The prisoners whose diet was the subject of yesterday’s post were supplied with “seconds bread.” I was most intrigued by the term, which comes up fairly regularly in the dietaries of prisons, lunatic asylums and other institutions of the nineteenth century – and it seems that some of you also wanted more information about it.
An interesting summary of various types of flour and bread was given in an American magazine called The Monthly Journal of Agriculture , published in 1848.
NUTRITIVE QUALITIES OF BREAD NOW IN USE.
I have had occasion during the course of many years to pay strict attention to the processes of bread-making, and therefore am prepared to enter upon a subject which the existing state of the country renders of peculiar interest. The title of this article has been adopted in order to embody the leading points of a masterly paper that has lately appeared from the pen of Professor Johnston, of the Edinburgh Society, than whom we do possess an analytic chemist of higher and more trustworthy qualifications. The orders of Queen Victoria in reference to what is styled "second bread," and the laudable zeal with which several noblemen of high rank have adopted similar resolutions, require particular notice, inasmuch as the term "second bread " is of doubtful meaning, and likely to be misunderstood, especially in country districts, where it conveys a definite unfavorable meaning.
The flour of wheat is in England of three or four varieties. The first, by way of distinction called "whites," is used in families for the best pastry, or by the bakers to prepare the finest fancy and cottage loaves. The second variety is the "household" flour used in the ordinary baker's household loaf. The third is employed to make seconds bread, which is generally sold at 1d. per loaf of 4 lbs. less than the prime household. There is inferiority of some description in this second flour of the mill; but it does not consist in the retention of the pollard, or fine portion of the skin. The country miller, and the families who there bake their own bread upon economical principles, are well advised as to the true meaning of these distinctions. And here, therefore (though the terms of the North may in some slight degree differ from those employed in our agricultural counties), I may appeal to the authority of Professor Johnston, as I practically know that all be says on the subject is strictly correct—thus:
"The grain of wheat consists of two parts, with which the miller is familiar—the inner grain, and the skin that covers it. The inner grain gives the pure wheat flour, the skin when separated forms the bran. The miller cannot entirely peel off the skin from his grain, and thus some of it is unavoidably ground up with his flour. By sifting be separates it more or less completely; his seconds, middlings, &c., owing their color to the proportion of brown bran that has passed through the sieve along with the flour. The 'whole meal,' as it is called, of which the so-named brown household bread is made, consists of the entire grain ground up together, used as it comes from the mill-stones, unsifted, and therefore containing all the bran.''
A fourth sort is used in Berkshire, and indeed in all country districts where families purchase or grow their own wheat and send it to the mill: it is called "farmers' grist," or "one-way flour," and contains all the finer portions of the pollard or middlings, after the separation of the coarse bran only; this true wheat flour makes the best bread that can be produced—wholesome, nutritious, of a beautiful clear yellowish white, and of surpassing flavor. It is very economical to the family, especially if the dough be made up with water in which the bran has been infused. But as every sack of the best white wheat, weighing 240 lbs., yields somewhere about 40 lbs. of excellent bran, abounding with meal, so much is abstracted from the corn, and barely 200 lbs. —say rather 196 lbs.—remain to the baker. Now we safely infer that the orders of Her Majesty refer to the best farmers' grist, in contradistinction from the extravagant products of the mill, called "whites " and household flour, from which the miller's cloth has removed all the pollard. But in times of real scarcity the entire meal claims our attention, excepting in particular cases where coarse bran is found insalubrious to individuals.
This article indicates an interesting technique which I have not come across before: the use of water in which the bran has been infused to make up the dough. I cannot see how this method serves an economical purpose as the writer suggests, although it would presumably improve the nutritional value of an already sturdy loaf.
Recipe for the Day.
Bread made of Oatmeal and Wheat.
The following has been recommended as a good and economical bread: Add a peck of oatmeal to the same quantity of seconds flour, and half a peck of potatoes skinned and washed; knead it up into a dough with yeast, salt, and warm milk; make it up into loaves, and bake. Oatmeal and reice may also be made together into bread.
An Encyclopædia of Domestic Economy (1845)
I've seen several old Irish recipes similar to this, which makes sense.
And, perhaps the "economy" of using the bran water over referred not to the cost of water, but the saving of labor?
If you had to make several trip a day to the farm or village well, and carry back buckets of water, this small "savings" would be greatly appreciated.s
Interesting point, Steve. I hadnt thought of that type of economy!
So seconds bread is basically coarse high bran bread? We pay extra for that today!
Yes, interesting, isnt it, that we now pay more for "rustic" peasant food!
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