Yard of Flannel (a het pint…)

Yard of flannel is hot ale, laced with rum and spices, and thickened with egg.

Though there’s a surprising number of beer and cocktail blogs that have tried out old recipes of yard of flannel, there’s very little information on the history of this drink available online.

I’ve found no documented link between these two drinks, but yard of flannel is nearly identical in recipe and preparation to an old Scots cocktail called het pint (literally “hot pint”).  The only difference is that the Scots version typically uses whiskey instead of rum.

Het pint was once an important part of Scottish celebrations, especially Hogmanay, the Scots New Year.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, public houses made het pint on New Year’s eve, and villagers would buy a copper-kettle’s-worth to take home for the festivities.

Kettles of het pint would also be carried through the streets by “first-footers.”  The first person to enter a house on New Year’s day was said to be a foretoken of the prosperity of the coming year.  The first-foot was ideally “a man, tall with dark hair… carrying gifts, including whisky, tea, coal, or salt, symbols of good health, good fortune, good luck, a warm home, and a full larder.”[1]  In some traditions the first person to cross the threshold is a more or less random event.  In others young men would travel from house to house with gifts.  These first-footers often carried pots of het pint with them as they walked through the town, offering the drink to passers-by.

Het pint was consumed at many other celebrations, notably rural weddings on Orkney.[2]

A frothy yard of flannelNot only are recipes for het pint and yard of flannel consistenty nearly identical, they both use the same technique to develop a tall foamy head on the drink.  When agitated, the egg proteins develop a head that is much more stable than that of beer alone (think: meringue).  The head on het pint and yard of flannel is traditionally produced by pouring the drink back and forth between two mugs in a tall cascade.

Ale makes up the bulk of the drink, so the choice of ale to be used is the most important decision made by the cook.  Nowadays “ale” refers to a beverage that undergoes a warm fermentation with a top-fermenting strain of yeast, typically producing an aromatic, fruity, floral beer.  It’s counterpart, “lager,” goes through a colder, longer fermentation with a bottom-fermenting strain of yeast, resulting in a cleaner, crisper drink.

Until atleast the nineteenth century, in Great Britain the word “beer” referred exclusively to hopped beers (a Bavarian invention), while “ale” was reserved for the traditional, unhopped, British drink.  Therefore the “ale” called for in old het pint recipes refers to this ancient style of British beer.  Many contemporary beers made in the UK are reminiscent of these older styles, though they do contain some hops.  Here’s a description of modern Scottish ale:

Scottish Ales traditionally go through a long boil in the kettle for a caramelization of the wort. This produces a deep copper to brown… brew and a higher level of unfermentable sugars which create a rich mouthfeel and malty flavors and aromas. Overall hop character is low, light floral or herbal, allowing its signature malt profile to be the highlight.[3]

This style of beer makes perfect sense for het pint, as the malt and caramel flavours compliment the rum or whisky.  The pronounced hops flavour of most contemporary beers would probably be out of place.

I’ve hear that the “yard” in yard of flannel refers to the yard-long glasses in which the drink was once served, and the “flannel” refers to the rich, soft mouthfeel developed by the heated eggs.  I can’t find a reliable source for that information.

I don’t imagine this drink will be everyone’s cup of tea, as the modern man doesn’t like the thought of drinking hot eggs, but I have to say it’s a well-balanced cocktail with a fantastic mouthfeel.

Yard of Flannel (a het pint…)
adapted from Back to Basics

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/6 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • fresh grated nutmeg to taste
  • 341 mL your favourite English pale ale, Scottish ale, or possibly brown ale
  • 1/6 cup golden rum

Procedure

  1. Whisk together egg, sugar, and salt.
  2. Gently heat ale and nutmeg in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Do not let the ale boil.
  3. Once the ale mixture is starting to steam, slowly pour it into the egg while whisking.  Adding the ale too quickly may curdle the egg, which would be bad.
  4. If you’re a stickler for tradition, you can develop the head by pouring the mixture back and forth between two mugs.  As you can probably imagine, this quickly cools down the drink.  You can get just as good a head by whisking vigorously while the flannel is still in the bowl.

 

References

1. Duncan, Dorothy. Feasting and Fasting: Canada’s Heritage Celebrations. ©2010 Dorothy Duncan. Dundurn Press, Toronto, ON. Page 313.
2.  McNeill, F. Marian.  The Scots Kitchen.  ©2010 The Estate of F. Marian McNeill.  Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland.  Page 309.
3.  Beer Advocate.com

Rumpot

The first layer of the rumpotRumtopf, literally “rum pot”, is a traditional German fruit preserve. As each type of fruit comes into season, it is macerated with sugar, placed in the pot, then covered with rum. Traditional rumtopfen are earthenware pots with heavy lids, but any wide-mouthed, non-reactive vessel can be used.

I use about one part sugar to two parts fruit, by weight, for each addition.

Once the last layer of fruit is added, the mixture steeps for a few months, and is traditionally eaten around Christmas.

The mixture goes through some profound transformations during aging. It loses the striking vibrancy seen above and turns a uniform burgundy. The liquor loses its clarity and becomes murky, with an exceptionally rich mouthfeel, verging on viscous.  The severity of the alcohol mellows.  The pot no longer exudes the delicate aromas of early summer, but rather a medicinal scent, strong of the boozy raspberries.

The fruit can be spooned over, say, ice cream, cake, or waffles, and the liquor can be drank on its own. On waffles with whipped cream, with an ounce of the liquor and black coffee. The fruits have combined to form one homogeneous flavour, so it matters little whether you spoon an apricot or a strawberry onto your plate. The fruit is extremely delicate, saturated with liquid.

A fantastic way to start the day, as long as you don’t have to operate heavy machinery later in the morning.

Rumpot and whipped cream on waffles

 

Single Fruit Rumpot: The Cherry Pot, and Plumplop

As mentioned above, the traditional method of layering the fruit as it comes into season results in a very generic “fruit” flavour.  In recent years I have been making a few different rumpots, each containing only one type of fruit.  The results have been fantastic.  The aromas are so strong and distinct that and I don’t think I will ever the multi-fruit variety again.

The best has been a pot filled with pitted Evans cherries and Appleton’s rum.  After a few months the pot had a remarkable cherry aroma with clear notes of almond extract.  The natural acidity of the cherries was a welcome addition to the liqueur.

Another notable mention goes to a rumpot made with BC plums.  By Christmas the pot smelled like purple Mr. Sketch scented markers.  It made a deadly liqueur that we initially called “plumpot,” but, after several glasses, could only describe as “plumplop.”

Raspberry Liqueur

Ever since Neil brought me a recipe for limoncello from Capris, I’ve been eager to try some sort of fruit infusion of alcohol. My surplus of raspberries from Roy’s seemed like divine providence. Here is my recipe for raspberry liqueur.

Raspberry LiqueurRaspberry Liqueur
adapted from a souvenir-bar-towel recipe for limoncello

Ingredients

•750 g raspberries
•750 mL Everclear grain alcohol
•750 mL water
•750 g granulated sugar
•500 mL fresh lemon juice, strained of pulp and seeds

Procedure

  1. Pour the grain alcohol and raspberries into a large glass container. Mash the berries, cover the mixture tightly, and leave for two weeks. This is the infusion.
  2. Pour the infusion through a wire strainer to remove the berry pulp. Discard said pulp.
  3. Make a simple syrup of the sugar and water on the stove. Cool to room temperature and combine with the berry infusion.
  4. At this point, with the dark raspberry flavour, the strong taste of alcohol, and the sickly sweet syrup, the solution tastes a lot like cough medicine. It needs the transforming power of lemon. Mix in the lemon juice, and allow some time for the flavours to combine. Strain through a chinois or a coffee filter to remove the finer sediment.

I finished with about 2.5 L of liqueur which was almost 30% alcohol by volume. It is surprisingly (and dangerously?) easy to drink straight, though most friends prefer it with sparkling water. Summer in a glass.