In medieval times, there was a strong sense of making the punishment fit the crime, and law enforcers were sometimes quite creative in determining a sentence for an individual offender. Offences relating to unwholesome food or drink, or food that was “in deceit of the people” were taken seriously, as we have seen in previous stories about unscrupulous pie-bakers and butchers.
A particularly appropriate punishment was meted out in November of 1364, in the time of King Edward III, to a John Penrose, who was brought before the authorities of the City of London and convicted of “contempt and trespass.”
The prosecutor for the King alleged that the said John Penrose, and his colleague John Rightwys, had “in the tavern of Walter Doget there, sold red wine to all who came there, unsound and unwholesome for man, in deceit of the common people, and in contempt of our Lord the King, and to the shameful disgrace of the officers of the City; to the grievous damage of the Commonalty etc.”
The men were committed to the infamous Newgate prison until such time as the four supervisors of the sale of wines in the City could investigate. About ten days later, on November 22, the verdict was returned: Rightwys was acquitted, but Penrose was determined to be guilty. The penalty was:
“ ..that the said John Penrose shall drink a draught of the same wine which he sold to the common people; and the remainder of such wine shall then be poured on the head of the same John ; and that he shall forswear the calling of a vintner in the City of London for ever, unless he can obtain the favour of our Lord the King as to the same.”
Penrose was apparently restored to his trade in February 1369, so perhaps had some good legal assistance in making his plea.
In honour of good law-makers, law-enforcers, and lawyers everywhere, I give you, from William Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle (1827):-
The Justice’s Orange Syrup, for Punch or Puddings.
Squeeze the Oranges, and strain the juice from the pulp to a large pot; boil it up with a pound and a half of fine Sugar to each pint of juice; skim it well, let it stand till cold, and then bottle it, and cork it well.
Obs.- This makes a fine, soft, mellow-flavoured Punch; and, added to melted butter, is a good relish to Puddings.