Anti-Gas Cordial

A non-sweetened brandy cordial designed to be pleasant to sip and also have carminative and digestive effects.

-- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa

Recipe:
I bruised the whole seeds slightly with a mortar and pestle, added all the spices to a large jar, and poured on the brandy and steeped for 2 weeks. I used such large quantities and bruised the seeds because I wasn't going to soak it for very long. The ground coriander was used instead of whole coriander, which I prefer, because I ran out of coriander unexpectedly.

After two weeks, I strained out some of the cordial and bottled it. This is not a sweetened coridal; I don't think it needs sweetening.

This tincture is an approximation of a period 'compound distilled water', along the lines of those recipes in Gervase Markham's English Housewife and Plat's Delightes for Ladies. It's not directly from a period recipe, but uses the same principles. The mixture is somewhat similar to that in the Johnstone MSS, cited in "Precious Waters":

"A cordial. - Take galangal, ginger, liquorice, and fennel; blend them together and powder them, and drink with an old ale."

Most period waters would have been herbs and/or spices macerated in wine, ale or aquavitae and redistilled. We don't have that option, so the method used here is tincturing in Brandy. I'm aware that the inexpensive brand of brandy I purchased was probably aged in oak to give it more flavor, but I didn't choose to spring for the more expensive non-aged special brandies. I normally make this with a vodka base, suspecting it would have been made with ale (a grain base) in the original.

Most of the spices used here are carminative, that is, their 'heating properties' encourage the expulsion of gas from the digestive system.

Gerard's Herbal says:
Dill, Fennel and Anise seed are mentioned in compound distillation recipes in Markham; Markham says water of fennel is "good to make a fat body small, and also for the eyes." Dill and Fennel are listed among Thomas Tussers' "Herbs to still in summer" in his 500 Points of Good Husbandry, and Cumin is one of the herbs he lists for 'Physic."

It's not clear whether fresh ginger was available to Renaissance cooks and brewers, but I have come across (and subsequently lost) a reference to a 16th century gardener having a pot for sprouting ginger in, so they may have been sprouting the dried rhizomes in some way. The period references to green ginger also suggest that fresh ginger rhizomes may may have been available as part of the sprouting process. If I were using dried ones, I'd use twice as much of the ginger.


Resources:

Fitz-Maurice, Forester Nigel. "Precious Waters: A miscellany of early cordials." Web: http://web.raex.com/~obsidian/precwat.html
Gerard, John. The Herbal, or General History of Plants. (Dover, 1975)
Shapiro, Marc. Alcoholic Drinks of the Middle Ages. (The CA on Alcoholic Beverages)Web:  http://users.stargate.net/~mshapiro/calcohol.html
Tusser, Thomas. His Good Points of Husbandry, 1557. Published 1931 by Country Life Limited, London; edited by Dorothy Hartley.
Vargas, Pat, Rich Gulling, and Pamela Lappies. Cordials from Your Kitchen. (VT: Storey Books, 1997)


All materials copyright Jennifer Heise or original authors as otherwise specified. Permission is granted for use as printed handouts and for cooking as long as you let me know (jenne.heise@gmail.com) and if you republish, get me a copy. My homepage: http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga