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Archive for the ‘Regency Drink’ Category

The week of Christmas and the new year has been traditionally a time for joy and celebration. In Jane Austen’s day, the decorations and celebrations weren’t quite so over-the-top commercial as they are today. Mistletoe, holly, and evergreen boughs decorated the halls, while roaring fires warmed hearth and home. Fine foods were prepared for friends and family at holiday gatherings, and gift giving was considered optional and not mandatory.

Cruikshank image. Holiday dinner party. Image @LIFE magazine.

Cruikshank image. Holiday dinner party. Image @LIFE magazine.

In her letters, Jane mentioned making wine. She was also  known to imbibe a glass or two, as did many Regency ladies. One can imagine that she heartily enjoyed a glass of homemade wine during long winter evenings. A Regency household in the country was akin to a cottage factory, processing freshly picked fruits and vegetables in summer and fall for consumption during the winter months.

Elderberry bushes, native to both Europe (Sambucus nigra)  and North America (Sambucus canadensis), ripened in August and September. The American elderberry can be found growing in old fields and meadows. The European elderberry blooms earlier than its American counterpart, with some sporting pink flowers. By Christmas, the first flasks of elderberry wine could be served at the table.  Some elder wines (depending on their strength) were ripened until spring. (Edible Landscaping)

Elderberry wine has a rich red color.

Elderberry wine has a rich red color.

Mrs. Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell’s elder wine recipe, written over two hundred years ago, reflects how housewives made the wine back then, using ingredients and kitchen supplies that were readily available. In 1806, John Murray (who published Emma, a second edition of Mansfield Park, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey)  published  A New System of Domestic Cookery: Founded up Principles of Economy; and Adapted to the Use of Private Families. Rundell’s cookbook became wildly popular in the first half of the 19th century in both England and America. One imagines that the Austen women were well aware of its existence.

Mrs. Rundell

Mrs. Rundell

According to Mrs. Rundell:

English wines would be found particularly useful, now foreign are so high priced, and though sugar is dear, they may be made at a quarter of the expense. If carefully made, and kept three or four year,s a proportionable strength being given, they would answer the purpose of foreign wines for health, and cause a very considerable reduction in the expenditure.”

Holly Bush Inn, where Mrs. Rundell, it is speculated, wrote her recipes.

Holly Bush Inn, where Mrs. Rundell, it is speculated, wrote her recipes. Image @Persephone books (Link below)

Rundell’s book of recipes went through dozens of editions in Britain and the United States, where it was published in 1807. The following recipe for Elder Wine comes from the Google eBook 1857 edition:

Rundell Domestic Cookery

Elder Wine.

To every quart of berries put two quarts of water, boil half an hour, run the liquor, and break the fruit through a hair sieve; then to every quart of juice put three quarters of a pound of Lisbon sugar, coarse but not the very coarsest. Boil the whole a quarter of an hour with some Jamaica peppers, gingers, and a few cloves. Pour it into a tub, and when of a proper warmth, into the barrel, with toast and yeast to work, which there is more difficulty to make it do than most other liquors. When it ceases to hiss, put a quart of brandy to eight gallons, and stop up. Bottle in the spring or at Christmas. The liquor must be in a warm place to make it work.

Elder berries and elder flowers. Public domain image

Elder berries and elder flowers. Public domain image

While Rundell’s recipe seems simple, some terms require explanation. In those days, sugar was classified according to place of origin, such as Brazil, or entrepot, a place of entry without excise duties, such as Lisbon. (Richard Bradley, 1736) Prospect book glossary.

19th c. hair sieve

19th c. hair sieve

Image of Hair Sieve at Worth Point

The hair sieve mentioned by Rundell was most likely made with coarse horse hair, as shown in the above image. The mesh is quite fine. Sugar was an expensive commodity (Jane Austen was in charge of the tea and sugar stores in Chawton cottage, keeping the keys, no doubt, to the locked containers), but as previously explained, making your own wine provided a cost saving measure. The High Price of Sugar.

Jamaica peppers are generally known today as allspice. The peppers are larger than peppercorns and were gathered from Jamaica pepper trees. The “toast and yeast” mentioned in the recipe most likely meant bread yeast. Elder wine ferments particularly well in oak casks.

Jamaica pepper

Jamaica pepper

One can only guess what Mrs. Rundell’s elder wine, which was fortified with brandy, tasted like – strong, sweet, alcoholic, and fruity. The clusters of berries, dark purple when ripe, had many uses:

Elderberry bushes … [have] a long history of use for food, drink and medicinal purposes. Elderberry pie, jam and jelly, tarts, flavored drinks, and of course wine are a few of its better known uses.

Elderberry wine has a unique flavor that changes considerably over time. When too few berries are used, the wine is thin and unlikely to improve. When too many berries are used, the tannins and other flavor constituents may overpower the palate and require dilution, blending or prolonged aging to mellow. Between these extremes are wines that often offer exceptional enjoyment. – Winemaker Magazine

It seems that the berries had to be processed as quickly as possible after picking. There were times, I imagine, that the Austen women were busy working alongside their servants in the kitchen, processing foods, canning and pickling, and making wines and ales from recently harvested produce.

Another “job” that the Regency housewife assumed was that of nurse. Recipes for cough lozenges and simple medicinals made from herbs and plants were passed down through the generations. Elder berries were known to have many medicinal benefits:

Recipe for a "Decoction fameuse," which contains elderberry (among other ingredients). Image @MCRS Rare Book Blog

Recipe for a “Decoction fameuse,” which contains elderberry (among other ingredients). Image @MCRS Rare Book Blog

Recent research shows that elder builds up the immune system and directly inhibits the influenza virus. Elder contains an enzyme that smoothes the spikes on the outside of the virus, which the virus uses to pierce through cell walls. Elderberries have also been recommended in cases of bronchitis, sore throat, coughs, asthma, colds and constipation.” – The Health Benefits of Elderberry Wine

18th century red wine drinker, Franz Laktanz Graf Von Firmian

18th century red wine drinker taking his “medicine”, Franz Laktanz Graf Von Firmian

What better way to soothe one’s respiratory condition than with a nice glass of elder wine!

Ma(i)sonry Maisonry - Vintage 18th Century Wine Bottles - 1stdibs

This article from KansasCity.com, “Elderberry wine as a medicinal: A recent USDA reaction,” shows how ridiculous current U.S. health laws can be on the use of medication:

Federal authorities have seized bottles and drums of elderberry juice concentrate from a Kansas winery, contending that the company’s claims of its benefits for treating various diseases make the product a drug.

…”Products with unapproved disease claims are dangerous because they may cause consumers to delay or avoid legitimate treatments, Dara Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a news release. “The FDA is committed to protecting consumers from unapproved products on the market.”

Aquatint, Rowlandson. Image @Amazon

Aquatone, Thomas Rowlandson. Image @Amazon

Wine was reserved not only for medicinal purposes or family gatherings, but for daily consumption. Bumpers of wine, or a tankard or cup filled to the brim, were common quantities.  The Georgians were notorious drinkers, for alcohol was safer than unboiled water and contaminated city or town wells.

London society of the Georgian period was renowned for its heavy consumption of alcohol. Poor people tended to drink beer or gin, but a wider range of alcoholic drinks was available to the rich. These included wines such as French claret; fortified wines such as sherry, port or Madeira; and spirits such as brandy and rum. It is noted in the text that Mr Stryver and Sydney Carton have wine, brandy, rum, sugar and lemons with which to concoct their punch.

During the Georgian period, beer might be drunk from pewter tankards, and other drinks, from glass goblets or tumblers.- Bookdrum

Detail, Elder Win Stand in Holborne, by George Scharff, 1842

Detail, Elder Wine Stand in Holborne in Winter, by George Scharff, 1842

In winter, elder wine heated in coppers was sold for a penny per wine glass from portable wood stands that contained glassware. (See image above.) This tradition lasted at least through the Victorian era, as attested by the modern Wedgewood scene below.

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Wedgewood. Victorian scene of an elder wine stand

Wedgewood. Victorian scene of an elder wine stand

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If I had only read Kim Wilson’s Tea with Jane Austen many years ago, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. Yes, gentle readers, I spent hours researching the history of tea and how and when people in the Regency era served it only to find that most of the information had already been gathered in this book.

Tea With Jane Austen at the Morgan Library & Museum gift shop. Image @Jane Austen's World

Kim published her slim but informative book in 2004, two years before I began this blog. It is now in its second edition, and rightly so. The author has included almost all the facts and social customs about tea that a Regency romance author or Jane Austen fan or 18th- and 19th-century social historian could want.

Image inside the book. Copyright 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd

I read this slim but fact-packed volume in two sittings the first time around, and have since read it twice more. Each time I have been DELIGHTED. Kim includes information about the Austens; a short history of tea; mealtimes and the hours they were taken by both simple folks and the gentry;

A sample page - Making the Perfect Cup. Click on image. Copyright 2011 Kim Wilson

tea served in the home and outside of it; tea served in the morning and at a grand ball; the best way to prepare tea (or how the English do it); the health benefits of tea; shopping for tea; recipes for tea treats (including one for Mr. Woodhouse’s gruel!); and the difference between high tea and low tea (and why so many of us use the terms wrong).

One of the many charming quotes sprinkled throughout the book. Copyright 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd

If I have any fault to find with the book is that it’s too short. Thankfully, Kim Wilson also wrote In the Garden with Jane Austen, a book I shall review at a later time. I give Tea with Jane Austen five out of five china tea cups. Order the book here: Frances Lincoln, UK; and Amazon.com US

5 out of 5 tea cups

Binding: Hardback, 128 pages
ISBN: 9780711231894
Format: 215mm x 165mm
40 colour and 45 b/w illustrations

BIC Code: BGL, WBX
BISAC Code: BIO007000
Imprint: Frances Lincoln

More About Tea

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Gentle Readers: To celebrate the 3 millionth visitor to this blog, I will be giving away Tea With Jane Austen, a delightful and informative book by Kim Wilson. Deadline: The contest will end the moment my blog meter records 3 million or July 4th, whichever comes first! Contest Closed! Congratulations, Sherry, and thank you ALL for participating and leaving such excellent questions!

All you need to do is leave a comment and a way for me to reach you. Please address this question: If Jane Austen came over for tea, which burning question would you want to ask her?

Thank you all for visiting my blog and for making it such a joy to meet you online.

Page 16 of Tea with Jane Austen. Image @Amazon.com

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The General between his cocoa and his newspaper, had luckily no leisure for noticing her… Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Detail, Chocolate Maid, Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1744-45

Detail, Chocolate Maid, Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1744-45

When sixteenth-century explorers brought cocoa beans from Mexico to Seville in 1585, little did they realize how much their exotic taste would appeal to European palates. Or perhaps they did. At that time hot chocolate was flavored with a mix of peppers and spices.

The first recipe for a chocolate drink was published in Spain in 1644 by Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma in his book, A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate. The spices included hot chiles, and the recipe goes as follows:

  • 100 cacao beans
  • 2 chiles (black pepper may be substituted)
  • A handful of anise
  • “Ear flower”  *
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 ounces cinnamon
  • 12 almonds or hazelnuts
  • pound sugar
  • Achiote (annatto seeds) to taste –
  • All of these ingredients were boiled together and then frothed with a molinillo, the traditional Aztec carved wooden tool. The achiote was used to redden the color of the drink.From Chiles and Chocolate

    *Also known as “xochinacaztli” (Nahuatl) or “orejuela” (Spanish).

    “Chiles and Chocolate” goes on to provide another chocolate recipe published in France 50 years later. This one has significantly reduced the amount of chili peppers. The recipe was published in 1692 by M. St. Disdier of France, who was in the chocolate business:

  • 2 pounds prepared cacao
  • 1 pound fine sugar
  • 1/3 ounce cinnamon
  • 1/24 ounce powdered cloves
  • 1/24 ounce Indian pepper (chile)
  • 1 1/4 ounce vanilla
  • A paste was made of these dried ingredients on a heated stone and then it was boiled to make hot chocolate.

    The primary difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate today is that hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder, which lacks the fat of cocoa butter. Hot chocolate is made from melted chocolate bars mixed with cream.

    According to Khodorowsky and Robert: “The vogue for drinking chocolate, already established in Spain, reached the British Isles thanks to a Frenchman, who in 1657 opened the first chocolate factory in London. Unlike in France, where it was a pleasure strictly limited to the aristocracy, this ‘excellent West Indian drink’ was made available to the middle classes from the outset. Soon, alongside the coffee houses which made their appearance from 1652, there opened the first chocolate houses. London was also the setting, in 1674, for a historic invention: solid chocolate, presented in the form of ‘Spanish rolls’ or pastilles, and sold by the Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll shop.” – The Gates of Vienna: The History of Cacao and Chocolate

    Spanish, ceramic tiles, making chocolate

    Spanish, ceramic tiles, The laborious process of making chocolate

    After 1700 chiles disappeared as a major ingredient in chocolate drinks, although they were still used in traditional Mexican mole sauces. In Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, Sidney Mintz offers a plausible explanation for the replacement of sugar for chiles:

    Raimundo Madrazo, Hot Chocolate, mid-18th Century

    Raimundo Madrazo, Hot Chocolate, mid-18th Century

    The seemingly unquenchable desire for sugar in the modern world is not simply the outcome of the tongue’s biologically based affinity for sweetness, but rather the historical result of a conjuncture of factors. As Mintz traces sugar’s transformation from a medicinal additive to a luxury good among the upper classes, he argues that sugar “embodied the social position of the wealthy and powerful.” He points to “sugar’s usefulness as a mark of rank—to validate one’s social position. To elevate others, or to define them as inferior.” Sugar use traveled down to other classes in large part because their members accepted the meanings of their social superiors: “those who controlled the society held a commanding position not only in regard to the availability of sugar, but also in regard to at least some of the meanings that sugar products acquired … the simultaneous control of both the foods themselves and the meanings they are made to connote can be a means of a pacific domination.” – Tasting Empire: Chocolate – History cooperative

    English worcester porcelain chocolate cup, 1800

    English worcester porcelain chocolate cup, 1800

    During the 18th century, techniques were invented to improve the grinding of cocoa beans and by the end of that century chocolate was prepared with milk and sugar. It wasn’t until the 19th century that chocolate was molded into shapes and eaten as solid bars.

    Even with the new grinding mills, the process of making chocolate remained laborious. Jim Gay, who makes chocolate in Colonial Williamsburg, explained in an article for American Heritage Chocolate:

    The chocolate production process [he] follows involves “roasting cocoa beans, shelling them, crushing them in a large mixing bowl and transferring them to a heated grinding stone. Using an iron rolling pin, the cocoa beans are ground into a liquid and sugar and spices are added.”  Gay explained that 18th-century chocolate “isn’t something you’re used to.” Its less sweet than modern chocolate and grittier because its impossible to grind the particles that finely using hand-made processes. Gay also said that “each month [the chocolate] has a slightly different texture and flavor; the flavor profiles always [change].” – http://www.dogstreetjournal.com/story/3152

    untitled

    Chocolate beans ground into powder

    The craze for drinking tea, chocolate, and coffee during this period resulted in an increased demand for porcelain and ceramic tea sets, chocolate pots, and coffee mugs. In response to public demand porcelain manufactures began to make specialized vessels that reflected the unique requirements that each beverage demanded in brewing and presentation, and which led to instantly identifiable tea, chocolate, andd coffee set. Coffee pots were generally taller and slimmer than short round tea pots, which were designed to keep boiling water hot. As in the image below, spouts were placed low on the body of small chocolate pots, which also sported a straight handle.

    In comparison to chocolate pots, coffee pot spouts were long and sometimes arched, while the chocolate pot spout was fairly short (see image below). The inside of a coffee pot spout typically had a filter, or small partition with holes that kept the grounds from getting into the cup. A chocolate pot was made with a hinged finial that allowed for the insertion of a swizzle stick for stirring the hot chocolate. To prevent their loss, some of these finials were attached to the pot with a silver chain.

    Due to the complexity of making the beverage, chocolate never attained the same popularity as coffee. By the latter part of the 18th century coffee houses had sprung up by the hundreds in London, and although the craze for chocolate had largely gone out of fashion by 1750, one of the most famous chocolate houses, White’s, still leaves a lasting impression:

    The fame of St. James’s Street rests mainly upon its association with the coffee or chocolate houses and clubs which for some two and a half centuries have made it and Pall Mall the social rendezvous of masculine aristocratic society in London. This association dates back to the reign of William III, and more particularly to the fire of January 1697/8 which ravaged the Palace of Whitehall and resulted in the removal of the Court to St. James’s. Only two chocolate houses- White’s (1693) and Ozinda’s (1694)-are known to have been in existence in St. James’s Street and Pall Mall before the fire, but the succeeding years saw the establishment of the Cocoa Tree (1698), the Smyrna (1702), the Thatched House Tavern (1704 or 1705) and the St. James’s Coffee House (1705), all catering for the new client created in the neighbourhood by the presence of the Court of St. James.- Jermyn Street Asscociation

    Noritake chocolate set

    Noritake chocolate set

    More links on the topic:

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    In Miss Austen Regrets, Olivia Williams as Jane Austen was shown sipping wine in a number of scenes. This scenario was not unrealistic. Jane wrote to Cassandra about making Spruce Beer, and the topic of wine appeared in a number of her letters:

    I want to hear of your gathering strawberries; we have had them three times here. I suppose you have been obliged to have in some white wine, and must visit the store closet a little oftener than when you were quite by yourselves.”

    “The orange wine will want our care soon. But in the meantime, for elegance and ease and luxury, the Hattons and Milles’ dine here to-day, and I shall eat ice and drink French wine, and be above vulgar economy.”

    “I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know not how else to account for the shaking of my hand to-day. You will kindly make allowance therefore for any indistinctness of writing, by attributing it to this venial error.”

    Alcoholic consumption was quite common in the days of yore. Water obtained from a public source was unsanitary if not lethal, and hundreds of millions of people died over the ages in cholera and typhoid epidemics, diseases caused by contaminated water. Unless one happened to live near an unpolluted water source, it was wise to refrain from drinking fresh water altogether. In towns and cities, garbage collection was unknown or not practiced. People would toss refuse from doorways and windows, and tradesmen, such as butchers and fishmongers, would throw their wastes and rotting offal into the street, assuming that roaming animals would eat the remnants. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Waste and fecal matter still found their way into public streams, rivers, and water supplies. Worse, many of the roaming animals died, their carcasses polluting the very streets they were supposed to sanitize.

    Observant individuals noticed that people who drank untreated water – generally the poor – lived shorter lives than people who drank safer forms of liquids. Those who could afford it drank ale, beer, wine, or a fermented drink, since the fermentation process killed almost all bacteria. Until the 16th century, the most common choice of drink was ale. By the end of the century, beer had replaced ale in popularity. Housewives and cooks gathered their own recipes for making beer, wine, cordials, possets, punch, spirit waters, and other distilled spirits, although these drinks could also be bought commercially. Fermented beverages were stored in containers similar to those in the photo above. Hops were added to beer to make the beverage last longer in storage. Interestingly, hops acted as antibacterial agents, making the beverage safe. In addition, real ale, or un-pasteurized beer, rich in nutrients, vitamin Bs, and minerals, was as nutritious as food.

    In Britain people drank ale at breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, these beers and wines were watered down substantially and were much weaker than their counterparts today. Small beer, a term used to describe a weaker second beer, averaged an alcoholic content of only 0.8%. This concoction was obtained after the first brewing had used up almost all the alcohol from the grain. The product from the second brewing was 99.2% water and tasted nothing like our beer today. Small beer was consumed by people of all ages and strata in society, even children. Recipes for stronger drinks existed but they were too expensive for ordinary people, taking twice as much grain to produce.

    For medicinal purposes, weak beers were less effective in fighting off disease, (A Brief History of Drinks). People were quite aware of the benefits of a strong alcoholic drink, as the verse (below) from a tombstone in 1764 attests. The 26-year-old deceased had drunk cold small beer before he died. The verse’s implication is clear: had the poor fellow imbibed regular beer, its alcoholic content might have prevented his deadly and “violent fever. So, when you’re hot, or feverish, drink strong beer or none at all!

    “In Memory of Thomas Thetcher a Grenadier in the North Reg. of Hants Militia,

    who died of a violent Fever contracted by drinking Small Beer when hot the 12th of May 1764.

    Aged 26 Years…

    Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire Grenadier,

    Who caught his death by drinking cold small Beer,

    Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall

    And when ye’re hot drink Strong or none at all.”

    Click here to see the picture of the Hampshire Grenadier tombstone

    All through the 19th century, alcoholic consumption among all ages and social strata was not only widespread, it was generally accepted and acknowledged. In Great Expectations, Estella gives ten-year-old Pip bread, meat, cheese, and beer on his first visit to Miss Havisham’s. Charlotte Bronte wrote about Belgian schoolgirls being given weissbier and sweet wine as a treat.

    During the 17th century, enterprising traders brought back spices, foods and drinks from exotic locations, resulting in a wider choice of safe beverages for consumption. Coffee, tea, and chocolate began to compete with ale, wine, and beer as the drinks of choice. Boiled water poured over precious tea leaves provided a safe albeit expensive drink alternative. “The antiseptic properties of tannin, the active ingredient in tea and of hops in beer – plus the fact both are made with boiled water – allowed urban communities to flourish at close quarters without succumbing to waterborne diseases such as dysentery.” (Did Tea and Beer Make Britain Great?)

    Tea became fashionable after 1662 when King Charles II’s Portugese bride, Catherine, brought a cask of it along with her dowry. In those days the beverage was thought to possess medicinal qualities, and Thomas Garraway introduced tea in his London coffee house in 1657 with this advertisement:: “This excellent beverage, recommended by all Chinese doctors, and which the Chinese call ‘Tcha’, other nations ‘Tay’ or ‘Tee’, is on sale at Sultaness Mead close to the Royal Exchange in London.” (Le Palais des The)

    Only the rich could afford tea until larger amounts began to be imported, resulting in lowered prices. Several centuries later, Mrs. Beeton wrote in her Book of Household Management:

    The beverage called tea has now become almost a necessary of life. Previous to the middle of the 17th century it was not used in England, and it was wholly unknown to the Greeks and Romans. Pepys says, in his Diary,—“September 25th, 1661.—I sent for a cup of tea (a China drink), of which I had never drunk before.” Two years later it was so rare a commodity in England, that the English East–India Company bought 2 lbs. 2 oz. of it, as a present for his majesty. In 1666 it was sold in London for sixty shillings a pound. From that date the consumption has gone on increasing from 5,000 lbs. to 50,000,000 lbs.

    At the same time that tea gained popularity with the masses, coffee also became an increasingly common and popular drink. Men would congregate in coffee houses, drinking the hot bitter brew, discussing politics or trade, or reading newspapers. One reasons for coffee’s popularity was that caffeine improved concentration and enhanced wakefulness, and did not dull the senses as alcohol did. At this time, chocolate, another popular drink, was only drunk not eaten. Carbonated water, consisting of water impregnated with carbonic acid gas and invented by Joseph Priestley, made its first appearance in 1772.

    A breakthrough in water hygiene occured in the summer of 1854 when Dr. John Snow made a connection between a deadly outbreak of cholera in his London neighborhood and public drinking water. Dr. Snow traced the epidemic to a contaminated pump on Broad Street. It did not surprise him that around 70 workers in a brewery nearby remained healthy due to their daily allotment of free beer. By the end of the 19th century, piped-in treated water made drinking from public pumps and fountains safe for the first time in England.

    Small Beer Recipe

    Take a large Sifter full of Bran

    Hops to your Taste — Boil these

    3 hours. Then strain out 30 Gall.

    into a Cooler put in 3 Gallons

    Molasses while the Beer is

    scalding hot or rather drain the

    molasses into the Cooler. Strain

    the Beer on it while boiling hot

    let this stand til it is little more

    than Blood warm. Then put in

    a quart of Yeast if the weather is

    very cold cover it over with a Blanket.

    Let it work in the Cooler 24 hours

    then put it into the Cask. leave

    the Bung open til it is almost done

    working — Bottle it that day Week

    it was Brewed.

    George Washington. “To Make Small Beer.”

    From his 1757 notebook.

    Read my other posts on this topic:

    Other links:

    Image of stoneware bottles and vessels, including a beer bottle and gin bottle.

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    It’s spring, and the Baltimore Sun’s John McIntyre recommends some drinks with the author in his blog: gin with Fitzgerald, tea with Dr. Johnson, and madeira with Jane Austen. He chose madeira for Jane because it is “a little sweeter and lighter than sherry, which would also be suitable.” Other popular fortified wines of the time were sherry and port. Only gentleman drank the latter, as well as claret, an expensive French bordeaux.

    The patronesses of Almack’s served orgeat and ratafia, two sugary sweet drinks. Refreshments at this tony establishment were supposed to be insipid, but both drinks have strong flavors.

    Orgeat syrup, made with almond extract, sugar, and orange flower water, was (and still is) added as a flavoring to punch, hot chocolate, coffee, sparking water, or cocktails. This thick, sticky, and opaque milky liquid would have been considered too sweet by itself, and a small amount went a long way. A non-alcoholic orgeat lemonade would have consisted of orgeat syrup, lemonade, and soda water, and might well have been the sort of drink served at an Assembly.

    Ratafia, which denotes almost any alcoholic or flavored water, could be made in several ways – distilled or with an infusion of fruits and spices. Ratafia’s alcoholic base would have consisted of marc brandy and the unfermented juice of the grape. The length of time for fermentation for this drink varies. A liquer made in mid-December, for example, could be ready to serve two months later on Valentine’s Day. One recipe for dark brown ratafia suggested that it be stored in an oak barrel for at least two years.

    Capillaire, another drink of that era, seems similar to ratafia in that it is described as any simple syrup flavored with orange flowers. I was not able to find out more about this drink, other than as a vague reference.

    As mentioned above, Mr. McIntyre chose madeira for Jane. This sweet, fortified wine was hugely popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, especially in Colonial America. Brandy was added to the wine to stop the conversion of alcohol from the sugars in the grapes.

    British laws prohibited the exportation of wines to the colonies except for Madeira. This brandy-laced wine became so popular in colonial America that nearly 25% of all Madeira wine was shipped there. An interesting chemical reaction occurred inside the casks during the long, hot, and rocky sea voyage across the ocean – the wine improved vastly in flavor. “Why these wines, exposed to constant rocking, extreme heat, and the barrels often found soaking in bilge water, were not ruined, is a mystery.” (Into Wine) It was popularly thought at the time that for Madeira to age well, the wine had to cross the equator in order to heat up sufficiently. In those days, as now, the wine was offered as an aparatif, or with cheese or desserts after dinner.

    Cordial waters or Liquers d’Italien had enjoyed a long reputation as wholesome, medicinal drinks, and personal recipes abounded. One 1820 recipe for Yellow Escubac included adding the following ingredients:

    One ounce of saffron, one ounce of Damascus raisins, one ounce of cinnamon, three pounds of sugar, one ounce of liquorice, one ounce of corianders, three pints of brandy, two pints of water. Pound these ingredients, and dissolve the sugar in two pints of water; put the whole in ajar to infuse for a month, taking care to stir it up every second day, or third at farthest. – From: G.A. Jarrin, The Italian Confectioner (London: 1820)

    Unlike Mr. McIntyre, I would have chosen a slightly different drink for Jane, a French wine perhaps, or, as Jane wrote to Cassandra, the orange wine, which would want “our care soon.” Whatever her choice of drink, a lady was not supposed to get drunk or tipsy, but as Dr. Jennifer Kloester allows, in an age that was generous in serving drink, sobriety would not have been easy state to maintain:

    In general, upper-class women did not get drunk, although the prevalence of alcohol in society sometimes made this difficult. The arrack-punch served at Vauxhall Gardens was drunk by both men and women, despite a reputation for potency. It was said to have been made from the grains of the Benjamin flower mixed with rum and was freely imbibed on gala nights. Some men preferred to mix their own punch as Freddy did in Cotillion and rum punch (rum, lemon, arrack and sugar), Regent’s punch (various fruits, rum, brandy, hock, Curaçao, Madeira and champagne) and Negus (port, lemon, sugar and spices) were popular brews. Fortified wines such as Madeira and sherry were also popular with men and some women during the Regency but red wines such as claret, burgundy and port tended to be the more exclusive province of male drinkers. Brandy, gin and rum were drunk by upper-class men, although they often chose to drink the rougher forms of these spirits in the less salubrious surroundings of the inns and taverns of the poorer quarters of London. – Georgette Heyer’s Regency World

    Learn more about Madeira and other alcoholic drinks that could be served to ladies of the Regency era in these links:

    Dance image from Wikimedia Commons.

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    Louis Simond, a Frenchman who lived in the United States, landed in Falmouth on Christmas Eve, 1809 to begin a twenty-one month journey of the British Isles. During his tour, Louis set down his observations, which resulted in a well-received book, Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain during the Years 1810 and 1811 by a Native of France with Remarks on the Country, its Arts Literature, and Politics, and on the Manners and Customs of its Inhabitants. The following passage in the book describes the custom of drinking milk in London:

    In the morning all is calm–not a mouse stirring before ten o’clock; the shops then begin to open. Milk-women, with their pails perfectly neat, suspended at the extremities of a yoke, carefully shaped to fit the shoulders, and surrounded with small tin measures of cream, ring at every door, with reiterated pulls, to hasten the maid-servants, who come half asleep to receive a measure as big as an egg, being the allowance of a family; for it is necessary to explain, that milk is not here either food or drink, but a tincture–an elixir exhibited in drops, five or six at most, in a cup to tea, morning and evening. It would be difficult to say what taste or what quality these drops may impart; but so it is; and nobody thinks of questioning the propriety of the custom.– Louis Simond, An American in Regency England, The History Book Club, London, 1968, p 29-30.

    The doling out of tiny portions of milk in the early nineteenth century could be explained by the Corn Laws, which protected the cultivation of land. Because of this law, less land became available for grazing cattle, resulting in a reduction of milk. (Liquid Pleasures: A Review). Milk prices must have risen steeply as well. Regardless of the available supply, milkmaids would walk through London, aiming their cries at the servants of the house, who worked belowstairs:

    Milk Below Maids! Will you buy any milk today Mistress? Any milk today Mistress? Will you have any milk maids? Milk Below!

    Many of the estimated 8,000 milk cows were housed in dairy buildings scattered throughout this densely populated city. One can imagine that the conditions were anything but sanitary. (Cries of London – Milkmaids, Regency World). Cows also grazed in the meadows and grasslands of parks and pleasure gardens, such as Vauxhall. They were milked at noon, and the warm, fresh milk was sold for a penny a mug. (Parks and Pleasure Gardens of Regency London, JASA)

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