In the Antiquity and Middle Ages, wine was considered not only a beverage, but also an essential medicinal remedy. There are plenty of recipes for medicinal wines in Dioscorides’ Materia Medica, as well as in the medieval medical handbooks, for example, the works by Arnaldus de Villa Nova.
One of the names we find most frequently is claretum, spelled in many ways, that in the medieval sources is also called pimentum: a wine with the addition of spices.
Mulled wine is drunk at the end of the meal to help digestion and is particularly suitable in winter and for the elders and phlegmatic complexions, as Arnaldus writes in his treatise about wines. It can be prepared in two ways, the author adds, similar to the ones that we will examine today for the clareya and Ypocras by Robert de Nola. One way consists in placing the spices in wine; the second, in cooking the mixture then sifting it through a thin cloth, repeating the process over and over until the wine turns perfectly clear (whence, claretum).
There are many recipes for claretum, three of them in the Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria (end of the 13th century) but usually, it was directly prepared by the spice seller, in the same way as spice blends.
We read about a chiarea in one of the tales about Calandrino in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (14th century), in which Calandrino believes that his wife has got him pregnant, so he pays a lot of coins to his friends to help him. A physician involved in the prank says that he needs three pairs of big capons and coins, which will be used to buy them capons and other foods, and has prepared a bit of chiarea able to fix Calandrino, recommending to drink a big glass every day.
The recipes we are preparing today have been written between the 15th and the 16th century by Robert de Nola in two editions of his book, the original Catalan version and the Castilian edition corrected by the author himself. For the recipe for clareya, we chose the Catalan edition, whereas the one for Ypocras appears just in the Castilian translation.
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spices (ginger, cinnamon, grains of paradise, cloves)
Mince the ginger, then coarsely crush the other spices. Steep them in the wine for at least a couple of hours, adding honey. Strain the liquid, sifting it until it turns perfectly clear.
Note about the ingredients
We used fresh ginger, but if you prefer, use it dry.
The ratio suggested by the author for the spices is five parts of ginger, six of cinnamon, 1/8 of grains of paradise, omitting the quantity of cloves. The recipe from the Castilian version, instead, suggests three parts of cinnamon, two parts of cloves, and one part of ginger.
Original text – Clareya (Llibre del Coch)
De pimentes de clareya. Gingebre blanch cinch onçes, canyella VI onçes, nous de xarch mig quart, clavells de girofle. E tot aço picaras de manera que solament sia mig picat e apres prens mig quarto de vi e met hi una onça e mija de dites pimentes ensemps: ab una liura de mel e apres passar ho has per la manega del canamas e passau tantes vegades fins que hisqua clara.
Spices for the clareya. Five ounces of white ginger, six ounces of cinnamon, 1/8 of grains of paradise, cloves. Pound them in such a way they are just half pounded; then take a 1/8 of wine and add 1 ½ ounce of these spices. Add a pound of honey, then sift [the wine] through a cloth a few times until it turns clear.
white and red wine
spices (cinnamon, cloves, ginger)
Grind the spices and mince the ginger. Mix the white and red wine, adding the sugar and spices. Cook it. As soon as it starts to boil, remove it from the fire and sift the liquid a few times until it turns clear.
Note about the ingredients
The ratio among the ingredients suggested by the author is five parts of cinnamon, three of cloves, one of ginger, and six of sugar.
Original text – Ypocras (Libro de Guisados)
Especias de Ypocras. Añadido. Canela cinco partes, clavos tres partes, gingibre una parte. La meatad de vino ha de ser blanco et la meatad tinto, et para una açumbre seis onças de açucar. Mezclar lo todo et echar lo en una ollicha vidriada et dar le un hueror. Quanto alce el hueror no mas, et colar lo por su manga tantas vezes basta que salga claro.
Spices for Ypocras. Addition. Five parts of cinnamon, three parts of cloves, one part of ginger. Half wine must be white, half red, and with one açumbre [about two liters] you need six ounces of sugar. Mix the ingredients and place them in a glazed vessel and boil the wine. When it boils, remove it from the fire and sift it as many times as you need in such a way it turns clear.
Translations of Historical Sources
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Varis by Johannes Damascenus (8-9th century)
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