Monday, March 3, 2008


It being close to festival and me being apathetic I decided to make cordials for March Guild meeting. Besides I've nearly run out of cordial to take to festival.

flavoured sekanjamins
I followed the I used Caridoc's recipe as the source. This is a modern recipe, but one I've tried before and found quite successful. I just wanted to play around with different flavouring agents, and different sugars.

Experiment 1: brown sugar vs white sugar
I made two batches to the above recipe, one with white sugar and one with brown. I kept some of the white sugar batch aside for experiment 2 and also added mint a portion of both batches.

  • The brown sugar batch was much richer than the white sugar.
  • The white sugar no mint batch was rather tasteless. The addition of mint made this nicer, to most opinions.
  • A similar quantity of mint in brown sugar was almost tasteless, so there was no big change between this and the plain brown sugar batch. More mint, longer soak times, or putting it in when hotter is probably required with brown sugar than white sugar.
  • There was no clear favourite of these 4 combinations amongst drinkers, with individual preferences playing a strong part, but white sugar with mint and brown sugar without mint seemed to have a slight edge over the others.
postcript: This page gives a quote describing the use of white and red sugar in sekajamin for different medicinal purposes.

Experiment 2: flavourings
There is some evidence for the use of flavoured cordials, some even using a sekajamin style base.

I added some random flavouing agents the sounded yummy:
  • orange juice & cardamon (this I've tried before and it was yummy)
  • licorice root
  • star anise & cinnamon
  • juniper berries
Based on the last batch of orange & cardamon, I'll wait a few months before I taste these.

See articles on this page and this manuscript for some more recipes on flavoured honey syrups. Probably more of them are for boiling the flavuorings into the mixture than adding them later, but this makes it harder to try lots of different flavourings at once.

Sekajamin simple
Take a ratl of strong vinegar and mix it with two ratls of sugar, and cook all this until it takes the form of a syrup. Drink an ûqiya of this with three of hot water when fasting.
from an anonymous Andalusian cookbook (13th C)

This is noticeably different from the other recipie - it uses no water in the cordial concentrate. A ratl is about 460 grams apparently, but this is not important, as we really only need to know the proportions of hte ingredients. While I doubted such a small quantity of vinegar would actually dissolve so much sugar without burning, I was determined to try and was pleasantly surprised.

My interpretation of the day:
1 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup good quality white wine vinegar
  • Combine ingredients, stir, heat gently until sugar mostly dissolved.
  • Then boil mixture until a thick and viscous mixture the consistency of honey.
  • serve by diluting with hot water
I was surprised at how viscous the mixture became. Maybe cooking until quite so syrupy was not intended, but the recipe said a syrup, and I wanted to see how thick it could become. I don't think the comparison to honey would be lost on medieval Spanish people.

Diluted with hot water, the drink was good indeed. The ratio of syrup required to get a good taste was much higher than I expected, possibly around to the 5:1. This didn't work as well served cold because the syrup did not mix well. The syrup also settled to the bottom of a hot drink as it cooled, although maybe extra mixing would cure this. I think this recipe isn't missing any steps, although possibly the mixture may not need to be heated so long or concentrated so much.

For ease of later serving I further diluted this before bottling by about 3:1. This was still a quite viscous mixture.

postcript: The third recipie on this page clear describes that vinegar and sugar may be cooked together without water - but it adds water later.

1 comment:

Teffania said...

months later - verdict on the flavored cordials:
*orange & cardamon - repeatably yummiest
*licorice - very mildly astringent (may not be sweet enough for some), but actually a good digestive and after fatty foods
*star anise & cinnamon - sweetish and pleasant with food, but lacks the 3rd flavour that would make it a hit between meals
*juniper berries - a bit astringent