May 13 ...
Dr. Kitchener (yesterday’s post) could give us enough interesting material for years, but too much of a good thing keeps us away from other good things, so we will only stick with him for a week.
In yesterday’s recipe, Dr. Kitchiner used ‘capillaire’ in his pudding catsup. Capillaire is not a common ingredient in the pantry these days – there is certainly a dearth of it in mine, which is otherwise well stocked. What is it?
In its original incarnation, capillaire was ‘a syrup or infusion of maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus Veneris).’ It was used for medicinal purposes for a range of problems such as pectoral complaints and pulmonary catarrhs, the King's Evil and other hard swellings, and the very inconvenient problem of hair loss. A spoonful of orange-flower water and some honey was often added to make the medicine go down more tastefully, and eventually the fern became optional and capillaire became ‘a syrup flavoured with orange-flower water’. If orange flavouring is good, then orange-flavoured alcohol must surely be better – and it was Dr. Kitchener’s choice in his version of capillaire.
To a pint of Clarified Syrup add a wine-glass of Curaçoa, or dissolve a drachm of Oil of Neroli in two ounces of Rectified Spirit, and add a few drops of it to Clarified Syrup.
[Cook’s Oracle, Wm. Kitchener]
The real thing was slightly more tedious to make. The best fern was reputed to come from
Capillaire, Syrup of.
Take some good capillaire, chop it up, not so very small, put it upon a sieve, pour upon it some boiling water, and let it infuse for ten hours in a vessel well covered; strain this infusion, and put into it some sugar boiled au casse; clarify this syrup with the whites of eggs whipped; skim it till it is very clear; when it rises, take it off the fire, and leave it to cool, then put it into bottles.
[Cook’s Own Book…
I am not sure how to recommend that you use these syrups – apart from in your pudding catsup. Perhaps to flavour fruit salad, or to soak pound cake? I leave it to your imagination.
Tomorrow’s Story …
Quotation for the Day …
Rhubarb: essence of stomach ache. Ambrose Bierce.