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delicious-mulsum

Last year, a friend of mine came to visit us here in Germany, and I was determined to show her new sights. It would be her second visit to the Saarland, and she had already been to Neumagen, the oldest wine village in Germany, done a wine tasting in a medieval chapel, and had sampled some of the best wines of the area. What next? My boyfriend and I huddled together, weighed several options against each other and then it just occurred to us, my friend didn’t know much about the history of wine growing in our region of southwestern Germany. Since we hadn’t been there for a couple of years either, we took her to Villa Borg, a Roman villa dating at least to the second or third century A.D. or earlier, which was discovered and excavated in the early twentieth century.

 

villa-borg

 

The Romans were well-known as foodies, even if some of their creations like nightingales’ tongues would pose a serious challenge to our modern taste buds. Their stomachs weren’t any bigger than our stomachs so somehow they had to trigger their appetites (and certainly wash away the flavour of vomit after having eaten too much). Honey and spices were not exactly matters of course, but they were available to most Romans to do just that. According to sources, there are different ways to make mulsum, a wine spiced with a syrup consisting of honey and spices like fennel seed, laurel and cardamom. The Romans served it chilled in earthenware jugs right before sinking their teeth into their cooks’ creations.

 

Mulsum was not only an aperitif but also had positive benefits on the whole body. The Romans already knew about the benefits of the various ingredients so they also used mulsum to improve digestion, inhibit diarrhea and, last but not least, prolong their lives. Mulsum may not have come out of the fountain of youth but old, toothless people could soak some bread in it and then easily eat it (one should think some water would have sufficed but no – the Romans were gourmets!).

 

When we visited Villa Borg, we enjoyed some mulsum, Roman bread and cheese spread for lunch. It was a light and delicious meal and the antique surroundings made us almost feel like real Romans. Just for the fun of it I tried to make my own mulsum afterwards and the outcome was quite good.

 

We like to flavour wine and sparkling wine with elder liqueur or hibiscus flowers so why not try an ancient recipe and add a little Roman touch to your next garden party? All you need are the same spices you use when making Christmas cookies, some honey and a little white wine. You should use a dry white wine but since Elbling is one of the oldest grapes in Europe and was frequently drunk in the Roman Empire you might want to take the effort to find one (in Germany it’s easy to get a decent Elbling but I don’t know about the U.S.). It’s just closer to the original.

 

Now raid your spice storage and get some cardamom pods, saffron, cloves, laurel, fennel seed, black peppercorns and dates. Heat 18 oz. of wine with 7 oz. of acacia honey and put it into a jar. Cut four dates into small pieces and add it to the wine and honey mixture. Open the cardamom pods, take a pinch of saffron, two cloves, two laurel leaves, half a teaspoon of fennel seed and black peppercorns each and put all this into the jar. Let this soak for eight or ten days, shake the jar from time to time. After ten days at the latest filter everything through a coffee filter and store the syrup in the fridge until use. The mixing ratio should be one part syrup and three or four parts white wine. Enjoy!


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