Early attempts to used preserved juices to halt the progression of scurvy were unsuccessful due to the fact that cooking and storage destroy the vitamin C in fresh fruits and vegetables. Still, the preserved juices were very popular for cooking and mixed drinks.
In her book, A New System of Domestic Cookery (1806), Eliza Rundell offers the following recipe for preserving Lime-Juice.
To Preserve Lime-Juice
Take any quantity of fresh lime-juice, strain it through a fine cloth, put it into an earthen vessel, and evaporate in a sand-bath, or over a gentle fire, constantly stirring it until it acquires the consistence of a thick syrup. This, kept in small bottles, will for years preserve the flavor of the lime. Tamarind-juice may be preserved the same way, and will be found exceedingly useful, being excellent in punch or sherbet, and invaluable as a fever drink.
Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, and frequently fruits, spices, grains or hops. (Hops act as a preservative and produce a bitter, beer-like flavor.) The alcoholic content of mead may range from about 8% ABV to more than 20%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey. It may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling, and it may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.
Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. “It can be regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks,” Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat has speculated, “antedating the cultivation of the soil.” Hornsey considers archaeological evidence of it ambiguous, however McGovern and other archaeological chemists consider the presence of beeswax markers and gluconic acid, in the presence of other substances known to ferment, to be reasonably conclusive evidence of the use of honey in ancient fermented beverages.
Claude Lévi-Strauss makes a case for the invention of mead as a marker of the passage “from nature to culture.” Mead has played an important role in the beliefs and mythology of some peoples. One such example is the Mead of Poetry, a mead of Norse mythology crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir which turns the drinker into a poet or scholar. The terms “mead” and “honey-wine” are often used synonymously.
It is rather impertinent to suggest any household care to a housekeeper, but I just venture to say that the coffee-mill will be wanted every day while Edward is at Steventon, as he always drinks coffee for breakfast.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
June 11, 1799
Regency coffee and milk has been part of the European kitchen since the 17th century (there is no mention of milk in coffee pre 1600 in Turkey or in the Arab world). ‘Caffèlatte’, ‘Milchkaffee’ and ‘Café au lait’ are domestic terms of traditional ways of drinking coffee, usually as part of breakfast in the home. Public Cafés in Europe and the US it seems has no mention of the terms until the 20th century, although ‘Kapuziner’ is mentioned in Austrian coffee houses in Vienna and Trieste in the 2nd half of the 1700s as ‘coffee with cream, spices and sugar’ (being the origin of the Italian ‘cappuccino’).
Café au lait is a French coffee drink. The meaning of the term differs between Europe and the United States; in both cases it means some kind of coffee with hot milk added, in contrast to white coffee, which is coffee with room temperature milk or other whitener added.
“Then I will help myself,” said he. “A large dish of rather weak cocoa every evening agrees with me better than anything.” It struck her, however, as he poured out this rather weak cocoa, that it came forth in a very fine, dark-colored stream…” -Sanditon
Cocoa, or Chocolate, as it was often referred to (chocolate as a candy had not yet been introduced) was a popular Regency drink served most often at breakfast, but sometimes in the evening as well. Creating cocoa at home took time, skill and a special pot. The chocolate pot, looking like a small samovar or carafe, stood on legs so that a heat source could be placed beneath it. The chocolate and milk were melted together, stirred from the top by a whisk, and poured out. This task would be performed at the table by one of the members of the family.
The cakes of chocolate talked about in this recipe were made by grinding cocoa beans and mixing them with sugar and spices, such as aniseed, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla and nutmeg. The whole mixture was then moistened and formed into bricks or cakes to be used at a later date. Today’s cocoa recipes can gain a flavor of the past by including a spoonful or two of whatever spices you like best.
Cut a cake of chocolate in very small bits; put a pint of water into the pot, and, when it boils, put in the above; mill it off the fire until quite melted, then on a gentle fire till it boil; pour it into a basin, and it will keep in a cool place eight or ten days, or more. When wanted, put a spoonful or two into milk, boil it with sugar, and mill it well.
Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1806
54 g / 2 oz / ¼ cup good quality cocoa powder
240 ml / 8 fl oz / 1 cup water
54 g / 2 oz / ¼ cup Sugar
720 ml / 24 fl oz / 3 cups Milk
Stir the cocoa powder with the water over a medium heat until the chocolate is completely melted into the water and the mixture boils. Stir in the sugar and reduce the heat. Pour in the milk and continue stirring the chocolate until it is scalding hot, but not boiling.
Serve piping hot with a dash of your favorite spice and a dollop of whipped cream.
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family.
“But all this,” as my dear Mrs. Piozzi says, “is flight and fancy, and nonsense, for my master has his great casks to mind and I have my little children.” It is you, however, in this instance, that have the little children, and I that have the great cask, for we are brewing spruce beer again; but my meaning really is, that I am extremely foolish in writing all this unnecessary stuff when I have so many matters to write about that my paper will hardly hold it all. Little matters they are, to be sure, but highly important.
Jane Austen, to Cassandra
Southampton, Wednesday, January 7, 180
In the June, 1759, orders for the Highland Regiment in North America stipulated that: “Spruce beer is to be brewed for the health and conveniency of the troops which will be served at prime cost. Five quarts of molasses will be put into every barrel of Spruce Beer. Each gallon will cost nearly three coppers.” Winter orders that year instructed that each post should keep enough molasses on hand “to make two quarts of beer for each man every day.”
Spruce beer was a common drink in Georgian England and was brewed for reasons including those of health (it was cleaner than water in many cases), holiday drinking, and sometimes simply as a tasty option. Brewed along similar lines as Root Beer and Ginger Beer, it could be drunk fresh or allowed to ferment.
The British Army’s recipe for Spruce Beer:
Take 7 Pounds of good spruce & boil it well till the bark peels off, then take the spruce out & put three Gallons of Molasses to the Liquor & and boil it again, scum it well as it boils, then take it out the kettle & put it into a cooler, boil the remained of the water sufficient for a Barrel of thirty Gallons, if the kettle is not large enough to boil it together, when milkwarm in the Cooler put a pint of Yest into it and mix well. Then put it into a Barrel and let it work for two or three days, keep filling it up as it works out. When done working, bung it up with a Tent Peg in the Barrel to give it vent every now and then. It may be used in up to two or three days after. If wanted to be bottled it should stand a fortnight in the Cask. It will keep a great while.
From the Journal of General Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1797), Governor-General of British North America
5 gallons of water
1/8 pound of hops
1/2 cup of dried, bruised ginger root
1 pound of the outer twigs of spruce fir
3 quarts of molasses
1/2 yeast cake dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water
In a large kettle combine the water, hops, ginger root and spruce fir twigs.
Boil together until all the hops sink to the bottom of the kettle.
Strain into a large crock and stir in the molasses.
After this has cooled add the yeast.
Cover and leave to set for 48 hours.
Then bottle, cap and leave in a warm place (70-75 degrees F) for 5 days. It will now be ready to drink.
Store upright in a cool place.
Other options include:
Replacing the hops in any home-brew recipe with a doubled amount of the new needles of Sitka spruce gives a wonderfully tasty, slightly resiny brew.
You can use Spruce essence, but it is extremely powerful and can over power your brew to the point of being undrinkable. Here’s a good basis for a Spruce Beer. Modify to your own desire.
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But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.
A perfect pot of tea does not begin with a mug of hot water and tea bag. The perfect pot takes time and careful planning.
Start with a preheated pot or cup. This prevents the tea cooling too quickly. To warm the it, pour boiling water into the pot, swish it around, and pour it out again.
Use freshly drawn or bottled, not reboiled water.
Bring water to a rolling boil for approximately 10 seconds. Remove kettle from heat. Don’t boil the water for too long as this will boil away the flavour-releasing oxygen.
Wait until the water is just off the boil before pouring it onto the tea. This brings out the rich aroma and avoids scorching the tea.
Use one tea bag per person, or Start with 3/4 of a level teaspoon of loose tea per 6 oz. of water.
Steep for 3-5 minutes, according to taste. If possible, cover the teapot with a towel or tea cosy while steeping to retain heat. Remove the tea bags or leaves
If you would like to add milk (milk, not cream) pour it in the cup or mug before adding the hot tea as this will allow the milk to better blend with the tea without curdling.
Sweeten as preferred or serve with a slice of lemon. Infuse (steep) green tea for two minutes, semi-black tea for seven minutes, unless instructed otherwise based on the tea you have purchased. Both may be infused several times, depending on the tea you have purchased. Though they may be slightly more expensive than black tea by weight measurement, Green and Semi-black are ultimately less costly due to the number of times the leaf may be infused.
“I had once determined to go with Frank to-morrow and take my chance, &c., but they dissuaded me from so rash a step, as I really think on consideration it would have been; for if the Pearsons were not at home, I should inevitably fall a sacrifice to the arts of some fat woman who would make me drunk with small beer.”
~Jane Austen to Cassandra, 1796
Ginger Beer, perhaps the most perfect small beer (similar in taste to the best champagne, with sparkling effervescence) was the favorite drink of England for over 150 years. Originating in England in the mid 1700’s, by 1790, the recipe had crossed the Atlantic, though significant portion of the American Ginger Beer was still imported by ship from England.
One of the reasons that England could export ginger beer was because of the quality of the stoneware bottles it was stored in. In 1835, England developed a superior glazing process called Improved Bristol Glaze. After filling, these bottles were corked and wired to maintain the pressure. This kept the alcohol and carbon dioxide in solution, both of which acted as preservatives, allowing for a long shelf life.
Ginger Beer’s popularity in the USA hit its peak in 1920, when it was abruptly terminated by Prohibition. Over half of the states never had a chance to bottle Ginger Beer. In England and Canada, the popularity peak occurred in 1935, fifteen years later. The USA had 300 Ginger Beer breweries; Canada had over 1000; and England had 3000.
Martha Lloyd’s Ginger Beer Recipe Two gallons of water, two oz. Cream of Tartar. Two lbs of lump sugar. Two lemons sliced, 2 oz. of ginger bruised. Pour the water boiling on the ingredients, then add two spoonfuls of good yeast; when cold bottle it in stone bottles, tie down the corks. It is fit to drink in 48 hours– a little more sugar is an improvement; glass bottles would not do.
To recreate this drink at home, try the modern recipe available from www.jerryrig.com.
Historical information provided by Donald Yates, from his new book Ginger Beer & Root Beer Heritage available from The Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors.