It’s August 1st. The summer is winding down. Soon the nights will be cooler and Autumn will be upon us. It is time to restock the pantry. For us that’s shopping so we have on hand the ingredients for a big pot of chili or stew when the first nip of fall is in the air. For the ladies of Chawton Cottage it meant putting up preserves, drying herbs and making wine.
It is obvious when you read cookbooks of the 18th and 19th centuries that wasting food was unheard of, sometimes to the detriment of health as people often were poisoned by the foods they ate as well as the medicines they used. Food allergies were virtually unheard of although most medical professionals knew that food did effect the body and used manipulation of the diet to try and control illnesses. Matthew Baille, King George III’s physician wrote in 1811, “To judge of the true skill and merit of a physician requires a competent knowledge of the science of medicine itself; but to gain the good opinion of the patient or his friends, there is perhaps no method so ready as to show expertness in the regulation of the diet of the sick.”
Still, the idea of wasting food was not to be borne so I thought it might be fun to see what kinds of things might have made their way to the cottage pantry. (recipes are from the Jane Austen Cook Book
Steam filled the stillroom from the great copper kettle boiling in the corner. Maggie glanced up from her task of peeling ginger for ginger beer. Jane was in the doorway.
“Are you off to the Manor now?”
Jane nodded. “Yes.” Casually she turned and walked the rest of the way through the garden and onto the road to Chawton Great House where she was expected for a planned luncheon. (Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen)
Ginger Beer (fit to drink in 24 hours)
Two Gallons of Water, 2oz. Cream of Tartar, 2lb. lump sugar, 2 lemons sliced, 2oz. Ginger bruised, pour the water boiling on the ingredients, then add 2 spoonfuls of good Yeast; when cold bottle it in stone bottles and tie the corks down.
Black Butter (for children, a cheap preserve)
Pick currants, gooseberries, strawberries, or whatever fruit you have: to every two pounds of fruit put one of sugar, and boil till a good deal reduced.
Rasberry Vinegar (Cordial)
Put two quarts of large fine Rasberries into one quart of the best Vinegar, let it stand 10 days near a fire, clarify a pd. of fine sugar, strain off the juice from the Rasberries, add the clarified Syrop & boil all together till it is fine – when it is cold put it into small Bottles & use it as you would Orgeat, mix it with Water to your taste. Sharon Lathan did a very nice post on orgeat in April, click the word to read more about it
Marmallett of Aprecoks
Take a pound of aprecoks before they be too ripe: whilst they be very paile, pare them, and stone them, and cut them in foure peeces, or smaller, as you please; then put in a pound and a quarter of fine sugar beaten fine, then strayne in a quarter of a pinte of the juice of white courents; or pipin water, set it over the fire, and when the suger is melted, boyle it very fast, and keepe it stiring and scimed till it be cleere.
Marmalett was a form of marmalade but this recipe is much more like a fruit butter. I made it, albeit the modern version which uses dried apricots. I also used turbinado sugar since the use of centrifuge to separate the molasses from the cane wasn’t in use until 1853 I assumed that in the early part of the 19th century turbinado was probably considered refined. Besides, I like the flavor of molasses in my sugar.
The lavender he’d pilfered from Chawton Cottage lay on the bedside table among the keys and loose change from his jeans pocket. He picked up the fragile stems and crushed the purple buds between his thumb and forefinger, releasing the essential oils. It was a lovely fragrance and one he would forever associate with Eliza. He gently slipped them back into his pocket. (Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen)
Lavender or Rose Water
Take of rectified spirits of wine half a pint, essential oil of lavender two drachms, otto of roses five drops. Mix all together in a bottle and cork for use. You can also take four handfuls of dried lavender flowers and sprinkle on them one quart of brandy or white-wine. Leave them to remain six days in a large bottle well-corked up; let the liquor be distilled and poured off.
I’ve also made the lavender and rose water in two different ways. I’ve actually distilled it, which is quite a process and I’ve gone the easiest possible route as well by using essential oil and Everclear grain alcohol which makes a very nice linen spray.
Now that the pantry is well stocked, I shall sit quietly and read.