe book in preparation for the SAA workshop, these biskets intrigued me because they don’t have any butter in them. Dense, chewy, and nicely spiced, these biscuits were a great addition to an afternoon of Ramboose-fueled festivity. Whitney, Sarah, Phil, and Joseph liked these biscuits more than the accompanying drink.

Stay tuned for more recipes from Baumfylde’s manuscript. I’ll be cooking from this book for the coming months. I’m excited about the recipes for stewed mushrooms and cabbage pudding on this page, and pickled walnuts on this page.

The Recipe

To Make bisket
Take th​e​ yelks of 5 eggs & th​e​ whites of 2 beat
them a quarter​ of an hour & in the beating putt
10 spoonfuls of Rose water then strow in a
pound of dubble refine suger finely beaten
and sifted after the suger is in beat it an hour
then take a pound of flower well dried shake
it in still beating it one way then strow in
your seeds carraway or coriander or both if you​
please. drop them in to butterd pans and
bake them

Our Recipe

Halved from the original,  this recipe still made quite a few cookies.

3 egg yolks
1 egg white
1 c sugar
5 t rosewater (or less to taste)
1 3/4 c flour
1 T caraway seeds
1t  coriander seeds

Preheat your oven for 375F.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with rosewater. Add the sugar and beat until well combined.  Stir in the flour and seeds.

Dollop the batter onto  a buttered baking sheet to make small cookies. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown.

The Results

Simple and flavorful, these biscuits are easy to make. They are distinctly chewy and rich from eggs, but not butter. We experimented with larger biscuits and a lower baking temperature, but smaller biscuits and a hotter oven worked better.

It was a good first performance.