Category Archives: wormwood

Wormwood School

A new method of punishment has come to light – perfect for punishing those that disobey the edict: “Thou shalt not set fire to thine absynth” (Song of Gwydion Verse III) It dates back to the absinthe era and so passes muster with the traditionalists. You have been warned.

The school district of East Lichfield is aroused because of the discovery that one of the country school teachers has abandoned the old methods of chastisement and has been compelling disobedient pupils to eat herbs, wild turnip, boneset, and wormwood.

The teacher is a spare the rod advocate, and her method, she says,was to stop the boys plugging the chimney, releasing mice and hard shell crickets, and throwing pepper on the stove.

First she had three recesses a day instead of two and worked other innovations to cement friendships. This failing to take the children’s attention from mischief,she tried the new one, and now the parents are angry.

(New York Post 1907)

Boneset

Eating wormwood? Actually wormwood is used in the kitchen. It is used as stuffing for various meats – lamb, pork and mostly famously goose. According to one source it is also “used with turnips” to make them more exciting 🙂

The Problem of Thujone in Modern Absinthe

molecule.jpg

POSSIBILITIES TO REDUCE THE THUJONE CONTENT

Today’s manufacturers face the problem that they have to generate a distinctive wormwood taste, without exceeding the thujone maximum limit of 35 mg/kg. The selective enrichment of the bitter and flavor compounds, while keeping the thujone concentration low, was extensively investigated (45).

Tegtmeier et al. (46) compared a water extraction to an alcohol extraction method By the percolation with water or alcohol (30%vol) no thujone could be extracted, because the solubility of thujone in water is poor. Only by the application of ethanol 90%vol, it was possible to extract 0.18 mg thujone per g wormwood herb. When the method of digestion with ethanol 30%vol was applied, 0.17 mg thujone per g wormwood herb could be extracted. The largest yields were obtained, whenever the macerate of the wormwood herb was distilled (0.24 mg thujone/g). The use of hot and highly concentrated alcohol for the extraction should therefore be avoided to obtain extracts with a low content of thujone. Because the percolation with pure water might lead to a loss of microbiological quality, the percolation with ethanol 30%vol is regarded as the method of choice. This method is described as being easy to handle and economic. Gambelunghe and Melai (47) verified these results. Wormwood macerated with ethanol 20%vol for 30 days contained only 0.2 mg/I of thujone, while the maceration of wormwood with ethanol 95%vol for 6 months contained 62 mgll of thujone. The consequence for the absinthe manufactures is that traditional recipes and methods have to be modified, in order to avoid thujone contents, which exceed the limit. The maceration should be done with low concentrations of alcohol and the wormwood herb should be separated before the distillation.

A possibility for the continuation of traditional recipes is to remove the thujone from the wormwood herb before the maceration. Stahl and Gerard (48) observed, that the extraction with liquid or supercritical carbon dioxide provides a fast, selective and quantitative method for the separation of thujone from the wormwood herb. Absinthin, which is responsible for the high bitter value of wormwood, remains in the herb. It is therefore possible to generate nearly thujone free wormwood herb and to use it for the manufacturing of absinthe. However, the application of this method for the manufacturing of spirit drinks was never described.

The most elegant alternative to avoid the toxic thujone may be the use of thujone-free wormwood herb, which is available in certain cultivation areas,IO.16 and appears to be perfect for the use in the spirit drink producing industry. With those chemotypes, it would be possible to produce absinthe with wormwood quantities on the basis of the traditional recipes, without the manufacturer facing the risk of exceeding the thujone limit.

Lachenmeier, D. W., S. G. Walch, S. A. Padosch, and L. U. Kroner. 2006. Absinthe–a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 46:365-77.

Wormwood

Crotch Punch

Let’s go next door, I hear Pán Bůh’s serving “Crotch Punch”

Wormwood Bitters

For Three Gallons

Take two gallons of rectified spirits, two drachms of the oil of Seville orange-peel, one drachm of oil of caraway, one drachm of oil of wormwood, a quarter of an ounce of almond cake,half an ounce of corainder-seed, half an ounce of Virginia snake-root. one quart of clarified sugar, and fill it up with water: steep the coriander-seed, almond cake, and Virginia snake- root, in the spirits for three or four days, and kill the oils, as before mentioned in spirits of wine.

The Wholesale and Retail Wine and Spirit Merchant’s Companion by Joseph Hartley (1839)

Thought Scotty, Absinthist & Leif might find this interesting. Almond cake?

Make “Absinthe” at home?

Wormwood

Delicate Bitterness from Poland

Not really. This is something rather different, with a noble and ancient pedigree which actually predates absinthe (Stefan Falimierz 1534) Absinthist in Poland has sent us a picture of this little known wormwood drink, which is called Piołunowka (the Polish word for wormwood is piołun – the French word for wormwood is absinthe) According to Wikipedia:

Piołunowka has much higher levels of thujone than absinthe because it is not distilled. Many people produce it today to try and feel the ‘absinthe effect’

The level of thujone in Absinthist’s Piołunowka is unknown – anyone care to make a guess? There are of course numerous places that sell a ready to use absinthe kit  although this Polish drink uses only wormwood, no costly star anise, fennel, calamus, hyssop and so forth. As I have mentioned before I have been given a strange recipe for Známý likér absintovy (well known liquor absinth) from a late 19th Century Czech text. It seems to call for the addition of lemon oils – as well as the usual absinthe regulars – rather curious, which is why I am currently checking it with a more informed source. This recipe also requires no distillation – a kind of folk recipe absinthe which could be fun to try for Christmas!

What I also find very curious is that Absinthist – an expert herbalist – describes his drink as having a “delicate bitterness“. This is contrary to what others preach at us. We are told that macerating wormwood in high proof alcohol creates something “vile-tasting and insanely bitter” – quite wrong it seems.

The very same writer has penned another polemic on the wrongs of Czech absinth, written words which cry out for a little sugar when reading, due to their bitterness. The writer might like to ponder the words of wiser men: “The worst offense that can be committed by a polemic is to stigmatize those who hold a contrary opinion as bad and immoral men.” (John Stuart Mill).

Anyway, fancy making piołunówka? Here’s how simple it really is:

I have made piołunówka 39.6%, rye-base, no sugar, assemblage of distillate and macerate. Wormwoody to the boot, pleasant herbal aroma, delicate bitterness, medium alcohol bite.

The recipe is simple, makes 300ml of piołunówka

1 coffeespoon of dried wormwood leaves macerate for 24h in 100ml of vodka, then strain and dilute it with 200ml of vodka, let it rest, sugar if you wish. The simplest recipes yield the best results.

The main difference between it and Falimierz’ s recipe: no sugar, wormwood leaves instead of flowertops, slightly less strong.

I wonder if Absinthist actually used spirytus rektyfikowany? A high proof Polish spirit that I understand cannot be legally exported from Poland. The comments box below is open for comments about this drink / alternative recipes – and nothing else.

The Complete Distiller by Ambrose Cooper (1757)

 

Wormwood Water

Wormwood Water

There are similar references in Culpeper’s ‘The Complete Herbal’, 1653 as Spiritus et Aqua Absynthii & most importantly Spiritus et Aqua Absynthii magis composita.

Spiritus et Aqua Absynthii magis composita
Or spirit and water of Wormwood, the greater composition

College : Take of common and Roman Wormwood, of each a pound; Sage, Mints, Bawm, of each two handfuls; the Roots of Galanga, Ginger, Calamus, Aromaticus, Elecampane, of each three drachms; Liquorice, an ounce, Raisins of the Sun stoned, three ounces, Annis seeds, and sweet Fennel seeds, of each three drachms; Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmegs, of each two drachms; Cardamoms, Cubebs, of each one drachm: let the things be cut that are to be cut, and the things be bruised that are to be bruised, all of them infused in twenty four pints of Spanish wine, for twenty four hours, then, distilled in an Alembick, adding two ounces of white sugar to every pint of distilled water.

According to researchers at the University of Wolverhampton discussing another section:

“Culpeper, in a rather involved sentence, seems to suggest that two varieties of WORMWOOD were most commonly used; that is, SEA WORMWOOD for children and ‘people of ripe age’, and ‘common wormwood’ for those that are ’strong’, by which he probably meant the plant now usually called Artemesia absinthe [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)].

Culpeper also says: “Common Wormwood I shall not describe, for every boy that can eat an egg knows it” So the question is : what was this “common wormwood” that Culpeper mentions?

Would it be fair to say this recipe contains the Holy Trinity, which is used by some to define modern day absinthe:  artemisia absinthium, fennel and anise? Is this then evidence of absinthe – only the French word for wormwood anyway – existing as part of a much older tradition?

Is the dubious history of the Henroid sisters, and the bogus Dr Ordinaire, merely a 19th Century marketing stunt? In any case neither the Henroid sisters, nor the phantom Doctor, invented absinthe – at best it was copied.

Absinthe Muse in Summer

Summertime is Reality time – this stunning Czech absinth is just perfect on the rocks – watch it melt to a cool lime white louche, and then enjoy the herbal intensity of this 100% natural Czech product.

Remember Muse in an Absinthe Tank and the Reality Absinth Poster? The Bairnsfather Absinth poster girl is back by popular demand – and this time in cool summer apparel.

Stunning! rather like Reality Absinth, with it’s 35mg thujone content, expertly filtered from the finest wormwood. Anyone care to guess what the plant in picture two is? Want to taste some in all it’s pure glory? You need to know where to look! As the saying goes it’s “as rare as hen’s teeth“, with the production being bought up as fast as the hand finished bottles leave the family distillery.

Bairnsfather Reality is currently available in very few places in Prague (write to me and I’ll tell you where) and only via a few selected absinthe webshops. Prague wine bars are starting to serve burcak, and that means autumn is coming! Will there be an Absinthe Muse in Autumn? I hope so 🙂

Absinth Bairnsfather

Absinth Bairnsfather

 

Bairnsfather

 

Thujone in Absinthe Quiz

Thujone in Absinthe

What was the legal thujone level in absinthe set by the French in 1907? You choose:

(i) 35mg

(ii) 100mg

(iii) 250mg

(iv) 1000mg

(v) There were no limits on thujone (alpha or beta)