This year I made a modern Blood Orange Cordial. Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? I made it for historic competitions. Blood oranges, C. sinensis, were first discovered and cultivated in 15th century Sicily (the region around Mt. Etna still has many blood orange groves). I was intrigued that they are only available during a few weeks of the year. I believe the ones I got were Tarocco cultivar, which are not as deeply red as its mates Sanguinello and Moro. My blood oranges came from Spain, and did not have strong flavor, nor were they particularly sweet. However, since I’d waited months for the harvest and had them shipped a long way, I decided to work with what I got.
Blood orange peel is commonly used in marmalades, and is the source of bitter orange peel one can buy in a brewers’ supply store.
I am attracted by the rare and hard-to-get, and certainly by the “authenticity” of the things. I had to wait for months until blood oranges became commercially available, and enjoyed making this all the more for it.
I really don’t have much to say about how I made this. Because I made it for historic competitions, the opening of my documentation tells you how I handlettered the label with gallo-tannic ink (or walnut, in one case), and tied the label with wool thread I spun myself. Then I go on to discuss how such a sweet sipping cordial is a completely modern invention, and how I know that it is. the recipe itself is really basic:
Grated peel of 10-12 blood oranges into mason jar and covered with white brandy (Christian Brothers White Frost).
Added juice from about 4 of the oranges. Blood oranges are not particularly juicy, but they have lovely color. I was concerned that if I added too much juice it would never clear.
Eleven months later I added simple syrup.
I know that this is not a period recipe because of books like these:
Digbie, Sir Kenelme. The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt. Opened: Whereby is Discovered Several ways for making of Metheglin, Sider, Cherry-Wine, &c. Together with Excellent Directions for Cookery As also for Preserving, Conserving, Candying, &c. London: H. Brome, 1967. Reproduced by the Mallinckrodt Chemical Works. First published 1669.
Forbes, Robert James. Short History of the Art of Distillation from the Beginnings Up to the Death of Cellier Blumenthal. Boston: Brill, 1948.
Hieatt, Constance; Brenda Hosington, and Sharon Butler. Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks. Toronto,Canada: University ofToronto Press, 2004.
Markham, Gervase. The English Housewife. Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994. Text 1615.
Plat, Sir Hugh. Delightes for Ladies, Humphrey Lownes,London, 1609. Reprinted by Crosby Lockwood & Son Ltd., 1948, with introductions by G.E. Fussell and Kathleen Rosemary Fussell.
Powers, Eileen trans. Goodman of Paris. London: Routledge. 1928. Written 1392/4.
“The History of English Cookery: A Glossary of Cookery and Other Terms.’ Compiled by Prospect Books from all the historical cooking books they publish. Devon, U.K. http://www.kal69.dial.pipex.com/shop/pages/glosst.htm, accessed February 24, 2008.