Dayboard Prep: Syrup & Sekanjabin

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Photo from January 2016 – The most kindly way to preserve plums, cherries, gooseberries, & c. – for Master Alesone’s Laurel Vigil.

So over the last year or so, I have completed a number of historical cookery projects, and I’ve done a decent job at photo-documenting them. However, that hasn’t ever translated into actually sharing the photos or my research and thoughts behind each dish, or the presented whole. While this post is very limited in terms of photos, future posts have may more, showing most (if not all) of the steps/parts of the process. In an effort to correct this general behavior of not sharing, I’m writing a significant chunk of these posts beforehand, adding in pictures and observations, and posting on a (hopefully) regular schedule. So, enjoy!

I have taken on the task of preparing the Day-board for Southern Region War Camp in the Barony of Carillion in the East Kingdom on June 11th, 2016. This is the first in a series of posts detailing some of the dishes and the processes behind them.

Thoughts and plans behind what I’m doing:

One of the easiest things to prep, that can also be made well ahead of time, are syrups to add to drinking water. SRWC is often very hot, and many participants are participating in various marshal activities, working hard to support aforesaid activities, and/or running about and being active. This means that hydration is going to be an essential element in what I’ll need to provide for those attending. Thankfully, the site has a decent water supply, but plain water isn’t ideal for everyone, nor does everyone have the same palate, which is where syrups come in to play.

*Since hydration is such an important element, especially at this event, it is the area I tend to focus more on ways to get people to consume more water than sticking to strictly period appropriate recipes for potables. In future posts you’ll generally see the opposite in terms of priorities.*

I looked over a list of the different drink additives I’ve made over the last year, and I’ve settled on the following plan for hydration – large drink coolers filled with ice (purchased) and water (on-site), with several ceramic pitchers on the table. Half the available pitchers will be cherry syrup (which I first had a year ago, made by Master Alesone), and half will be sekanjabin, to give some choice, but not overwhelm everyone with choices. As we get closer to the event, I’ll pay close attention to weather predictions, as well as my remaining budget, and may add cucumber water, and/or water with lemons sliced into it to the dayboard as additional options.

There won’t need to be just one set-up of syrups, however. We have people scattered thoughout a large site, so everything from food to water will need to be transported to several locations. For sites outside the main building, I have clear plastic bottles with bar-style pour tops, which will help keep insects out, as well as keep the mess to a minimum, while not sacrificing efficiency.

Recipes and Processes

The “cherry syrup” I’ll be using is actually taken from making preserved cherries found in Plat (article by Master Alesone can be found here). I’ve used this to make preserved cherries 3 or 4 times now, including juicing cherries myself (which is more fun than one would think and see picture above from January 2016), but budget is a major concern for this event and cherries have only just arrived in-season here in the Mid-Atlantic. So I’ve elected to get 100% cherry juice (thank you Trader Joe’s), which doesn’t have any additives at all, and boiling it down to thread stage 230-234 degrees farenheit (110-112 celcius). I usually do this by the quart – 4 cups of cherry juice with 4 cups of sugar – and the process lasts about 45 minutes from start to finish (slightly less when the pot is still warm from the last batch). There’s lots of stirring involved, so it’s a great idea to do this when you’ve got friends over to working on other projects as I did.

I personally prefer Cariadoc’s Sekanjabin recipe to the 13th Century Andulasian recipe (which does not include mint, although there is a recipe for mint syrup without vinegar in the same text), and it tends to be what I make for SCA events. Instead of using wine vinegar, I used white balsamic vinegar, since I had a substantial amount left over from a previous cooking gig, and my budget for this event is somewhat tight. In this case for each batch, I took 8 cups of sugar and 4-5 cups of water and brought it to a boil, then added 2 cups of vinegar and simmered it for a half hour. At the end I added a handful of fresh mint, removed the pot from the burner, and covered it to steep the mint until cooled.

What’s up next?

Later this week I’ll be doing a throw-back post to when I cooked a vigil last summer and how that has affected my planning for this dayboard. The post will likely also feature the pickled carrots and pickled champginons (mushrooms) that were made and are being made again here.

Next week I’ll be going over the major protein-components: from pickled eggs to Pyes de Pares (beef & pork pies with dates, currants, and spices).

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4 Responses to Dayboard Prep: Syrup & Sekanjabin

  1. galefridus says:

    Understood that staying within budget is one of your major considerations, but here’s something to consider for your next go-around with sekanjabin: in its most basic form, sekanjabin is pretty much a form of oxymel, the honey and vinegar drink of the Greeks and Romans. One of the most interesting oxymel recipes that I’ve found is that of Dioscorides (1st century CE), which includes salt. When you follow his recipe, you are effectively making an early version of Gatorade. Pretty neat!

    • Good tip! I’ve had the oxymel before, and it was originally what I had, but based on quantities needed for other dishes, bulk sugar and vinegar were leftover, whereas honey would’ve been an additional expense. Oxymel is still on the list if there’s anything “leftover” the week of the event, along with pomegranate syrup!

      • galefridus says:

        I don’t know how available the stuff is in your area, but pomegranate concentrate is pretty easy to find near me — plenty of Middle Eastern grocery stores. Let me know if you need me to get some.

      • Oh that could be useful. I’ve usually used the 100% pomegranate juice at Trader Joe’s in the past, but if it’s already concentrated, that could work, too.

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