Saturday, September 7, 2013

14th century cooking: Caudle of Almonds Recipe

Caudle of Almonds is a kind of medieval almond milk made with wine or ale.  According to Peter Brears book, Cooking and Dining in Medieval England, it was considered especially good for people with a dodgy tummy.

Cooking with and drinking almond milk was a frequent occurrence during the 14th Century.  Not only was it considered a healthy milk substitute, in the middle ages there were many days in the Christian calendar that forbid the consumption of dairy products.  Isn't it nice that almonds don't come from a cow?

I suspect almond milk may have become more popular as the populations in cities increased during the 13th and 14th century.  Suddenly you have all these people living in close quarters, with most of the dairy products being shipped in from the countryside or from cattle being raised in close quarters in town.  Cows living in small yards, with no access to fresh grass, can lead to some milk borne illnesses...unhealthy cow creates inferior milk.  So, if you can afford almonds, you make almond milk.

Now, quite frankly I strongly dislike almond milk.  It doesn't taste like almonds and it doesn't taste like milk... it tastes like powered over sweetened chalk in water.  But that's the almond milk out of a box from the supermarket... Since I'm doing a lot more medieval cooking these days, I decided it was time to try making my own almond milk.  Since I'm a coward at heart, I decided to try the more flashy version of almond milk:

Caudle of Almonds

Inspired heavily by Cooking and dining in Medieval England, by Peter Brears, with a few changes of my own.

A pint of white wine or wine and water mixed
a large handful of almonds  (I used raw)
Honey to taste (or for vegan version, a different liquid sweetener)
Poudre Forte or you could just use cinnamon and/or nutmeg mixed.

  • Bring the wine to a boil, take off the heat and add almonds, about half a teaspoon of honey, and a generous pinch of spice.  Leave to steep for an hour or so to cool.  
  • Take the almonds out (keep the liquid) and smash them good.  Mortar and pestle is fine, or use the blitzer.  The aim is a fine mush.  Add the liquid back to the almonds and pound or mash again - this is the tricky part for me.  apparently my blitzer does not fit a full pint of liquid and makes a huge mess all over the kitchen when I ask it to try just this once.  Also the blades aren't sharp enough to mash the almonds fine enough.  So I did about half way in the blitzer then transferred small batches to work in the mortar.  
  • Strain the milk through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Flavour with more honey and spices if needed, and sprinkle a few spices on top.

I loved how this tasted!   I cannot tell you how different this Caudle of Almonds was to boxed almond milk without falling into a huge pit of cliches - It's not even the same planet, worlds apart!  And I don't think it's just that this was made with wine, wine is lovely and all, but it was the pure almond-ness quality, the almond milk qua almond, that made is delightful.  

The Caudle of almonds also helped settle my stomach.  I had a very stressful day and my stomach was acidic and full on reflux.  I drank it warm with some extra honey, but I don't think I boiled off the alcohol from the wine, as I was quite sloshed after drinking a pint of Caudle.  Very delicious and I can see making this again soon. Just need to find a better method for creaming the almonds.  Got an idea brewing for that though...

Vegan friendly? - you need to substitute the honey with your favourite sweetener for this to be vegan friendly.  It's easy enough to do, so I am going to give it a qualified yes.

Affordable? - um... depends.  If you are like me and do not trust the bulk food bin and have to special order almonds from a place that doesn't mix nuts, no it is not even a little bit affordable.  But as far as normal people go, it's probably okay on price.

Allergy issues - depending on your allergy it can be a friendly or feendish drink. 

See my affordable section above about mixed nut contamination which a lot of people who don't have nut allergies in the family aren't use to taking into account, and not suitable for people with allergies to almonds.  Some people may have reactions to the sulphates (assuming you are using a commercial wine) in the wine.

However, it makes a great substitute for milk and is excellent substitute for warm-milk-before-bed drinks like horlicks.  

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