hist-brewing: 1577 Recipe
ansel at hom.net
Sat Sep 27 10:07:27 PDT 1997
Wylie A. & Gail D. Smith wrote:
> What do you think Arras is?
> Could it be FLORENTINE ORRIS ROOT?
In the Edelen edition of Harrison's work the spelling given is
'orris'. I am thinking this may be a reference to the blue iris, which
appears to have been widely cultivated in medieval England. The root was
called orris. I don't know if this is the same as florentine orris root
>Would Sweet Gail be a good substitute for the Bayberry mentioned?
I think bayberry may be a reference to the berry of the sweet bay
or laurel tree, laurus nobilis, common in medieval England with a number
of uses for the leaves and berries.
> What quantities for 10 gal batch?
That is a very good question which leads to several others.
Harrison's wife was making a total gross volume of 240 of their gallons.
It seems that she added the brackwort (the reserved portion to which she
originally added the orris and bayberry) back into the main batch:
"Finally, when she setteth her drink together, she addeth to her
brackwort or charwort half an ounce of orris and half a quarter of an
ounce of bayberries finely powdered, and then, putting the same into her
wort, with an handful of wheat flour, she proceedeth in such usual order
as common brewing requireth." The brackwort itself was "of eight or nine
In a later section of his work Harrison notes that the English
gallon has 96 ounces but that doesn't tell us the volume of his ounce.The
'Queen Anne' gallon was in widespread use in England in Harrison's time,
and was equivalent to 231 of our modern fluid ounces. If this was
the gallon Harrison used, their gross batch size was approximately 441 of
They used half an ounce of orris and an eighth ounce of
bayberries. Harrison states elsewhere in his work that their weight
measure was either the Troy or Avoirdupois pound. He states that their
liquid and dry measures were sold by Troy but that other artificers and
chapmen used Avoirdupois. I wonder whether the Harrisons grew their own
orris and bayberries, bought the bulk produce from a 'chapman' who might
measure by avoirdupois, or bought small ground quantities ready to use
from, perhaps, an apothecary using Troy.
In any case, Troy or Avoirdupois, I think a half ounce and an
eigth ounce are going to be virtually undetectable in 441 gallons. If you
want to try to duplicate just the brackwort, at 8-9 of their gallons that
works out to about 14.5-16 of ours so in a 10-gal batch you'd want to use
1/3 less or about 1/3 oz. orris and 1/12th oz. bayberry, using Troy or
Avoirdupois as you think appropriate. I wonder whether even in that
proportion the amounts are going to be noticeable.
I wonder why they bothered with so small a proportion. It seems
Mrs. Harrison's chief concern was the impact on color: "...she taketh out
a vesselful, of eight or nine gallons, which she shutteth up close and
suffereth no air to come into it till it become yellow, and this she
reserveth by itself unto further use, as shall appear hereafter, calling
it brackwort or charwort, and as she saith, it addeth also to the color
of the drink, whereby it yieldeth not unto amber or fine gold in hue unto
My own interest lies in recreating the main batch. If the
brackwort was not mixed back in then no orris or bayberries are needed;
if it was mixed back in, then I am back to wondering what difference such
a minute quantity (1/8 and 1/2 oz. in 441 gallons) would make.
> I am thinking of a 90 minute boil, adding hops with 60
minutes remaining, and 10 minutes remaining, and infusing the Sweet Gale
at the end of the boil and another spice (Orris Root?).
I don't think that hopping schedule will duplicate Harrison's.
Their hops were all boiled for at least 90 minutes.
The orris and bayberry were added to the brackwort, a portion of
the first mash which was not boiled: "before she putteth her first wort
into the furnace or mingleth it with the hops, she taketh out a
vesselful...". This first wort came out for me at about 154F.
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