Mint Syrup: ‘Fortifies the liver and stomach and makes the latter happy’
HISTORIC RECIPE TRANSCRIPTION
Take mint and basil, grapefruit and cloves, a fistful of each. Cook all covered in water until its substance separates. Add what is clarified from this to a pound of sugar. In the bag: An ounce of clove flowers. Cook all together until it becomes syrup. Its benefits include liberating phlegm from the body and drying up phlegmatic urine. It fortifies the liver and stomach and makes the latter happy. In this it is admirable.
UMN Premodern Food Laboratory’s Modern Take
Michelle Hamilton, Director of Medieval Studies at the University of Minnesota, found this recipe. She brought the recipe to a meeting of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Premodern Food Laboratory, where Emily Beck and Erin Crowley, PhD candidate in archaeology at the University of Minnesota, worked on re-creating it.
Three main questions arose while recreating this recipe. First, how big is a “fistful”? Second, what does a “fistful of grapefruit” mean? Do you use the peel or the fruit? And, third, could we have equal parts of all of these ingredients without the cloves completely taking over?
We ended up with the following recipe, although you could adjust the ingredients according to your preferences:
• Approx. 1 cup fresh mint leaves
• Approx. 1 cup fresh basil leaves
• Approx. 1 cup grapefruit peel
• Approx. ¼ cup cloves
Heat together in a small saucepan with enough water to cover the ingredients. Cook until mixture is fragrant and very flavorful, perhaps 20 minutes. Strain to remove the ingredients, return the water to the stove, and add 1 lb granulated sugar. Simmer until all of the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is somewhat reduced. Keep in the refrigerator.
Water of Flowers: ‘Bruise the seeds; bruise all the flowers’
HISTORIC RECIPE TRANSCRIPTION 2
“Water of Flowers. The greater quantity.
Take strong proof-spirit what sufficeth, and put it into a wide mouthed Pot, (or other Vessel) stopt very close. Take those several flowers following in their seasons, and being clean pickt, put them to the spirit in the pot, viz. Cow slips wood-bind, stock jilly flowers of all three sorts, Damask roses, Musk Roses, Sweet Brier flowers, Clove Jilly-flowers, Lilium Convallium, Jasmine, Citron flowers, or pils dry, Orange flowers, or pils dry, Tillia flowers, Garden Thyme flowers, Limon Thyme flowers, Wild Thyme flowers; Lavender flowers, Marigold flowers, Chamomile flowers, Mellilot flowers, Elder flowers, of each half a pound. Being furnished with all your flowers as above, when you would distill them, add to them Anniseed 2 pound, Coriander 1 pound; bruise the seeds; it were best to bruise all the flowers; as you put them up into the spirit, for their more orderly working; distil them into strong Proof-spirit according to art; then add to the distilled water, Roses, Jilly flowers, Elder flowers, of each 1 pound: after twelve dayes infusion it may be drawn off; then dulcifie it with white Sugar 10 pound, and being fine, it may be drawn for use.“
TATTERSALL’S CONTEMPORARY DISTILLATION
In recreating the historical water of flowers, Tattersall included orange blossom water, cowslips, honeysuckle, cabbage roses, brier roses, linden, jasmine, lavender, marigold, chamomile, elderflower, melilot, lemon peel, lemon thyme, anise seeds, and coriander. Two ingredients were omitted: Lilium Convallium—lily of the valley—and gilly flowers—clove flowers. Lily of the valley is poisonous, and fresh gilly flowers do not have the same flavor profile as dried clove buds. Because it is distilled, you’ll have to substitute a store-bought alcohol, such as Luxardo, Maraschino, or Kirsch.
Aqua Mirabilis: ‘Excellent against the palsy’
HISTORIC RECIPE TRANSCRIPTION 3
“Aqua Mirabilis. Take melilot, cardamum, cubebs, gallingale, cloves, ginger, mace, nutmegs, of each a dram, the juice of celandine, half a pint; mingle all these together, bruise to powder with the juice, and a pint of Aqua Vita, and three pints of white wine, put them together into a glass-still; let it stand all night, and in the morning distil it with a very gentle fire. It is excellent against the palsy, and very restorative. In the summer one spoonful may be taken in a week,fasting, and in the winter two spoonfuls.”
TATTERSALL’S CONTEMPORARY INTERPRETATION
Tattersall made a nearly exact recreation of this recipe, using a combination of aqua vitae from The London-Distiller’s recipe, white wine, and spices. The one change was to substitute an infusion of dried celandine rather than fresh celandine juice; fresh was unavailable.
- Hispanic (Andalusi)-Maghrebi (Morrocan) food during the Almohad period from an anonymous 13th century manuscript. La cocina hispano-magrebí durante la época almohade según un manuscrito anónimo del siglo XIII. Trans. Huici de Miranda. Ed. Manuela Marín. Ediciones Trea, 2005. p. 288-89 (fol. 78r); not in the Wangensteen’s collection but preserved in a 17th-century copy. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris MS. (Colin) 7009 (Arabe) ↩
- The London Distiller. London: Printed by E. Cotes, for Thomas Williams, 1667. p. 22. Courtesy of the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine. https://bit.ly/2FgeVEk ↩
- The London-Distiller, 73. ↩