Chocolate in Period
Honorable Lady Sosha Lyon’s O’Rourke
Cacoa grows in Mexico, Central and South America. The seeds were used by the Mayans as a form of currency (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoa_bean) when not roasted and ground into a powdery that was whisked to form a drink. When the Aztec conquered the Mayans, they took over the cocoa drink tradition including spices such as chili pepper and cinnamon into the powder as well as honey and musk. (Toussaint-Samat, pp. 574) When the Spanish came and conquered the recipe went from chili’s and spices to vanilla sugar and milk. (Toussaint-Samat/Wikipedia). The theory is that the chili was not well liked and the spices induced diabolical sin.
The new cocoa drink was imbibed so heavily that Cortez is said to have a full chocolate pot on his desk at all times once he returned home in 1572 from conquering the Aztecs. The Spanish ladies were so enthralled with this new drink flavored with cinnamon that they would have the drink all day long and served to them during church. The drink was ruled by Pope Clementine the VIII, in 1594 that liquid does not break the fast. (Toussaint-Samat, pp. 576) It is to note that in 1565 and 1578, Perez Samper writes a treaty on how to prepare the chocolate beverage; however the popularity of chocolate does not hit Italy for another century at least. (Scappi, pp. 58)
Vanilla or Vanilla powder
(for spicier coco add chilies)
I gathered all the ingredients together.
Then started to combine for the ultimate hot period drink.
You can use either sugar or honey, but don’t skimp this step. The coco is very tasty; however you will need sweet to counter the natural bitterness.
I put in about two heaping tablespoons of the mix into a cup. I have found that this gives a really good depth of flavor even with the mixtures tendency to settle, much like coffee grounds in boiled coffee.
Then mix till you have the consistency, flavor and sweetness you desire.
Looks a little like hot mud but tastes sooo much better.
Period vs. Modern
This recipe is very sketchy. There are no direct recipes written down, just written accounts from diaries and court scribal recounts. Sort of a third hand account at best on how this was made. The supplies for the drink, other then the sugar, were as period as possible. Saigon cinnamon (the best cinnamon that is suggested in many cooking books. Please refer to Rodinson and Take a 1,000 eggs as two examples touting good Chinese cinnamon.)
Sugar – Saccharum officinarum “…considered a spice even rarer and more expensive then any other…pharmaceutical use…gives its species name of officinarum.” Considered very expensive till the late 1500. Loaf sugar given the name due to the conical shape derivded from refining into a hard and very white refined form. Caffetin or Couffin (English equivalent of “coffer” or “coffin”) named for the form, packed in plaited leaves palm and from the city shipped from called Caffa in the Crimea. Casson a very fragile sugar also considered the ancestor to castor sugar. Muscarrat considered the best of all sugars, reported to be made in Egypt for the Sultan of Babylon. The Italian name mucchera denotes that it had been refined twice. (Toussaint-Samat, pg. 553-555)
The vanilla, I used real Mexican vanilla. Excellent quality ingredient that just goes so very well with this drink. I went for a pottery style sipping mug instead of silver as Spanish ladies would have been want to do. I think the pottery cup added a little more rustic originality to the look and helped to prevent burnt fingers.
Rodinson, M., Arberry, A., Perry, C., (2001). Medieval Arab Cookery. Prospect Books. Cromwell Press.
The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570). Translated by Scully., T., University of Toronto Press.
Toussaint-Samat, M., (1992). History of Food.