Monday, August 02, 2010

Bottled Beer.

I have no idea how true today’s story is, but I love it – and you will too, if you have ever wondered about the origin of bottled beer.

Once upon a time, ale and beer were drawn from the barrel as needed. If liquid refreshments were required to be carried out for a day labouring in the fields or, - as in our story today - a day of labouring to catch fish, then a suitable container was pressed into service.

‘The origin of bottled beer is thus quaintly recorded by Fuller. “Dean Newall* [Nowell], of St. Paul’s, in the reign of Queen Mary [1553-1558], was an excellent angler. But while Newall was bent on catching of fishes, Bishop Bonner** was bent on catching of Newall, and would certainly have sent him to the shambles had not a good London merchant conveyed him away upon the seas. Newall was fishing on the banks of the Thames when he received the first intimation of his danger, which was so pressing that he dared not go back to his own house to make preparation for his flight. Like an honest angler, he had taken provisions for the day; and when, in the first years of England’s deliverance, he returned to his own country, and his own haunts, he remembered that, on the day of his flight, he had left a bottle of beer in a safe place on the bank of the stream in which he had fished; there he looked for it, and found ‘no bottle, but a gun,’ for such was the sound emitted at the opening thereof.” And this is supposed by many to be the origin of bottled beer in England.’

*Alexander Nowell, an Anglican clergyman and Dean of St. Paul’s whose style of preaching displeased Queen Elizabeth I, and who fled to Europe on the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary.
** Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London who assisted Henry VIII’s schism from Rome, then returned to Roman Catholicism, and was responsible for the brutal persecution of heretics (Protestants) during Queen Mary’s reign.

Instead of a recipe for beer, in order to prepare you for tomorrow’s post I give you one for bread. Bread recipes did not often find their way into early cookbooks. ‘Everyone’ knew how to make it, so instructions were not necessary. Here is a pretty exception, from the seventeenth century – a lovely soft, rich, white bread perfect for breakfast.

Lady Arundel’s Manchet.
Take a bushel of fine wheat-flour, twenty eggs, three pounds of fresh butter; then take as much salt and barm as to the ordinary manchet; temper it together with new milk pretty hot, then let it lie the space of half an hour to rise, so you may work it up into bread, and bake it: let not your oven be too hot.
True Gentlewoman’s Delight (1676)

Quotation for the Day.
A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it is better to be thoroughly sure.

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