Thanksgiving: A Week with Martha Bradley, The British Housewife, Day 5


November 29, 2019
by Don N. Hagist Also by this Author


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Martha Bradley lived in an age when a prosperous household often brewed its own beer, culturing and storing it in large wooden vessels in basements. Much could go wrong, so the section titled “Of Liquors” in the November chapter of her 1756 publication The British Housewife: or, the Cook, Housekeeper’s, and Gardiner’s Companion consisted entirely of methods to improve the brewing process and to recover beer that had gone bad. “To forward the working of Beer,” “To Improve the Strength of Yeast,” “To keep Drink from growing sour,” and so forth. If the brew went bad, there were ways to reclaim it:

To recover thick Beer.
Put into a Gallon of this Beer a Pound of Hops; set them over the Fire in a Vessel well covered, and let them stew some Time.
After this open the Vessel, and put in a Quarter of a Pound of Chalk, and some Settlings of Wort. Work all these well together, and mix it with the Beer that is thick, ropy, and growing sour; after a Week, it will show the Effect, and the Beer will continue good to the last.

To cure Beer that is Foxed.
Dry Half an Ounce of Alum before the Fire, and then grind it to Powder; mix it with Half a Pound of Bean Flour, and an Ounce of dry Hops; put this into the Beer, and it will recover it.
Alum is a very useful Addition on these Occasions, but it is unwholesome when used in any large Quantity; the Proportion used in this Receipt is too small to hurt the Taste, or alter the Qualities.

Beer not being to everyone’s taste, she added a section on distillery, with instructions for using a still to create aromatic beverages from the fruits and spices available in a city. Walnut water, lemon water, peony water, carminative water with orange peel, and this interesting concoction that Bradley presented with a little intrigue to finish it off:

This is one of the Cordials called by the French Liqueurs, and it is the most pleasant and wholesome of them all. Put into a large Bottle a Gallon of true French Brandy, drop into it five Drops of Oil of Lavender, and five of Oil of Rosemary; put in two Dozen of Orange Flowers, and ten whole Cloves; Shake all this together, and let it stand all Night.
The next Morning put into a common Still and Handful of Balm, a Handful of Sage, and half a Handful of Sweet Basil; four Nutmegs broke with a Hammer, a Quarter of a Pound of Cinnamon, and two Blades of Mace; make these swim in Water, and then make the Fire under the Still.
While this is lighting up, tie up in a Piece of Muslin twice double, a Quarter of an Ounce of Saffron, and three Drams of Cochineal, one Grain of Musk, and six Grains of Ambergrease; put this into a large Bottle, and set it under the Nose of the Worm.
By this Time the Liquor in the Still will be pretty hot: Pour in the Brandy and Ingredients, and instantly close it down. Stir up the Fire, and work off briskly three Quarts and Half a Pint.
Set this in a Cellar three Days, and it will have a fine Colour from the Ingredients in the Bag.
Then dissolve two Ounces of the finest Sugar in a Pint and a Half of Water, and pour into the Liquor; shake it very well up, and let it stand four Days more; then get some Half Pint Bottles, such as Capillair is brought in, and fill them; seal them down, and paste a paper on the Outside, with the Word Mignonette. They are a Present at this Time to the greatest people in France, the Receipt being kept a Secret by the Faculty at Montpelier.


[Extracts are from Martha Bradley, The British Housewife: or, the Cook, Housekeeper’s, and Gardiner’s Companion (London: undated, 1756 or 1757 2-volume edition originally published as a series of pamphlets); original spellings are preserved.]





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