Medicinal Cinnamon "Syrups" from Jujia Biyong
It's been a year. I've worked on some small brewing projects but mostly my 2020 and early 2021 have been focused on surviving The Plague.
I was delighted to find a challenge to recreate non-alcoholic beverages as part of the East Kingdom's Laurel Challenge event, so I went back to the ~1400 CE household manual The Complete Collection of Important Household Skills (Jūjiā Bìyòng 居家必用) and surveyed it for recipes that matched the brief.
While it is common to find medieval food at our feasts and dayboards, medieval beverages tend to be somewhat more limited. Aside from water and alcohol, what might be found and recreated? This challenge asks you to find examples of drinks – with recipes, if possible, and to recreate them, if you are able. As you do, consider whether they can be offered as options for events. Are ingredients a limitation in terms of availability or safety? How would they appeal to the modern palate?
|Left: diluted "lychee" syrup|
Right: diluted cinnamon "syrup"
I used ctext.org's copy of the manuscript, although it has some digitization problems, so I also referenced two scanned copies that I used to double-check the digitized transcripts of the recipes I chose, one low-quality scan from Beijing which is probably from the late 1700s imperial reprinting project, and a much higher quality scan of a Japanese print. This latter edition is much more pleasant to read, and interestingly also contains annotations alongside the text which help Japanese speakers to reorder the sentence to be approximately grammatical in Japanese.
The text is long, so I searched it for 飲 "a drink, to drink" and sketched translations of the sections that seemed interesting. At the bottom of this article is a list of what I found, so you can get an idea of the other contents floating around this book. I've also included a table of the units of measurement that I used in these recipes.
I settled on two recipes from the "syrup" 漿 section, although not all of these are syrups and the term is a bit vague.
To Make Cinnamon Syrup
Drink this in summer months. It quenches thirst and eliminates phlegm. Do not drink with alcohol.
- Cassia cinnamon - 3 liang powdered
- Red Wolfiporia extensa - skinned, powdered
- Finely powdered yeast cakes - half a jin
- Malted barley - half a liang, powdered
- almond/apricot kernels - 100, soaked, skinned, pointed [?], ground to powder
- Fresh honey - 3 jin
For the above, use one dou of boiled water. Cool it, and mix evenly. Add it to a porcelain vessel and stir 300-500 rounds. Seal with oil paper. Turn it over a number of times. Put it in the cellar for five days and it will be ready, or use preservation paper, tightly seal it and put it in the bottom of a deep well for seven days. Strain through floss to remove the dregs. Dissolve in water to drink.
It's not entirely clear what the cooling instruction means in Chinese, and it could be read to mean "mix, then cool" but because this seems intended to introduce living yeast cultures into the liquid, I've chosen to cool the water first so as not to kill them.
For context, this is a medicinal recipe, and the W. extensa fungus is probably the main intent here - it's believed to have diuretic properties in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The mix of yeast cakes (used to make rice wine) and malt is curious, but appears elsewhere in this manuscript, and I think that it's because the author didn't really understand what causes fermentation specifically, so they added both malt and the saccharifying yeast cakes, even though they're just using honey anyway.
- Gui [either cassia cinnamon or osmanthus, unclear but probably cinnamon] - 3 liang
- Cloves - two fen
- Black Prunus mume - half a jin, boiled juice
- Amomum villosum - 3 liang, filed and crushed, boiled to juice, taking one sheng
- Fresh ginger juice - half a wine cupTake the above items pure, then mix. Add two and half jin of sugar. In a silver stone vessel, boil until thick. Filter and use.
Note: after publication, a friend of mine pointed out that the gui in this recipe is in their view most likely osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans) fruits. I have the flowers, but not the fruits, so this will be a challenge to source, but worth revisiting. They reportedly have a similar camphor aroma to the Amomum villosum.
Prunus mume is a sour fruit (actually an apricot, but usually called a plum) that you may be familiar with from umeshu, the Japanese plum wine. It's pretty sour, and before vinegar became popular in China in the first millennium was the primary source of culinary acid in Chinese cuisine.
|The ingredients prepared|
|Grinding the yeast cakes|
|Everything ready to mix|
- Ground cassia cinnamon: 12g
- White Wolfiporia extensa, ground: 12g
- I was only able to source this from online Asian medicine suppliers, and could not find the red variety.
- Finely ground yeast cakes: 32g
- I used yeast cakes I made previously following the 544 CE recipe. The recipes in this book are broadly similar, and the production process takes months and stinks up the house, so I used what I had on hand.
- Ground malted wheat: 2g
- The recipe calls for barley, but I couldn't get that on short notice. Malted wheat is similar and quantity involved is tiny.
- Almond flour: 12g
- I weighed an almond to determine how much this should be. I would have ground them myself but was out of raw almonds.
- Honey: 190g
- Boiled water: 950mL
|This is sharen, the fruit of Amomum villosum|
|30g of shelled Amomum villosum, and their shells|
|Amomum villosum grounds ready to boil|
|Boiling dried Prunus mume|
|Left: Prunus mume decoction|
Right: sharen decoction
|Everything mixed together|
|Syrup very slowly filtering. To get most of the rest out I resorted to the microwave, which worked well.|
- Ground cassia cinnamon: 30g
- As noted, this could possibly be intended to be dried osmanthus flowers, which I also have, but given the placement next to another cinnamon recipe, and that osmanthus flowers are usually "gui flowers" not just "gui" I went with cinnamon.
- Cloves: 0.2g
- This was literally three cloves.
- Dried Prunus mume: 79g, boiled with the juice taken
- These are hard to source. Chinatown grocers and pharmacies have them, but they almost all have aspartame, an artificial sweetener, in them for some reason I do not understand. The ones I found after long searching "only" had sugar, salt and citric acid added.
- Ground Amomum villosum seeds: 30g, boiled down to 238 mL, taking the juice
- These are a cardamom relative with a camphor-like aroma.
- These are also quite hard to source. My stash was purchased after spending a long time hunting them on online traditional medicine sites.
- Fresh ginger juice: 12.5mL
- Juicing ginger with a mortar and pestle is unpleasant and I cannot honestly recommend it.
- Rock sugar: 396g
I'll note the titles of recipes below, rather than dumping the whole thing. CText breaks the text into chunks arbitrarily - they don't align with the scroll divisions of the text. I've included links and the line numbers so that interested readers can cross-reference the source material easily.
https://ctext.org/wiki.pl?if=en&chapter=321115 Table of contents
328 夢飲食瓜果蔬菜 dreams of drink, food, gourds, fruit, vegetables
957 造清涼飲法 to make cooling waters
1071 飲食類 food and drink
1150 飲食類 food and drink
1555 車前子飲 Plantago seed drink
1557 枸杞飲方 receipt for goji berry drink
1561 兔頭飲方 receipt for rabbit head drink
1571 赤白皮飲 red-white skin drink
1590 車前子飲 before-the-cart drink
1597 茱萸飲方 receipt for Cornus officinalis drink
1604 麻子飲方 receipt for hempseed drink
1637 痰飲証諸方 all receipts for drinks which admonish phlegm
1645 青蒿飲 Artemisia annua drink
1655 常山飲 Changshan drink
1802 飲食 food, drink
1907 a discourse on etiquette. One bit: “When drinking wine: do not allow yourself to reach drunkenness. When using the toilet: you must first remove your outer clothes, and after must wash your hands. When walking at night, you must use a lantern or candle, and if you do not have a candle, stop. When dealing with servants, you must hold firm, or else they will laugh. When holding household utensils, you must hold firm, for fear of loss. When there is danger, do not near it. When you encounter an elder on the road, you must bow and clasp your hands in an upright fashion. Quickly approach with small steps and a bowed head and bow. When lying at night, you must use a pillow. Do not cover your head with your sleepclothes. When eating and drinking, when you raise your spoon you must place your chopsticks. When you raise your chopsticks, you must place your spoon. After eating, place the spoon and the chopsticks on the table.”
1984 food and drink must be moderate “... do not drink more than three jue [a kind of cup], do not reach drunkenness”
~600 is some notes around various specific rituals involving drinking and eating
~300+ This is a list of dream interpretations
459 Dreaming of drinking with folks -> misunderstanding caused by gossip
463 Dreaming of drinking to drunkenness -> illness
Large section on tea starting at 373
400 Goji Tea
413 Section on hot waters
530 Is Sharbats / Sherberts / Thirst Waters, which I have previously worked in
531 Imperial sharbat
546 Fragrant sugar sharbat - I had previously thought this was "pine" sugar - but it was an OCR error! "pine sugar" and "loose sugar" are homophones and the characters are similar. Thanks to my friends who helped me spot this.
548 To make refreshing drinks
549 Awaken Qi and invigorate the spirit
552 Hot drinks - cross reference https://dl.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/2580236?tocOpened=1 around page 25
553 Millet [Setaria italica, possibly sorghum] stalk hot water
555 Shiso hot water
557 Cardamom hot water
559 Aquilaria agallocha hot water
561 Fragrant flower hot water
563 Clove hot water
565 To make hot waters.
567 Vinegars / syrups
568 To Make Cinnamon Syrup
574 "Lychee" syrup
578 Chinese Quince Syrup
580 To make vinegars/syrups
670 Yeast cakes
99 Soy-type sauces
183 food and drink
184 vegetarian food
352 food and drink
369 Wine roasted fish
493 Muslim foods
208 Plantago asiatica seed drink
214 Receipt for goji berry drink
218 Receipt for Barley Broth
There’s more in here
364 “Drinking in the 5-7 am hour. One day of unhappiness.”