He drynketh yppocras, claree, and vernage
Of spices hoote, to encressen his corage
Chaucer, The Merchant's Tale, from the Canterbury Tales
For me, part of the appeal of making clarrey, a medieval spiced white wine with honey, was the thought that I would get to drink something similar to what Chaucer may have quaffed while writing his Canturbury Tales. After all, he does mention clarrey - or "claree" - in both the Knight's Tale and the Merchant's Tale. If that's not bringing history and literature to life, I don't know what is.
The fact that it's alcoholic didn't hurt, either. I mean, all this medieval cooking really works up a thirst - a wench has got to drink, after all. (That said, I think this could easily be adapted if you don't drink or if you'd like to make it for kids, which I'll discuss in a bit.)
Many people are familiar with hippocras, a red mulled and spiced wine, but using white wine is far less common, and that's another reason I decided to try it. I was afraid that the honey would make it too sweet, as I'm generally not a fan of overly sweet spirits, but the spices - particularly the white pepper - balanced the drink perfectly. In fact, this beverage has quite a kick to it, and produces a pleasant burn on the back of the throat. You're supposed to ferment it for at least a month, and can even do so for up to a year. While I do have quite a bit left, I wanted to try it right away to make sure it was good, which it is. No sacrifice for this blog is too great, even drinking under-fermented clarrey!
I took the recipe from Gode Cookery; the original comes from Forme of Cury, which you can find in Curye on Inglisch, a collection of fourteenth-century culinary manuscripts.
- 1 750 ml bottle of sweet white wine. *
- 1 cup of honey
- 1 tbsp each of cinnamon, galingale, and cardamom (you can substitute ginger for galingale, but you can usually find it in Asian supermarkets.)
- 1 tsp white pepper
*For a non-alcoholic version, I suggest substituting an unsweetened white grape juice, and for kids, also reducing or eliminating the white pepper
Slowly bring the wine and honey to a boil, skimming any scum off of the surface. Turn off the heat, add the spices, cover and let sit for 24 hours. The next day, using a ladle, strain the drink through 2 or 3 layers of cheesecloth. The spices will have left a rather nasty scum on the bottom; try to scoop up as little of it as possible. Bottle the strained wine and let it sit for about a month - though it's really good right away! While I photographed it in a clear bottle to show its pretty golden color, I stored the clarrey in a tinted bottle on the chance that the light would have a bad effect on it.
I really hope you try this one! It may be an ancient recipe, but it's absolutely accessible, and so perfect for the holidays. See you tomorrow for Day 5, when I'll discuss what I served with the peas porridge from Day 3!