The Jerusalem Talmud discusses what kind of wine can be used for the Rabbinic commandment of drinking four cups of wine during the Passover Seder. It says:
Talmud Yerushalmi, Pesachim 10:1, Daf 69a
What is the law [regarding fulfilling the commandment of the four cups on Passover Seder] with Konditon? From this that was taught by Bar Kappara, [who said,] “Konditon is like wine.” This tell us that we can fulfill [the commandment of the four cups on Passover Seder]< with Konditon.
תלמוד ירושלמי,מסכת פסחים פרק י הלכה א, דף סט.
מהו לצאת בקונדיטון? מן מה דתני בר קפרא קונדיטון כיין הדא אמרה יוצאין בקונדיטון.
The Talmud does not tell us what the recipe is for Konditon. All it says is that Konditon is sharp (i.e. spicy) and what are its three key ingredients are.
Talmud Yerushalmi, Avodah Zarah 2:3, Daf 11b
Rabbi Simon explains, “The sharp one is Konditon.”
תלמוד ירושלמי,מסכת עבודה זרה פרק ב הלכה ג, דף יא:
רבי סימון מפרש החד קונדיטון.
Pesikta DeRav Kahana, Piska 12:5, Mendelboim Edition
Rabbi Abun said, “The words of Torah are compared to Konditon. Just like this Konditon contains wine, contains honey, and contains pepper, so too the words of Torah contain wine, [as it says,] “Your breasts are better than wine” (Song of Songs 1:2), contain honey, [as it says,] “they are sweeter than honey” (Psalms 19:11), and contain pepper, [as it says,] “Your word is very sharp” (Psalms 119:140).
פסיקתא דרב כהנא, פיסקא יב:ה, מהדורת מנדלבוים
אמר רבי אבון דברי תורה נמשלו בקונדיטין. מה קונדיטין הזה יש בו יין, יש בו דבש, יש בו פיפלין, אף דברי תורה יש בהן יין, כי טובים דודייך מיין (שה”ש א:ב), יש בהן דבש, ומתוקים מדבש (תהלים יט:יא), יש בהן פלפלין, צרופה אמרתך מאד (תהלים קיט:קמ).
Despite the fact that the Rabbinic literature did not preserve the recipe for Konditon, luckily it has been preserved in a Roman anonymous cookbook called Apicius, De Re Coquinaria (On Cooking). Apicius was a cookbook, moat probably compiled in the 4th century CE, named after a famous Roman entertainer Marcus Gavius Apicius, who lived in the 1st century CE. The book was most probably written by educated slaves for other slaves who were responsible for cooking lavish meals for their rich masters’ banquets. The recipes in the book are in very large quantities and the Latin used is vulgar, and considered to be the language of the street, and not the usual Classic Latin of the aristocracy.
The very first recipe in Apicius is for Conditum Paradoxum – a fine version of Konditon. The main three key ingredients that are described are the same ones as mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud, namely, wine, honey and pepper. There is another recipe in Apicius 1:2 for Conditum Melizonium Viatorium, a very simple version of Konditon for travelers, which only contains the three basic ingredients, honey, pepper and wine, and that does not require cooking. It is mixed without measurements, based on personal taste. I have only recreated the fancy recipe for Conditum Paradoxum, because it specifies the measurements and therefore the intended flavor can be more ascertained.
Apicius, De Re Coquinaria 1:1. Original Latin from Mary Ella Milham, Leipzig: Teubner, 1969.
I. CONDITVM PARADOXVM: Conditi paradoxi compositio: mellis pondo XV in aeneum vas mittuntur, praemissis vini sextariis duobus, ut in coctura mellis vinum decoquas. quod igni lento et aridis lignis calefactum, commotum ferula dum coquitur, si effervere coeperit, vini rore compescitur , praeter quod subtracto igni in se redit. cum perfrixerit, rursus accenditur. hoc secundo ac tertio fiet, ac tum demum remotum a foco post pridie despumatur. tum ‹mittes› piperis uncias IV iam triti, masticis scripulos III, folii et croci dragmae singulae, dactilorum ossibus torridis quinque, isdemque dactilis vino mollitis, intercedente prius suffusione vini de suo modo ac numero, ut tritura lenis habeatur. his omnibus paratis supermittis vini lenis sextaria XVIII. carbones perfecto aderunt [duo milia].
Apicius, De Re Coquinaria 1:1
I. Marvelous Spiced Wine. The composition of this excellent spiced wine is as follows. Into a copper bowl put 6 Sextarii (15 Librae) of honey and 2 Sextarii of wine; heat on a slow fire, constantly stirring the mixture with a stick. At the boiling point add a dash of cold wine, retire from stove and skim. Repeat this twice or three times, let it rest till the next day, and skim again. Then add 4 Unciae of crushed pepper, 3 Scrupulas of mastic, a Drachma each of aromatic leaves and saffron, 5 Drachmas of roasted date pits crushed and previously soaked in wine to soften them. When this is properly done add 18 Sextarii of light wine. To clarify it perfectly, add crushed charcoal twice or as often as necessary which will draw the residue together and carefully strain or filter through the charcoal.
I have converted the Roman measurements into modern metric measurements based on Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa, Translated by Anna Herklotz, “A Taste of Ancient Rome”, University of Chicago Press, 1994, p. 211.
Conditum Paradoxum Recipe (Konditon, κόνδιτον, קונדיטון) - Ancient Roman Honey Spiced Wine drunk in the Land of Israel
One Glass Version Measurements:
- 22 g Honey Liquid
- 170 ml Wine Red or White
- 1.7 g Black Pepper Corns Freshly Ground
- 50 mg Mastic Gum (Chios Mastiha) Freshly Ground
- 70 mg Bay Laurel Leaf Freshly Ground
- 70 mg Saffron Freshly Ground
One Bottle Version Measurements:
- 100 g Honey Liquid
- 750 ml Wine Red or White
- 7.5 g Black Pepper Corns Freshly Ground
- 240 mg Mastic Gum (Chios Mastiha) Freshly Ground
- 320 mg Bay Laurel Leaf Freshly Ground
- 320 mg Saffron Freshly Ground
- Measure out the spices: Black Pepper Corns, Mastic Gum, Bay Leaf and Saffron using a small precision digital scale. The scale should be able to measure in increments of at least 0.01 grams. Place each spice into a separate bowl.
- Place the Mastic Gum in the freezer for 1 hour before grinding so that it hardens. Grind each spice separately using mortar and pestle. Keep grinding until you obtain coarse powder, similar in consistency to ground black pepper sold in stores. You can use already pre-ground spices, however the flavor infusion of the spices will not be as pronounced as freshly ground ones.
- Measure out Liquid Honey using a glass measuring cup. You should choose a type of honey that you know you like. In my recipe I have used Nature Nate's 100% Raw & Unfiltered Honey.
- Measure out 20 ml of Wine (70 ml for the one bottle recipe). For this recipe, you should chose a wine that you know you like. It does not matter if the wine has a high alcohol content (11-14%) or low alcohol content (5-10%), or is sparkling or not. In my recipe, I have used Italian Sparkling Rosa Regale Banfi Wine (7%).
- Combine all of the honey and the measured wine into a sauce pan. Cook the honey and wine mixture on very low heat, while constantly stirring with a wooden spoon. The heat should be just high enough so that the mixture begins to boil and bubbling with small bubbles after about 10 minutes being on the fire. Once the mixture starts boiling immediately remove from the fire and let it cool down until the bubbling stops. Then return back to the fire for about another 10 minutes and then remove again after boiling. This procedure of bringing to a boil and cooling should be repeated 3 times. After the 3rd time a white residue will start forming on top of the mixture. Once the white residue forms the reduction is complete. Remove it from the fire and let it completely cool for about 15 minutes. You will notice that the mixture will start to solidify back to the thick consistency of honey.
- While the mixture is cooling measure out 150 ml of wine (670 ml for the bottle recipe) into a glass bowl.
- Once the honey wine mixture has cooled return it back to the fire for 2-3 minutes so that it liquefies again and becomes runny. It is not necessary to bring it to a boil at this point.
- Pour the honey-wine mixture from the sauce pan into the glass bowl with 150 ml (670 ml for bottle recipe) of wine. Add all spices to the bowl and begin slowly and steady stirring the mixture with a clean wooden spoon. Stir for about 5-10 minutes until the mixture is mixed throughout. The mixing of hot honey-wine mixture with the room temperature wine and spices is what allows all of the spices to infuse their flavor into the wine, so make sure you keep mixing it for at least 5 minutes.
- Take a single sheet of coffee filter paper, place it on top of a metal mesh strainer and place the strainer on top of a bowl.
- Slowly pour the final mixture into the filter. Allow the wine to drip filter through the filter into the bowl. The coffee filter should remove all particles from the mixture and only clear wine should remain. If the first filtering does not result in clear wine, repeat the filtering process again using a clean bowl and a clean coffee filter. The filtering process may take up to 1 hour depending on the quantity of wine and the thickness and size of the coffee filter.
- Once the wine has been filtered pour it into a wine glass (or a glass bottle for the bottle recipe) and serve.