Peach-Brandy-art - 10/25/01
"Peach Coriander Brandy" by Lady Constance de LaRose.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
This is a copy of the documentation that Lady Constance submitted for an entry in an Arts and Sciences contest.
Peach Coriander Brandy
by Lady Constance de LaRose.
THE REASON FOR THIS PROJECT:
Some time ago I became involved in a rather heated discussion on the Internet as to whether or not brandy and most especially infused brandy cordials or liqueurs were actually correct for any portion of the SCA time period.
The gist of the opposition was as follows:
a) Brandy is not period.
b) Even if period, it was not infused but simply used as a straight beverage.
c) If it was added to other ingredients it was used only rarely and then ONLY as a medicine.
d) The above was true because the brandy and any added ingredients would taste so nasty that only very sick people would be willing to drink it.
e) It would taste nasty because cane sugar was unknown in period or was so rare as to not be used in such a mixture.
Although I felt strongly that the above conclusions were incorrect, I had neither reference to hand nor direct knowledge enough to be able to adequately refute the comments. This is not a condition that I enjoy. Therefore, I decided to research and experiment using what I found in the research so that I would be prepared the next time the subject came up.
BRANDY - John Gerard describes brandy under the section on grapes in his Herbal giving it the common name of Aqua Vitae or Aqua Ardens. He says that it is distilled out of strong wine by use of a Limbeck. He goes further to state that it can be made more pure by often distilling.(1)
Brandy was called "burnt wine" in period. Flavored brandy was usually the effort of a physician to get a less than pleasant tasting herb into the patient. At least one physician, Discordes, was brought into a royal court and made the royal physician for providing "tasteful medicine".
Since distilling is illegal in the U.S.A, I purchased some Napoleon Brandy at the State Liquor Store.
SUGAR - Sugar Cane has been known of and used for making refined sugar since at least Early Roman days when they called it Arundo Saccharina Indica because it was first known or brought from India.(2)
Likewise the process for creating sugar from sugar cane is described in Gerard's Herbal (pg. 39). Following this description, I purchased some sugar cane and cut it into one-inch lengths, which I then proceeded to quarter lengthwise. Using a large bowl and a rock from the garden, I slowly crushed the cane pieces as much as I was able. I then put the pieces and the juices into a pot of water, which I boiled for about 2 hours. At this time, I strained the mixture through an unbleached muslin bag to remove all of the reed pieces. I then placed the liquid back in the pot and continued to boil it until it was very thick (almost like honey). This was then poured into a glass bowl and left 3 days until it had totally dried out. By turning the bowl over, I was able to remove the sugar mold, which I then placed into a mortar and pestle and ground into a usable form.
CORIANDER: I chose to add coriander because of the description of its uses and virtues in Gerard's Herbal. He describes it as useful in aiding in the digestion of meat and directs that it is best taken after supper as it "prevaileth the more". He also directs that the seeds should be mixed in wine and left to steep, then later directs that the wine is what should be taken after supper.(3)
Since I presently have no coriander plants in my herb garden, I purchased the seeds at a natural foods market.
PEACHES: Again referring to Gerard and his Herbal, he describes peaches as a digestive most especially for meats. He also suggests infusing the pulp of the fruit in distilled wine to be taken after the ingestion of meat to "loosen the belly" and to do so "without griefe or trouble, either to the stomacke, or lower parts of the body".(4)
Last autumn I was allowed to go to a peach orchard after their general harvest and glean as many peaches as I wished. I took these peaches home, peeled and stoned them, sliced them and put them into the freezer. These were the peaches used in this cordial.
Following Gerard's procedures(5), I placed brandy and peaches in a glass jar in equal amounts of 2 cups each. Since he gave no quantities for the coriander, I put in 1/2 tsp. of coriander seeds. His instructions on sugar in aqua vitea were to "put some small amount within"; therefore I put in only 1/2 cup.
I then sealed the jar with a lid and placed it in the sun for two days. I have no historical documentation for this step. I have simply found over time that this makes a better final product.
After the 2 days in the sunlight, I put the jar away in a dark cupboard for 8 months.
Following the 8 months steeping in the dark, I opened the jar and strained it through an unbleached muslin bag three times. The three strainings were necessary to remove all of the pulp from the liquid and obtain a clear product.
The peaches and peach pulp which remained (with the coriander removed), we enjoyed over ice cream one evening. A delicious way to use the leftovers.
The final product is a rather pleasant after dinner drink with the peach flavor rising and a hint of an almost vanilla taste from the coriander. Though I do not normally like the taste of brandy, I found that following Gerard's advice and drinking this particular one either with or following a meat dish makes a good combination and improves the taste of both the brandy and the meat. In addition, I have never had indigestion from meat when I drink this particular brandy, though I usually can not handle eating meat well.
SOME FINAL NOTES:
As concerns the original reason for doing this project:
a) I can now show that brandy was period.
b) Back to Gerard, on page 883 concerning Aqua Vitea he states "If I should take in hand to write of every mixture, of each infusion, of the sundry colours, and every other circumstance that the vulgar people doe give unto this water, their divers use, I should spend much time but to small purpose". Therefore, brandy was indeed infused with other herbs and fruits.
c) Again referring to the above, there were many uses, so many that Gerard refuses to take the time to list them all.
d) By my own experience I can say that it does not taste "nasty" and that this mixture at least is worthy of drinking by other than sick people.
e) And finally, though sugar cane could indeed only be grown in hot regions, it was known and used in our time period. Gerard states that, by the time of his writing (late 1500's), it is "much used throughout Europe" and also places its use as early as the Roman Empire.(6)
1. Mistress Casamira Jawjalny
2. Gerard, John. "The Herbal or General History of Plants", Dover Publications, London 1633
John Gerard's Herbal or General History of Plants is available
in the Alchemy display area.
(1) Gerard, John. "The Herbal or General History of Plants", 1633
Dover Publications pg. 882
(2) Gerard, John. "The Herbal or General History of Plants", 1633
Dover Publications pg. 38
(3) Gerard, John. "The Herbal or General History of Plants", 1633
Dover Publications pgs. 1012-1013
(4) Gerard, John. "The Herbal or General History of Plants", 1633
Dover Publications pg. 1447
(5) Gerard, John. "The Herbal or General History of Plants", 1633
Dover Publications pg. 1465
(6) Gerard, John. "The Herbal or General History of Plants", 1633
Dover Publications pg. 38
Copyright 2001 by Debbie Snyder, 4744 W. Crestmoor Ct, West Jordan, Ut 84088.
<LadyPDC at aol.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related
publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.