By Clémence Le Saux
This 14th-century recipe comes from La Cuisine du Moyen Âge by Brigitte Racine and is made with wine, honey, and variety of spices. It is a modern recreation based on instructions in the book Le Ménagier de Paris.
According to Racine, this drink was generally served as an aperitif or as a dessert wine, with oublies which are also made of honey. These round waffles are usually served on religious occasions, often stamped with some sort of religious icon.
Many of these ingredients are often used in medieval cuisines, with ingredients such as coriander, used both as medicinal ingredients and as flavoring. According to Erika Laïs’ Les vertus des simples: Secrets des plantes médicinales in the medieval period coriander was used in assisting with digestion, “…combating at the same time the ballooning and flatulence that accompanies these weaknesses of the stomach…” Given that it is used either before or after meals, or feasts, it makes sense that you’d want something helping you with your faible estomach.
1 bottle of red or white wine (wine from Burgundy for example)
200 grams of honey
10 whole cloves
2 teaspoons of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
When making the recipe, I chose red wine, specifically the Cabernet Sauvignon from Bread and Butter. I also chose some organic honey from Heidrun Meadery in Point Reyes Station, as both a favorite and an attempt at getting as close as possible to medieval honey.
Pour the wine into a pot, add the honey and stir until completely dissolved
Ground the cloves with the other spices (excluding pepper). Add to pot.
Add a few turns of black pepper and allow to steep during the night.
The next day, adjust spices and honey to taste. Then filter before serving chilled.
French medieval cuisine is vast and varied as its modern counterpart. Not only are there many regions in this vast territory, but as Brigitte Racine notes, each class (nobility, clergy, peasantry) had their own code and regulations according to their strict hierarchy: “The nobility, alone in the practice of hunting, enjoys game […] the clergy, theoretically under frugal regime, were able to create refined dishes. […] the peasants, however, must feed themselves of bread, vegetables fresh or preserved, roots, cereals, but also of pork and beef.”
With such variety, it’s no wonder the French become famous for their culinary arts. While older in nature, medieval cookbooks (and their modern version) provide some new ways of preparing and even considering food. There are many texts and sources available both in English and French, from Du fait de cuisine, Le Ménagier de Paris, and Vivendier which can provide insights and new recipes to the curious cooking historian.