Ottos Potus ypocras
|Full Recipe Name|
|Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth Century (including The "Forme of Cury") English translation by Mark S. Harris 2009.|
Potus ypocras. Take a half lb. of canel tried; of gyngyuer tried, a half lb.; of greynes, iii unce; of longe peper, iii unce; of clowis, ii unce; of notemugges, ii unce & a half; of careway, ii unce; of spikenard, a half unce; of galyngale, ii unce; of sugir, ii lb. Si deficiat sugir, take a potel of hony.
Hippocrates Drink. Take half a pound of dried cinnamon(1), half a pound of dried ginger, three ounces of grains of paradise(2), three ounces of long pepper, two ounces of cloves, two and a half ounces of nutmeg, two ounces of caraway, half an ounce of asarabacca(3), two ounces of galingale, and two pounds of sugar. If short on sugar, use two quarts(4) of honey.
(1) As defined by Hieatt and Butler in the glossary. (2) As defined by Hieatt and Butler in the glossary; sometimes meaning clovis, but named elsewhere in this recipe. (3) Oxford English Dictionary shows many references to a variety of plants including the genus Aralia, false or wild spikenard (Smilacina genus), nard (Lavandula stoechas), ploughman’s spikenard (Inula conyza), and wild spikenard (Asarum europaeum). In this context as an edible additive, wild spikenard, also known as asarabacca, European wild ginger, or hazelwort, makes the most sense because it is widespread throughout Europe and known to be used medicinally and gastronomically. (More information in the notes section.) (4) As defined by Hieatt and Butler in the glossary.
- 2 sticks of cinnamon
- 5 cloves
- 1/10th of an ounce of each spice: nutmeg, caraway, galingale
- 2 white peppercorns (in lieu of spikenard)
- 3/4th cup granulated sugarcane
- 1 gal. red wine
Process and Notes
The original recipe presents a challenge as it does not include the type or amount of wine to use as a base nor directions for preparation. As a spiced and sweetened desert wine, a sweet, red, table wine was used for the base. The vintage of the wine is not paramount. The red wine was heated to near boiling and held long enough to dissolve three and three-fourths cups of sugar (granulated sugarcane). Relative proportions of spices were used in lieu of unit conversions and scaling. Two sticks of cinnamon, five cloves, and one-tenth of an ounce of each spice seemed appropriate for 1 gallon of wine. Two white peppercorns were added to simulate the taste of spikenard. The spice was added to a container and the hot wine pour over it and allowed to sit for one day. The hippocras was bottled thereafter.
Spiced wine is described by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD. A recipe appears in Apicus (Epimeles) (CONDITVM PARADOXVM) from about 4-5th century AD. There are references to pyment at the end of the 13th century, 1307, 1324, and about seven recipes for hippocras by the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Written in 1390, this was the first hippocras recipe (Maitre Chiquart). The other challenge of this recipe was researching spikenard. The French translation includes “of Spain” which points to Lavandula stoechas, or ‘nard’. Though it is found in Spain, it was used as an essential oil. Asarabacca seems to be a better fit, however; it is unsafe for oral consumption because it is frequently contaminated with aristolochic acid (Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database). Remington, Woods, (et al.) (1918) says that is smells like pepper and has an acrid taste.
Hieatt, C.B., A Butler, S. 1985. Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth Century (including The "Forme of Cury"), pg. 148. Oxford University Press for the Early English Text Society.
Maitre Chiquart. www.oldcook.com/en/medieval-hippocras#gauche. Accessed April 20, 2014.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. www.naturaldatabase.com. Therapeutic Research Faculty. Accessed April 20, 2014.
Remington, J.P., Wood, H.C., et al. (1918) The Dispensatory of the United States of America – Twentieth Ed. Lippincott.