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What are Caudles?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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Caudles are warmed drinks made with wine or ale, sugar, spices, eggs, and bread or gruel. Caudles were very popular in medieval Europe, and they continue to be produced in some regions of the world today, primarily as warming drinks for cool weather. It is also possible to find foods which have obviously been inspired by caudles, such as mulled wine and bread pudding.

For medieval Europeans, caudles were treated as restorative medicine. They were often offered to invalids and mothers who had just given birth, as people believed that the ingredients would rebuild strength. This is certainly true of eggs, which contain beneficial protein, and some breads, which can contain vitamins and minerals which promote general good health. However, some modern doctors might disagree with the inclusion of alcohols.

A caudle must be made carefully, to ensure that the ingredients do not sour or curdle. As a general rule, the egg yolks are first beaten, and then the wine or ale is slowly added. Once these ingredients are combined, hot water can be poured in and the mixture can be whisked or beaten to turn it into a creamy beverage. Once combined, the caudle can be warmed again, and spices of choice may be added before serving it; if bread or gruel is to be mixed in, these ingredients can be added during the second heating stage.

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It is also possible to find caudles made with milk or cream, which are naturally richer. Caudles can also be made without animal products; historically during Lent, for example, people could not consume eggs or cream, and so almond milk was used to make caudles. Modern caudles can also be made with other nut milks or even soy milk, although again care has to be taken when adding the alcohol to the drink to prevent it from curdling and turning quite unpleasant.

The spicing used in caudles varies widely. Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and allspice can all be added to create an exotic and rich flavor, or the spicing can be toned down for people who are not feeling well. The inclusion of bread in an invalid's caudle is common, since it encourages invalids to eat some sort of vaguely solid food, and the bread can help settle the patient's stomach. It is also possible to add things like oatmeal or barley groats, although these ingredients are less common in modern caudles.

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