When going through old books belonging to my family I came across this one written by my paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, a very straight-laced lady from Washington D.C. and western Massachusetts. As a wine enthusiast I found the book of great historical interest. Published in 1909, it is a collection of recipes from many different sources that reflect the customs, styles, and tastes of a by-gone era.
The book provides recipes for wines as well as, cordials and liqueurs. These brews are made using all sorts of plant material from fruits such as raisins, figs, and peaches, to vegetables such as parsnip and tomatoes, to flowers such as daisies and clovers. The leaves of roses, scurvy grass, and sage, as well as the roots of fennel and sassafras find their way into recipes too. Two recipes for koumiss (a milk based beverage), several for mead, and a couple for ginger beer expand the collection. The most unusual entry is one for cock ale which includes a large cock, “the older the better”. The most amusing recipe is the one for Madeira wine that consists of cider, tartaric acid, spirits, and sugar. Can you imagine what they would be like? A recipe for elephant milk defies description.
If you are interested in beverage making in the nineteenth century, this book will appeal. If your goal is making home wines you will be disappointed. The recipes involve old-fashioned equipment and are written in an old fashioned style with no pictures, and no list of ingredients. The directions assume that you are familiar with the cooking practices of the times so sometimes seem vague to a modern reader. The title says the recipes are “Old Time’ and that means old time. They were outdated in 1909 when the book was written so don’t expect a modern approach and you won’t be disappointed.
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