Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Annual Post on Cooling Beverages of the Mid 19th Century

Terminology of historic beverages often leaves history enthusiasts at a loss. Modern media seeking a new twist on an old beverage doesn't help matters.
With the abundance of summer fruits that were historically turned into beverages, this time of year was just right for providing a survey of historic summer beverages.
A recent event gave an opportunity to feature reactions as friends tried historic beverages.

Beverages at this time fall into some main categories based on the core recipe.
One basic type is still familiar and is still the summer classic. Juiced fruit sweetened with sugar and diluted with water. We still recognize Lemonade, but period recipes included Orangeade and Appleade too.
Other fruits were juiced, sweetened, and bottled for later serving as Syrups.

When the sweetened juiced fruit was served frozen, it was called Water Ice. These came in many of the fruit flavors that are popular for sno-cones and slushies today. Ices and ice cream fill a course in classic formal dinning, a tradition that shows up in the 1850s.

The next twist on the fruit based core was to add spices and infused waters. Classic recipes for Sherbet start with making an infused water, adding sugar to create a syrup, combining the syrup with juiced fruit and serving over iced water.

Today the idea of drinking vinegar puts a frown on the face, but the medical benefits are hard to argue with. From a survey of over 200 recipes titled shrub and fruit vinegar, I have traced the history of what contemporaries called these two beverages.
This recipe from 1803 is representative of a classic Shrub recipe of the 18th century.
From: The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook by Susannah Carter, 1803, page 202
To make Shrub.
Take two quarts of brandy, and put it in a large bottle, adding to it the juice of five lemons, the peels of two, and half a nutmeg; stop it up, let it stand three days, and add to it three pints of white wine, and a pound and a half of sugar; mix it, strain it twice through a flannel, and bottle it up. It is a pretty wine, and a cordial.
As you see, it was considered a party beverage and filled with alcohol... LOTS of alcohol. Vinegar was a common preservative and fruit vinegars are listed in the "home brewing" sections. At this point, the demarcation between the two beverages is clear- Shrub is an alcohol based party beverage and Fruit Vinegar is a good means of preserving fruit and refreshing beverage.
The earliest recipe I have found that is titled Shrub but uses the fruit preserved in vinegar base is in 1830.
From that time on, the over-all number of shrubs decrease while the over-all number of fruit vinegars increase. There is also an increase in the number of recipes titled Shrub that are fruit vinegar based. Clearly, the core recipe of fruit preserved in vinegar, sweetened into a syrup, served diluted in cool water was quite popular by mid 19th century while alcohol based shrubs were surpassed by punch and cocktails.
I posted the results of my survey of fruit vinegar and shrub terms on my blog, "History Hallway Heartburn".
For all 200+ receipts, follow this link. Receipts For Shrub, Fruit Vinegar, and Fruit Vinegar Water
To make your own, follow along with these blog posts: Start, Next, Final Hurrah

The final drink I will touch on is Switchel. This popular re-enactment beverage shows up in period periodicals of the 1830s and 1840s as a healthful drink for agriculture workers. Many of the references were from New York state, though modern researchers consider Switchel to be of New England origin. Like it's cousin Shrub, early recipes for Switchel included alcohol, in this case rum, which was replaced by vinegar as the Temperance Movement gained ground.This vinegar based summer beverage includes molasses and sometimes ginger, diluted in water. The most common titles are "Haymaker's Punch", "Harvest Drink", and "Haymaker's Drink" when looking through recipe books.

So, to summarize:
Fruit-ade: juiced fruit, sugar, water
Fruit Syrup: juiced fruit, sugar, water
Fruit Water Ice: juiced fruit, sugar, water, served frozen
Sherbet: infused water, sugar, juiced fruit, spices, served chilled
Shrub: alcohol, juiced fruit, sugar, (sometimes spices and milk), water
Fruit Vinegar Water: juiced fruit steeped in vinegar, sugar, water
Haymaker's Punch: vinegar, molasses, (sometimes ginger), water

The Recipe(s) and Modes:
Lemonade with Raspberry Syrup (for Janita and Noah)
From: How to Mix Drinks, or, The Bon Vivant’s Companion by Thomas, 1864, page 83
222. Lemonade* (Use large bar glass.)
The juice of half a lemon.
1 table-spoonful of sugar.
2 or three pieces of orange.
1 table-spoonful of raspberry or strawberry syrup.
Fill the tumbler one-half full with shaved ice, the balance with water; dash with port wine, and
ornament with fruits in season.

422. Raspberry Syrup.
2 pints of filtered raspberry juice. 
41⁄4 lbs. of sugar. 

Select the fruit, either white or red. Having picked them over, mash them in a pan, which put in a warm place until fermentation has commenced. Let it stand for about three days. All mucilaginous fruits require this, or else they would jelly when bottled. Now filter the juice through a close flannel bag, or blotting-paper, and add sugar in the proportion mentioned above; this had better be powdered. Place the syrup on the fire, and as it heats skim it carefully, but don't let it boil; or you may mix in a glass vessel or earthenware jar, and place in a pan of water on the fire. This is a very clean way, and prevents the sides crusting and burning. When dissolved to the "little pearl" (see No. 12) take it off; strain through a cloth; bottle when cold; cover with tissue-paper dipped in brandy, and tie down with a bladder.

Mode: I prepared the raspberry syrup first by juicing the raspberries and straining them through a cloth. Then pouring the juice into a pan, I added sugar and brought the whole to a soft boil. When cool, I bottled the syrup. For the lemonade, I brought sugar and water to a soft boil to create (in bar-tending terms) a Simple Syrup. I added the juiced lemons and orange. When cool, I bottled the mixture. To serve I used 3/4 glass of lemonade mix and 1/4 raspberry syrup.

Janita says, "Delicious! Very Refreshing!"

Noah says, "You are gonna bring lemonade, right?"

Watermelon Ice (for Mandy)
From: The Sunny Side Dessert Book by S.T. Stone, 1893, page 22
Select a ripe and very red melon, scrape some of the pulp and use all the water. A few of the seeds interspersed will add to the appearance. Sweeten to taste, and freeze as you would any other ice. If you wish it very light, add the whites of three eggs thoroughly whipped, to one gallon of ice, just as it begins to congeal. Beat frequently with a very large iron spoon. Freeze hard.

Mode: I bought watermelon pieces for convenience. I juiced the watermelon through a clean cloth. I added sugar to the juice. I froze the mixture hard and then let it gently melt before serving.

Mandy says, "Heaven! Absolute Heaven!"

Turkish Sherbet (for Sherri and Katie)

Turkish Sherbets.
--Extract by pressure or infusion the rich juice and fine perfume of any of the odoriferous flowers or fruits; mix them in any number and quantity to taste.
When these essences, extracts, or infusions are prepared, they may be immediately used, by mixing in proper proportions of sugar; or syrup and water, some acid fruit, such as lemon, pomegranate, tamarind, &c., are added to raise the flavor, but not to overpower the perfume, or taste of what the sherbet is made.
These sherbets are very healthy, having all that is exhilarating, with the additional refreshing and cooling qualities so requisite in hot countries, and free from fermentation, which is destructive in certain degrees to health, however satisfying for the moment.

Mode: I made an infusion of aromatic citrus by steeping lemon and orange peels in boiling water overnight. I added sugar, the juice of fresh red currants, and ginger.

Sherri says, "Oh, this is SO good. Katie, you must come try this!"
Katie says, "It's tart, but I could grow to like this."

Raspberry Vinegar Syrup (for Kim and Janine)
From: The Lady's Receipt Book, A Useful companion for large and small families by Eliza Leslie, 1847, page 141
French Raspberry Vinegar.
--Take a sufficiency of fine ripe raspberries. Put them into a deep pan, and mash them with a wooden beetle. Then pour them, with all their juice, into a large linen bag, and squeeze and press out the liquid into a vessel beneath. Measure it; and to each quart of the raspberry-juice allow a pound of powdered white sugar, and a pint of the best cider vinegar. First mix together the juice and the vinegar, and give them a boil in a preserving-kettle. When they have boiled well, add gradually the sugar, with a beaten white of egg to every two pounds; and boil and skim it till the scum ceases to rise. When done, put it into clean bottles, and cork them tightly. It is a very pleasant and cooling beverage in warm weather, and for invalids who are feverish. To use it, pour out half a tumbler of raspberry vinegar, and fill it up with ice-water.

It is a good palliative for a cold, mixed with hot water, and taken as hot as possible immediately on going to bed, so as to produce perspiration.

Mode: I juiced the raspberries through a clean cloth into a pan. I added vinegar and gave it a boil. I added sugar continued to a soft boil. When cool it was bottled. To serve, I added a dollop of concentrate and diluted with water.
I also made Blackberry Vinegar and Strawberry Vinegar (or Acid).
Mode: I put the berries in a jar and covered them with vinegar. I let them sit for two days. I juiced the berries and vinegar into a jar of fresh berries. (discard the previous berry pulp.) I let them sit for two days. I juiced the berries and vinegar into a pan, added sugar, and brought the mix to a soft boil. When cooled, I bottled the concentrate.

Kim says, "Oh, yes please. I LOVE vinegar!"
Janine says, "I encourage all our guys to try vinegar. Some of them even like it."

Harvest Drink (for Doug)
From: The Skillful Housewife’s Book; or Complete Domestic Cookery, Taste, Comfort,Economy by Mrs. L. G. Abell,  1852, page 117
Harvest Drink
Mix with five gallons of good water, half a gallon of molasses, one quart of vinegar, and two ounces of powdered ginger. This will make not only a very pleasant beverage, but one highly invigorating and healthful.

Mode: Add half cup of molasses, two cups vinegar, and a dash of ginger to a pan. Bring to a soft boil, when well mixed. When cool, bottle it. To serve, dilute liberally with cool water.

Doug says, "It's growing on me, but I still like Strawberry Vinegar better."

For an even more in-depth look, enjoy my booklet here online.
Summer Beverages of the Mid 19th Century

Stay Cool with a Refreshing Summer Beverage! :-)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast- Let the feasting begin!

Dear Readers last left me in a flurry to put the last minute touches on The Historic Foodie's Summer Feast.

I welcomed four fellow members of the recreated 28th Massachusetts and a family member who's shy about photographs.

We were more focused on the food and presentation than on the dining experience (and there wasn't really room to serve), so I laid the courses out in a buffet style separately from the dining table.

Here's an overview of the first course.
First Course
In dining order, the Course Premiere is...
Fish Chowder

Chilean Sea Bass with Tomatoes

Fish Cakes

Macaroni Pudding

Fried Chicken

Lively conversation delayed the Second Course, in the best way. :-)
Here's an overview, with guests contemplating the dishes ...okay, they were actually hurrying me along with the photos so they could descend like a plague of locusts.

The Second Course, in dining order:

Pot Roast Beef,
garnished a la Jardinere

Baked Potatoes


Boston Baked Beans

Apple Pie

The Coffee, Tea, and Dessert was served at table; as was a special treat of Lemon and Strawberry Water Ices.

Here are the guests at table. They couldn't say enough how thrilled they were with the feast and stayed much longer than intended, which is a compliment in itself.

The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast- Feasting Day

With preparations under way for The Historic Foodie's Summer Feast, feasting day started much like an episode of "No Reservations."
We started the day at the  Reston Farmer's Market at Lake Anne for the elusive salt pork and a breakfast of street food.

Valentine's Bakery and Meats had "bacon ends" which I decided would be an acceptable substitute for salt pork. Roomie found some gluten free muffins and cakes in the bakery section, which was welcome.
I had coffee and grabbed pepper-steak empanadas to fuel my hectic day. Roomie had coffee and tacos from her favorite, Lake Anne Deli.

Fortified for my day and with the final ingredients to hand, the cooking could begin in earnest.

Setting the fish to thaw

I started with Fried Chicken with a milk and flour (in this case gluten free flour) batter and oven fried. I would finish up with a butter and parsley sauce closer to serving.
Fried Chicken- batter up!

Next up was a dish that has become a signature, Macaroni Pudding. (Mac-n-Cheese for Mac and Cheese).  Since this was for company, I went all out with cream, butter, and a dash of parsley.
Macaroni Pudding- ready to bake

Moving on to beans. I choose two different recipes with beans, Succotash and Boston Baked Beans. That's a lot of beans. :-p  First up is lima beans for Succotash.
Lima Beans for Succotash

While the beans and corn were boiling, I set the roast in to ...well.. roast.
The glaze was not specified in the receipt, so I used cooking marsala, orange juice, and Lea & Perrins sauce.

Well... that was a disappointment...  the roast is too roasted. Hopefully the gravy saves it from the inedible status.

Moving on to potatoes. It's just not a mid 19th century meal without potatoes. I chose oven-baked with a salt and oil finish. 
Potatoes- ready to bake

Cruising right along for Fish Cakes, in this case salmon.
I made the batter and then formed the cake with a flour dusting.
Fish Cake- batter

Fish Cake- oven frying
  This point in the cooking process was chaos. I was running late and in a flurry to finish up, get my sideboard organized and tables set, and get ready to greet my guests.  My Roomie was again the hero by peeling apples and doing the mountain of dirty dishes. My Hero!
Photos will continue in the next post, showing the finished dishes and happy guests.

The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast- Let the feast begin!

The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast- Shopping Day

With The Historic Foodie's Summer Feast a mere two days away, it was time to get cracking with my second most hated part of the cooking process... ingredients shopping. I love having a variety of ingredients available locally. I love patronizing small vendors. I don't love the traffic, confusing directions, and crowds in going from store to store to store. My friends in the recreated 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Co. B are worth it, so off I went, with GPS grasped firmly in hand.


Well, a trip to Trader Joe's landed my favorite Tuscan melon, almond meal, and of course the wine.
Next to Aldi's and Wegmans for the bulk of the items. No salt pork! What's this madness?
Naturally, something was forgotten. Roomie was a hero and headed to Safeway.  Also no salt pork.
The cooking schedule was rearranged for a trip to the trusty Farmer's Market while I continued on with Cornbread, Lemonade, and Water Ices.

Strawberry Water Ice-
stewing strawberries for syrup

Strawberry Water Ice-
syrup complete, next up is freezing
Lemon Water Ice-
syrup complete

ready to bake

It's A-Peeling! :-p

Soaking Beans

The Sous Chef insists we've come far enough. Tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast

Dear Readers will recall last year when I spoiled my re-enacting unit with an historic feast. It was so very well received I decided to do another this year.

I began thinking of a theme. Thoughts of summer in the mid-Atlantic turn to seaside adventures and the bounty of the oceans and rivers. With Independence Day recently past, summery thoughts turn also to things distinctly American.
To accommodate the specific guests, I selected a blend of distinctly American surf-n-turf, 19th century style.

Follow along as I prepare and serve The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast.

The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual Summer Feast- Shopping Day
The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual Summer Feast- Feasting Day
The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual Summer Feast- Let the feast begin!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mid 19th Century Stag Weekend; Or, The Fanciest Camping Meals Ever!

Those who know me can tell you how much I am an advocate of history interpretation of non-military menfolk. An especial friend will leave the ranks of bachelorhood soon, and that deserves a party. I combined the two into a very special event, a mid 19th century Stag Weekend.
After inadvertently choosing a very popular weekend for events, we made a party of four men and me, your hostess. The men donned their mid 19th century attire and headed out for hiking, swimming, and a Tall Tales competition that left everyone in stitches with laughter.

Of course, the men would need sustenance and I was happy to oblige.
I had read previously on how the menu composition differed in the mid 19th century and began looking into how menu composition might change with all masculine company verses a mixed one.
A first stop was Jennie June's American Cookery Book by Jane Cunningham Crowly, 1870. 
On Friday, for supper, I used this as an inspiration for composing a menu. With only four people dining, the full spread would be too much, so I took a poll on what they'd most like to see. A few meat items were unavailable, so that prompted a few more tweaks. We decided on the following:
It was dark when we arrived, so we didn't get photos. You'll have to take my word that it was lovely. the items were very well received and prompted the first comment of, "This is the fanciest camping meal I've ever had." It would not be the last.

For breakfast, I turned to the hotels and public dining houses. A fair few may be found in the online collections of the New York Public Library and the University of Houston Library. Again, we needed fewer items and had to tweak some unavailable items. Our breakfast on Saturday included the following:

Here's a coupla photos of breakfast in progress.

The sausage, fried mush, and eggs were a hit. All were in a food coma that required a long rest before heading out on a hike.

The gents made themselves useful by helping to clear away the dishes. They were very good about this throughout the weekend, for which I was grateful.

With breakfast out of the way, the gents filled their satchels with luncheon and headed out on a hike.
For luncheon I chose portable items that are often considered appropriate for picnics. This is what was on offer.

Cooking the Dinner was an all-day endeavor. I began after the luncheon was set out.
I knew I wanted an opportunity to showcase the dining styles of mid 19th century America. Events such as this were attended by gents of means and society, if an intellectual bent; so, offering an appropriate sit-down dining experience allowed the menfolk to learn a bit of social history in a fun way.

For the menu composition, I was inspired by menus given in Chef Francatelli's work The Modern Cook  (Charles Elme Francatelli, 1859). 
I included several American inspirations of international dishes in my selections, as this is a special interest of mine (one of many.)
This is our finalized menu.

Likewise a few items were unavailable, so substitutions were made.
I was excited to try campfire cooking because I was new at it. I can't do things by halves, so I jumped right in. I usually need to convert a receipt to modern cooking methods, but these receipts were written for fire-based cooking. It went much faster than I anticipated. I even had enough time for a quick nap and to move up dinner by an hour. I'll detail a few key receipts in future posts.

With cooking complete, it was time to set up and serve.
The key to efficient dinner service is an organized sideboard and precise table-setting. Here's a few photos of the sideboard, table, and a rare photo of Wolfie herself.

At this point I changed up into my service dress, the gents changed into their dinner suits, and I guided them through the meal. We toasted the honoree and let the food settle.
Many comments were made about loosening waistbands and how spoiled they felt to have such a splendid meal. They considered how different mid 19th century dinners were from modern dinners and how they were unprepared for the variety of foods in a dinner. They commented they took too large of portions in the first course and were disappointed not to have room for the good food in later courses.
Then the men formed an assembly line to clean the many, many dishes.
I was ready for some pain relief and sleep.

On Sunday, we began with a breakfast similar to Saturday, with a few changes to keep things interesting.

Again, the appreciation for the weekend of meals was expressed with ever more creative adjectives.
After a colorful edition of the Tall Tales Competition and an intense packing session... we were ready to say adieu to Lake Anna, wishing our friend the best on his next step in life's journey.

For the collection of receipts used for this event, I formed an online booklet you may explore here. 
Photo credit goes to John Payne and N.W. Briggs, with thanks.