Caudle was a popular drink across Britain, and like the bannocks, recipes varied. Most caudles were made without milk (the addition of which technically makes a posset, rather than a caudle), but from descriptions like Pennant’s it seems the Bealltainn caudle was made with eggs, milk, oatmeal, alcohol and sugar and spices – ingredients that either represented staples of the diet that people were concerned with ensuring an abundance of in the future, as the first three ingredients would have been, or else they represented more luxury items that were mainly consumed by the wealthy, like the sugar, (it’s only relatively recently that such things have become more widely available). This implies that it was used to ensure future prosperity and abundance of both the essentials and the luxuries in life.
The resulting drink basically seems to be similar to egg nog, but not so eggy (or not eggy at all), and with a little oatmeal added. Traditionally the caudle usually had strong white wine (white caudle) or ale added to it (brown caudle), and was served as a drink or with desserts.1 Here I’ve suggested whisky, a) because I like it, and b) because nothing else says ‘Scottish’ better (to me, anyway). I tend to use a whisky mead called Stag’s Breath, but since whisky can be an acquired taste, try experimenting with brandy, ale, mead or a dessert wine if you prefer. For a more ‘authentic’ recipe, you could try using heather ale (Fraoch) or a wine made in Scotland (Cairn O’Mhor do a good selection). Honey can also be used as a substitute for the sugar (which goes very well with whisky). If you prefer to leave the alcohol out completely, just try seasoning with plenty of nutmeg, cinnamon or mixed spice.
1/2 pt (1 cup) milk
1 tbsp oatmeal
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp sugar or honey
nutmeg or mixed spice
whisky, ale or white wine
1. Heat the milk in a pan with the oatmeal and a pinch of salt. Stir well and bring to the boil, then simmer until it starts to thicken.
2. Stir in the eggs, sugar and spices (added according to taste), and keep simmering for at least five minutes – stir well to make sure the mixture doesn’t burn or stick to the pan.
3. Remove from the pan and add in as much whisky, ale or white wine as you prefer.
4. Serve immediately, either on its own or poured over bannocks or a dessert.
1 McNeill, The Scots Cellar, 1992, p268.