hist-brewing: Gruits: Fresh or Dried?

Henry Davis henry at henry-davis.com
Sat Jan 13 08:04:45 PST 2001

At 12:03 PM 1/13/01 +0000, Renee Peterson wrote:
>Hi, I like your question, because I've been pondering the same thing for 
>my herbed meads. If you'd like my two cents, here it is:
>My humble, amatuerish guess is, fresh.
>Katla in Mikla


It's worthwhile to recall that many brews were done when the herbs were 
(relatively) out of season. In these cases it's almost certain that they 
were preserved.

Also, you might want to read some more about herbs in various herbals and 
alchemy texts. In some cases, dried herbs were imbued with different 
characteristics than the fresh version.

As a caution: period recipes often are imprecise. In part, it's due to what 
I call "my grandmother's chocolate donuts." When I was very young, my 
mother used my grandmother's recipe for chocolate donuts. It had been a 
family recipe from my grandfather, and my mom just couldn't get it to work 
out right. No matter what she did the donuts just didn't taste right. My 
grandmother got her to recite the recipe to her. When my mom finished, my 
grandmother asked where the vanilla was. My mom replied "there wasn't any 
in your recipe" to which my grandmother replied "any darned fool knows that 
you add vanilla when you use chocolate."

Other problems with period recipes come from transcription errors. Many 
manuscripts were copies of copies, extending for several generations. 
Scribes sometimes copied the words wrong, left out words, and on occasion 
added others.

Having said all of this, I think that your conclusion is basically a sound 
way in which to proceed. Personally, I believe that apart from herbs that 
would traditionally be used dried, most non-bittering herbs would be used 
in whatever form was available. For gruits, I believe that they were 
exclusively made from dried herbs because of the logistical problems in 
handling the gruits. Since the gruits were patented with specific grants 
for production made by the Crown to lesser royalty and the church, they 
were closely controlled. The intake of herbs and output of gruit makes it 
unlikely that any of these herbs were used fresh.



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