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Pyment -- Documentation and Log Notes

By: Lynnette de Sandoval del Valle de los Unicornios
Submitted: Arts Fair November 4, 1989

From the Mulsum of the Ancient Romans to the liqueurs and dessert wines of today, sweet wines have always been popular. During the Middle Ages there were several types of sweetened wines; one was pyment, which was made by adding honey and spices to red wine, after brewing (as opposed to the current usage of the word which means a honey and grape wine, both added before brewing). PA variation of pyment was Ypocras (hypocras, ipocress...) which uses sugar instead of honey. Some of the spices commonly used in pyment / ypocras are cinnamon, cloves, pepper, ginger, and nutmeg. The spices were stepped in the wine and then strained out by pouring the liquid through a close woven cloth bag.

The recipe I have chosen is an adaptation of a medieval recipe. The original recipe details the procedures for making 2 blends of ypocras. The modern adaptation is based on the second blend and is titled "Ypocras for the Common Man"; it contains red wine, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, and honey. I disagree that this is either ypocras or for the common man: the honey instead of sugar makes this a pyment instead of ypocras, and the cost of the pepper and cinnamon during the Middle Ages would make this too expensive for the common man to make.

I had wondered at the types and amounts of spices used in these and similar recipes, until a Learned Brewmaster explained that the red wine of the Middle Ages was more like our Hearty Burgundy than our "jug red".

Because I had excess wine and because I wanted to get the recipe out of grams and into ounces, I increased the recipe approx 10 times. I was going to try to recreate the original recipe, with its multiple bowls and bags but my translation skills and my patience were not up to it.

My recipe is:


    8 quarts red wine
    200 peppercorns (crushed)
    1 oz stick cinnamon (in small pieces)
    3 oz fresh ginger (peeled and cut up)
    5 cups honey

Divide the wine equally into 4 containers and add each ingredient to a jar (honey in one, ginger in the second ...) Let them stand 4 days, shaking occasionally. Strain each, except the honey and combine the 4 as taste dictates.

This batch was made from half Carlo Rossi Burgundy and half Gallo Hearty Burgundy. I let the wine stand on the ingredients for 4 days. I strained them through a jelly bag and combined equal amounts. The combined pyment was bottled 5 days ago.


From The Boke of Nurture

(Copied from the Possets, Caudles, Syllabubs and other drinks of the Medieval and Renaissance periods from various English and French sources with reconstructions by the Carolingian Cooks' Guild ... )

The Boke of Nurture explains in great detail how a young man may advance himself in a noble household by knowing the correct way to do everything that needs doing.

Good son, to make ypocras, hit were gret lernynge, and for to take the spice therto aftur the proporcionynge, Gynger, Synamome, Graynis, Sugar, Turnesole (that is good colourynge); for commyn peple Gynger, Canelle, longe pepur, hony aftur claryfiynge.

Look ye haue of pewter basons onn, two, & thre, for to kepe in youre powdurs, also the licour therin to renne when that nede be; to iij. basouns ye must haue iij. bagges renners so clepe ham we, & hange them on a perche, & looke that Sure they be.

Se that youre gynger be welle y-pared or hit to powder ye bete, and that hit be hard, with-owt worme, bytynge, & good hete; ... looke that your stikkes of synamome be thyn, bretille, and fayre in colewre, and in youre mowthe, Fresche, hoot, & swete, that is best & sure, ... Good son, youre powdurs so made, vche by tham self in bleddur laid, hange sure youre perche & bagges that they from yow not brayd, & that no bagge touche other, do as y haue yow saide; ...Furst put in a basoun a galoun ij. or iij. wyne so red; then put in youre powdures, yf ye wille be sped, and aftyr in-ro the renners so lett hym be fed, than in-to the seond bagge so pece in thyne hand euermore amonge, and assay it in they mouthe if hit be any thynge stronge, and if thow fele it welle booth with mouthe & tonge, than put it in the iij. vesselle, & tary not to onge. And than yiff thou feele it be not made parfete, that it cast to moche gynger, with synamome alay that hete; and if hit haue synamome to moche, with gynger of iij. cute; ...

Modern English: Good son, it is wise to know how to make hypocras. Take spices in proper proportions, ginger, cinnamon, grains, and sugar, and thursole to give a good color. For common people, use ginger, cinnamon, long pepper, and clarified honey. Have pewter basins, one, two, and three, for your spiced liquors to run in. For iii (3) basins you must have iii bags -- runners, we call them -- and hang them on a bar securely. See that your ginger is well pared or beaten to a powere, and that it is hard, without worms, biting, and hot... Your cinnamon sticks should be thin, brittle, light colored, and should taste fresh, hot, and sweet...Good son, your powders so made, put each spice in a bag by itself, and hang the bags from a bar so that no bag touches another; do as I have told your...

...and so on and so on. The general idea seems to be making several flavors of hypocras separately, then blending them to taste.

Reconstruction by Lady Keturah bat-Issac:

(Copied from the Possets, Caudles, Syllabubs and other drinks of the Medieval and Renaissance periods from various English and French sources with reconstructions by the Carolingian Cooks' Guild ... )

Ypocras for the Common Man
    1 bottle (750 ml) of fairly dry red wine
    20 peppercorns, crushed
    2 g. cinnamon, well ground (1/2 stick)
    8 g. fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
    1/2 cup honey

Divide the wine into four equal portions and put each portion into a jar that can be covered. To the first jar add the pepper; to the second , cinnamon; to the third, ginger; to the fourth, honey. Let them sit for a day or three. Then strain the spices out of the first three jars, draining the wine from each into a separate cup. The honey mixture only needs to be shaken from time to time during the flavoring period, but not strained. Then add the variously flavored wines together in a combination that suits you.

My Lady Cathlin's choice: 1 part pepper flavored, 2 parts each ginger & cinnamon flavored, and 3 parts honey flavored. This is a delightful drink!

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