A man cannot make him laugh - but that's no marvel; he drinks no wine.
Shakespeare, Henry IV, part 2
It's finally here - the last day of the 12 Days of Medieval Feasting. And what better way to end than with a fond farewell toast over a warm cup of medieval eggnog?
To be honest, I can't remember where I saw this drink referred to as the medieval version of eggnog (though I am certain I did); it's actually frothy white wine or ale thickened with egg yolks, sugar, and saffron. The first time I made it, I didn't get the comparison at all. For one thing, I hardly used any sugar because I don't generally prefer sweet alcoholic beverages. But the result, to me, tasted of strong hot wine and eggs, kind of like spiked egg beaters - not exactly the stuff that pleasant holiday memories are made of, if you ask me.
So I tried it again with more sugar, and this time, it all made sense. I could taste the wine, but it was mellowed by the sugar, and there wasn't any egg-y aftertaste. The whole confusion of course, is the notorious lack of ingredient amounts given in medieval recipes. This one, from the fifteenth-century culinary manuscript An Ordinance of Pottage, just instructs you to "Draw yolkes of eyron thorow a streynor with wyne or with ale, that hit be rhyght rennyng; put thereto sigure, safron, & no salt." In other words, mix together wine and egg yolks until runny and add some sugar and saffron, but no salt. Okay ... whatever you say.
The Gode Cookery translation suggests just adding a tiny bit of sugar, but this led to the aforementioned unpalatable results. That said, caudell can double as a sauce for desserts, and the under-sweetened version was great on yesterday's medieval bread pudding. But if you want to drink it, I suggest you sweeten it. I think I've come up with the right proportions, but of course you should adjust it to taste. A little goes a long way - I served this in espresso cups.
2 egg yolks
Just under 1/3 cup sweet white wine
1/2 -3/4 tbsp sugar, depending on how sweet you'd like it
Grated nutmeg, for garnish
Mix the wine, egg yolk, and sugar in a saucepan. Over medium low heat, whisk continuously until the mixture gets frothy and thick. You'll know when it's ready, because if you have to ask - it's not. Don't stop whisking for a second for fear it will burn or scald!
And it's that simple. You definitely want to drink this while it's still hot. It would probably be a really good hangover cure, come to think of it, not that I would ever need it for such a purpose.
Well, there you have it: We have come to the end of the 12 Days of Feasting. It's been a lot of work, but I have so enjoyed researching, cooking, eating, photographing, and writing every last bit of it. Most of all, I feel lucky for all of your thoughtful comments, kind words, and encouragement. Thank you so much for reading along!