Poor Man’s Hippocras: taste test

The girls and I had a lovely evening, sharing a charcuterie board to go with our version of hippocras.

We strained the spiced out using a jelly bag, and kept it warm until we were ready. Here is how it turned out.

The first thing to notice was how deep the colour had become. You can see in the photo that the glass even steamed up from the warmth. It had been kept on low heat, too!

So how did it turn out?

For my initial taste test, I could make out the predominant flavours of the cinnamon and cloves. The whole flavour profile could be described simply as “stronger”. Compared to making mulled wine in the past, I would prefer the mulled wine of this, even though there were many shared ingredients.

We did end up adding a bit of honey to the mix, which did improve the flavour. Though the hippocras was strained, some of the finer particles still got through, sinking towards the bottom of the pot but still fine enough to be floating. Which meant that when I tasted it again, after the honey was mixed in, more of these spices showed up in the glass. At that point, I was really tasting the pepper a lot more, and the spice flavour in general was stronger.

I was not able to finish the glass.

When we were done for the evening, we poured the remains into a 1L pitcher to go into the fridge. There was more than a litre left, but the last little bit was so full of spice “dust” that we didn’t keep it.

It should be interesting to see what a difference in flavour there is when drinking it chilled.

One of my daughters didn’t like it at all, but that was more about drinking wine that was warmed. She had unadulterated wine from the second jug, instead.

I think I will find ways to include the wine in our cooking, to help go through it faster, so we can use the 3L jug we bought it for! πŸ˜€

Would I make this recipe again? Probably not, however we weren’t actually true to the original recipe, not having access to the more expensive, rarer spices. If we were able to get those spices, then yes, I’d definitely want to try it again.

Until then, I think we’d just stick with our usual mulled wine combination – without pepper!

The Re-Farmer

Poor Man’s Hippocras: in progress

Yesterday, I wrote about picking up a whole lot of wine, so that we could use the 3L jugs as carboys for the second ferment on our hard crab apple cider.

The problem is, we now have to do something with the wine. We’re not really wine drinkers in general and, ironic as is seems for someone who is getting into making alcohol, I don’t really like alcohol in general. I had a couple of glasses of the wine last night and… well… it’s wine. I can’t even say if it’s particularly good wine. Just that it’s not bad wine. Going through 6L of wine between three of us, though, was probably going to take a while, and I really want those jugs to rack that hard cider.

We have, however, made spiced wine for special occasions in the past, and I did enjoy that. Since I’m also into modern recreations of historical recipes, my mind when to this video I’d found some time ago.

It turned out my daughters were thinking in the same direction, and were quite on board with trying a historical recipe. Of course, we’d want to be having something with the spiced wine, and we started talking charcuterie. So when I headed into town this morning to go to the hardware store, I also popped by the grocery store next door to pick up what we needed.

Now, the recipe for hippocras used in the video above includes ingredients that we just can’t get. I suppose I could order them online if I really wanted to, and try recreating it more exactly in the future, but frankly I can’t justify the cost. So spikenard, galangal, long pepper and grains of paradise are out!

After going through our spice cupboard, I only needed to pick up some marjoram, fresh ginger and cardamom.

Ah, the joys of small town inventories.

It took some searching before I found their last jar of marjoram. I did not expect that to be hard to find! However…

No cardamom.

At least not the whole seeds. I did finally find a single jar of ground cardamom, but it cost almost triple what the marjoram cost!

I didn’t buy it.

We did have some ground cardamom at home, but just a tiny bit. Better than none, I guess!

So this is our poor man’s version of hippocras.

Cinnamon sticks
fresh ginger
whole cloves
black peppercorns (substituting for long pepper)
nutmeg (ground)
ground cinnamon

Plus, to make up for the lack of sweet spices we’re skipping completely, some granulated sugar.

We eyeballed the quantities from the video for what was probably just over the equivalent of 2 bottles of wine. Except the cardamom. I just emptied what was left in the jar, which was probably less than a quarter teaspoon.

The cinnamon sticks were duly cracked, the ginger sliced, the remaining spices ground in a mortar and pestle (I love my mortar and pestle!), then everything mixed together in a pot with the wine.

The mixture is supposed to sit for a day or two before straining, then served warm.

We plan to drink it tonight, so to speed the process, we got it all set up and on the stove on low heat, where it will stay for the day.

It should be interesting to see how it turns out after we strain it this evening!

Of course, that still leaves us with another jug of wine. If this turns out okay, maybe we’ll make it again for Thanksgiving dinner, which we’ll be doing on Sunday.

The Re-Farmer

Recommended: Townsends

Welcome to my β€œRecommended” series of posts. These will be weekly – for now – posts about resources and sites I have found over the past while that I found so excellent, I want to share them with you, my dear readers. πŸ™‚ Whether or not I continue to post these, and how often they are posted, will depend on feedback. Please feel free to comment below, and if you have a favorite resource of your own, do share, and I will review them for possible future posts.

I hope you find these recommendations as useful and enjoyable as I have!

One of my favourite topics is history. Not the names and dates, conquerors and conquered type of history, but how ordinary people lived. Over the years, I found that the best way to learn about a people and their culture was to learn about their food, their clothing and their everyday items. It’s remarkable how tangential those areas are.

So this next recommendation is for something right up my alley – Townsends, with their focus on 18th century living in the US.

Jas Townsend and Son has been posting videos for 11 years! You’ll find period topics on everything related to everyday life of people in a variety of circumstances, including how men and women dressed in the period, everyday skills, such as weaving and cooking over an open fire, to building a log cabin!

Of course, food plays a big part of these, and this site is where I found out about the mushroom ketchup that we made ourselves.

We’ve used ours all up and need to make another batch! The ground is no longer frozen, so this time we won’t have to skip the horseradish. πŸ˜€

The videos also include a lot of interesting historical information, as well.

While their videos cover an amazing diversity of topics on 18th century life – even advice for reenactors! – their website is well worth visiting, too. Pretty much all of the items you see used in the videos are available on their website. Clothing, accessories, camping equipment, kits, books and more are all available, and all historically accurate to every detail available. It’s really amazing to see the variety of items they have!

One of the reasons I like historical recipes like the many that are recreated in these videos, as well as the cooking methods and tools, is that they tend to be really basic. People made these with the materials that were available, and learned to modify accordingly. A lot of modern recipes and cooking videos tend to involve things I either can’t get, can’t afford, or don’t want to use. I like to keep things simple – and cheap! We’ve gone through some very lean times over the years, and old-timey, cooking from scratch food preparation was pretty much the only option we had. Which doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice taste!

Townsends videos are really interesting, for their historical information and insights. Jas Townsend’s calm enthusiasm is infectious, and he is truly dedicated to authenticity and attention to detail. Recreating historical food is always a challenge, whether from recreating recipes that give little to no information on things like quantities, or even ingredients, to recreating foods where no recipes exist at all; just vague descriptions.

Since moving back to the farm, among the things we’ve had to consider is what do when – not if – we find ourselves without electricity, or unable to get to town to buy things we need, etc. It’s part of why we have been slowly working our way to being as self-sufficient as possible. Historical resources like this go a long way to help in planning what we want to work on, like having an earthen oven, etc.

Plus, it’s just really, really enjoyable to watch and learn from them!

The Re-Farmer

Historical cooking: chickpea soup with fried bread

One of my Recommended posts was for the Historical Italian Cooking YouTube channel. Recently, they put out a new video for a super simple dish made with ingredients we typically have on hand. Today, I was able to give it a try!

Here is the video.

You can also visit this link for the written recipe.

This is an ancient Roman dish; chickpea and leek soup, with a fried flatbread called lagana.

About the only thing we had to go out of our way to get for this recipe was the white wine.

There was one ingredient we couldn’t find, though. Durum wheat flour. Any type of flour is just now becoming easier to find, but there’s no chance of finding any out of the ordinary flours. All Purpose flour, which is what we have, is made with a blend of hard and soft red wheat. Here in North America, durum wheat tends to be used in pastas. It’s the sort of thing we’d have to go to specialty stores to find. I’m sure I could find it in the city, but certainly not locally.

So I substituted AP, since that’s what I had.

First, the soup ingredients.

Another substitute I made was to use canned chickpeas instead of soaking dried chickpeas overnight. The recipe called for 2 leeks, but has almost no other quantities given. I had 2 leeks, but they were pretty massive, so I used 2 cans of chickpeas to balance out the quantities. There’s also the white wine, some olive oil, and caraway seeds ground with a mortar and pestle. I eyeballed most of the quantities based on watching the video. πŸ™‚

The soup was started by boiling everything but the leeks in salted water for 10 minutes. Then, the leeks are added and cooking continues for another half hour.

While that’s being done, the flat bread is made.

The flour was the other thing with a quantity given: 300 grams.

Unfortunately, my kitchen scale disappeared. So we had to use a converter. I used a little under 2 1/2 cups of flour. Salt is added, then a dough is formed with some warm water. That’s it, that’s all!

After the dough is kneaded until smooth, the recipe said to divide it into 10 pieces. There are 4 of us in this household, so I divided it into 12 pieces, instead.

The pieces of dough are then rolled out into rough circles.

The recipe calls for olive oil to be used to fry the bread. Olive oil has a low smoke point, so I modified the recipe a bit more. I added a bit of vegetable oil to increase the smoke point a bit. I was just frying in a pot on the stove, so this was more of a safety issue.

Once the oil was hot, the rolled out dough was fried, one at a time.

The dough bubbled up a bit in the video, but not into big dough pillows like this! πŸ˜€ This could be because of the different type of flour, or even because of the oil blend.

Not that I’m complaining! πŸ˜€

These fried up very quickly. Maybe half a minute on each side, to get them to a golden brown, before placing them on paper towel to drain. The bubbles cracked on a couple of them, allowing oil to get into the pockets. That took a fair bit of draining! The bread was finished well before the soup itself was.

They look absolutely amazing!

Taste test time!

The soup itself was very mild tasting. Possibly because I used more water than in the recipe. I couldn’t distinguish individual flavours of the caraway or the wine, for example. No one ingredient overpowered the other.

The lagana bread had a surprising amount of flavour for something that is just flour, salt and water! The outside was crispy, while the inside was chewy. It went incredibly well in the soup. A real balance of flavours. Making one without the other would not be as good as the two together.

This is a remarkably easy soup to make. The lack of quantities in the recipe made it a bit more interesting to work out, but that just gives room to adjust to one’s one preferences!

I can definitely see us making this recipe again!

The Re-Farmer

Historical recipe: one recipe, two products

One of my long time interests is experimenting with historical cooking.

I say experimenting, because it’s not unusual for these recipes to include ingredients that are no longer available, hard to find, unknown or even extinct. Plus, they often don’t include a lot of information, either because it was assumed the reader already understood what was needed, or it was simply technologically impossible for the time period.

Thankfully, that’s not as much of a difficulty for recipes from more recent time periods.

Not too long ago, I discovered a YouTube channel called Townsends, featuring all things 18th century. I highly recommend it! I was intrigued by this video on how to make Mushroom Ketchup.

Yes, you read that correctly! Mushroom. Ketchup.

It sounded both weird and delicious at the same time! πŸ˜€

I found the recipe here, and decided to give it a go.

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