I have not dipped often enough into the wonderful book called: Epulario, Or, The Italian Banquet; Wherein is shewed the maner how to dresse and prepare all kind of Flesh, Foules, or Fishes. As also how to make Sauces, Tartes, Pies, &c. After the Manner of all Countries. Translated out of the Italian into English. The first Italian edition was published 1516, but the edition available to me is the English translation of 1598. I have finally taken it up again, and will seek out some gems for you.
The following recipe has a title guaranteed to grab one’s attention:
To make wine of water.
Take the grapes of a wild vine and drye them in the son then beat them into powder, and put them into water and it will have the tast and colour of wine, and if the grape be white it will have the same colour, if red the like.
So, not wine at all but a sort of raisin-water. I am not disappointed in the idea at all however, and if I had a wild vine handy I would try it.
For a “real” raisin wine, for those of you who do feel cheated, I can point you to no better source than The Compleat City and Country Cook: Or, Accomplish'd House-wife. Containing, Several Hundred of the Most Approv'd Receipts in Cookery, Confectionary, Cordials [etc.] ... Illustrated with Forty-nine Large Copper Plates, Directing the Regular Placing the Various Dishes on the Table ... Also, Bills of Fare According to the Several Seasons for Every Month of the Year (1732) by Charles Carter.
Stepony or Raisin Wine.
Take six pounds of Raisins of the Sun shred, three pounds of good Powder Sugar, the Juice of six Lemons, and the Peel of three whole. Boil them half an Hour in six gallons of Spring-Water, then take it off the Fire and pour it into a Stean, cover it close for three or four Days, stir it twice a Day, put in a little Spice, Sugar and Rose-water; afterwards strain it out, bottle it up, and it will be fit to drink in a Fortnight or three Weeks. There may be added to it Cowslips or Clove Gilliflowers, according to the Season of the Year.
I particularly like it that this recipe introduces two unusual words. The first is ‘stean,’ which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “A vessel for liquids (or, in later use, for bread, meat, fish, etc.), usually made of clay, with two handles or ears; a jar, pitcher, pot, urn.”
I particularly like this word because it is attested in English in the eleventh century, so has some lovely age on it, and it is of course the same as the word used for a type of beer mug – a stein.
The second word of interest is ‘Stepony.’ This is intriguing. The OED defines stepony as “a kind of raisin-wine, made from raisins with lemon-juice and sugar added,” which certainly fits the recipe above. The earliest reference given (with the spelling ‘stipone’) is given in 1656. The OED says the word is ‘of obscure origin’ and suggests it is ‘possibly a use of Stepney , the name of a parish in the East of London.’ How fascinating! How, do you think, did this East London parish give its name to lemon-flavoured raisin wine?