An anti-miserabilist approach to historical cooking

Tag: Beverages (page 1 of 1)

Virtual Gatsby Summer Afternoon Picnic

Every September the Art Deco Society of California hosts the Gatsby Summer Afternoon but even though I’ve been living in the Bay Area for the last few years I’ve never made it to one of these huge art deco themed picnics. This year, because of COVID-19, there was a Virtual Gatsby Summer Afternoon which meant that we could run a scaled-down version of our own. We had a great time with some of the neighbours, and won best small picnic!

Being back in Australia, I went with an Australian 1930s theme and nearly all the recipes were recommended for picnics in Australian newspapers during the 30s. Some were surprise hits (cream cheese and walnut sandwiches anyone?) but others like the beetroot mould, not so much.

 

These vintage recipes are a super easy way to get started with historical cooking, and are easy to add into everyday life, but make a really impressive collection when you make a few together. You could also try this recipe for chicken picnic patties that I’ve made before, and read a little about the tradition of picnics in Australia too. If you feel inspired to make some, leave a comment to let me know how it goes! And to get you in the spirit, try listening to this Balboa playlist by John Bell while cooking and/or picnic-ing!

Try some of these recipes and you can have a delightful picnic, just like this stylish 1930s family. Picnic Delights! 1935, The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), 2 November, p. 35. ,[Public Domain] via Trove.

The Recipes

Cheese Paste Sandwiches from the Launceston Examiner, 11 Dec 1935

 

“Cheese Paste. – ¼ lb. Butter, ½ lb. cheese grated, 3 eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, cayenne pepper. Method: Put butter and milk in saucepan and melt, add cheese, do not stir until cheese is melted. Add eggs well beaten and cayenne. Stir until it thickens, but do not let the mixture boil. Put into jars and cover with oil paper and keep in cool place. Serve hot or cold, spread on biscuits, in sandwiches, or on pastry.”

 

Notes: Like most of the recipes here, I scaled this down since I was making a lot of different recipes. I used 57g butter, 113.5g grated cheddar cheese, 1.5 eggs, 1 tbsp milk, and a pinch of cayenne. Make this the day before you want to eat the sandwiches, and put it in a little jar or ramekin and allow it to set in the fridge. To make the actual sandwiches, spread the paste on lightly buttered bread and if you want you can cut the crusts off. We had plenty of leftovers, and ate it on toast.

sandwiches, cheese biscuits and chicken turnovers made from 1930s recipes

Cucumber Sandwiches from the Yackandandah Times, 3 Oct 1930

 

“Cucumber Sandwich. – Spread some bread and butter with very thin slices of cucumber and a little thick cream mixed with salad dressing.”

 

Notes: for the salad dressing recipe see below. These were simple but delicious!

 

Walnut and Cheese Sandwiches from the Yackandandah Times, 3 Oct 1930

 

“Walnut and Cheese Sandwich. – Cut some slices of thinly-buttered bread, and spread them with a good layer of cream cheese, followed by a thick layer of nuts chopped into small pieces, add a little salt and press the bread together.”

 

Notes: I didn’t expect much of these, but was really pleasantly surprised and they were the first thing to disappear.

 

Cheese Biscuits from the Melbourne Age, 27 Nov 1937

 

“Take ½ oz. butter, 1 oz. flour, ½ oz. grated cheese, salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper. Rub the butter lightly into the flour, then add the grated cheese and seasonings. Make this into a stiff paste with cold water, then roll out on a floured board. Cut into rounds with a two-inch pastry cutter. Brush the biscuits over with beaten egg, and bake in a moderate oven.”

 

Notes: I doubled this recipe and actually could easily have made more, these were my favourites on the day. They’re basically really cheesy little crackers. I used 28g butter, 28g grated cheddar, 56g flour, a little salt, pepper and cayenne, and enough cold water to bring the dough together. Bake them until golden at around 180°C.

mayonnaise of eggs, recipe from 1935

Mayonnaise of Eggs from The Australian Women’s Weekly, 2 Nov 1935

 

Hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, mayonnaise or salad dressing.

Shell eggs; cut in half; shred the lettuce finely and place a little in paper souffle-cases. Arrange an egg on the bed of lettuce. Pack in box. Carry mayonnaise in cardboard screw-top container. When you arrive at destination a little mayonnaise can be poured over the egg.”

 

Notes: It wouldn’t be a vintage picnic without a slightly disturbing mayonnaise recipe. This one couldn’t be simpler, and looks great in little paper muffin cases if you don’t have souffle cups on hand.

Beetroot mould, recipe from 1935

Beetroot Mould from The Australian Women’s Weekly, 2 Nov 1935

 

“One bunch beetroot, water, a little vinegar, 6 cloves, powdered gelatine, salt and mustard, cayenne.

Prepare beetroot by washing it well and leaving the stalks on. Do not cut it in any way or prick it, otherwise it bleeds. Put the beetroot into a large saucepan of boiling, salted water and boil till tender. Drain in a colander. When cold, remove the skin and cut into thin slices. Take one piece of beetroot before cooking, peel it, and boil it in vinegar and water to which salt, cayenne, mustard and cloves have been added. The object of peeling is to extract the color, making the liquid red. Strain it, and to every cupful of liquid add one dessertspoon of gelatine. Stir till well dissolved. Line a wetted mould with the cooked beetroot. Pour in liquid and leave on ice till set. Turn out in the usual way and serve with cold meat.”

Notes: this was so bad it was basically inedible but if you want to give it a go yourself boil 3 whole beets in salted water until tender, drain and cool before peeling and slicing thinly. Boil a fourth, peeled, beet in 1 ½ cups water, 1 cup vinegar, 6 cloves, 1 tsp mustard powder, ½ tsp cayenne pepper and a little salt. Measure the liquid, and sprinkle on one dessertspoonful of gelatine for every 250ml of liquid, stir to dissolve. Line a wetted ring mould with the sliced beetroot and gently pour the liquid on top. Leave in the fridge to set overnight, then dip the mould briefly in a sinkful of hot water to loosen before turning out onto a plate (just a second or two should do it, don’t leave it too long or you will dissolve the jelly!).

I did use mustard powder instead of mustard, but think that it probably should have been English style mustard or something similar. The cayenne and vinegar flavours are very strong so you could certainly reduce the amount of cayenne. Possibly it would be slightly better if served with a fatty cold meat, but I doubt it would ever be good.

Potato salad, recipe from 1937

Potato Salad from the Melbourne Age, 27 Nov 1937

 

“Take 2 cupfuls of cooked potatoes, 1 tablespoonful chopped parsley, 1 teaspoonful chopped onion, ½ teaspoonful salt, a dust of pepper and French dressing. Cook the potatoes in salted water till they are tender, but not squashy. When cool, cut them up, add the parsley, and moisten with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper and toss together lightly. Sprinkle with the onion, and stand in a cool place till they are very cold. This can quite easily be packed in a billy for a picnic.”

 

Notes: this was delightful, with a light dressing unlike creamy potato salads which are so common now. I made the dressing by combining ½ cup olive oil, 16 cup red wine vinegar, ½ tsp icing sugar and some salt and pepper in a small jar. Use new potatoes if you can get them.

cucumber boats, recipe from 1937

Cucumber Boats from the Hobart Voice, 20 Feb 1937

 

“Take three cucumbers, 2 or 3 tomatoes, ½ cup chopped celery, 1 teaspoon chopped shallots, lettuce, salad dressing. Chill cucumbers and tomatoes. Peel the cucumbers and cut them into halves, lengthwise, without breaking them. Scald and skin the tomatoes and cut into dice or cubes, drain off the juice. Mix the cucumber pulp, the tomatoes, and the chopped celery, and add a little salt and pepper to flavor. Fill the cucumber halves with this, and pile high. Arrange them on a bed of crisp lettuce leaves. Garnish with curls of celery or some water cress, and serve with a salad dressing.”

 

Notes: these would be quite a fun thing for kids to help make, and for older kids you can set them to making the celery curls to garnish the plate. I used two small Lebanese cucumbers, and you scoop out the seeds in the center before piling them high with filling.

epicurean fruit salad, recipe from 1935

Epicurean Fruit Salad from the Launceston Examiner, 11 Dec 1935

 

“Peel, prepare and dice apple, pear, orange, ½ grapefruit, pineapple, ½ stalk white celery, walnuts cut into dice. Mix all these fruits together lightly. Arrange on lettuce leaves, garnish with a cherry. Serve with a cream salad dressing to which has been added 1 tablespoon whipped cream. – Mrs. H. A. Beasley, Upper Melbourne-street, Launceston.”

 

Notes: this is a kind of sweet/savoury fruit salad and I wasn’t sure how it would go, especially with salad dressing but it was actually very pleasant.

 

Cream Salad Dressing from the Williamstown Chronicle, 8 Feb 1936

 

“One tablespoon flour, 1 ½ tablespoons butter, 1 egg, ¾ cup milk, salt, cayenne, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1 ½ tablespoons sugar, ¾ cup vinegar. Mix all dry ingredients. Add beaten egg, milk, and butter. Cook over boiling water till mixture thickens, then add vinegar gradually, stirring constantly. Strain and cool.”

 

Notes: this was also surprisingly good, with a nice tanginess to it. Cook it in a bain marie, and keep a careful eye on it because the bottom will thicken faster than the rest so you need to keep whisking it to avoid lumps.

almond biscuits, recipe from 1933

Almond Biscuits from the Western Argus, 19 Sep 1933

 

“You will like these biscuits to take with you on your picnics. Cream together ¼ lb. of butter and ¼ lb. of caster sugar. Stir in two well-whisked eggs and gradually add 6 oz. of self-raising flour, a pinch of salt, and ¼ lb. of ground almonds.

Mix well together until a stiff paste is formed. If too moist add a little more flour. Roll out about ¼ in. thick on a well-floured board, cut into small rounds of fancy shapes, put on flat greased tins, brush over with a little beaten egg and milk, and sprinkle with chopped blanched almonds.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Leave the biscuits on the tins for a little while after taking out of the oven, or they are liable to break when removed.”

 

Notes: I used 113g butter, 113g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 170g self-raising flour, a pinch of salt, 113g ground almonds and some chopped, blanched almonds. These were pretty plain, but good.

Wasgington Sponge Cake, recipe from 1937

Washington Sponge Cake from The Tribune, 5 Nov 1937

 

“This Washington sponge cake is made with ingredients as follows: 1 ¼ cups sifted cake flour; 1 ¼ teaspoons double-acting baking powder; ¼ teaspoon salt; 1 cup sugar; 1 tablespoon grated orange rind; 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk; ¼ cup orange juice; ¼ cup water; raspberry jam. Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift together three times. Add ½ cup sugar and orange rind to eggs, and beat with rotary egg beater until thick and lemon-colored; add remaining sugar gradually, beating very thoroughly; then add orange juice and water. Add flour gradually, beating with rotary egg beater until smooth. Bake in two ungreased 9 inch layer pans in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) 30 minutes or until done. Invert on rack until cakes are cold. Spread jam between layers. Sift powdered sugar over top.”

 

Notes: I thought this recipe was from an Australian newspaper, but it turns out it’s actually from a newspaper based in the Philippines. The main change I made was to grease and line the base of the two pans because I didn’t want to risk them sticking. The cake was good, but very sweet. It might help to add a layer of whipped cream on top of the jam between the layers, in order to cut some of the sweetness. Sift over icing sugar to serve.

 

pineapple julep, recipe from 1939

Pineapple Julep from Good Drinks by Ambrose Heath, first published 1939

 

“Peel, slice, and cut up a ripe Pineapple into a glass bowl, add the juice of two Oranges, a gill of Raspberry syrup, a gill of Maraschino, a gill of old Gin, a bottle of sparkling Moselle and about a pound of shaven ice. Mix and serve.”

 

Notes: warning, this is pretty potent stuff! I made a basic simple syrup with some raspberries, then sieved it to remove the seeds. A gill is about 120ml, so I used half a cup of syrup, half a cup of cherry liqueur, half a cup of gin, ½ a pineapple, 2 oranges, and a bottle of prosecco. Mix and add plenty of ice. I also threw in some borage flowers since I had them and they’re so pretty in drinks.

 

 

 

Making Chicha Part 2 – Experimental Chicha, Two Ways

This is the second part of a two-part series on using archaeology to study alcohol production. To read the first part, click here.

In Central and South America today, the word chicha is used for a range of fermented and unfermented beverages; most commonly it refers to maize beer, but chicha can also be made from other grains, tubers and fruits. Archaeological evidence of chicha has been found at many sites in Peru, and has also been suggested for sites in Argentina, Mexico and Bolivia.

Wari wooden beaker (kero), 7th to 10th century, from Peru or Bolivia. These cups were used for drinking chicha. Accession No. 1978.412.214. Licenced by the Metropolitan Museum under CC0 1.0 Universal.

Wari wooden beaker (kero), 7th to 10th century, from Peru or Bolivia. These cups were used for drinking chicha. Accession No. 1978.412.214. Licenced by the Metropolitan Museum under CC0 1.0 Universal.

There are two main ways in which chicha is produced today: either the corn is either germinated and ground, or it is soaked and then chewed. In either approach, the idea is to use enzymes to start breaking down the starches into sugars for fermentation. If you germinate the corn, the enzymes are produced naturally and if you chew the grain, the enzymes are introduced from your saliva.

Purple corn for making chicha.

Purple corn for making chicha.

I started the experiment with some really beautiful purple corn which I soaked for 24 hours and then spread out on damp paper towel to start germination. Unfortunately, after seven days there were no signs of germination. I decided to try the mastication method with this corn instead, and so I mixed it with a little water and chewed it. Once the grain was chewed, I spat it out and formed little clumps of muko which I left to dry. Once again, however, my chicha making was foiled because the muko went mouldy.

Muko, clumps of chewed up corn for making chicha.

Muko, clumps of chewed up corn for making chicha.

With two failures under my belt, I turned once again to the germination method. This time, the corn that I used had already been malted (soaked and germinated) and roughly crushed. I ground the corn more finely with a rolling pin to produced a mixture of small and medium-sized pieces and a powder.

IMG_6410

Grinding the corn for the second attempt at making chicha.

Once all the corn was ground, the corn was placed in a saucepan and covered with hot water. I put a lid on the saucepan and left it to soak for an hour. After the hour had passed, the corn smelled wonderful, very sweet and malty. I added more water to fill the saucepan and brought the mixture to the boil before lowering the temperature and letting it simmer for an hour.

Bubbles show that the chicha is fermenting nicely!

Bubbles show that the chicha is fermenting nicely! There is no yeast added to the mix, but wild yeasts from the skin of the corn and from the air are used to ferment the mixture. Yeast can also be added by adding some older chicha, or by using equipment which has been inoculated with yeast.

Once the chicha was cool I transferred the liquid and half of the corn to a plastic container. The lid was left on loosely, and the chicha left to ferment. After three days, the chicha was bubbling and smelled sweet and tasted like watery corn.

The final product, which tasted like watery corn.

The final product, which tasted like watery corn.

Throughout the process, I took samples of the corn which can now be compared against archaeological samples. Hopefully having comparative samples like this will allow archaeologists to identify chicha production and consumption from residues found in different vessels.

 

Making Chicha Part 1 – Alcohol and Archaeology

This is the first of two posts on using experimental archaeology to study alcohol production in the past. In this post, I’m going to talk about why archaeologists study ancient brewing and one of the ways that archaeologists identify alcohol on sites in the past. The next post will look at an experimental reproduction of chicha, a type of corn beer, which is used to create comparative material for starch analysis.

IMG_20171021_105210213

Egyptian model of a brewery. The men on the left are mashing starter while the seated man is bottling the beer. Middle Kingdom, RC 483, Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Photo by the author.

In the past few decades, archaeologists have started to pay a lot more attention to alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer. In part, this is because we now have much better techniques for recovering and analysing even very small samples of residues from the inside of brewing containers. At the same time, archaeologists have also started to realise that alcohol plays important social roles and studying the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages can help us answer much bigger questions about state formation, social stratification, gender roles and the domestication of plants.

Traditionally, alcoholic drinks have been studied as part of historical diets mostly as an important source of calories, nutrients and water. Even though that is definitely the case, consumption is always about more than just survival; as Dietler says, “People do not ingest calories, or protein: rather, they eat food, a form of material culture subject to almost unlimited possibilities for variation …”.[1] Which foods we consider edible, what we think of as a complete meal, how we know when and where is appropriate to eat, and the order of foods in the meal all depend on your culture and social position.

Wine press in Shivta, Israel. The remains of processing facilities like this are one of the clearest signs of alcohol production at a site,  but normally archeologists have to combine different types of evidence to make a convincing argument. צילום:ד”ר אבישי טייכר [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Foods are particularly loaded with symbolism because they literally become part of us when we eat them. As such, they help us construct individual and group identities. As an example, just think about how different coffee orders signal different identities. Asking for a coffee in a diner is different from ordering a vanilla soy latte in a keep cup at Starbucks which is different from ordering a single-origin cold brew in a hipster cafe, and each order helps to signal membership in a different group identity.

Brian Hayden has argued that through providing feasts, some people were able to control access to alcohol and so to leverage the group identity that was created by sharing it for political purposes.[2] He suggests that having extra grain at the end of the season allowed some individuals to make alcohol which could then be used to through feasts. When you throw a feast, the people who are invited are then obliged to give something back, either by inviting you to their own feast, or by providing labour or goods in return. This creates distinct classes of people, those who can afford to throw feasts and those who cannot. Different would-be leaders would compete to throw the best feasts, and to control the largest amount of labour (for large building projects like city walls, palaces etc.) or tribute in goods.

An example of a standard Late Uruk bowl from Mesopotamia. It has been suggested that these bowls, which are ubiquitous in this period, were used to distribute rations of grain or perhaps bread. VA 15455 from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

An example of a standard Late Uruk bowl (VA 15455) from Mesopotamia. It has been suggested that these bowls, which are ubiquitous in this period, were used to distribute rations of grain or perhaps bread. Licenced by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DE.

In other cases, the state produced and distributed alcohol as part of workers’ rations. Because food and drink are so essential to everyday life, controlling access to food and drink is a very effective form of social control.[3] Intensified state control of beer production has been identified in a number of ancient states including Mesopotamia, Egypt and Peru, and would have been a useful tool in centralising state power.[4]

Since alcohol clearly played an important role in ancient societies, it is important that archaeologists study it. However, recognising alcohol brewing and consumption on archaeological sites can be very difficult. For the most part, archaeologists rely on finding multiple lines of evidence, including equipment or installations for brewing, residue analysis, and plant remains. Finding just one of these elements, such as plant remains, might be evidence of lots of different practices but if we can find multiple types of evidence then that makes it more likely that people really were brewing or drinking alcohol there.

One of the ways that we can potentially identify brewing is through starch analysis. Starch grains are often left on tools and equipment that are used for preparing and serving plant-based foods and beverages, including alcohol. Starch analysis can be used to identify the type of grains, rhizomes or tubers that are present and sometimes even how they were prepared. Cooking, for example, causes the grains to burst and swell in distinctive ways although unfortunately, cooking also makes it harder to identify the type of grain!

Incan urpus or storage jar, 15th to 16th century, Met Museum

Incan urpus or storage jar, 15th to 16th century. These jars were used for making, storing, and transporting chicha, among other things. Accession No. 1978.412.68. Licenced by the Metropolitan Museum under CC0 1.0 Universal.

In order to identify the starch grains and the preparation techniques used, it is important for archaeologists to have comparative samples which show what different grains look like, and how different preparation techniques (such as soaking, grinding, chewing, baking, boiling etc.) affect them. In the second post of this series, I’m going to walk you through how I made an experimental batch of chicha to make comparative samples.

[1] Dietler, “Food, Identity, and Colonialism,” 222.

[2] Hayden, “Feasting in Prehistoric and Traditional Societies.”

[3] Pollock, “Feasts, Funerals, and Fast Food in Early Mesopotamian States,” 18.

[4] Hastorf, “Gender, Space, and Food in Prehistory”; Jennings, “A Glass for the Gods and Gift to My Neighbor: The Importance of Alcohol in the Pre-Columbian Andes”; Joffe, “Alcohol and Social Complexity in Ancient Western Asia”; Pollock, “Feasts, Funerals, and Fast Food in Early Mesopotamian States.”

References

Dietler, Michael. “Food, Identity, and Colonialism.” In The Archaeology of Food and Identity, edited by Katheryn C Twiss, Occasional Paper No. 34., 218–42. Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University, 2007.

Hastorf, Christine A. “Gender, Space, and Food in Prehistory.” In Engendering Archaeology, edited by Joan M Gero and Margaret W Conkey, 132–59. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1991.

Hayden, Brian. “Feasting in Prehistoric and Traditional Societies.” In Food and the Status Quest: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, edited by Polly Wiessner and Wulf Schiefenhovel, 127–47. Providence: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Jennings, Justin. “A Glass for the Gods and Gift to My Neighbor: The Importance of Alcohol in the Pre-Columbian Andes.” In Alcohol in Latin America: A Social and Cultural History, edited by Gretchen Kristine Pierce and Áurea Toxqui, 25–45. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2014.

Joffe, Alexander H. “Alcohol and Social Complexity in Ancient Western Asia.” Current Anthropology 39, no. 3 (June 1, 1998): 297–322. https://doi.org/10.1086/204736.

Pollock, Susan. “Feasts, Funerals, and Fast Food in Early Mesopotamian States.” In The Archaeology and Politics of Food and Feasting in Early States and Empires, 17–38. Springer, Boston, MA, 2003. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-306-48246-5_2.

 

 

A Recipe for Ginger Beer, or How to Paint Your Ceiling with Alcoholic Beverages

Ginger Beer, brewed from a recipe from 1861

Since I’ve got a bit more time on my hands at the moment, I’ve been busy doing some sewing and trying to get as many unfinished projects done as I can. While I sew, I like to watch something that I’ve seen before so that I can still concentrate on whatever I’m working on.

So there I am, watching ‘Victorian Farm’ and sewing away. It’s the height of the Brisbane summer, so it’s hot and humid. Then suddenly, Peter is making homemade ginger beer and they all drink it and look so cool and refreshed. And so, of course, I had to try making some.

The Recipe

Capture

The recipe for ginger beer that I used from Philp, The Family Save-All, 167.

The recipe comes from ‘The Family Save-All’ which is a mid-nineteenth century cookbook all about using up left-overs and cheap ingredients. I’ve used it before, when I was making potato pudding and it’s a great source for cheap, everyday recipes.

The recipe would make an enormous amount of ginger beer, so even though the recipe warns that making a smaller quantity might make an inferior product, I reduced all the ingredients significantly.

Overall, it produced a very fizzy but quite pleasant ginger beer. I would have preferred a stronger ginger flavour and slightly less sugar but it was very refreshing.In the end, I didn’t measure how alcoholic it was, but do be careful because it certainly gave me a bit of a buzz.

The other thing to watch out for is the level of carbonation. If you bottle it after only four days, it will continue to ferment in the bottles. It’s really important that you put it into plastic bottles and that they get refrigerated. Otherwise, you’ll end up like me with ginger beer exploding all over the ceiling!

Ginger Beer, brewed from a recipe from 1861

The Redaction

Ginger Beer

45g ginger
4.85l water
650g sugar
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 tbsp honey
2g lemon essence
1 sachet ginger beer or beer yeast, dissolved in a little water that has been boiled and cooled

1. Sterilise all your equipment. Cut the ginger into chunks, put it in a bag and bruise with a rolling bin.
2. Place the ginger in a large saucepan and add 850ml of the water. Bring it to the boil, and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Stir the sugar, the lemon juice, and the honey into the hot ginger water, then add the remaining water. Bring to the boil, then strain out the ginger and pour into a 1 gallon demijohn. Allow the mixture to cool until it is just lukewarm.
4. Stir in the lemon essence and the yeast. Set up the airlock and allow to ferment for 4 days.
5. On the fifth day, sterilise your bottles, lids and siphoning equipment. Siphon the ginger beer into plastic bottles, while trying not to disturb the yeast residue. Don’t fill the bottles completely, but leave some space at the top. Press out the air from this space, then cap. As the ginger beer continues to ferment, the bottle will expand. Once the bottles are expanded and hard, you must refrigerate them to keep them from exploding.
Note: This recipe isn’t written for beginner brewers. If you haven’t brewed before, then you should consult a basic guide for how to set up your equipment, do the siphoning etc. This guide is for mead, but I really like how intuitive it is, and it covers a lot of the skills you’ll need.

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Ginger Beer (available here)

The Date: 1861

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 5 days

How successful was it?: Other than the one bottle that exploded, it was pretty good. As I said, the ginger flavour wasn’t particularly strong and I don’t know if that was the result of reducing the quantities, or if it just wasn’t very strong to begin with.

How accurate?: The big change that I made was omitting the egg white. It was just going to be too difficult to add 1/14 of an egg white. I imagine that the main purpose of the egg white is to help clarify the ginger beer, so  I think that it would make more of a difference to the way it looks rather than the taste. The other big difference is the type of yeast that I used, and the way that it was introduced. The recipe didn’t specify, but it was probably a liquid yeast taken from the sludge left from beer brewing, rather than a modern dried yeast.

Ginger Beer, brewed from a recipe from 1861

References

Philp, Robert Kemp. The Family Save-All, a System of Secondary Cookery. Second. London: W. Kent and co., 1861.

Sir William Paston’s Meathe

Mead recipe from 1669

So I have to apologise for dropping of the face of the earth for a couple of weeks, life got in the way again. I have a couple of Historical Food Fortnightly challenges to catch up with, they are done but still need writing up I’m afraid so please bear with me. Can I also say how lovely it was to have people reminiscing about puftaloons, please keep it up!

The challenge a couple of weeks ago was ‘Sweet Sips and Potent Potables’. I was originally planning on making hypocras (basically medieval mulled wine) but a couple of weeks before the challenge a friend of mine won a prize at Rhythm and Brews with her mead, and of course I decided I had to try out the recipe for myself. This was my first mead, or at least the first that is actually ready (I have another batch fermenting but it’s got several months to go) so I used the instructions from Taryn’s fantastic article ‘Mead in Three Weekends’ as a reference.

The recipe itself comes from “The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Opened” which was originally published in 1669. The recipe I used is called Sir William Paston’s Meathe, and after a quick search I think this probably refers to the High Sheriff of Norfolk and first Baronet of Oxnead, Sir William Paston (1610-1663)[1]. A well-travelled courtier and diplomat, Digby’s collection includes recipes from many of his friends and acquaintances, from the Queen-Mother to the Muscovian Ambassador’s steward. I think you can imagine him single-mindedly tracking down the recipe for the dish he just tasted, no matter the rank of the individuals concerned.

The Recipe

SIR WILLIAM PASTON’S MEATHE

“Take ten Gallons of Spring-water, and put therein ten Pints of the best honey. Let this boil half an hour, and scum it very well; then put in one handful of Rosemary, and as much of Bay-leaves; with a little Limon-peel. Boil this half an hour longer, then take it off the fire, and put it into a clean Tub; and when it is cool, work it up with yest, as you do Beer. When it is wrought, put it into your vessel, and stop it very close. Within three days you may Bottle it, and in ten days after it will be fit to drink.”[2]

This is a fast fermented mead, taking only 13 days in total, when it is not uncommon for meads to make 6 months or more. It was described by my taste tester as “Like extremely dry, thin cider. But oddly moreish.” Given that I’m not sure if I’m counting this as a success or not, I’m just going to give you the quantities that I used. Note that the flavour of lemon was strong, but the rosemary and bay were almost non-existent so if you were to make it yourself you might want to adjust those quantities.

I used: 2 cups of honey, 3.8lt of water, peel of 1/2 lemon, 2 sticks of rosemary, 3 dried bay leaves and 1 packet of beer yeast dissolved in a cup of water and 1 tsp of sugar.

Mead recipe from 1669

The Recipe: Sir William Paston’s Meathe from Sir Kenelm Diby’s Closet Opened (available here)

The Date:1669

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: About an hour of boiling, followed by several hours cooling. Then a couple of days later bottling.

How successful was it?: I’m not sure, I didn’t really like it because it tasted quite yeasty, like beer, but it certainly improved with age. It was also very, very bubbly!

How accurate?: It was very difficult to tell the quantities of herbs that were implied in the recipe so that was a bit of guess work. The yeast was also quite different.

[1] John Burke and Bernard Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland, and Scotland (Genealogical Publishing Com, 1841), 402.

[2] Anne Macdonell, ed., The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened (London: Philip Lee Warner, 1910), 42.

And since the other photos don't really show you what the mead looks like ...

And since the other photos don’t really show you what the mead looks like …

Bibliography 

Burke, John, and Bernard Burke. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Genealogical Publishing Com, 1841.

Macdonell, Anne, ed. The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened. London: Philip Lee Warner, 1910.

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