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Yuan Dynasty Bochet Lemonade

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Based primarily off of the poem I discussed earlier, and cross-referencing other sherbet recipes, I made a caramelized honey lemonade, similar to bochet, which is mead made from caramelized honey.

What I drew from that poem is:

a hundred flowers brewed into a sweet dew syrup A primarily honey-based syrup
In the southern garden, boiled to red dragon marrow The honey should be boiled until red.  This is a little conjectural, but I think fairly convincing.  Other sherbets cook their syrups pretty severely:  Compendium of Essential Arts for Family Living's Chinese Quince sherbet has you cook the quince slices in honey until it forms "flexible strands," which is pretty cooked.  I got a similar effect after the syrup I made had cooled fully.
 heaven's winds, summer heat, good-for-"meng" fruit And then we add lemon juice.

Sherbets typically have a fruit juice and an optional sweetener added, and this fruit is definitely it.   Is it lemon?

I've found several t…

Medieval China Gothic

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In my search for thirst-waters, I came across an 18th century reference to the Yuan dynasty planting lemon trees and using them for thirst-waters.  I haven't been able to track down a specific historical provenance for that information, but I did find the poem they additionally cite about lemons (good-for-"meng" fruits).  It's sort of helpful, and I suspect it's an oblique reference to bees making honey.

Well, and also to drunkenness.  This is a Chinese poem, after all, and if they're not about at least one of the moon, autumn, or drunkenness, they're probably not worth much.

That said, I think most of the lines read independently like "Medieval China Gothic"

This poem appears in First Selection of Yuan Poems compiled in the Siku Quanshu, published 1784, but ascribed to Gu Sili, 1669-1722.  This poem also appears in the Ming dynasty collection The Stone Granary Collection of Poems from the Ages by Cao Xuequan, 1574-1646, and in the undated Coll…

Imperial-Style Thirst Water

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I was trawling through a really large Yuan Dynasty cookbook The Compendium of Essential Arts for Family Living when I came across a section of recipes titled "thirst-waters."  Curious, I read more.

The book says that these recipes are called, in foreign lands, 攝里白 which in reconstructed Middle Chinese is something like "syep li baek."  A similar recipe I found in an anecdote in the 18th century Corrections to the Bencao Gangmu, relating a 14th century orchard of lemon trees planted by the Khan, says that the mongols call these drinks 舍里別 “syae li pjet.”

There's a category of Central- and West-Asian drinks that are fruit syrups dissolved into water called "sherbets," and that's indeed what these recipes are for.  The earliest references I've found to thirst-waters in China date to the 12th century, where the Old Stuff from the Martial Forest lists, but does not give recipes for seventeen drinks named "cool waters":
Sweet bean soupCoco…

"Boiled" Millet Wine

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I brought one new wine to King and Queens Arts and Sciences: a "boiled" millet wine.  This is the first wine for the second "exceptional" yeast cake recipe in Qimin Yaoshu - the yeast cakes I'm actually using at the moment.  It's got something weird going on.  Let's dive in.
YE2W1 造神麴黍米酒方:To make proso millet wine using exceptional yeast cakes 細剉麴,燥曝之。麴一斗,水九斗,米三石。須多作者,率以此加之。其甕大小任人耳。 Finely file the yeast cakes, and air them in the sun to dry.  For one dou of yeast cakes, use nine dou of water, and three dan [30 dou] of grain.  If you need to make more, keep the ingredients in this proportion.  Use an appropriately sized weng. 桑欲落時作,可得周年停。初下用米一石,次酘五斗,又四斗,又三斗,以漸待米消既酘,無令勢不相及。 When the mulberry trees lose their leaves [Chinese months 9 or 10, mid October - mid December].  First, add one dan of grain, then add five dou, then four dou, and then three dou, adding each after the grain has dispersed [note that this only adds up to 2.2 dan, not 3], making sure to add …

They liked me so much, they got me a ROCK!

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This past weekend was King and Queens Arts and Sciences championships in Mt. Kisco, NY.  I had entered it two years ago when this research was in a much, er, less tasty state, and I was still figuring out some of the process details.  There were ~40 entrants, and, as I did two years ago, I made the second round of judging, but did not win, which is totally fine.  I love these events because A&S is the thing I like the most about the SCA, and the best of SCA A&S is on display there.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to dig into the other entrants as much as I would have liked to because I got to talk to so many people!

A neat thing happened there: I apprenticed to Magnús, which in SCA land means something like "we're officially science-friends."  This is cool because it means I get to bug him with questions more than usual before he starts complaining.

I also got an award at the event which is really meaningful to me: a Maunche, which is for doing a lot of cool A&…

Survey of Vinegar Recipes

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Scroll 8 in Qimin Yaoshu has twenty-three vinegar recipes in it.  I've now translated them all, and rather than posting them fully, I thought I'd offer a summary, and a few of them in particular.

I haven't (successfully, ahem) made any of these yet, and when I do I'll post separately about them, with the full recipe included.

Science and Civilisation in China notes that vinegar was a relatively late addition to Chinese cooking, replacing the use of Prunus mume (a kind of apricot) as a souring agent in the Spring and Autumn period (771-476 BCE).
Ingredients Most of these are millet vinegars, produced like a millet wine.  But they also don't all use yeast cakes.  Most are using what I'm translating as "wheat grains" (麥䴷), which are also called "yellow steam" (黃蒸).  To make this: 作黃蒸法:To Make Yellow Steam〈六、七月中,取生小麥,細磨之。 In the middle of the sixth or seventh months, take fresh wheat, and finely grind it. 以水溲而蒸之,氣餾好熟,便下之,攤令冷。 Soak it in water, and th…