Genius Recipes

Anne Willan's Ypocras (Spiced Red Wine)

By • February 20, 2013 • 11 Comments

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Every week -- often with your help -- FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Mulled wine gets the sangria treatment -- and stops mulling the booze away.

final wine

Wouldn't it be nice if you could take that mulled wine from your last holiday party or snowy ski weekend and bottle it? And, while we're at it, maybe not cook the alcohol away?

I'm making it sound like a new product a Real Housewife might be hired to promote, but it's a real thing. And it's good. And we've been doing it since the 1300s.

anne willan 

I'm talking about a spiced red wine called Ypocras, one of the many gems Anne Willan unearthed and modernized in writing The Cookbook Library, a must-own book for any food history buff.

Like sangria, Ypocras is never cooked -- it's simply infused with spices and sugar at room temperature, so the booze doesn't fizzle away.

mix spices

As Willan explains, "It was a way of preserving wine before bottles and corks" -- and it will keep for a month. It also happens to be lovely for sipping.

It's sweet and winey like port, with four heady spices breathing in the fire of a harder aperitif.

mix wine

It's a simple potion to make -- mix spices with brown sugar and wine, wait a day or two, strain. Willan even suggests pouring it back into the original bottle, if you don't have a prettier vessel around.

wine spoon

You can also cook with it -- The Cookbook Library includes a recipe for using it to marinate then braise salmon, but I can see this in desserts or saucing big hunks of game meat too.

"Ypocras, diluted with an equal amount of water, is perfect for poaching whole pears or peaches," Willan suggests. "And a teaspoon of Ypocras in a glass of sparkling white wine makes an unusual Kir."

cheesecloth  strain wine

Bookmark this recipe for the holidays -- you will have a raucous party with Ypocras in tow -- but don't wait till then to try it. It's good to keep around as we shake off the chill -- to sip after dinner, or before, or with steak, cheese, or cookies, or when you're in the bathtub. Just like they did in the 1300s.

spiced red wine

Anne Willan's Ypocras (Spiced Red Wine)

Recipe adapted slightly from The Cookbook Library (University of California Press, 2012)

Makes 3 cups (750 ml)

1 cup brown sugar, packed (200 grams)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground mace
1 tablespoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon ground grains of paradise (you can find them online or substitute an equal amount of black pepper)
1 bottle fruity red wine, such as Merlot
(750 ml)
Cheesecloth

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom


Jump to Comments (11)

Tags: genius, Anne Willan, wine, spices, drinks, food history

Comments (11)

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almost 2 years ago deana@lostpastremembered

Since I write a food history blog, I made a 1390 version (from a Forme of Cury). It had many more spices (many are exotic, like spikenard, galingale, long pepper and cassia bud), but it also had marjoram, nutmeg and cardamom as well as those that Willen used –– sort of pulling out all the spice stops. The result was luscious and so perfumed. Grains of Paradise are amazing. Kudos for bringing it to a new audience.

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almost 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

deana, how interesting! Thank you for this post. I'm particularly interested in your use of marjoram, as I often use marjoram and nutmeg together, albeit in more savory dishes (and often use nutmeg and cardamom together in savory dishes as well). Love your blog, too! ;o)

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over 1 year ago Brette Warshaw

I'm writing a research paper on The Forme of Cury and came across it too! Too cool.

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almost 2 years ago ChefCitron

This sounds so lovely and delicious! I'm thinking of Dorie's Port Jammer cookies with a reduction of Ypocras!

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almost 2 years ago Penelope

If you didn't add the sugar would it still last a month?

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almost 2 years ago ChefCitron

The sugar acts as a preservative, so the wine would spoil quickly after opening, as normal, without it.

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almost 2 years ago Brandon Bills

This reminds me of a holiday season past where we mulled wine with spices, raisins, and some sweetness, then cooled and bottled the leftover wine. Our end product was void of any alcohol from the mulling, but still good!

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almost 2 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

this sounds fun! and delicious. You know what I found works really really well to strain liquids? A spare Krups gold cone-shaped coffee filter.

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almost 2 years ago Lu

I had goat cheese broiled with ypocris and really enjoyed that so plan to make this and recreate that.

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almost 2 years ago RebekahCecillia

Those interested in this post should also look into the Chilean version called "Vino Navegado." It´s a preferred winter libation for Southerners.

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almost 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I consider Ms. Willan's "Great Cooks and Their Recipes from Taillevent to Escoffier" without question one of the most interesting books on my shelf. I can hardly wait to see this new work! And to try this drink. Oh my goodness! ;o)