Syrup of Lemon

Take lemon, after peeling off the skin, press it [to a pulp] and take a ratl [1 ratl=468g/1lb] of juice, and add as much of sugar. Cook it until it takes the form of a syrup. Its advantages are for the heat of bile; it cuts the thirst and binds the bowels. [i]

Some translators take this recipe to mean that one should press the oil from the skin for flavoring. I have a slightly different take on it though.  

I know that the pith of the lemon contains a good deal of a nutrient known as rutin.  I also know that including the pith in remedies for the flux was practiced in later years.  My guess is that it is at least somewhat likely that the author meant for the pith to be ground and included in the recipe. 

If I want to make this as a period medicinal recipe, I zest one lemon and save the zest because I am frugal like that.  Then I use my pastry blender to mash the rest of the lemon into one pound of sugar before adding an equal amount of juice.  For what it is worth a pound of water isn't quite 16 fl. ounces, it is about 15.34 ounces, so you might leave your last cup of juice a bit scant.  I don't find that it matters.

Then simmer this for about five-seven minutes.  This is not going to set up like a thick modern syrup with added emulsifiers. Think of a simple syrup used for flavoring coffee.

If you cook it longer, you destroy some of the flavor and you run the risk of something that goes to soft crack stage and won't dissolve again.  (If you ever do that by accident, all is not lost.  Pour the syrup in little dollops on parchment and let it harden to lemon hard candy.)   

Despite the assurances that this was medieval lemonade, I can tell you that it is unlikely that this was served on a regular basis.  Like most of the syrup beverages in the Al-Andulus this is meant to be a medicinal recip. This particular recipe would have likely been administered to someone showing signs of  liver heat and what the Greeks called bilious fevers, which is an illness that involves a fever accompanied by a lot of nausea and vomiting.

It doesn't make good lemon syrup anyway.  Cooking the juice detracts from the flavor. If you want a good recipe for that check out my mundane blog.


[i] Anon. The Book of Cooking in Maghreb and Andalus in the Era of Almohads. Translated by Martinelli, Candida. 2012 translation. Al-Andulus, Spain: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, ca. 1400.