hist-brewing: syrup production

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Wed Aug 30 11:59:12 PDT 2000

    This post concerns the production of  syrups made from honey or pale
treacles which are used in the production of ales, meads and braggots.
The methods described below are Flemish although i have it on good
authority that they are quite similar to methods used throughout the low
countries.  Thanks are due to Axella Hemmerechts of Alalst, a far better
researcher then i, who provided the translations into English and showed
me how to do the procedures mentioned below back in the summer of '98.
    The primary source of the procedural information comes from the
records of  the sadly defunct Lanoye brewery in Kortrijk and some
translated bits of  Stefan Van Pamel's "Traditional Brewing" circa
1880.  Except when noted other wise the measures are given in imperial
units.  Oh, the notes are listed under the first dotted line in the
order they appeared in the main body of this post.
    If you wish to make a flavored honey syrup use the same method as
described in the Lonoye recipe book of  c.1380's:
                                       Strengthened Honey
    "a hand full of malt is worked upon a pan (or perhaps a skillet,
ed.) over a low   flame along with some small, damp oak chips till they
turn.  The malt is then crushed to a flour placed in a strong pot over a
low low flame to which equal measures of  honey and water and a third
again as much juice of  Birch  are added along with a fifth again as
much cream.  After half the admixture has boiled away add a spoon of
well  worked Ascension Day Root*   and twice as much crushed Michealmas
fruit* .  After a quarter again of  the mixture has boiled away break
the fruit stones well and add them to the pot.  Once the mixture as
fallen to to a quarter of  it's original size the strong honey is read
to be put to use."
    Pages 17 & 18 of Pamel mentions the use of  "molasses or homemade
blackened sugar in a similar process.   I assume that "blackened sugar"
is homemade sugar similar to what is found in the Central Americas
although i certainly can't place any specific date to when such a
practice began in the low countries although is know that it is still
practiced in the rural Northlands and has been for quite some time.
Pamel lists the strengthened honey in terms "grades" 1-4  in which the
ratio of water to honey & molasses combined as being being 1:1, 1:2 and
so on.
    Axella tells me that the use of Russian and Spanish licorice,
nettles and hyssop greatly improves strong honey when used in
moderation.  I have attempted the methods listed above using two to
eight pounds of honey in two pound increments which is then added in
varying quantities to your mead, braggot or ale to provide additional
complexity to the flavor balance as well as color.  The major down side
to making strengthened honey is that it is a rather messy bother and it
does require iron cookware rather then more modern products in order to
impart the proper character.
    If anyone in the readership is interested i'll get out a braggot
recipe using this method with a few minor concessions to the modern

* Ascension Day Root - It would appear that this is a reference to
Elecampane which used to be harvested on the Church holiday of  the same
name.  I assume that
"well worked" means that the root is properly dried and cleaned.

Michealmas fruit - In a similar vain it would appear to me that this is
a reference to sloes berries which were picked during this festival.
However, Axella tells me that she is under the impression that this is
instead a reference to currents which used to be used in food cooked for
the same festival.

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