Cherry Wine from the Oeconomia

An interesting recipe for fortified cherry wine from Johannes Coler’s Oeconomia.

Cherries courtesy of wikimedia commons

Of Cherry Wine

(marginalia: To make cherry wine)

Pull the cherries off the stalks and discard the stalks. Then remove the stones from the cherries and grind them up separately (for if you grind the stones with the cherries, they splash away too much juice). Put them back with the flesh of the cherries and place both of them into a long, small white cloth sack, and add anise. Suspend it in red wine and the wine will draw to itself all the virtue of the cherries and the stones. They must be ground in a stone vessel, not in the (regular i.e. metal) mortar or a copper dish otherwise it tastes too much of copper. Item, add sugarcoated anise into it, or plain anise and cinnamon bark, thus it will be all the better. Sugar and sugar coated anise makes it sweet.

(marginalia: to make cherry beer)

You also make cherry beer this way. First, you insert the cloth bag through the bunghole, then you pour the cherries into the bag.

(marginalia: to make cherry wine: how to remedy it)

But if you become aware that this wine loses its strength (matt wird), as commonly happens in summer, prepare the cherry wine thus: First, lay down a layer of aspen chips or other woodchips, then one of cherries, and so forth, one after the other until the cask is full. Then fill in the wine, and in three or four days it is good and clear enough.

(marginalia: cherry wine, a useful drink in summer)

Cherry wine is a good and useful drink in summer because it quenches thirst in great heat and pleasantly moistens the overheated internal members, and if there are ground stones in it, it opens the liver, drives out urine, and moves the stone to exit the body.

Many people also make it thus: They take the juice of cherries and a stuebichen (measure of capacity – ca. 3 litres) of honey with it, item a Loth (measure of weight – likely about 15 grammes) of cloves, two Loth of galingale, and one Loth of cinnamon bark, grind it all up small and suspend it in the cherry wine. Or they take the honey, melt it well in a cauldron, and then cool it well again, then add it to the wine in the cask. Thus it turns out good.

This is not as single recipe, but a variety of ways of approaching a known goal that we, unfortunately, only partly understand. With the addition of cherry juice and sugar or honey, I suspect some secondary fermentation took place to produce something that was both sweet and aromatic as well as highly alcoholic. The ground cherry pits, something we frequently read of being added to food at the time, added flavour, but also very likely a high concentration of cyanide-producing amygdalin.

Interestingly, we find a recipe that seems broadly related in the Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch:

47 Item if you would know how to make the good cherry drink that is carried in a bottle, take many cherries when they are ripe and break and grind them up well all raw. And let them stand over night. Take off the thin part of them (the juice) and put it into a cookpot. Set that by the fire. Let it boil. Add sugar, ginger and cloves. Let it cool. Then store it in many bladders. Hang them in an airy place during the day so that it dries. And when you need it because you wish to make cherry drink, take wine or mead a stoyveken (measure of capacity – often around 3-4 litres) and lay into that as large (a piece) as a walnut of that (the cherry mix). Let it stand half the night. If you would have it better, add more sugar and some ginger. That way it is a good cherry drink.

This is not easy to interpret, but it seems to be aiming for the same basic outcome – spiced, cherry-infused alcoholic drinks.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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