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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Beer: An Excerpt from The Frugal Housewife

As I prep for my Thanksgiving feast, I flipped through my 12th edition copy of the 1833 The American Frugal Housewife. Dedicated to Those Who are not Ashamed of Economy,  a life-guide by Mrs. Child. I love the recipes in this book, partly because they are written in the same way I cook, a little of this and that. Occasionally, I have to look up some ingredients that are either no longer used or totally foreign to me, but it's a fun adventure. This is not just a book about cooking, it talks about winter root vegetable storage, making soap, and curing ills. It has general maxims for health and meat cut charts. I was trying to find a good dish to experiment with, and came across this passage that I wanted to share. Brewing was indeed women's work.

"Beer is a good family drink.  A handful of hops, to a pailful of water, and a half-pint of molasses, makes good hop beer.  Spruce mixed with hops is pleasanter than hops alone.  Boxberry, fever-bust, sweet fern, and horseradish make a good and healthy diet drink.  The winter evergreen, or rheumatism week, thrown in, is very beneficial to humors.  Be careful and not mistake kill-lamb for winter-evergreen ;  they resemble each other.   Malt mixed with a few hops makes a weak kind of beer ; but it is cool and pleasant ; it needs less molasses than hops alone.  The rule is about the same for all beer.  Boil the ingredients two or three hours, pour in a half-pint of molasses to a pailful, while the beer is scalding hot.  Strain the beer, and when about lukewarm put a pint of lively yeast to a barrel.  Leave the bung loose till the beer is done working ; you can ascertain this by observing when the froth subsides.  If your family be large, and the beer will be drank rapidly, it may as well remain in the barrel ; but if your family be small, fill what bottles you have with it ; it keeps better bottled.  A raw potato or two, cut up and thrown in, while the ingredients are boiling, is said to make beer spirited."

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