Wednesday 8 January 2014

Medieval Mulled Wine or potus ypocras

A warming brew just right if serving outside on a cold winter's evening - 'tis the season of wassailing after all.

I make this recipe every year and we adults usually have a couple of goblets when we get home after the Christingle service on Christmas Eve. (This year my daughter had the responsibility of placing the donkey in the cattle shed during heartening rendition of - yup - 'Little Donkey')

potus ypocras is much more of an experience and less sweet than the modern mulled wines around today and as many of the ingredients for authentic medieval mulled wine are difficult to find I tend to substitute variants, we don't want to make this a chore after all. So cauldrons out, cinnamon sticks at the ready and let us proceed.

Recipe Ingredients:
2 bottles of red wine (around 1.5 litres) French or Spanish (a cabernet is good)
200g natural brown sugar (or 3 tbsp clarified honey)
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground Spikenard root (a relative of ginseng, mild, pleasant licorice like, leave out if cannot get it but it is available at health food shops and online)
1/4 tsp each of ground, cloves, long pepper (which is an old fashioned Indian pepper, I substitute teeny pinch regular black pepper), nutmeg, marjoram and cardamon
A few ground ‘grains of paradise’, also called ‘guinea grains’, or ‘melegueta pepper’ (forget it - I use ginger)
A few ground dried Cassia Buds (I use cinnamon here as it's a close relative apparently)
a cheesecloth or similar (to strain the wine through)

Grind all the dried spices in a pestle and mortar.
In a large saucepan bring the wine and sugar to a boil to dissolve the sugar (or honey). Then remove from the heat. Pour the sweetened wine into a large, non-metallic bowl, and stir in the ground spices. Allow to cool and sit covered for 48 hours.
After sitting for 48 hours, having deeply infused the wine, the spices will create a thick residue which will have settled to the bottom of the bowl. Using a ladle pass the wine into another container through a strainer or sieve (lined with 2 layers of a clean cloth – a cloth with a fine weave such as a cheese cloth, muslin or similar) to remove the larger ground spices, being careful to leave as much of the spice residue in the pot as possible.
Bottle the clear infused wine in sterilized bottles and seal. To be at its best make it up at least 1 month before serving to mature it. To serve, pour the wine into a saucepan and gently re-warm on a low heat before ladling into glasses. Note: The older it is, the better – however, at a pinch, it can even be made a few nights before and served warm after straining

Always to be served in a goblet, always with a cinnamon stick for stirring purposes and always with a smug graciousness when you see the looks of divine delight on your friend's faces as they imbibe.

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