What did I get myself into? This month’s Mixology Monday’s Theme is Spice – picked by yours truly, hosted by yours truly. You’d think that if I pick and host that I should be pre-prepared, right? Nope. Here I am at 8pm writing up my own entry.
I would recommend having a perfect wife as I do. It makes things far easier. Also, try to get a Medieval History major if you can. There are a great deal of interesting ties to medieval cuisine in modern cocktailia. Orgeat comes out of the medieval use of Almond milk to better store fat in nut form to prevent spoilage: Just grind the nuts, and form some emulsion to get the nut fat and you can cook or bake with it. Orgeat is also tied to Barley-water which follows a similar method of extraction to nourish.
In a secret project she’s working on, I’ve pulled out the existence of a spice mix popularly used called “Powder Forte,” or Strong Powder. There was also a “Powder Dulce,” sweet powder. Powder Fort was used with meats and pies and other places where hot/strong flavors are desired. Western Medieval cuisine was what we would connect with savoury today – the French would put a stop to the idea that spices such as ginger, nutmeg, and cloves go with meats in the 1600s.
The recipes for powder fort vary depending on which text you read, so my approximation is just that – the general ingredients are: Pepper(s), ginger(s), cloves(s), nutmeg(s), cinnamon(s), and grains of paradise. My only lost ingredient I’m still searching for is Long Pepper. Our current Pepper is the individual dried berries of piper nigra, but contemporary medieval cooks would be more familiar with piper longum – a family member that has smaller berries that are dried completly on the catkin, hence the term Long pepper. I have not as of yet been able to been locate a source. (I’d appreciate any help out there in the internets!). Stories say that a certain Spanish King owned orchards of piper nigrum and therefor forbid long pepper so he could push his form of pepper and so now we all know it as pepper, rather than the former more popular long pepper.
I thought I would first make a syrup to play with the mixure to get a hold on the flavor before further experimentation. Some recipes call for a 7-1 cinnamon/pepper/ginger – nutmeg/mace/grains/cloves, others 3-1. I decided to start with 4-1.
My recipe is as follows
4 tsp. Black Pepper (sub for Long Pepper)
1/4 Cup Galangal, diced.
1/4 Cup Ginger, diced.
2 tsp. ground Cassia
2 tsp. (2 sticks) ground Cinnamon
1 tsp. Cuebeb (tailed pepper)
1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground Mace
1 tsp ground Cloves
1 tsp. ground Grains of Paradise
Mix with 4 cups sugar, add 3 cups water and slowly bring to a boil. Simmer on low for 30 minutes. Let stand for at least 4 hours and strain.
The finished flavor was amazingly balanced for the number of ingredients. The finish is clean, the shape round and gorgeous. After tasting it Heather immediately thought of Gin. I agreed. She suggested a gin milk punch, since she finds it usually one-note or weak. I again agreed. She’s usually right (damn her.)
¾ oz Powder Forte Syrup
2 oz Plymouth Gin
3 oz Milk (Almond milk would also do)
Shake all with cube ice and strain into footed huricane or brandy snifter. Grate nutmeg on top, cinnmaon stick garnish.
The name is a bit anacronistic, being Old English rather than Middle English, but you know – screw the damn Normans. Filthy beggars. The drink itself is anachronistic anyway – distilled liquor comes late to the medieval period, first as elixirs in monasteries, let’s pretend, shall we?
Next I’ll plan to make a Liqueur from the mix, perhaps also a bitters – I’m really in love with this spice mix. I’m definitely in love with Grains of Paradise.
I’ll have the wrap-up posted by tomorrow night, thanks to everyone who particiapted. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Joyous Yule, Happy Hannukah, Happy Solstice, Joyous Saturnalia, Happy Kwanzaa, and Adequate Festivas to you and yours!