An interesting snippet in yesterday’s source, China: A History of the Laws, Manners, and Customs of the People (1878,) caught my eye, and I want to share it with you. The author says:
“ … the Mongolians make what may be termed "mutton wine." The tails are skinned, cut into several small pieces, and boiled for some time in ordinary wine. So strongly does the wine smell of mutton fat, that it requires no ordinary degree of courage to raise a glass to one's lips. A jar or bottle of this wine was given me once by a Tartar family. It was, however, so offensive both in smell and taste, that neither I nor my Chinese servants could drink it.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of this, never having heard of mutton wine before. I half expected to turn up not much at all on such a weird-sounding beverage, but after only a few minutes digging around the internet, I hit the mother-lode. Here is a very exhaustive explanation (including instructions as to method of making) from the Journal of the North-China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, (Volumes 6-7, 1871.)
ON THE "MUTTON WINE" OF THE MONGOLS AND
ANALOGOUS PREPARATIONS OF THE CHINESE.
By Dr. MACGOWAN.
Read before the Society March 23rd, 1872.
CHINESE medical writers make little distinction between their Materia Medica and Materia Alimentaria. The Puntsau ascribes therapeutic properties to all articles that are used as food. Nearly all portions of animals, the human frame included, are supposed to be efficacious in the treatment of disease. In their preparation they are for the most part subjected merely to ordinary culinary treatment. The exceptions consist of animal substances which are macerated in fermented or distilled liquors. To these they apply the term chiu, commonly rendered wine by sinologues. Hence we find in the Puntsau, mutton wine, dog wine, deer wine, deer horn wine, tiger bone wine, black snake wine, flowery snake wine, ki snake wine and tortoise wine.
Alcohol is designated in the Puntsau as Ah-lih-kih, which indicates the Arabian origin in China of the art of distillation. It is seldom used as a pharmaceutic menstruum, their distilled chiu being employed as a solvent for articles used as medicines.
These animalized liquors, if that term be allowable, are for the most part extemporaneously prepared, a few only are to be had in apothecary shops ready made; such are several kinds of snake wines. Snake wines are used in palsy. In Kwangsi the fermenting agent is a species of wild grass. The snake thus employed appears to be peculiar to the mountains of that province. To assure purchasers that the article is genuine, a strip of the skin of the animal is fastened to the top of the containing vessel. This wine is in high esteem as an anthelmintic, and an antidote to malaria. Wuhu on the Yangtsze produces a snake wine which is in high repute. An adder wine is used in paralysis and insanity. There is a long edible snake, spoken of as found in Kiangsi, which being dried and smoked is pared off in thin slices, like smoked beef and is found a convenient condiment by travellers.
The wine in which tortoise has been macerated is described as useful in chronic bronchitis. Cases of ten and twenty years standing have, says the Puntsau, yielded to this remedy.
Dog wine is described as very heating and stimulating.
The officinal mutton wine of the Pharmacopoeia is in fact made of goat's flesh; the gout and sheep being often confounded, the latter animal does not appear to have been known to the ancient Chinese.
Various species of sheep are described in the Puntsau, or Chinese Pharmacopoeia, that are not recommended for macerating in. wine. Among these is the great tailed sheep of the Kwanlun mountains, the caudal extremities of which are stated to weigh thirty pounds, rendering locomotion difficult. It is added that these adipose tumors require to be removed annually, else the animal will die. Their tails are cut open, the fat cut out, when the edges are brought together by a suture.
Sheep and goat wines are directed to be prepared in the following manner:—Take ten catties of soaked rice, seven catties of goat or sheep flesh, fourteen onions, one Shantung cabbage and a catty of almond kernels. Mix them well together, and let the mixture stand and brew without malt for ten days, at the end of which time a small quantity of liquor is produced; it is a sweet and unctuous liquor, or mutton wine.
This is the formula adopted in the preparation of all the animal liquors above named.
Mutton or goat wine is a great restorer of the constitution, it strengthens the stomach, the kidneys and testes.
Having many years ago met with a jar of mutton wine which its owner, a Mongolian mandarin, greatly prized, I instituted inquiries respecting its mode of preparation and uses among the nomads of the North, but without success until a few months ago, when the Rev. J. Gilmour, in response to a request that I made him, courteously undertook the investigation of the matter, and was at the pains to have the article, a specimen of which I lay before you, prepared under his own supervision.
"The following were the ingredients:—1 sheep, 40 catties of cow's milk whiskey, 1 pint of skim milk, soured and curdled, 8 ounces of brown sugar, 4 ounces of honey, 4 ounces of fruit of dimocarpus, 1 catty of raisins, and a half a dozen drugs weighing in all about one catty. The sheep must be two years old, neither more nor less, a male, castrated.
Plant necessary for distillation.—1 large pot (cast iron), 1 wooden* half-barrel opened at bottom, 1 smaller pot (cast iron), 1 earthenware jar, felt belts, cow dung, fire.
Process.—Set the boorher on the large pot, calk the joining first with paper, then daub the outside with cow dung and ashes. Make the boorher air-tight by plastering it all over outside with cow dung.
Pour in the wine, add half the raisins (i.e. 8 oz.) cut or crushed, half the black sugar, the pint of airik, and the bones of the sheep's legs from the knee downwards after breaking them open.
From the other bones strip all the fat and most of the flesh, leaving them fleshy. Hang them head and all inside the boorher high enough to be beyond the reach of the whisky, and low enough to be out of reach of the pot above. Break up the medicines into small pieces (do not pound them) and put them into the earthenware pot. Into that pot put also the honey, white sugar, dragon's eye and the remaining half of the black sugar and raisins. Suspend the earthenware pot in the centre of the boorher, put on the pot above, make the joining air-tight by paper, cloth and felt bands. Apply fire to the great pot. When the upper pot feels warm to the touch, fill it with cold water and stir it. When the water becomes too hot to touch, ladle it out and fill up with cold water. When this second potful of water becomes too hot for the hand, slacken the fire, take off the upper pot, and the earthenware pot will be seen full of a dirty brown liquor boiling furiously. Take out the earthenware pot, pour off the liquid, replace the earthenware pot, replace the upper pot, fill with cold water. When this potful of water becomes hot, the whole thing is over. The earthenware pot is again about half filled, pour it off and let it cool. When reasonably cold put it up in jars and close them with the membrane of ox or sheep bladders.
Remarks.—The great bulk of the flesh of the sheep is not used, nor any of the fat. All the marrow bones are broken open. The skull is not broken open nor the tongue extracted from the head. At the end of the process the mutton on the bones is cooked, but tastes badly. The hoieu nood (dragon's eye) which was put in black comes out white. The quantity of cow's milk wine in the pot is not much diminished, but the strength is gone and what remains is good for throwing away only.
Time of making.—It should not be made before the seventh or eighth Chinese month. This was made on the 12th of the 9th month. It should not be used before the 11th or 12th Chinese month. None but aged people should drink it. It may be taken daily in one, two or three small Chinese wine cupfuls till finished. The first winter the patient uses it, not more than 2 or 3 catties should be drunk. If found to agree with the patient and if taken a second winter a catty more may be taken. If taken a third winter another catty may be added, i.e.—First winter 2½, second 3½ , third 4 ½ catties. If kept till spring, it becomes useless if not dangerous. Many people use it (I am told), but few take it more than one winter. Its use is (seemingly) to repair any manifestation of weakness arising from old age.
Case.—My teacher (Mahabul) when 50 years old was afflicted with a shaking of the head from right to left. He drank 2 or 3 catties of mutton wine in the dead of winter, recovered and is now all right.**
The liquor thus prepared, has, you will observe, a very strong odour of mutton, it is sweetish and unctuous. Specific gravity 0.98873. Alcohol per cent. 9.14.
* This is about 2 feet high (English): tapers. At the bottom it is large enough to sit on the rim of the big pot; at the top it is small enough to let the small pot sit in it without falling through. It is called Boorher
**Translation of a Mongolian prescription drawn up by the Lama who furnished the medicines.
“Judae haeshae, good for the inside and outside HEE (colic?). Wangluk, Neeshing, Ramnee, - these three are strengthening. Ga, good for the stomach. Honey 4 oz. White sugar 1 oz. Dragon’s eye 4 oz. Black sugar 8 oz. Raisins 1 catty.
"Take the mutton from the bones, leaving a little on them; break all the marrow bones and distil. Too much mutton spoils the taste and the nature of the wine. Too much fat wou't do. If the proportion of drugs be larger than this it won't agree. Indeed this Bawry Daruss at first must be taken in small quantities. After having taken it in small quantities during one winter, should it agree (with the patient), it may be taken another winter. It won't do at all in the hot season."
[Inside Hee is WIND ascending and descending, evidently colic; what outside hee is I can't discover. It fixes on the skin! After pursuing my teacher over the verge of his knowledge, the old man admitted he had never seen outside hee, though he had often suffered from inside hee.]