hist-brewing: Brakott recipe discussion(was:10th to 15th century ale recipe)

Wade Hutchison whutchis at bucknell.edu
Wed Apr 5 07:00:38 PDT 2000

At 04:14 PM 4/4/2000, you wrote:
 >I think this satisfies your requirements. I'd really recommend you buy
 >either this book or Austin's _Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books_ as you
 >may need the glossary.
 >I made this ale using extracts and it came out ok.
 >Hieatt, Constance and Butler, Sharon. editors and translators. _Curye on
 >Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth Century (Including
 >the Forme of Cury)_. Published for the Early English Text Society by Oxford
 >University Press. London, England 1985 ISBN 0-19-722409.

Crystal, I'm really glad you posted this recipe.  I've been meaning to
bring this up on the mailing list for some time.  Braggots have fascinated
me for several years now, and in my quest to find all the extant recipes out
there, of course I found this one.  There are a few problems with actually
making it, of course, and maybe we could discuss these here.  Btw, I've
cross posted this to the SCA brew list, in case there are one or two
people not on both lists.

 >Page 149-150, IV: Forme of Cury

First off, this description is in BL Royal MS 17, section A iii (that Bodleian
Library, Oxford), "a late fourteenth-century medical collection."  There is
another Braggot recipe (Clarrey and Braggot) in Forme of Cury.

 >8	Ad faciendum brakott.

That is, "To Make Brakott" (or braggot)

 >Take xiiii galouns of good fyn ale that the grout
 >therof by twies meischid, & put it into a stonen vessel. & lete it stonde
 >iii daies or iiii, til it be stale.

Ok - the real problem is here.  "Take 14 gallons of good ale that the malt
thereof was twice mashed"  Does this mean A) Take the third runnings of your
malt to make this drink - make your ale after the malt was mashed twice or
B) make a 'good fyn' ale that _combines_ the first and second runnings
from the mash.  (personally, I lean towards B).

The second problem with this passage is the lack of specifics on whether
you make the ale, and then let it sit for 3 or 4 days, or whether you're
just supposed to make the wort, and let it sit.  I would lean towards
making an ale, then letting it sit several days after the fermentation
is over. (thus flat or 'stale')

 >Afterward take a quart of fyn wort, half
 >a quart of lyf hony; & sette it ouer the fier, & lete it sethe, & skyme it
 >wel til it be cleer. & thut therto a penywoth of poudir of peper & I
 >penyworth of poudir of clowis, & sethe hem wel togethere til it boile.

Ok - another problem.  Is this fresh wort we're to use here, or does it
refer to the 'aged' wort made above?  BTW, 'lyf' honey is described in
another recipe as the honey pressed out of the combs, with no further

Hieatt and Butler point out that based on prices in another MS, this would
be 2/3 oz. pepper and 1/4 oz. cloves.  Note that the advice is to used
powered spices.  Remember, this is in a medical MS, so you want to blend
spices well with the liquid to change the temperament of the drink.

 >Take it doun & lete it kele, & poure out the clere therof into the forseid
 >vessel, & the groundis theof put in into a bagge, into the forseid pot, &
 >stoppe it wel with a lynnen clooth that noon eir come out; & put therto newe
 >berm, & stoppe it iii dayes or iiii eer thou drinke therof.

Ok - here's the final question - do you mean were're doing all this to add
1/2 a quart of honey to 14 gallons of ale?  Certainly looks that way.  Here
we finally add some yeast (berm) to the pot, and stop it up.  This may also
indicate that the initial instructions were to add just wort to the vessel
and let that sit for 3 days.

 >Put aqua ardente it among.

Aqua ardente is 'strong water,' usually translated as distilled spirits.  So
not only do we fortify this with honey and some fresh yeast, but when it's
done fermenting, we add some brandy to boost the octane!

I think that a modern recipe can be hammered out of this description, but
as with many medieval recipes, the final product will vary greatly depending
on some of the assumptions that you make along the way.  In this case, I think
the product based on a stale, fermented ale boosted with spiced honey and
brandy would be very different than a product based on fermenting 3 day old
wort with spiced honey.

Well - I've posed some questions to the list, and I would like to hear
peoples opinions on my suppositions.  Thanks for listening so far.

	-----Wade Hutchison, known in the SCA as Gille MacDhnouill

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