I don’t believe I have covered aniseed before on this blog, and the universe seems to be reminding me of this fact, as I came across several references to it in one day recently while browsing around for wise words on a completely unrelated topic.
Anise, or aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) is a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean region and adjacent parts of Asia. The first attested use of the word in English is in 1398, and over the centuries since then, the aromatic seeds of the plant have been used to add a licorice-y flavour to comfits, baked goods, and cordials. Anise was also ascribed medicinal properties, and was considered particularly useful as a digestive. One of the sixteenth century references in the Oxford English Dictionary is in itself a mini-formula for a remedy – in this case for the dropsy.
For the dropsie, fill an olde cock with Polipody and Anniseedes, and seethe him well, and drinke the broth. (Garden of Health, 1597, W. Langham.)
Probably the best-known use today is in the confection known as an aniseed ball. Or maybe it is in the liqueurs favoured in the Mediterranean region and Turkey, such as anisette, pastis, and ouzo?
Once again, my week is hectic and my day already seeming punishingly short, so with no further ado, here is a random selection of aniseed recipes for your delectation.
Anise Water. Eau d'Anis, ou Anisette de Bordeaux.
For twenty-four pints of brandy take eight ounces of new anise-seed of Verdun, if possible; when old it is yellow and light, when new green and heavy: it is by having every thing the best of their kind that these compounds can obtain that excellence which every professional person would wish to arrive at in his compositions: rub them in a search to take out the dust; put them with the spirits to infuse in a jar with three zests of oranges, and half an ounce of bruised cinnamon; let it infuse for some days, and distil it with a moderate fire, never forgetting four pints of water, and drawing off the phlegm as is before directed, which is contained in the first half glassful that comes over the alembic: make some syrup upon the fire ; but as the anise contains a bitter salt, which often makes the liquor milky, and consequently difficult to clear, put in the spirits to the hot syrup, which ought to be made with a quart less water that eau blanche may be made of it with three or four whites of eggs: when the sugar is dissolved and hot, put in the spirits and white water; stir it upon the fire till it is hot without boiling; put it into the jar, and leave it till the next day well stopped ; filter or pass it through a bag. The oil requires only another pound of sugar to be added to the syrup.
The Art of French Cookery (1827) by Antoine Beauvilliers.
A Delicious Swiss Cake.
Beat the yolks of five eggs and one pound of sifted loaf sugar well together; then sift in one pound of best flour, and a large spoonful of anise seed; beat these together for twenty minutes; then whip to a stiff froth the five whites, and add them; beat all well; then roll out the paste an inch thick and cut them with a moulded cutter rather small; set them aside until the next morning to bake.
Rub the tins on which they are baked with yellow wax; it is necessary to warm the tins to receive the wax; then let them become cool, wipe them, and lay on the cakes, bake a light brown.
Cookery as it should be: a new manual ….(Philadelphia, 1856)
935. “Springerle,” or “Tirgeli’— Little Anise-seed Biscuits. (No. 1.)
Half a pound of fine flour, half a pound of sifted sugar, two eggs, an ounce of butter, and a pinch of carbonate of soda dissolved in a teaspoonful of milk, or a little more if necessary. Form with these a dough, which must be well kneaded. Roll it out a quarter of an inch thick; cut out little cakes with various fancy cutters. Sprinkle anise-seed over a pasteboard, lay on this the cakes nearly close together, and let them remain all night in a dry place. Butter tins very sparingly, lay the cakes on with a knife, and bake them in a very cool oven a pale yellow.
936. “Springerle”—Anise-seed Biscuits. (No. 2.)
Mix the anise-seeds into the dough described in 935. The more general way of moulding the springerle is with various figures cut in wooden blocks. These are dusted with flour, the paste rolled out and cut into small pieces, which are then pressed into the shapes, the surface shaved off with a knife, and the devices turned out by knocking the blocks as they are held upside down. Bake them very pale.
German National Cookery for English Kitchens (1873)
Sift together four cups of flour, one cup of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. Add three quarters of a cup of aniseed and work in two cups of butter as you would in making pie dough. Add two eggs and when your dough is mixed, roll it out and cut it into various shapes and bake in moderate oven for twenty minutes.
Spice Cookery (New York. 1942) by Helmut Ripperger