Hippocras

Since the topic came up in a conversation. I thought I might talk about Hippocras. I make up batches of my hippocras spice blend and give it to people as holiday gifts. I think it’s a nice warming winter beverage which is is beneficial to the cardiovascular system and the digestive system.

Hippocras is Middle English name for an aromatic wine derived from the Old French word ypocras. This is likely named after the Latin vinum Hippocratum — a spiced wine strained through a Hippocratic sleeve. This was a cloth bag hung and used as a strainer to remove all fine particulates as in the picture below.

The first few times I had this it was made with a sweet desert wine to which they add cupsful of sugar. As I am not a sugar person. I didn’t care about making Hippocras for a very long time after that. One day I was reading through the English Texts Society’s printing of Harleian MS 4011 The Boke of Nurture (1465) in which John Russell shared that when making ypocras you should use a “red wyne” that is “whote [hot] and drye to taste, fele, & see.”

That was a game changer for me. I experimented with several versions before I settled on my favorite. The one I settled on adapting is from a 1559 English translation of Konrad Gesner’s Thesaurus Euonymi Philiatri.

I think it’s worth noting that Gesner wrote about many types of aromatic wines as medicinal preparations which were said to be beneficial to people with cardiac problems, weak stomachs, or “defaultes” of the lungs. The one I chose kind of lets you pick and choose your corrigents as the situation warrants.

The inner barkes of Cinnamon. vi drammes: halfe an ounce of white Ginger hoole, Nutmegges elect .ii. drammes, Cloues, graines of paradice, of ether a dram: Cardamomum, Pep∣per, Calamus Aromaticus, Coriander prepared, of euery one a scrupull, mixte them and beate them somewhat groose. Eight poundes of wine, clari∣fied honye .xxvi. ounces, mixte all, and strayne [ xxx] them accordinge to Arte. Some clarifye theese spiced wines with Almond milke.”

I generally use galangal instead of ginger. It’s the most common ingredient in the receipts for “Cardiacall” persons. It’s a similar flavor profile to ginger and has similar antioxidant actions in terms of neuroprotection, without being quite so dry which I prefer for elders. You could also use hard cider or cider instead of wine. I also rarely add sugar, even to the wine. So feel free to add the amount of sugar that is to your liking.

The last sentence speaks to the process of clarifying a beverage that was wildly popular in the Early Modern period. It is similar to the way I use egg whites for fining wine. Cooks Illustrated wrote a great article about it several years ago, so I am not going to duplicate efforts on that topic.

Hippocras

Adapted from Thesaurus Euonymi Philiatri

Ingredients

  • 12 grams Cinnamon (2.5 tsp)
  • 4 grams of dried Galangal or Ginger (1 tsp)
  • 4 grams of nutmeg (1 tsp)
  • 4 grams of grains of paradise or cloves (1 tsp) (I use both)
  • 2 grams of dried coriander, dried calamus, or cardamom (1/2 tsp)
  • 3 liters of wine ( Two of the magnum bottles)
  • 750 mL sugar or clarified honey ( 3 cups)

Directions

  1. If you are starting out with powders, you just mix the herbs together. I have to grind my herbs into a coarse powder to get started because I don’t keep powdered herbs around. I think that the coarse powder works better, and herbs definitely stay fresh longer if you don’t powder them.
  2. Once the ingredients have been ground to your liking you stir them into the wine. You could tie the mixture up in a small bit of butter muslin or cheese cloth, or seal it in one of those press and seal teabags. I will say that I think you get better flavor from the first method, but the second method is easier especially if you start with powders.
  3. The phrase “according to Arte” needs some explanation here. Traditionally this mixture is stirred into the cold wine, the wine is slowly warmed and then strained through a muslin bag. You want to use very low heat so that all your aromatics don’t steam off. Some recipes for Hippocras mentioned setting it near a warm fire in an earthen jug, rather than sitting it on the heat.
  4. I think the easiest way to do this without cooking the ingredients too much is to put it in a crockpot that has one of the keep warm settings.
  5. How long you allow the spices to infuse, is a matter of taste. I like to let mine warm for a couple of hours.
  6. Add the honey or sugar to the mixture, stir until dissolved, and serve.

Making a Tonic Water

I am working on making homemade tonic water for the holidays, which isn’t exactly earth-shattering. Every novice herbalist and foodie out there is talking about homemade cocktails and liqueurs this season.

I have shared simple recipes for quick gift making in the past, that’s not the point of this post. Right now I want to take a minute to talk about the fact that as beverages have been incorporated into cookbooks throughout history, sometimes cooks take shortcuts. They cook the ingredients in a way that might still be tasty but aren’t the best way to extract health promoting constituents. There are a lot of great recipes out there, but not a lot of great formulas.

Using cinchona as a malarial cure is generally attributed first to the 17th century physician Robert Talbor who was making a decoction with cinchona, lemon, and rose. The original tonic water was simply quinine and water, but the citrus and spice were added back to the mix to make the drink more palatable.

Earlier in the spring I shared a picture of my tonic water recipe in a couple of places. It’s something I will mix into some sparkling water for people experiencing high fever as a cooling beverage. It is a nice combination of bitter and cooling organic acids. I mostly suggest it for hectic fevers or clients who have systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) that presents with frequent fevers. It is also easier to get in people who don’t like teas.

People weren’t used to making homemade tonic water and asked a lot of questions, so I shared David Lebowitz’s recipe on my Facebook page because I didn’t have time to type this all out. It’s close-ish to mine.

Lebowitz is an amazing foodie but his preparation method doesn’t make the best of the ingredients from a therapeutic standpoint. He also adds a lot of spices that I think detract from creating something that tastes like real tonic water, and some of them are mildly warming which I think muddles the energetics of the drink.

I think people just skipped to the recipe, based on the feedback I got. So before we even start talking about the preparation, I want to point out, like he does, that this is a concentrate. It’s not meant to be drank full-strength. If you want the bubbly type tonic water you get at the store, you mix this with sparkling water.

If I were mixing this for a cocktail party, I might only add a couple of tablespoons to a 12-ounce bottle sparkling water to make a tonic water. If I were mixing it for therapeutic reasons, I would mix it about 50-50, with the caveat that it’s only to be mixed this strong for short-term use because quinine which is the active ingredient in cinchona has some rather nasty side-effects if you over do it.

Homemade Tonic Water

Ingredients

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 orange
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp citric acid
  • 4 tbsp dry cut & sifted chinchona bark
  • 4 tbsp dried lemon grass
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 1 cup of simple syrup or honey

Directions

  1. Before you start boil some water and dip the fruit in for a couple of minutes to dissolve any impurities on the surface. ( Do this even if the fruit is organic. There are organic waxes that they use for marketing.)
  2. Place the cinchona bark, lemongrass, and allspice in a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil.
  3. Turn the heat down enough to keep it at a low simmer for twenty minutes. (Here we are making a decoction of the tough ingredients, but you don’t want to put your fresh aromatics in the decoction because you will lose them to cooking. )
  4. While this is simmering you can zest your fruit into a bowl that has a tight fitting lid and put the lid on when you are done. If you don’t have a zester like the one in the picture, you can just using a paring knife and peel them thinly.
  5. When your timer goes off, strain the hot liquid into the bowl over the zest.
  6. Add the citric acid and simple syrup and put the lid on the bowl. (Not cooking the zest cuts back a great deal on losing those aromatic terpenes like limonene and flavonoids like hesparadin. )
  7. When the mixture is completely cool, strain it well. You can juice your fruit while it is cooling.
  8. Stir in the juice and bottle it. We wait to add the juice until the solution is cool, because there’s no sense in cooking away all of the vitamin C complex. I sometimes use the grapefruit juice and orange juice for something else and just juice the lemons and the limes. Feel free to experiment