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Posts Tagged ‘The Compleat Housewife’

Inquiring readers,

I am sharing this 18th century recipe just in time for the American Thanksgiving. In Georgian England and Colonial America, apples were picked in late fall in preparation for making cyder.  The fermented concoction was then bottled in March. This recipe comes from The Compleat Houfewife: or, Accomplifs’d Gentlewoman’s Companion, written by Eliza Smith and first published in London in 1727. The book was widely disseminated over the next 50 years, including the American colonies.

Recipe from the Compleat Housewife, a cookery book written by Eliza Smith and published in London in 1727.PULL your Fruit before ‘tis too ripe, and let it lie but one or two days to have one good Sweat; your Apples muft be Pippins, Pearlmains, or Harveys, (if you mix Winter and Summer Fruit together ‘tis never good) grind your Aples and prefs it, and when your Fruit is all prefs’d. put it immediately into a Hogfhead where it may have fome room to Work; but no Vent, but a little hole near the Hoops, but clofe bung’d; put 3 or 4 pound of Raifins into a Hogfhead, and two pound of Sugar, it will make it work better; often racking it off is the beft way to fine it, and always rack it into fmall Veffels, keeping them clofe bung’d, and only a fmall Vent-hole; if it fhould work after racking, put into your Veffel feme Raifins for it to feed on, and bottle it in March.

For those who are curious about the cider recipe above, a hogshead equals 110 gallons. By the end of the 17th century, close to to 10,000 hogsheads were exported yearly from Worcestershire alone. (1)

ancient cider making

From Ancient Cider Making at Smithsonian.com

Drinking cider has been around for thousands of years.

…cider spread throughout the Roman Empire and across Europe, becoming popular with people from the Germanic tribes to the Normans, whose conquest of England in the 9th century brought apple orchards and the very word “cider” into the English language.”  Read more @ Smithsonian.com

While ale and beer were more popular drinks, cider held its own. One of the apples mentioned in Eliza Smith’s cyder recipe is a pippin.  The word pippin denotes an apple tree grown from a seedling and that was not a grafted. Apples in the 17th and 18th century were not the sweet and beautifully shaped varieties we are accustomed to in our day. Pippins were lopsided, lumpy little fruits that were hard and tasted tart when picked early, but slowly ripened into a rich flavor. Other popular cyder apples were Pearmains,  the oldest known apple of English origin, and Doctor Harvey apples, which originated in Norfolk, England in 1629.

The endangered newton pippin apple.

Lumpy little pippins. Click here to learn more about the Newton Pippin apples in this photo. They are (link) now endangered in the U.S. 

In the 16th and 17th centuries , apple orchards were planted in Kent, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, and Worcestershire. Most of the apples, which were transported via canals throughout England to an ever expanding market, were used to make cider. This was how cider-making became a big business.

Image of the fronticepiece and title of the Compleat Housewie or Accomplished Gentlewoman's Companion

I recall reading one historian’s opinion that, because of the dangers of unsafe water, before the age of enlightenment and before tea, hot chocolate, and coffee became popular and more affordable, (the boiled water essential in their preparation was safe), the populace was generally soused morning, noon, and night from drinking alcoholic beverages such as wine, ale, gin, cider, and other fermented beverages. Some folks obviously drank more than others (the vivid characters in Tom Jones come to mind), but drinking alcoholic beverages was so common, that pregnant women were administered these drinks to dull the pain of labor.

In 2009, Sarah Meachan, a history professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, published a book entitled Every Home a Distillery: Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake. In it, she wrote:

In parishes, villages, and small towns throughout England, women continued to make small-scale cider and ale until the eighteenth century.”Quote in this link from Google books

The men and women who colonized the Chesapeake region (Virginia and Maryland) followed patterns similar to their British counterparts. Women made alcohol in the Colonies from the late 17th to late 18th centuries. Men owned the taverns, which made sense since women were not allowed to own property, except in the instance of a rich widow. And, so, cyder making , which was once a woman’s task, both in Great Britain and the colonies, was eventually overtaken by men as the distribution of cyder to male-owned taverns increased in both size, scope, and profitability.

Hard cider is once more gaining popularity in boutique craft breweries that are sprouting up in every place I frequent along the East Coast of the U.S.

In ending this post, I raise my glass of cyder to you, dear readers. May you and yours have a most blessed day with family and friends (and may you remember every bit of it!)

 

Sources:

The Ancient Origins of Apple Cider: The classic fall drink has boozy origins going back thousands of years, Smithsonian Magazine, December 8, 2016, Smithsonian.com

Pippin image: The Heirloom Orchadist,

Additional reading:

Save England’s Real Apples, Karen Homer, The Guardian, downloaded 3/21/2018. URL: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/14/apple-britain-gala-traditional

‘Age of Indulgence: Beer and Wine in the Era of Jane Austen,’ Ancient Art Podcast, July 12, 2015

 

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