hist-brewing: measurements from Le Menagier de Paris

Crystal A. Isaac crystal at pdr-is.com
Fri Feb 27 14:10:59 PST 1998

I've been wanting to try the spiced mead recipe from Le Menagier de
Paris, but I am not sure about the measurements called for.  Hinson's
translation (copied below) calls for "sixths." I checked another
translation, (Eileen Power) which translated sixths as sesters and a
note in a previous recipes says "here no doubt the sester of 8 pints."
Power does not say how she came up with this measurement. Power's 8
pints is half the two gallons measure referred to in a post by Mark
Shipiro (see below, Mark says it was Phil's idea). Cindy Renfrow posted
a French quote from Jerome Pichon that says (I think, my French is
dreadful) that a sester is equal to a chopine, which Hinson says is a
half liter. A half liter is about a pint. I'm starting to feel like
Abbot&Costello in Who's On First?

If I use six US pints of honey and fill with water to six gallons, will
I be even close to right?

I know all of this was discussed before, but I could not find the final
resolution in the archives.

Thanks for any suggestions,

Crystal A. Isaac

----------- Sources cited --------
Translated by Janet Hinson. Reprinted in A Collection of Medieval and
Renaissance Cookbooks: First Compiled by Duke Cariadoc of the Bow and
The Duchess Diana Alena. Fifth Edition (1992) Volume Two, published
Page M38-39 Beverages for Invalids
Bouchet. To make six sixths of bouchet, take six pints of fine sweet
honey, and put it in a cauldron on the fire and boil it, and stir
continually until it starts to grow, and when you see that it is
producing bubbles like small globules which burst, and as they burst
emit a little smoke which is sort of dark: and then stir, and then add
seven sixths of water and boil until it reduces to six sixths again, and
keep stirring. And then put it in a tub to cool until it is just warm;
and then strain through a cloth bag, and then put it in a cask and add
one chopine (half liter) of beer-yeast, for it is this which makes it
the most piquant, (and if you use bread yeast, however much you like the
taste, the colour will be insipid,) and cover it well and warmly to
work. And if you want to make it very good, add an ounce of ginger, long
pepper, grains of Paradise and cloves in equal amounts, except for the
cloves of which there should be less, and put them in a cloth bag and
throw in. And after two or three days, if the bouchet smells spicy
enough and is strong enough, take out the spice-bag and squeeze it and
put it in the next barrel you make. And thus you will be able to use the
same spices three or four times. 

copied from the archives -- Marc Shapiro (mn.shapiro1 at mindspring.com)
wrote on Wed, 11 Jun 1997 21:20:17 -0400 : 
If a sester is two gallons, as an earlier post by Phil suggests, then we
have a recipe for 12 gallons which contains only 3 quarts of honey. 
This would be a ratio of 1:16. This would not even give a reasonable
beer strength. It is also possible that, in this case, sester refers to
some measure other than two gallons.]

copied from the archives -- Cindy Renfrow (renfrow at skylands.net) wrote
on Wed, 11 Jun 1997 22:09:50 -0400:
The original French 'sextier' is explained by Jerome Pichon, in his
notes to the 1846 transcription, as "Sans doute le setier de huit pintes
plut=F4t que celui d'une demi-pinte (ou chopine)."

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