Category Archives: Historic Recipes

Twelfth Night Lambswool Recipe

Hello, beer-lovers!

We hope you had a happy and restful holiday season! If you’re still yearning for festivity and good cheer, don’t worry! Today is Twelfth Night – that is, the twelfth day of Christmas. We may not have any lords-a-leaping for you, but I do have a traditional recipe!

Poet Robert Herrick (www.poets.org)

Lambswool is a drink customarily consumed around Twelfth Night. It’s related to old wassailing traditions, in which apple trees are serenaded and alcohol consumed to ensure a bountiful harvest. This stanza in Robert Herrick’s poem Now, Now the Mirth Comes (1660) paints a good picture of lambswool:

Next crown the bowl full
With the gentle lamb’s-wool
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.

Essentially, it was a mulled ale, called lambswool either for white froth scudding over the bowl’s surface, or as a corruption of the Irish celebration “La Mas Ubhal.”

Curious to try lambswool for yourself? There are many on the internet, but I think that this example from the “Miss Foodwise” blog sounds particularly tasty:

  • Bramley or Cox stewing apples, 500 gr (peeled and cored about 300 gr)
  • water, 100 ml
  • sugar 100 gr
  • freshly grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon
  • ginger powder, 1 teaspoon
  • a good ale, 750 ml

Method 
Peel and cut your apples in small pieces and place in a pot along with 100 ml of water and the sugar and spices. Stew until soft and puree so there are no bits left.
When ready to serve, heat up the apple puree and add the ale while whisking. You should get a nice froth while doing so. Serve at once.

An earthenware wassail bowl from the late 1600s. (Courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum)

An earthenware wassail bowl from the late 1600s. (Courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum)

Check out her post in its entirety here (there’s even more interesting historical background)! And waes hael!

Katie

 

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Hot Punch: A Victorian Recipe

It’s November now. Here in the Black Creek Brewery, we’re convinced that we were sampling our summer pale ales and best bitters just…what, two weeks ago? But no, autumn is starting to wane further into winter…

We saw frost on the Grain Barn's roof!

We saw frost on the Grain Barn’s roof!

Which means that it’s getting cold outside. A nice rounded stout or porter usually pairs well with these chilly nights, but sometimes, you want something with a little more punch.

Ah, Mrs. Beeton... (courtesy National Portrait Gallery; www.npg.org.uk)

Ah, Mrs. Beeton…
(courtesy National Portrait Gallery; http://www.npg.org.uk)

In fact, sometimes you want a punch – a hot punch! I went to the ever-reliable Mrs. Beeton to find out more about this warming beverage. In her Book of Household Management, she had this to say:

Punch is a beverage made of various spirituous liquors or wine, hot water, the acid juice of fruits, and sugar. It is considered to be very intoxicating; but this is probably because the spirit, being partly sheathed by the mucilaginous juice and the sugar, its strength does not appear to the taste so great as it really is.

So as always, drink responsibly.

Now, onto the recipe!

  • ½ pint rum
  • ½ pint brandy
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 large lemon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 pint of boiling water

“Rub the sugar over the lemon until it has absorbed all the yellow part of the skin, then put the sugar into a punchbowl; add the lemon-juice (free from pips), and mix these two ingredients well together. Pour over them the boiling water, stir well together, add the rum, brandy, and nutmeg; mix it thoroughly, and the punch will be ready to serve. It is very important in making good punch that all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated; and, to insure success, the process of mixing must be diligently attended to.”

If you’re thinking, “This is basically a hot toddy, isn’t it?” you’re right! Hot toddies are typically made with whisky, but it’s the same general idea—in fact, Mrs. Beeton notes that the Scots usually substituted whisky in their punch “…and then its insidious properties are more than usually felt.”

Now, if you’re wondering whether a hot toddy will cure a cold…well, I’m afraid there is no science to back it up. That said, warm liquids, spices, and honey can do wonders for a sore throat—as my partner-in-crime Blythe and I discovered when we tested another Victorian recipe! (You can catch that episode of Blythe Tries on the Black Creek page this Tuesday!)

Does it work? Find out on Tuesday!

Does it work? Find out on Tuesday!

No matter what you’re drinking, stay warm out there! And come pay us a visit in the brewery soon!

-Katie

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Better Baking with Beer

Hello beer-lovers!

Soon...soon...

Soon…soon…

Hope you’ve all been well and enjoying these last few weeks of summer. We have been well down here in the Black Creek Historic Brewery – enjoying serving the pales and bitters while we still can, and waiting for the hops to finish ripening. I also recently came into possession of rather a lot of stout, so there’s that.

When I have a lot of beer to hand, I like to cook with it. Our growlers are like a bottle of wine—they do need to be finished a few days after opening, and I just can’t drink that much. Same with the several cases of Guinness and St. Ambroise now sitting in my house (long story). Cooking and baking with beer helps clear out my fridge, and also prevents beer from going to waste.

Wasted beer makes me sad. So we try to avoid that.

This aversion to waste is itself very Victorian. From re-using the mash in brewing to eating roast leftovers for a week after a fancy dinner, they weren’t prone to throwing things away willy-nilly. Ironically, though, cooking with beer wasn’t terribly common in the 1800s. As we’ve discussed before, Victorians tended to think, “Why would I put beer in my bread, when I could have beer and bread?”

But then a colleague sent me a recipe for “beer-cakes,” which I’m now sharing with you. This recipe is a little before our time period, coming from a recipe book mostly compiled in the late 1700s-1800s. This recipe is from Cooking in the Archives, a really cool project which seeks to update early modern (1600-1800) recipes in the modern kitchen. Definitely check these ladies out if you haven’t already—good history pairs well with amazing food!

The original recipe, as transcribed by Cooking in the Archives, is thus:

a Pound of Flour, 1/2 Pd. Butter, 1/2 Pd. Sugar, a few
Seeds, mix all together into a very stiff Paste, with
old Beer, roll and bake them on Tin Sheets.

Courtesy www.rarecooking.com. Check them out!

Courtesy http://www.rarecooking.com. Check them out!

Check out the modern equivalent here. There’s a LOT more information on the recipe’s historical background as well. Well worth a look!

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve finished testing these beer-cakes, I’ve got my eye on this slightly more modern recipe for Guinness brownies. Definitely worth keeping in the back pocket—Ed’s going to resume brewing stouts and porters very shortly! 😉

Happy eating!

Katie

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New Brew: Thomas Benson’s Olde Ale

Hello, beer lovers!

Remember how a few weeks ago, I mentioned that Ed was pondering a very special beer here at the Black Creek Historic Brewery? Well… we were both so excited by it, that he went ahead and brewed it!

To recap: a few years back, MPP Kevin Flynn gave us a historic beer recipe, written by Thomas Benson sometime between 1827-1837. We were thrilled to return to it! For my part, it was fascinating to watch Ed work with this historic recipe…and to see and taste the finished product.

As per Thomas Benson’s recipe, Ed used cinnamon, licorice root, and capsaicin (cayenne pepper) to flavour the beer, along with a healthy dose of molasses. (Molasses adds extra sweetness, and also gives the yeast more to work with.)

Some ingredients...

Some ingredients…

According to Ed, capsaicin was used to give the impression that the beer was stronger than it was. Before the industrial revolution, beers were typically served at strengths of “mild” and “old” or “strong.” “Mild” beers cost publicans less to buy from the brewers. So, it was common for tavern-keepers to buy mild beer cheaply, and then age it to “old” beer to turn a profit. Similarly, a bit of strong or stock ale might be added to a mild beer to give it a stronger taste—and thus justifying an increased price! In some cases, capsaicin might have been used in a similar way to create a stronger flavour.

The Olde Ale pours a deep, burnished orange/dark amber. Molasses and caramel notes come through on the nose, and the sweetness carries through on the initial sip. This beer has a nice weight, and the mouthfeel starts quite smoothly—but the spices add a nice tingle as the beer moves over the tongue. There are definitely cinnamon notes, but the cayenne is the real player here. Its heat hit most at the back of the throat and tongue.

Recipe from the diary of Thomas Benson, part of the Benson family fonds at the Archives of Ontario

Recipe from the diary of Thomas Benson, part of the Benson family fonds at the Archives of Ontario

I am notorious for my love of spicy things, so I was all over this. That being said, I found the sweetness of the malt and molasses really calmed and balanced the spice here. As well, licorice root has a coating effect, which also tempered the intensity. Expect a long, long finish—but honestly, the cayenne heat just made me want to have another sip. This is a great beer for hot weather—definitely one to sip on the patio, maybe with some barbeque or pulled pork. Again, thinking sweetness to balance the heat!

Of course, my favourite part of the Olde Ale is its historicity. Not only has it been made with historic methods, it was sourced from a historic document. I wonder what Thomas Benson would make of it?

And what will you make of it? Well, you can drop by this weekend and try some for yourself. After all this is probably the closest you can get to drinking 1800s beer!

See you in the brewery!

-Katie

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Back to Benson: Re-Examining an Old Recipe

I missed Ed over the winter. Now that the Black Creek Historic Brewery has opened its doors for the 2015 season, we’re back to giving tours, leading samples…and sharing our knowledge with each other.

“Hey, Katie,” Ed said, early one morning as I was opening our POS system, “can you go back into the blog archives? We posted a historic recipe a few years ago. I want to take a look at it.”

“Sure thing!”

I’ve only been writing this blog for two years, so it was fun to dip back into posts past. In short order, I found the article Ed wanted. In early 2013, Andrew Morrison, an archive at the Archives of Ontario, sent our Special Events coordinator a recipe he’d found in a notebook belonging to Thomas Benson—a prominent businessman in Upper Canada, and the first Mayor of Peterborough.

Recipe from the diary of Thomas Benson, part of the Benson family fonds at the Archives of Ontario

Recipe from the diary of Thomas Benson, part of the Benson family fonds at the Archives of Ontario

The notebook dates from somewhere between 1827-1837, though there’s no exact date on the recipe itself. It’s fascinating! Period recipes are a great way to infer brewing methods from the 1800s…and this recipe has some intriguing ingredients, too.

To Brew Five Gallons Strong Beer

Take Three ounces Hops, and rub them well into a close vessel sprinkling on them, when rubbed, about a teaspoon-full of salt – then pour on boiling water sufficient to saturate them and cover close.

Boil two and a half gallons water, dash the boil with cold water and suffer it to cool down to 180° Faht. Pour it into your Mash-tub. Mash it well till the malt is thoroughly wetted, and allow it to stand close covered about two hours, then run the liquor off into a vessel prepared to receive it – having first of all placed a whisk of clean hay or straw over the hole in your mash-tub to preven the malt running off with the liquor. If at first the liquor should run off thick or discoloured pour back until it runs clear.

Mash the second time with the same quantity of water at 190°, and let it stand covered two hours. Get up your first wort into the boiler and add the Hops, a quarter of a pound of liquorice root (previously bruised) 1/4 [illegible] 1/4 ounce Capsicum, a bit of Cinnamon, and three ounces Treacle. Boil smartly for an hour, then run off into a cooler, carefully straining out the hops to be boiled in the second wort, which must also be boiled an hour. Observe that your malt must not stand dry between the mashings but must be Kept constantly moist by ladling the liquor over it.

Run off the second liquor into the Cooler, and cool down as quickly as possible to 65°. then run it into the tun as quick as you can so that it shall suffer no diminuation of heat, and add sufficient yeast to cause fermentation. Let it work till it comes to a good deep head and has attenuated about 8°, then cleanse it by adding about a quarter ounce of ginger and rousing it well. The liquor is now fit for putting into the Keg, which must be done carefully. The Keg must be quite full to let the yeast work over, adding fresh liquor too Keep it full till it has done working. then bung it up close but take care to watch it well lest it should begin to work again and burst the Keg, which may be prevented by easing the keg.

The only thing that now remains is to fine the beer. Finings are made by dissolving Isingladd in Stale Beer till it acquire a thin gluey consistence like size. the beer in which the ising-glass is dissolved must be quite stale and very clear. Add a sufficient quantity of this to clear your beer a gill will sometimes be sufficient but it may require more.

 

“Does he mean capsaicin?” Ed wondered, when I returned to the brewery with my findings.

 

“I wonder what that would taste like—maybe like a chili beer?”

 

“Maybe.”

 

When I had a bit more time, I examined scanned copies of the original recipe to see if we were missing anything. Benson actually wrote “capsicum,” which today, refers to mild bell peppers, but can also refer to spicy chili peppers. So it seems we were right—it looks like a very early version of a chili beer. The cinnamon and ginger would also bump the heat factor up.

 

“But molasses? Licorice root?”

 

Molasses features in a lot of early Canadian beer recipes. It’s sugar, so it ferments out easily. Essentially, it supplements the malt, giving the yeast a little more to work with. Licorice root has a very sweet taste and also coats the throat—it can be used as a remedy for sore throat. So, my guess is that it’s there to balance out the heat from the spices.

 

Ginger also appears in many 19th century beer recipes...

Ginger also appears in many 19th century beer recipes…

Benson’s recipe doesn’t mention what to use in the grain bill. Today, chili beers are often light-coloured ales, or occasionally lagers. Certainly, I think that the capsicum, ginger, and cinnamon would get lost in a heavier, darker beer. Something along the lines of a pale ale makes sense. Not an IPA, though—with the extra hops and alcohol, I suspect there’d be too much going on. But maybe a base similar to that of our Ginger Beer…

 

In any case, it sounds like it would be an interesting summer brew: something to get the sweat glands revving and cut through the stickiness of our muggy Toronto afternoons. Ed’s pondering this, I can tell. We shall see where it leads!

 

In the meantime, check out the original posting here!

 

Cheers!

Katie

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No Barley? No Problem! Gluten-Free Beers

Whilst roaming Maine, writing things and trying beers, I noticed an interesting-looking brew. A gluten-free beer, made from sorghum. “How cool!” said I, and made a mental note to try it later. Alas, I never got the chance.

 

It was this beer, incidentally.

It was this beer, incidentally.

But it did get me thinking about gluten-free beers and their place in history. As you no doubt know, beer is made from four ingredients: barley, hops, water, and yeast. Unfortunately for those with celiac disease or other gluten intolerances, barley contains gluten: a protein which causes pain and discomfort in those who cannot properly digest it.

And so, people with gluten intolerance should not drink our beer at Black Creek. However the main chemical reaction in brewing is the conversion of sugar (derived from the barley) to alcohol by yeast. So really, to make beer, you need hops, yeast, water, and [insert source of fermentable sugar here].

Which means that you can, theoretically, make beer from other types of grains: sorghum, rice, millet, and corn. While some might quibble over whether a barley-free beer is really beer, these grains would create an alcoholic, gluten-free beverage. Indeed, some home brewing kits include a sweet sorghum syrup instead of malt—I could find very little information on whether sorghum is malted, but the commercially-produced syrup also includes unfermentable sugars and amino acids as yeast nutrients.

But what about the Victorians? Did they have gluten-free beers?

The answer, surprisingly, is yes.

Not that Victorians would have thought of it as “gluten-free beer.” It was just beer made without barley. And why would one make beer without barley?

It’s cheaper. Remember, to make alcohol, the yeast really just needs fermentable sugar. Molasses was frequently used as a substitute or supplement to barley malt:

“Hop Beer”

“…a handful of hops, a pailful of water and half a pint of molasses make a good spruce beer. Spruce mixed with hops is pleasanter than hops alone.” (Mrs. Child, Mrs. Child’s the American Frugal Housewife, 1859)

At least you like spruce, Mrs. Child…

“Jumble Beer”

“Take 2 spoonfuls of ground Ginger, and 1 pint of molasses, to 2 ½ pails of water; first mix the ingredients with a little water warmed, especially in cold weather; then add the whole compliment of water and shake it very briskly, and in about 6 or 8 hours it will be sufficiently fermented.” (Samuel Curtis, A Valuable Collection of Recipes, Medical and Miscellaneous. Useful in Families and Valuable to Every Description of Persons, 1819)

I have my doubts about how alcoholic this one would be. Here’s another beer from Samuel Curtis, called, appropriately enough, “Another beer.”

“Another beer”

“Boil 1 ounce of hops, 1 ounce of pounded ginger, and 4 pounds of treacle, in 2 gallons of water; when at the temperature of new milk, add Yeast to ferment it in the manner of malt liquor. This is reported to be wholesome and agreeable, and it not only cheaper, but will keep much longer than common beer.”

Sometimes, Victorians even used acorns!

“Cheap Beer”

“Steep a quantity of acorns in water for 15 or 20 days, renewing the water 4 or five times. Transfer them to a cask and add a handful of hops; fill up the casks with water, and lightly cover, not stop, the bunghole, as there is an escape of gas. In 15 or 20 days, the beer is fit for use…” (S.S. Schoff and B.S. Caswell, The People’s Own Book of Recipes; and Information for the Million, 1867)

At least they’re honest with the name… showing again, that while we look for barley alternatives for health reasons, Victorians would have been doing so in the name of frugality and thrift. Although I do wonder if an acorn beer was worth the savings… 😉

-Katie

Books

Child, Lydia Maria Frances. The American Frugal Housewife. New York: Samuel S. & William Wood, 1838.

Curtis, Samuel. A Valuable Collection of Recipes, Medical and Miscellaneous. Useful in Families and Valuable to Every Description of Persons. Amherst: Elijah Mansue, 1819.

Schoff, S.S. and B.S. Caswell. The People’s Own Book of Recipes; and Information for the Million. Kenosha, Wis. Schoff and Winegar, 1867.

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Another Historic Beer: Chateau Jiahu

Apparently, we’re not the only ones interested in historic beer.

Since the Black Creek Historic Brewery is closed until May, your trusty beer journalist has gone international. While staying in Virginia, I’ve had the chance to try some of the offerings from Dogfish Head Brewery: a craft brewery based in Delaware. They’ve been on the American craft brewing scene since 1995, and in 1999 they started a line of “Ancient Ales.” On board, they have Dr. Patrick McGovern (Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum). With his expertise, Dogfish Head crafts recipes based on chemical analyses of residue found on ancient drinking vessels.

I tried the Chateau Jiahu, released 2006. Jiahu is a Neolithic site in China’s Yellow River Valley, dating back to approximately 7000 BCE. Excavated mostly through the 1980s, it is home to some of the oldest known written records, the oldest playable musical instruments…

…and the oldest fermented beverages.

Jiahu at lower centre (courtesy www.naturalhistorymag)

Jiahu at lower centre (courtesy http://www.naturalhistorymag)

Excavations at the Jiahu site yielded pottery vessels with high necks, handles, and flaring rims: perfect for storing and serving alcoholic beverages. Because pottery is porous, organic material can seep into the ceramic. Thousands of years later, researchers are still able to analyze that material.

McGovern describes the Jiahu beverage as a sort of “grog,” made from rice (acting like barley), honey, grapes, and hawthorne-tree fruit. So, it was probably like a cross between mead, beer, and wine. However, it’s not quite clear how the rice was used. As with barley, the starches need to be broken down into simple sugars. It may have been malted, but McGovern notes that human saliva has the same effect, meaning that the rice could also be chewed to prepare it for fermentation (this is still done in parts of Asia). Either way, you’d get a lot of husks and debris floating in your brew—hence why a lot of ancient beers were drunk through straws.

Look closely, upper right... (courtesy www.penn.museum)

Look closely, upper right… (courtesy http://www.penn.museum)

I didn’t have to worry about that. While Dogfish Head Ale may be going to older sources than we do at the Black Creek Historic Brewery, they do use modern methods and equipment.

The Chateau Jiahu was a pale golden colour, with a bit of cloudiness and a small, fine head. I smelled fruitiness right away and caught more on the aftertaste, but the sweetness really surprised me. There are no hoppy notes. That’s not surprising, since they wouldn’t be using hops in 7000 BCE China, I’ve just grown accustomed to that type of bitterness. Instead, the honey comes through quite strongly. Mild carbonation was pleasant, and you definitely notice the lightness in flavour and body—something quite different from our barley-based ales.

A note of caution: this beer is 10% ABV. It doesn’t feel like it.

Jiahu isn’t the only site Dogfish Head has explored; they’ve taken inspiration from sites ranging from Turkey to Egypt to Finland. Now, if only we could pair their recipes with our 1860s brewery…that would be one truly historic ale!

For more, check out:

Dogfish Head Brewery

The Jiahu Excavation

-Katie

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