Ask me anything!

So, while I’m taking a short break from heavy SCA sewing and research, I want everybody to help me keep my brain ticking.

Every week, or however often I get questions, I’m going to have a question/answer column here on my blog. Feel free to ask me anything about Roman and Byzantine history, textiles, clothing, etc, and I’ll give you a complete answer, or as complete as I can, with citations to send you on your way. General ancient and medieval history  questions can also be fielded if you’re looking for something more broad.

If this gets busy, I don’t know how many questions I’ll be able to answer, but I’ll do my best to make sure that everybody is covered.

Got a question for me?

Hit me up at syrakousina at gmail.com.

Artifacts of a Life recap

So last weekend (the 21st of September) was our Artifacts of a Life event here in the East Kingdom. There were some some amazing displays there!

The premise of the event was to create a collection of artifacts pertaining to your persona or another persona, something that they would have had during their life, grave goods, etc. I chose an 11th Century Byzantine woman, which, by the way, is rather hard. Because the majority of the artifacts we have from the Byzantine period are earlier.  Here is my display:

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Left to Right: Oxymel syrup, Icon of St. Michael the Archangel, Mosaic of a Black Dolphin, and a necklace of garnets and pearls based on one at the Met.

Here is a close up of the necklace. I totally failed in posting updates of me making it, but it took 2 seasons of Sons of Anarchy marathoning in the background to emulate the look. I swear my fingers still hurt looking at it.

necklace

And the original:

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I tried to get a little bit of everything, namely aspects of a Byzantine life: Spiritual, Temporal, Wealth, and Food/Drink. I tied it together with that silly backstory I previously posted.

I did well, I learned a lot, and met some wonderful people. Although I did not win the category I entered, I did go home with an autocrat’s prize, that is a lovely HUGE book of Italian Renaissance paintings that is totally drool worthy. I can’t wait to do this again, I think next year my “persona” will be Roman Egyptian. 😉

IN VINO VERITAS VI: There is truth.

The Muscat is in the fridge. The Conditum Paradoxum is upright and settling out. (It clarified while cellared.) I will need to re-rack it before Great Northeastern War this weekend. I am EXTREMELY excited about my first chance to panel in the East Kingdom Brewer’s Guild. I’ve been dabbling with my local guild: The Smokingbridge Guild of Libation Brewers, for a while now, but I never thought to bring it to the Kingdom level until I got these beverages done. I will be paneling my Conditum Paradoxum along side a short mead, rose and lavender cordial, and my pomegranate balsamic sekanjabin if there are enough slots open for all 4. I’d like to thank Mistress Bess Darnley for taking a moment to look over my documentation and providing feedback.

The next panel I’ll probably make will be at Birka in January, and these shinies will be good to go:

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YES! The Rosatum and Retsina are done and bottled and delicious! I can’t wait til these age. They’re going to be remarkable.

 

 

IN VINO VERITAS V. “HAAAAAAAAAADRIAN!”

That is probably the worst movie/history pun crossover in the entire internets. Anyways, we have wine!

First you gotta sanitize those bottles. We may be making Roman wine, but we don’t need Roman germs.

I use C-Brite sanitizer.

Then you make your boyfriend put the carboy on the counter for you.

It’s so clear, you can see from here to Guinness. BRILLIANT!

Once you siphen into the bottling bucket (best money ever spent, ever deal with bottling out of a carboy? Ung.) separate off the small batches of infused wines. Here is the Retsina with pieces of pine resin in the bottom, and the Rhosatum, with dried roses in a bag infusing in the pickle jar. These should be bottled by the end of the month. Pliny says to leave the roses in there for 3 months, but I’m assuming he meant fresh. I’m using dried, so I’d rather monitor what this is going to do and the flavor I’m going to get before creating a mess.

Retsina (resin) and Rhosatum (rose) wines.

I also separated my portion off for the Conditum Paradoxum, the spiced wine from Apicius. After gathering my ingredients, it all went into the pot for an hour on low heat to steep. The pine resin melted fast, which got me worried, but it was fine.

 

You can see the odd mix of ingredients here: dates, melting resin, bay leaf, saffron, black pepper, honey, and I threw in a cinnamon stick for fun and profit. And my stove is filthy. Welcome to brewing.

Once that was infused with the rest of the wine, it was strained and bottled. Here is the Conditum in the bottles next to the unaltered muscat wine I made.

Conditum on the left, plain wine on the right. You can see how the spices clouded the wine.

So, being the brave soul I am, I tried the Conditum in the period style, using warm saltwater to dilute it, as the straight liquor is extremely sweet.

The dilution cleared the wine, and brought out the infused flavors.

From Familia Annae to yours, EU!

IN VINO VERITAS IV

Bottling and infusing the wine today! Excited! Pictures to follow in tonight’s post.

In the end, I will have the following:
2 gallons of “Ancient White” Muscat wine.
1 gallon of Conditum Paradoxum (spiced wine from Apicius.)
1 gallon of Rhosatum (rose wine from Pliny the Elder.)
1 gallon of Retsina (resined wine.)

I’ve found a couple different redactions of the Conditum Paradoxum. I have one written down in my brewing journal (this is a must-have for anyone who brews as much as I do. I conjure up recipes and write them in, and track my progress on existing projects) but I found a different approach online I may go with instead. The basis of the drink is that you take a base wine, Apicius doesn’t say what color though both reds and whites were widely consumed by the Romans, and you make a must of honey, saffron, mastic, bay leaf, black pepper and dates. I don’t have any mastic, so I’m subbing in cinnamon. Plus, with my Retsina, I didn’t want to overdo it with that flavor. I *DO* have plenty of pine resin to work with, so that is still an option.

The rhosatum is getting treated exactly as Pliny says: put rose petals in a bag, put it in the must, close the sucker up and then let it sit for 3 months. I’m assuming he means fresh petals, and I’m using dried, so I’m going to be monitoring the color of the liquor and making sure nothing goes funky in there. If I stop the infusion early, I stop it early. No big.

The Retsina doesn’t have a clear cut recipe. I’m more or less trying to re-create a flavor profile than an actual recipe. Originally, Greek and Roman wines got the resin flavor from the use of pine resin as a sealant on the amphorae. Being that I don’t have an amphora, (I’ve looked, they’re expensive to get made) I’m cheating and tossing an ounce of resin in the wine and letting it age a month. If this works out, I’ll bottle the wine and seal the top of the bottles with resin like wax as a nice touch.

I’m going to let the wines bottle age a minimum of 3 months, so my first bottles should be ready by Pennsic War, at least of the Conditum Paradoxum (which I plan to panel with hot seawater to dilute it with!)

More updates today as it comes, live, from Black Dolphin Brewing!

 

In Vino Veritas Part III, and Artisanal Swapage.

Racked the wine to the secondary today. It’s fermenting like a madwoman. I probably could have let it go longer, but the boy needed the larger carboy for his beer that he’s working on today. Either way, I plan to leave it in this carboy now for at least a month before the clarifying process. I picked up another 1 gallon jug today as well, now I have 2, which will be important for when I do my separate infusions of the rose and resin. As of this point, I’m not thinking they will be ready for paneling at War of the Roses (Memorial Day weekend) so at the earliest I should have a drinkable product by Pennsic, and especially good next year, as I intend to age as much as possible. It is wine after all. Though the Romans did drink a lot of young wine. Mostly because it was the primary beverage of choice, and though there were period winos (Pliny most certainly one of them) that did enjoy ages wines, there is no harm in younger beverages.

I also signed up for the Nobelese Largesse swap today via Facebook. It’s a Knowne-World wide artisanal swap that requires documentation. I cannot post what I am doing or who I have or pictures until the gift is sent for obvious reasons, but I am looking forward to participating in this one. 🙂

I am also involved in the East Kingdom Artisanal Swap for my second round. That gift has been finalized, and I am working on getting everything together to complete it. My previous swap gift went to Konstantia Kaloethina in Calontir, the founder of the NL swap, and I made for her a Byzantine Superhumeral out of shot purple silk, with some amethyst and pearl beadwork. I left it plain since we had discussed prior to me even having her as a swap recipient that she wanted one to adorn with her award medallions, but did not know how to sew one for herself.

Konstantia's Superhumeral

I received in the swap a lovely wooden chest with my arms on it, and a couple of brass and bronze medallions from Sir Yessunge Altan, I was blown away.

Wooden Chest from Sir Yessunge.Medallions that came in the box.

You can see the type of work that goes into these swaps, this is why I’m so excited for NL, being limited to 40 participants, and worldwide. I do love a challenge!

Another day of brewing…

I just knocked out my 2nd annual gallon of espresso cordial. It won big at the Bridge Birthday drinking, I mean, Brewing Contest, also known as “Pickle the Baron.” The recipe is proprietary, sorry, folks. 😉

The original name of it was “Dark, Dirty, and Whipped,” but I think I’m changing it to “Auntie Anna’s Award-Winning Marriage Proposal Juice” or something along those lines, as I have never been offered hands in marriage by so many people at once.

I also tried a new sekanjabin recipe today, and this is a Pomegranate Balsamic variant. The redaction is below:

2 cups of POM juice
1 cup water
1 cup balsamic vinegar (NOT vinaigrette! That’s dressing. LOL.)
4 cups of sugar

boil together for a half hour, cool, and bottle. Easy, peasy, tasty. The color is a dark burgundy/brown, and the flavor is very caramely and almost tea in nature from the balsamic, plus the juice. It’s very sweet, but I can see it being VERY nice on a hot day in ice cold water. So this will be popular at Pennsic.

So I now have 4 full sekanjabin recipes I can easily produce.  However, the boyfriend does not enjoy it that much, so I can’t take over my kitchen with bottles of syrup, lol. I guess I’ll have to take my time with them, though I STILL want to try cinnamon with apple cider vinegar. 😉

Rose Sekanjabin video.

I made rose sekanjabin for the first time today, so I documented it by video. Sekanjabin is a syrup with origins in Medieval Persia. It’s typically made with mint, but a variety of substitutions can be made. In this case, I used dried roses, since I have way too much for my wine.

The video will take you through the steps, but here’s the recipe:

2 1/2 cups of homemade rosewater (I boiled 4 cups of dried rose petals and buds in 3 cups of water. I had to add more water a couple of times to get the right amount.)
4 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup of white wine vinegar

Combine ingredients and boil for a half hour. Let cool. Syrup keeps indefinitely in a bottle without refrigeration.

How to make Rose Sekanjabin Syrup from Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina on Vimeo.

In Vino Veritas, Part II.

The wine kit was put to primary fermentation today! I will secondary in a week, then let it sit a month before conditioning, and splitting it into the different jugs for the Roman infusions.

 Cloudy…I assume it’s going to clarify during the process.

I’m also starting to play with gin. Gin is actually a period beverage, well, it wasn’t CALLED gin, but juniper infused spirits go pretty far back, I believe the 11th Century. Let’s face it, gin is an acquired taste. My acquisition came and went after a long night of drinking that got capped with a G&T, so, I got revisited by the gin first. ~_~ This infusion is peppermint and roses. It took VERY fast, like, overnight fast, and I already strained it and started a new batch.

In Vino Veritas. Part I.

I will be VERY popular during the apocalypse. Homebrewers will be the richest, between selling booze for drinking and selling it for medicinal and antiseptic purpose.

But yes, welcome to Black Dolphin Brewing! Where my boyfriend and I make all sorts of delectable draughts of doom. (I love alliteration.) Since this blog is still rather new, I’m not going to backtrack to explain all that I have done so far. But, I am a member of the Smokingbridge Guild of Libation Brewers locally, and part of the entire East Kingdom Brewer’s Guild as well. I have yet to be paneled, but we’re working on that. WITH ROMAN WINE.

Of course it would be Roman, it’s what I do.

The Romans adored sweet white wines, contrary to the heavy reds that you often think of, Pliny the Elder gives us great insight as to how the Romans enjoyed their wines, from white grapes to heavy spices. Natural History can be quite a ponderous tome for those that don’t find him all that appealing, but, for a reference into how Romans viewed their natural world, it’s an invaluable tool for research. A free, solid translation of it is available online at the Perseus project through Tufts University here.

Pliny the Elder wrote during the Flavian Dynasty, and N.H. is dedicated to the Emperor Vespasian. Pliny is the reason why we have plinean eruptions, for the poor fella was killed indirectly from the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Most likely of a heart attack, as he was quite old. His nephew, Pliny the Younger, watched on from another boat as his uncle returned to help refugees escape the nasty pyroclastic flow. It is from these men we have the best eyewitness account of the eruption. The Younger wrote Epistles, which is a series of letters between him and the Emperor Domitian regarding his governance of an eastern province. They are absolutely boring, BUT, they give a remarkable insight into the inner workings of Roman goverment in the 1st Century. But, I digress…

I will be re-creating two styles of wine to start. Since this is my first wine, I will be making a moscato from a kit. The muscat grape is very ancient, and was cultivated throughout the region. It’s not one of my particularly favorite flavors (I’m a chardonnay and sauv blanc kinda lady, here. HEY, at least it’s not white zin?) The kit will be ready for me at my friendly local brewstore tonight. (Check out Basement Brewhaus in Providence. Cool, helpful people.)

I plan to follow the kit through the primary fermentation, then split off two smaller batches for secondary in which one will be resined with pine sap (yum?) and the other with roses. Pliny mentions both at Plin. Nat. 14.24-25 and Plin. Nat. 19.19 respectively.

Pliny devotes most of Book 14 to wines and wine making. There is also calidum, the hot spiced wine drunk year round, and diluted with water, usually seawater of some sort. Pliny gives a whole chapter on salted wines. Those Romans and their wacky tastebuds…

Pictures will be coming forthwith once the fermentation process begins.