Fruit, Preserves, Summer

Tomato Catsup

Ketchup, the thick, sweet, tomato-based condiment found on nearly every restaurant table and in nearly every American fridge, is more exotic than you might think. Ketchup or catsup, spellings were interchangeable and far from standardized, takes its name from the Mandarin name for a sauce of fermented soybeans, k-tsiap. When Europeans encountered this sauce in Southeast Asia, they returned with a taste for it. Lacking soybeans, they produced substitutes using anchovies, walnuts, mushrooms, and oysters. American colonists brought these recipes with them and experimented with sauces produced from apples and beans.

Mushroom Catsup from the Greenwich Historical Society

While ketchup was imported to America, tomato ketchup or American ketchup may be an American invention. As tomatoes spread through the United States [link to stewed tomatoes recipe], it is likely an enterprising ketchup-maker determined to try tomatoes as the base for the savory sauce. Tomato-based ketchup quickly gained popularity with Lydia Maria Child declaring in 1832, “the best sort of catsup is made from tomatoes.”[1] Child’s catsup combined tomatoes with mace, cloves, allspice, pepper, mustard, and cayenne into a thick, spicy sauce she recommended serving with roast meat or adding to a stew or soup to add richness. Over time, like most things in the American diet, ketchup became sweeter. As discussed in the recipe for Peach Marmalade, technological innovation and the spread of slavery in the nineteenth century combined to make sugar less expensive and more readily available. Consequently, sugar found its way into more recipes, including tomato ketchup.

Heinz octagonal glass bottle, c. 1890

By the end of the nineteenth century, tomato ketchup was mass-produced, bottled, and sold around the country, perhaps most famously by Henry John Heinz. Heinz founded the H.J. Heinz Company in 1876; one factor in Heinz’s success was his use of clear glass bottles for his products. [2] In an era of few regulations around the purity and safety of food, clear glass allowed the consumer to view the quality of Heinz’s merchandise. However, to become a requirement in American refrigerators and restaurant tables, ketchup needed the invention of three major host foods: hamburgers, hotdogs, and French fries. After introducing these foods in the early twentieth century to American diners, tomato ketchup became, as the New York Tribune declared in 1896, America’s national condiment.

Heinz’s recipe is proprietary, but it likely includes more spices and sugar than Randolph’s simple tomato-based sauce. Early nineteenth-century recipes for Catsup (also sometimes called Soy) were intended as an ingredient for other dishes. There is scant evidence that they appeared on early American tables for diners to apply to a dish. Nevertheless, we enjoyed Randolph’s Tomato Catsup as we would its present-day counterpoint as a dip for fries, chicken nuggets, and other dippers. Without any added sugar, just the tomatoes’ sweetness, it is much more savory than your favorite brand of ketchup, and the addition of mace gives it a little something different. 

Tomato Catsup

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife (1838), p. 162.

Adapted by RA Snell

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs tomatoes
  • 1-2 teaspoons of salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/8 cup onion, diced
  • Pepper & mace, to taste

Method

1. Core the tomatoes and cut into quarters. Place in a sauce pan and generously sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of salt.

3. Simmer over medium heat for 40 minutes stirring often, until the tomatoes have broken down and released all their juices.

4. Strain the tomatoes through a colander, pushing through all the juices with a spoon.

5. Combine the tomato juice, onion, and seasonings in a blender or food processer. Blend until the onion is incorporated into the tomato mixture.

6. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the mixture is thickened. About 30 minutes.

7. Place in a tightly sealed jar. Keep refrigerated.

Yield: ~8 oz

Notes:

Mace is a product of the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans), the tropical evergreen that also produces nutmeg. The yellowish-brown spice derives from the red lacy coating (aril) of the nutmeg seed. It is available ground or as dried blades (Randolph’s recipe refers to blades of mace) and was a common flavoring in colonial and early American foodways. Today, mace frequently appears in Asian, Caribbean, Indian, and Moroccan cuisines in both savory dishes and baked goods. The flavor of mace is similar to nutmeg but spicier than sweet. The flavor is often described as a combination of cinnamon and pepper. This recipe requires a tiny pinch of mace. Cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice may be substituted but will all yield slightly different flavors than Randolph’s original recipe.

One 15oz can of tomato sauce may be substituted for the fresh tomatoes, skip to step 5. 


Sources

[1] Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife  (Boston: Carter, Hendee & Co., 1832), 35.

[2] Heinz founded the company with his brother and cousin and it was originally called F & J Heinz. Heinz bought out his cofounders in 1888 and renamed the company H.J. Heinz.

Peggy Towbridge Filippone, “What is Mace? Uses, Benefits, Recipes,” The Spruce Eats (accessed Sept. 2, 2020), https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-mace-1807031.

Ketchup (Catsup), Food History Timeline (accessed Sept. 2, 2020), http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodsauces.html#ketchup.

Sandra L. Oliver, Food in Colonial and Federal America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005), 76-7.

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook, ed. Karen Hess (Washington, D.C., 1824; repr., Columbia: S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1984), 162.

Andrew F. Smith, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 342-3.

Images

Senator John Heinz History Center

https://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/exhibits/heinz

Greenwich Historical Society

https://greenwichhistory.org/colonial-cooking-mushroom-ketchup/

Fruit, Preserves, Summer

To Stew Tomatos

Randolph’s The Virginia House-wife includes a variety of ways to prepare vegetables, dispelling the myth that early Americans only ate vegetables boiled to an indistinguishable pulp. The vegetable section contains fourth-nine recipes ranging from salad to broiled mushrooms. These recipes are representative of the produce available to early nineteenth-century Virginians, and the number of recipes for tomatoes suggests tomatoes were a common and widely accepted fruit for the times. Perhaps more so than historians previously thought.

Randolph’s seventeen recipes, including tomatoes as a primary ingredient, including four Spanish recipes (Gaspacha – Spanish, Ropa Veija, Olla, Eggs and Tomatos (Piperade)), are evidence of the tomato’s use in Early National Virginia and the spread of the fruit in the United States. The introduction of tomatoes likely occurred through Spanish Florida or emigration between the low country and the West Indies. Randolph’s four Spanish recipes strongly suggest Spanish Florida’s influence in the adoption of tomatoes in the southern United States. Tomatoes were standard in the southern colonies by the mid-eighteenth century. Thomas Jefferson grew the fruit in his gardens in Monticello by 1782 and noted others in Virginia did the same for personal consumption. The tomato spread more slowly in the northern U.S. However, by 1832, Lydia Maria Child wrote in her collection of recipes, The American Frugal Housewife, that the tomato “is a delicious vegetable. It is easily cultivated, and yields a most abundant crop.” Child also noted that “the best sort of catsup is made from tomatoes.”[1]


Richard J. Hooker, Ed., A Colonial Plantation Cookbook: The Receipt Book of Harriot Pinckney Horry, 1770 (Columbia: S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1984), 89.

The earliest extant written culinary reference to tomatoes appears in Harriot Pinckney Horry’s manuscript recipe collection. Richard J. Hooker, the editor of the published version of her collection, A Colonial Plantation Cookbook, wrote her recipe To Keep Tomatoos for Winter Use, “could well be the earliest reference to tomatoes in any American cookbook” and likely dates to around 1770.[2] Like Horry’s recipe, Randolph’s To Stew Tomatos calls for peeled tomatoes simmered with salt and pepper. Horry specifies her recipe produces tomatoes for soup during the winter. She also includes instructions to preserve the stewed tomatoes for later use (poured into pint pots and sealed with butter). In comparison, Randolph does not provide a specific purpose for her recipe. The lack of this information suggests Randolph expected her audience to be familiar with uses for stewed tomatoes.

Randolph’s simple recipe for stewed tomatoes is a possible example of the types of tomato preparations enjoyed in early America. The recipe To Scollop Tomatos explores the fruit’s initial introduction to European foodways and the skepticism that accompanied it.

To Stew Tomatos

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife (1838), p. 101.

Adapted by RA Snell

Ingredients

  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt & pepper
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Method

1. Peel, core, and quarter the tomatoes. An easy method for peeling tomatoes is to cut an “X” on the bottom of each tomato and place them in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes and let them sit for one minute. Remove the tomatoes from the water and the skins should peel off easily.

2. Place in a pan with remaining ingredients except sugar over medium heat.

3. Once the mixture begins to boil, turn down the heat to low and simmer the mixture. Stir occasionally, and break up the tomatoes with your spoon as they cook.

4. Simmer 30 minutes. Once removed from the heat, taste your tomatoes and determine whether to add sugar.

Yield: 2 cups stewed tomatoes

Serving: For tomato lovers, these are excellent served as a side dish. The intense tomato flavor and juice would make a good accompaniment to a grilled meat. The dish can also be used in place of canned stewed tomatoes in recipes.

Notes

Another recipe that is easily scaled up or down.

My tomatoes were very sweet, if your tomatoes are more acidic you may find the addition of ½ to 1 tablespoon of sugar will balance the taste.


Sources

[1] Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife  (Boston: Carter, Hendee & Co., 1832), 35.

[2] Richard J. Hooker, Ed., A Colonial Plantation Cookbook: The Receipt Book of Harriot Pinckney Horry, 1770 (Columbia: S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1984), 89.

Alan Davidson, The Penguin Companion to Food (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 800-801.

Hooker, Richard J., Ed., A Colonial Plantation Cookbook: The Receipt Book of Harriot Pinckney Horry, 1770 (Columbia: S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1984).

Sandra L. Oliver, Food in Colonial and Federal America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005), 61-62.

John F. Mariani, The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), 506.

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook, ed. Karen Hess (Washington, D.C., 1824; repr., Columbia: S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1984), 294-6.

Andrew F. Smith, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 590-1.

Andrew F. Smith, The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1994).

Summer, Vegetable

Squash or Cimlin

Randolph’s recipes provide a sense of vegetable preparation in the Early National South. As a general rule, vegetables played a supporting role to a meat-centered main dish. In most recipes, vegetables were boiled and served with butter, salt, and pepper. While Randolph relies heavily on boiling for her vegetable recipes, she includes several variations.

Squash, like tomatoes, were relative newcomers to the diets of European colonists and their descendants. The name derives from the Algonquian word askut asquash, meaning eaten green or unripe. Introduced to the so-called Three Sisters (corn, squash, and beans) by their Native neighbors, colonists quickly adopted these reliable crops that could be used in European-style dishes. Squashes lent themselves to English puddings, pies, and simply baking or boiling. The squash family includes summer and winter varieties. Summer squashes are picked at an earlier stage while the seeds and skin are edible. Winter squashes have tougher skin and require peeling and seed removal before cooking. The thick skins of winter squashes provide a long shelf life when stored in a cool, dry place, making them a staple vegetable for long winters.

Shrewsbury Simnel Cake with pastry covering and crenelated decoration, 1869.

Randolph’s recipe uses the southern term for pattypan squash. The name of this summer squash (Cucurbita pepo) derives from its scalloped appearance and varies by region. Randolph spells it “cimlin,” but simlin, symbling, and cymling are common spelling variations. Robert Beverly, a historian of early Virginia, wrote, “They are sometimes call’d Cymnels . . . from the Lenten Cake of that name, which many of them very much resemble.”[1] Beverly refers to Simnel Cake, a light fruit cake layered with marzipan and capped with a circle of marzipan eggs or crenelated decoration, traditionally served on the fourth Sunday in Lent in Great Britain, Ireland, and other European countries. The cake has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years thanks to a technical challenge on The Great British Bake Off.

Summer Squash (Cucurbita pepo), 1857.

The persistence in names for this squash, pattypan in the northern United States and cymling in the southern, is a legacy of the earliest colonists’ religious affiliations. In New England, the first colonists to encounter squash and adopt the vegetable into their foodways were Pilgrims and Puritans, members of separatist faiths who eschewed the Anglican tradition’s pomp and circumstance. These colonists consequently named the squash for its resemblance to a pan for baking a patty. In the southern colonies, first populated by Anglican and Catholic colonists, a cake connected to a Lenten celebration inspired the squash’s name.

Randolph’s recipe for summer squash follows Beverley’s recommendation for preparing the vegetable in The History and Present State of Virginia. Beverley advised,

These being boil’d whole, when the Apple is young, and the Shell tender, and dished with Cream or Butter, relish very well with all sorts of Butcher’s Meat, either fresh or salt.

Robert Beverly, The History and Present State of Virginia, In Four Parts (London: R. Parker, 1705), 27.

Randolph elevates the dish by pureeing the squash by passing it through a colander before cooking it with the cream and butter. Randolph describes this preparation as “the most delicate way of preparing squashes.” Since the butter and cream mask the subtle flavor of summer squash, if you’re overrun with squashes and absolutely tired of them but compelled to eat as many as possible, this recipe could be a welcome change in flavor and texture.


Squash or Cimlin

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife (1838), p. 110.

Adapted by RA Snell

Ingredients

  • 2 medium summer squashes
  • 4 tablespoons cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • salt & pepper

Method

1. Peel your squashes, cut them in half, and remove the seeds. Cut into smaller pieces, roughly uniform in size.

2. Boil until tender, about 25-30 minutes. Drain the squash well allowing the squash to sit in the colander for 5-10 minutes to drain all the liquid.

3. Run through a food mill on the medium texture grinding disc.

4. Place the squash puree in a small pan with the cream and butter. Cook over medium heat until the liquid has cooked off and the puree is, as Randolph describes it, “dry.”

5. Season with salt and pepper.

Yield: ~ ½ cup (a dismally sad amount)

Notes:

Randolph describes her recipe as “the most delicate way of preparing squashes,” but I’m skeptical squashes were regularly prepared in this manner. First, my two medium squashes yielded a parsimonious ½ cup of squash. Squash are abundant in the summer months, but it would still require a large number of squash to feed an average sized family for the early nineteenth-century, even as a side dish. Secondly, the method is labor intensive. Before I pulled out the food mill, I attempted Randolph’s method of rubbing the squash through a colander with a spoon – it was difficult bordering on impossible. Too much work for too little result, in my opinion.

I’ve used straight neck squash for this recipe as that is what I had available. This recipe will work with any summer squash. When using a thin-skinned squash like straight neck or zucchini, peeling is unnecessary.


Sources

[1] Robert Beverly, The History and Present State of Virginia, In Four Parts (London: R. Parker, 1705), 27.

Kay K. Moss, Seeking the Historical Cook: Exploring Eighteenth-Century Southern Foodways (Columbia: S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 2013), 120, 148.

Sandra L. Oliver, Food in Colonial and Federal America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005), 10, 60-61.

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook, ed. Karen Hess (Washington, D.C., 1824; repr., Columbia: S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1984), 110, 267.

Andrew F. Smith, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 561.

Images

Shrewsbury Simnel Cake with pastry covering and crenulated decoration, 1869

Unknown author – Chamber’s Book of Days, 1869 (http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/shrewsburysimnelcake.htm)

Summer Squash (Cucurbita pepo), 1857

Flore des serres et des jardins de l’Europe v.12 (1857)

From the Swallowtail Garden Seeds collection of botanical photographs and illustrations. We hope you will enjoy these images as much as we do.

Fruit, Preserves, Summer

Peach Marmalade

When we produce homemade jams and jellies in our kitchens, we often pat ourselves on the back for being particularly frugal. In the early modern period, preserving with sugar was an especially luxurious, even pretentious, means of keeping the summer’s bounty for later enjoyment. Drying and pickling were far more economical in locales and eras where sugar was expensive and firewood scarce. Early National Virginia suffered neither of these scarcities. The number of preserve recipes (and their liberal use of sugar) in Randolph’s collection suggests that sugar preserves were a popular means of putting up fruits for colder months.

Nearly all the preserves in Randolph’s cookbook, except for a few pickles, rely on sugar to prevent spoiling and extend the shelf life of foods. During the eighteenth century, sugar transitioned from a luxury item to an everyday necessity within many European societies,  including England and, by extension, Canada and the United States. The establishment of sugar colonies in the West Indies and South America dramatically increased sugar’s availability in English and American markets. In 1660, England consumed one thousand hogsheads of sugar. By 1753, that number had ballooned to over one hundred thousand hogsheads.

As sugar production increased with enslaved labor on New World plantations, a mass market emerged. Before this explosion in availability, sugar was used in small quantities by an elite few as a medicine, spice, or decorative substance. The production and sharing of fruit preserves, such as Randolph’s marmalade, manifested status through women’s “associations with the fruits themselves and, second, in their extravagant use of sugar.”[1] Alongside the increase in sugar production, were new ways of consuming it. Historian Sidney W. Mintz traced growing uses for sugar within the English working class’s diets via increased consumption of “sucrose-heavy foods – treacle, jams, raw sugar for tea and baking, puddings, and baked goods.”[2] Similar transitions occurred in American diets with jam and jellies, cakes, pie, cookies, doughnuts, and many more sweet treats.

Randolph’s Peach Marmalade is an example of the sorts of simple jams produced for short-term use during the Early National period. Currently, we firmly associate marmalade with citrus fruits. However, historically the term refers to a simple jam employing few ingredients and little effort to refine the end product. Randolph’s chunky, delicious peach preserve fits this definition perfectly. It’s an easy jam to simmer on the stove while attending to other matters in the kitchen, and the results are scrumptious served over ice cream for a simple summer dessert.

Peach Marmalade

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife (1838), p. 156.

Adapted by RA Snell

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds peaches
  • 1 pound light brown sugar

Method

1. Peel and slices peaches. Randolph recommends paring the peaches, but a simpler method is to plunge the peaches in boiling water with an x cut into the skin. Remove after one minute and place in an ice bath.

2. Place the peaches in a pan with the sugar. Stir and allow the mixture to rest to pull out the juices (10-15 minutes).

3. Simmer the peaches over medium-low heat stirring frequently. Use the spoon to break up the peaches as they cook.

4. Simmer until the peaches become “a transparent pulp” or about thirty minutes. When the mixture thickens and no longer rushes to fill the space when you drag your spoon across the bottom of the pan, the marmalade is ready.

Yield: ~1 pint marmalade

Serving: Randolph notes, “Puffs made of this marmalade are very delicious.” My family enjoyed the marmalade stirred into plain yogurt, as a topping for ice cream, and with whipped cream on puff pastry. This final version, a take on Randolph’s suggestion to serve the marmalade with puffs, was delectable.

Notes:

Store your marmalade in a tightly sealed jar and refrigerate. This recipe has not been tested for canning.

This marmalade can be made in virtually any amount following to 2:1 ratio of peaches to brown sugar.

Randolph recommends yellow peaches for this recipe and I concur. They make the prettiest and tastiest preserves.


Sources

[1] Amanda E. Herbert, Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014), 55-6.

[2] Sidney W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1985), 39, 96-102, 143.

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook, ed. Karen Hess (Washington, D.C., 1824; repr., Columbia: S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1984), 156.

Sue Shephard, Pickled, Potted, and Canned: How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000).

Andrew F. Smith, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 477.

Baking, Summer

To Scollop Tomatos

Tomatoes are everywhere in present-day American diets. In fact, Americans eat 36 pounds of tomatoes each year, and many of our favorite foods (pizza, spaghetti, ketchup, etc.) rely heavily on the sweet flavor of the tomato. For home gardeners, tomatoes are the most popular crop.

Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) were not always among the most popular fruits in the American diet; however, historians’ assumptions about the presumed toxicity of the plant may be overblown. Tomatoes, native to South America and domesticated in Central America, were part of the Columbia Exchange, the trade of plants, animals, and pathogens between the New and Old Worlds during the Age of Discovery. Spanish and Italian foodways quickly adopted the tomato after the plant’s introduction to Europe. English cooks were more hesitant. The tomato is a member of the plant family Solanaceae along with the potato, eggplant or aubergine, chili and bell peppers, and the highly poisonous belladonna or deadly nightshade. This last member of the family is the likely source of reservations around the use of tomatoes. Concerns about the toxicity of tomatoes, perhaps spread by the smell emitted by the plant’s leaves and stalks, lead many in England to avoid the fruit using them only medicinally. Research by food scholar Andrew Smith suggests English cooks’ reticence to use tomatoes was relatively short-lived. By the 1750s, English cooks were using tomatoes as evidenced by a recipe for “piccalilli” in a supplement to the 1758 edition of Hannah Glasse’s classic The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.[1]

Randolph’s simple recipe for tomatoes baked with butter and breadcrumbs is a possible example of the types of tomato preparations enjoyed in early America. The recipe To Stew Tomatos explores the fruit’s introduction to the United States.

To Scollop Tomatos

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife (1838), p. 101.

Adapted by RA Snell

Ingredients

  • 1 slice of bread grated fine on a box grater or in a food processor
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon butter, divided evenly between layers
  • salt & pepper

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Peel and slice your tomatoes. An easy method for peeling tomatoes is to cut an “X” on the bottom of each tomato and place them in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes and let them sit for one minute. Remove the tomatoes from the water and the skins should peel off easily.

3. Layer the tomatoes in a greased baking dish with the other ingredients thusly: layer of tomatoes, layer of breadcrumbs, sprinkle of salt and pepper, and bits of butter. Continue until all ingredients are used.

4. Bake 40 minutes until bubbly and the top is browned.

Yield: Two tomatoes yielded one generous main dish serving. If serving as a side dish, plan one tomato per person.

Note: Another recipe that is easily scaled up or down.


Sources

Alan Davidson, The Penguin Companion to Food (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 800-801.

John F. Mariani, The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), 506.

Sandra L. Oliver, Food in Colonial and Federal America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005), 61-62.

Andrew F. Smith, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 590-1.

Andrew F. Smith, The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1994).

Fruit, Preserves, Summer

Raspberry Vinegar

Summer in the mid-Atlantic is hot. Any Virginia housewife would desire a recipe for a cool drink to offer their guests. The cordials section of The Virginia House-wife provides a number of possibilities, most alcoholic. Randolph’s Raspberry Vinegar is a relative to shrub, a colonial-era cordial composed of fruit juice, rum or brandy, and sugar. Citrus fruit appears most frequently as lemons and oranges, but raspberries and cherries were popular flavors. The drink is made by steeping the fruit in the liquor and served sweetened with sugar. Raspberry and other fruit-flavored vinegars remained a popular drink in many areas into the twentieth century.

Randolph recommends serving her Raspberry Vinegar cold, “it is a delicious beverage mixed with ice water.” Long before the era of refrigeration, ice was part of Virginia’s food culture from the earliest settlements with archeological evidence of ice pits at Jamestown dating to the seventeenth century. Those living in sufficiently cold climes, harvested ice from local ponds, lakes, and rivers during the winter. Saved in caves and underground cellars, the ice Stored in caves and underground cellars, the ice could be enjoyed during the warmer months. In the eighteenth century, ice houses, far more efficient than ice cellars, kept ice cold and allowed for chilling food and drink, and making ice cream. By the early nineteenth century, innovation brought cold storage into American homes with Thomas Moore’s 1802 invention of an insulated icebox. Randolph’s drawings for a refrigerator in the 1825 edition of The Virginia House-wife suggests American housewives were well aware of these innovations. Just a few years later, in the 1830s, these inventions were common in American homes.

The everyday use of iceboxes required a regular supply of ice. Starting in the 1790s and perhaps earlier, each winter, enterprising individuals would harvest a surplus of ice from local lakes, rivers, and ponds.[1] Operations in northern states, such as the one run by “Ice King” Fredric Tudor of Boston, dominated the trade. Tudor’s extensive ice shipping business eventually reached as far away as China. In the warmer months, this cargo, packed with sawdust to limit melting, was sent by ship and later train to urban Southern areas like Randolph’s home in Virginia. By 1866, the Richmond Ice Company offered Kennebec River ice to the citizens of Randolph’s longtime home for their ice boxes and other cooling needs. One of those needs could have been a refreshing glass of raspberry vinegar.

Randolph’s Raspberry Vinegar has a deep red color and, when sampled alone, a strong vinegar flavor with a hint of raspberry. When mixed with ice water, alchemy transforms the bitter vinegar into a sweet, refreshing beverage flavored mostly by raspberries, and the vinegar fades into the background. It’s especially delicious mixed with ice-cold sparkling water.

Raspberry Vinegar

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife (1838), p. 173.

Adapted by RA Snell

Ingredients

  • 10 oz raspberries
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 ½ cups white granulated sugar

Method

1. Place 3.25 oz of raspberries in a quart-sized jar. Pour over the berries 2 cups of vinegar. Seal and let stand for 24 hours.

2. Strain the berries from the vinegar. Return the vinegar to the jar with 3.25 oz of new raspberries. Seal and let stand for 24 hours.

3. Strain the berries from the vinegar. Return the vinegar to the jar with 3.25 oz of new raspberries. Seal and let stand for 24 hours.

4. On the fourth day, strain the raspberries and add the vinegar to a small sauce pan. Add 2 ½ cups of sugar and heat the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and pour the mixture into a jar.

To Serve: Place 3 tablespoons of raspberry vinegar in a pint glass. Pour in ice water to fill the glass. Stir.

Yield: ~ 16 oz or 1 pint of vinegar.

Notes

Randolph advises “strong well-flavored” vinegar for this recipe. I selected white vinegar, but the substitution possibilities are endless. I’ve seen similar recipes with white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar.

The “pickled” raspberries are edible. We did not find them enjoyable.

Sweeten the vinegar to your taste. After steeping, I had two cups of vinegar and added 2 ½ cups of vinegar. Your desired ratio may be smaller or larger. Randolph does advise to make the mixture “very sweet,” but I didn’t want to lose any raspberry flavor.

Sources

[1] The first recorded shipment of ice from New York to Charleston, South Carolina occurred in 1799.

A Gardener’s Table: Celebrating The Harvest

Food History Timeline

John F. Mariani, The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), 263 and 85.

Sandra L. Oliver, Food in Colonial and Federal America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005).

Researching Food History

Andrew F. Smith, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 312.

Fruit, Preserves, Summer

Peach Chips

By Randolph’s day, sources suggest peaches and other stone fruits were plentiful in Virginia. Peaches (Prunus persica) originated in China. Traders spread the fruit into Persia, Greece, Italy, and parts of northern Europe. The earliest accounts of fruit growing in colonial Virginia suggest the first orchards dated to the 1630s. In 1633, a Dutch sea captain recorded peaches growing at George Minifie’s estate between Blunt Point and Jamestown. Of the first peaches he had seen in the Americas, the sea captain wrote, “Arrived at Littleton, where Menifit [sic] lives. He has a garden of two acres full of primrose, apple, pear, and cherry trees . . . Around the house there were plenty of peach trees, which were hardly in bloom.”[1] By the early eighteenth century, Robert Beverly recorded an abundance of stone fruits in Virginia, including peaches: “Peaches, nectarines, and apricots, as well as plumbs and cherries, grow there upon standard trees. They commonly bare in three years from the stone, and thrive so exceeding that they seem to have no need of grafting or inoculating.”[2] With this profusion, it is unsurprising The Virginia House-wife includes nine recipes for peaches. Aside from recipes for peach ice cream and pudding, all aim to preserve the sweet fruit for later enjoyment. In Virginia, peach varieties ripen from early June until mid-September, providing the enterprising housewife plenty of time to produce a few of Randolph’s recipes and enjoy peach flavor year-round.

One such recipe is “Peach Chips.” The recipe itself is straightforward with instructions to thinly slice the fruit, boil the slices until transparent in a simple syrup, and dry in the sun. The results are reminiscent of fruit leather, and a tasty, simple way to preserve some summer peaches for later enjoyment. Since I had raw, local honey on hand, I made mine with honey, and the combination of honey and peach was fantastic!

Peach Chips

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife (1838), p. 156.

Adapted by RA Snell

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe peaches, any variety
  • 3 oz granulated white sugar or honey
  • 3 oz water

Method

1. Thinly slice the peaches as uniformly as possible. A mandolin would work well here but is not required.

2. Mix together the sugar (or honey) and water. Simmer gently until the sweetener dissolves.

3. Add the thinly sliced peaches and boil gently until transparent (to check this simply slide your cooking utensil under a peach slice, if you can see the utensil, the slices are sufficiently transparent).

4. Carefully remove the peaches from the syrup and place them on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper-lined sheet (Don’t discard the simple syrup, save it for cocktails!).

5. Bake at 200 degrees for one hour. Gently flip the peaches and bake another hour.

Yield: ~15 peach chips

Storage: Randolph advises storing layered in jars with powdered sugar between the layers. Mine kept nicely in an airtight container without powdered sugar for one week.

Note: This recipe is easily scaled up or down. For testing purposes, I used just two yellow peaches; however, it’s worth the effort to make more.


[1] H.P. Gould, Peach-Growing (New York: Macmillan, 1918), 5.

[2] H.P. Gould, Peach-Growing (New York: Macmillan, 1918), 7.