Monday, April 23, 2012

Skyrim Treats: Moon Sugar

Moon Sugar; sweet and mysterious
Wander the roads and byways of Skyrim, and eventually you're bound to run into a rough encampment by the side of the road on the way into town. These clusters of tents are temporary trading posts set up by the nomadic Khajiiti, a feline race from the exotic desert land of Elsweyr. Here you can buy and sell goods many merchants in town will avoid, including the less-than-licit moon sugar.

Pure, uncut, from the wilds of Elsweyr. The first sample is always free.
Image source Bethesda Game Studios.
Moon sugar is described as a crystal made from the canes of certain grasses in Elsweyr. It has magical properties, can be used as an alchemy ingredient, and is a strong narcotic. It's illegal in much of Tamriel: in Morrowind many shopkeepers won't even do business with you if you're carrying the stuff (not so in the more lawless land of Skyrim). Refine it, and you have skooma.

The in-game picture shown above depicts pale but not colorless lumps or chunks of various sizes. It reminded us immediately of rock candy.  Figuring that nobody really wants to wait a whole week for traditional rock candy to crystallize, eventually we found this easy microwave hard candy recipe, upon which we based the recipe below.

The land of Elsweyr is an exotic, somewhat mysterious desert land with a rich religious tradition, including some pretty hefty mythology about the moons of Tamriel: Masser and Secunda. There's plenty of in-game talk about Moon Sugar, but nothing specifically about which one, so it made the most sense to do a version for each moon.  

Masser and Secunda
Image Source Bethesda Game Studios
Masser is floral and sweet, while Secunda is dark and mysterious.  The resulting Moon Sugar(s) should be laden with subtle flavors which seem familiar but foreign to the average Nord, as if one can't quite put their tongue on just what they're tasting...

Early recipes started with vanilla sugar and vanilla-cardamom sugar (vanilla bean pods and/or cracked cardamom pods scraped into a cup or two of sugar and left for a week to absorb the spices). That makes a good base, but I learned after a few trials that plain hard candy made this way will have a honeylike taste which tends to overwhelm the mildness of the vanilla. So it was back to the drawing board.

Eventually I came up with two good variations. The first was made with lavender sugar (made by putting two Tbsp of culinary lavender in with the vanilla sugar and letting it sit for a week, then sifting out the lavender). The end result is subtle and floral, with a lovely translucent golden color to it.

Top: Sumac Moon Sugar (Secunda)
Bottom: Lavender Moon Sugar (Masser)
I realized after I made it, however, that at least one of the recipes we came up with should fit the in-game Khajiit culture where it's made: dry, desert lands, exotic, distant, hot. Lavender is lovely, but it's a much more European herb: I always think of France when I think of lavender, and Lexi always thinks of the tundra around Whiterun. A better analog for Elsweyr would be some place like Arabia or North Africa, and the spice would be something grown and used heavily in the region. 

It also occurred to me that any flavor we chose would have to fit in with a future Elsweyr Fondue recipe, which uses Moon Sugar as an ingredient.  So instead of another sweet, floral herb found on the roads of Skyrim, we used Sumac.

I can hear you now: "What the hell is sumac?? Isn't that the poisonous stuff that gets you all itchy if you run into it in the woods??"

Well, that's poison sumac, yes... but culinary sumac is an entirely different animal. (Well, plant, really.) It's a small shrub which grows in tropical and subtropical zones across Africa, in dry desert lands much like the Khajiit homeland. The fruit is dried and ground into a rich purplish-reddish powder and used in Middle Eastern cooking. It's a little bit lemony, a little like cumin, and a little bit delicious and unfamiliar.

Here's the final recipe. For the Masser version, leave out the sumac.

1 cup vanilla, vanilla-cardamom, or lavender sugar (use standard white sugar only)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 Tbsp sumac (for the Secunda version only)
Vegetable oil (a flavorless oil like canola) or vegetable shortening
1-2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Oil or grease a jelly roll pan. Mix the flavored sugar and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir. Cover again and microwave for another 2 minutes. Add the sumac at this point, if you're making the Secunda version.

Remove from microwave, remove plastic wrap, and pour mixture onto oiled/greased jelly roll pan.
You can dust with powdered sugar at this point, but there's an easier way. See below.
Let cool until hard. Break into large chunks. Put the large chunks into a heavy-duty freezer bag, seal, and break them by tapping firmly with the side of a wooden spoon. Add powdered sugar to the bag and shake to coat pieces.

Store in an airtight container.

We can neither confirm nor deny that this recipe will have you yowling to the full moon like a wild feline on a hot summer's night. You'll just have to try it yourself.


  1. teach us how to make skooma from moonsugar too :D

  2. Hmmm... Well since Skooma is made from Nightshade and Moon Sugar, and we've found a real-world version of both, I suppose we could come up with something.


    2. If you read the post for the Velvet LaChance on our blog, you'll see that we're not using actual factual *nightshade*, that would be horrible.

      We've found that peppers are closely related to nightshade, and use Chipotle powder as nightshade in our recipes.

    3. Tomatoes are a nightshade. So are potatoes. Chilis are far distant.

  3. Hey! Do you happen to have any writing skills or it is just a completely natural talent of yours? Can't wait to hear from you.

    1. Gwen (who wrote the post) is just awesome like that. But yeah, she writes a LOT.

  4. Moon in real life is connect with the feminine, and fertility, and such things. Luna, Inanna, Artemis, all that jazz.

    Elder Scrolls takes the moons in a more gender neutral sense. It vaguely reminds me of Fae like things, like the Wild Hunt. Makes sense though, there's more then one moon, and its also refreshing. So much fantasy is obcessed with the dichotomy of male vs female, status quo vs choas, divine vs satanic, Elder Scrolls puts a nice spin on all of that. From the delivery of the Civil War in Skyrim, to the Knights of the Nine quest line in Oblivion (Penial Whitestrake is Giles de Rais, Umaril (sp?) is the English king (whom was an ally of the Order of the Dragon, present at the induction of Dovakinn, I mean Dracula, into the order).

    Anyways rant aside, Lavender is an aphrodisiac, sooo... Moon Sugar!

  5. love the recipe and the skooma, works cause im having a meet up and the theme is skyrim. quick question though, how much does this recipe make? cause i need to make for a decent group of people and since i need to make the villa sugar too i want to be able to make enough

    1. Sorry for the delayed reply! You've probably had your party already, but in case anyone else is still wondering, this makes about 1.5 cups of broken pieces, like the ones shown in the photo.

  6. Hi, I don't know if you still check this blog at all, but perhaps you could help me with this recipe a little?
    I tried making this recently, but when I put the mixture in the microwave, about a minute into the process the syrup started to raise and got stuck to the plastic wrap. I thought it was normal at first, but decided to take it out after thirty seconds because the bowl started to overflow. I then discovered the syrup and the plastic wrap got stuck together permanently and I didn't dare put it back into the microwave. I wasn't sure how many watts I should have microwaved it on and the recipe yours is based upon said 'microwave on High', so I just put it on the highest (950W). Was that too much?
    There also could've been a problem with the corn syrup - I'm not in the US and we don't use it here often at all, so I had no choice but to take the only one I could find and I am not certain it qualified as 'light'.
    Mayhaps you could give me some advice? I would really love to try this again.

    1. Hey there, thanks for posting. I actually had that same issue a couple of times, and ended up with the same plastic-infused deathly-hot boiling sugar mass that you describe.

      After a bit of trial and error I came to the conclusion that it happens because of heating the sugar too hot, too fast. Microwaves can vary so much that figuring out the right power level can take some experimentation.

      If you have the opportunity and can rustle up some more ingredients, I recommend trying a few batches without the spices, dialing the power and time back and gradually increasing them until you get a better result - maybe drop the power town to 60 and increasing by 10's, drop the time by 30 second increments, something like that.

      If it helps, the corn syrup I used was Karo syrup. Depending on where you are, you may be able to get it online.

      Hope that helps, and hope you're able to make a good batch!

  7. I am extremely excited to make this with some family! however i am curious, how should we eat this? Is it better as is in small chunks? Can it be used to cook with? Any suggestions on the best uses for moon sugar? Can't wait to hear! Thanks!

    1. It's basically rock sugar candy, so you can cook with it but it was developed really to be eaten by itself. Eating it in small chunks is best if you have sensitive teeth or worry about breaking/chipping a tooth. To cook with it, either use the liquid syrup form or grind it into a powder/dissolve in liquid to use. Bon Appetit!

  8. i made skooma and ended up drinking three glasses in one day! that stuff is addictive