Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More on American Drinks.

My recent post on "American Drinks" has provoked some lively email and blog comments, for which I am most grateful. If I have failed to respond to your particular correspondence, I apologise and will do my best to follow-up soon, but I am temporarily delightfully distracted by my English visitors.

The source from that post was A philosophical and statistical history of the inventions and customs of ancient and modern nations in the manufacture and use of inebriating liquors ... (Samuel Morewood, 1838), and I wondered what it had to say about American drinks. It turns out to have quite a lot to say, but I have selected the following short section for two reasons - I am intrigued by the 'persimmon apple' (is it a persimmon, or a variety of apple?), and by the method of making of the 'palatable liquor' with this fruit by first forming it into cakes with wheat. All comments, further information, insights or theories will be received with interest.

"... from the persimon apple a valuable spirit is made by putting a quantity of the fruit into a vessel for a week until it becomes quite soft. Water is then poured in and left for fermentation, without the addition of any other ingredient to promote it. The brandy is then made in the common way, and it is said to be much improved when mixed with sweet grapes that are found wild in the woods.
Another kind of palatable liquor is procured from this apple. The ripe fruit is braised and mixed with wheat or other flour, and formed into cakes which are baked in an oven. These are afterwards placed over the fire in a pot full of water, and when they become blended with the fluid, malt is added, and the brewing completed in the usual manner: thas is produced a beer preferable to most others.
In all the States, apples are abundant, particularly in New England and New York, and therefore cider is the common drink of the inhabitants. In a fruitful year, apples are so plentiful as to be given to whoever will take the trouble to gather them.' Vast quantities are also consumed by cattle and swine. The cider, when well made, is of excellent quality, and the least juicy apples afford the best liquor. A barrel of cider sells from about one and a half to three dollars. A field containing a thousand trees is not uncommon, and a single tree has been known to produce six barrels of cider in one season,—a circumstance the more extraordinary when it takes three barrels of apples to make one of cider. Mr. Stuart, a late writer, says that much cider is made from the crab-apple, which is worth about six-pence per bushel ; but that a considerable quantity of engrafted fruit is usually mixed with it. This liquor, he adds, is for the most part generally inferior to English cider. The Shakers, a religious sect, have two establishments in the State of New York, at which they manufacture cider of an excellent quality, which sells so high as ten dollars per barrel."

For the recipe for the dayI give you an apple cake from the wonderful Eliza Acton. I feel sure that some copies of Modern Cookery in All its Branches (1845) would have been lurking around in the old colony, and perhaps helped to find uses for that great supply of apples.

Apple Cake or German Tart.
Work together with the fingers ten ounces of butter and a pound of flour, until they resemble fine crumbs of bread ; throw in a smalt pinch of salt, and make them into a firm smooth paste with the yolks of two eggs and a spoonful or two of water. Butter thickly a plain tin cake, or pie mould (those which open at the sides are best adapted for the purpose); roll out the paste thin, place the mould upon it, trim a bit to its exact size, cover the bottom of the mould with this, then cut a band the height of the sides, and press it smoothly round them, joining the edge, which must be moistened with egg or water, to the bottom crust; and fasten upon them, to prevent their separation, a narrow and thin band of paste, also moistened. Next, fill the mould nearly from the brim with the following marmalade, which must be quite cold when it is put in. Boil together, over a gentle fire at first, but more quickly afterwards, three pounds of good apples with fourteen ounces of pounded sugar, or of the finest Lisbon, the strained juice of a large lemon, three ounces of the best butter, and a teaspoonful of pounded cinnamon, or the lightly grated rind of a couple of lemons: when the whole is'perfectly smooth and dry, turn it into a pan to cool, and let it be quite cold before it is put into the paste. In early autumn, a larger proportion of sugar may be required, but this can be regulated by the taste. When the mould is filled, roll out the cover, lay it carefully over the marmalade that it may not touch it; and when the cake is securely closed, trim off the superfluous paste, add a little pounded sugar to the parings, spread them out very thin, and cut them into leaves to ornament the top of the cake, round which they may be placed as a sort of wreath.* Bake it for an hour in a moderately brisk oven; take it from the mould, and should the sides not be sufficiently coloured, put it back for a few minutes into the oven upon a baking tin. Lay a paper over the top, when it is of a fine light brown, to prevent its being too deeply coloured. This cake should be served hot.
Paste: flour, 1 lb.; butter, 10 ozs.; yolks of eggs, 2; little water. Marmalade: apples, 3 lbs.; sugar, 14 ozs. (more if needed); juice of lemon, 1; rinds of lemons, 2: butter, 3 ozs.: baked, 1 hour.

Quotation for the Day.

There is little choice in a barrel of rotten apples.
William Shakespeare

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