Friday, January 3, 2020

How to Make Vinegar Like a Victorian by Kristin Holt

Kristin Holt | How to Make Vinegar Like a Victorian by Kristin Holt
by Kristin Holt, USA Today Bestselling Author

Where does vinegar come from? 

The grocery store, of course. Even pioneer women could purchase vinegar at their nearest town general store or grocery. Yet knowing the twin Victorian virtues of THRIFT and ECONOMY, it's evident many penny-pinching homemakers would have taken the advice in cook books of their day (yes, spelled as two words back then) and in their city newspapers. Thrifty advice: Make Your Own.

How?

Why, with ingredients and tools you have lying about the homestead, my dear. Things like rainwater, apple peels, cider, yeast, molasses, and brown paper. Never forget the brown paper

Why?


Beyond the economy of making your own vinegar, what if you live a long way from your corner store? With all those long hours of daylight, homesteading women had plenty of time (hear my sarcasm) to make their own vinegar. 

Let's explore a few short recipes, beginning with one shared in 1852:

Kristin Holt | Vinegar Recipe published in The Perry County Democrat newspaper of Bloomfield, PA on November 4, 1852. "To eight gallons of clear rain water, add three quarts of molasses; put into a good cask, shake well, and add two or three spoonfuls of good yeast cakes. If in summer, place the cask in the sun; if in winter, near the chimney, wher eit may be warm. In ten or fifteen days, add to the liquor a sheet of brown paper, torn into strips, dipped in molasses, and good vinegar will be produced. The paper will, in this way, form what is called the 'mother,' or life of the vinegar."
Vinegar Recipe explaining use of brown paper strips. The Perry County Democrat of Bloomfield, PA. November 24, 1852.

The instructions, ingredients, and method are worth revisiting, especially in the absence of this 1852 Pennsylvania newspaper clipping. Here's a careful transcription:

Making Vinegar.--Vinegar, according to a writer in the Genesee Farmer, is cheaply made. We re-publish his recipe: "To eight gallons of clear rain water, add three quarts of molasses; put into a good cask, shake well, and add two or three spoonfuls of good yeast cakes. If in summer, place the cask in the sun; if in winter, near the chimney, where it may be warm. In ten or fifteen days, add to the liquor a sheet of brown paper, torn in strips, dipped in molasses, and good vinegar will be produced. The paper will, in this way, form what is called the 'mother,' or life of the vinegar."

In 1860, Scientific American's recipe for vinegar appealed to the editors (??) of  The Mountaineer (Salt Lake City, Utah Territory), and they reprinted it. This one starts with forty gallons of rain water. Note that the key ingredient in this vinegar recipe is acetic acid.

Kristin Holt | How to Make Vinegar Like a Victorian: Recipe for Vinegar. Take forty gallons of rain water, one gallon mollasses, an dfour pounds acetic acid. It will be fit for use in a few days. Acetic acid costs 25 cents per pound. This is the recipe by which most of the cider vinegar is made, which is sold in the country stores.--Scientific American." Published in The Mountaineer of Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, April 14, 1860.
Vinegar Recipe calls for Acetic Acid. Published in The Mountaineer of SLC, Utah Territory. April 14, 1860.

Pretty cool, isn't it?

Now, it seems, some people will buy anything. Including a simple recipe for vinegar. In 1873, some dude sold a vinegar recipe to anyone who'd send him 50 cents.

Kristin Holt | How to Make Vinegar Like a Victorian. Vinegar Recipe for Sale in Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, NY, November 26, 1873.
Vinegar Recipe for sale (50 cents), Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, NY. November 26, 1873.

This 1883 recipe appeared in Our New Cook Book and Household Recipes, providing a good vinegar that costs only a pint of honey... and another that requires only apple peelings and hard work.


Kristin Holt | How to Make Vinegar Like a Victorian. Good Vinegar recipe calls for only a pint of strained honey and two gallons of soft water. Another requires only apple peelings--FREE to a dedicated housekeeper. Published in Our New Cook Book and Household Recipes, 1883.
Vinegar recipes: one calls for honey, another for daily apple peels. Published in Our New Cook Book and Household Receipts, 1883.

The following Corn Vinegar Recipe calls for field corn as a 'starter,' and also references a "mother that has formed on other vinegar...." I understand contextually, but have never seen one.

Wikipedia image: Mother of Vinegar. "Mother of vinegar is a substance composed of a form of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that develops on fermenting alcoholic liquids, which turns alcohol into acetic acid with the help of oxygen from the air. It is added to wine, cider, or other alcoholic liquids to produce vinegar."
Wikipedia Image: Mother of Vinegar: "Wikipedia image: Mother of Vinegar. "Mother of vinegar is a substance composed of a form of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that develops on fermenting alcoholic liquids, which turns alcohol into acetic acid with the help of oxygen from the air. It is added to wine, cider, or other alcoholic liquids to produce vinegar."

Note to Victorian-era housekeepers. Do not throw away the muck in the vinegar. You'll wish you had it later.


Kristin Holt | How to Make Vinegar Like a Victorian. Corn Vinegar Recipe published in New England Farmer of Boston, Mass. on September 25, 1886.
Corn Vinegar Recipe published in New England Farmer of Boston, Mass. September 25, 1886.

Ah! At last! Cider Vinegar-- something that sounds more familiar to our 2020 palates.

Kristin Holt | How to Make Vinegar Like a Victorian.Cider vinegar instructions published in The Daily Journal of New Bern, North Carolina on August 5, 1888.
Cider Vinegar by the drip method. Published in The Daily Journal of New Bern, North Carolina. August 5, 1888.

After comparing and contrasting this small collection of vinegar how-to-make-your-own recipes, United States Victorian-era style, I do believe I'll continue to buy mine at the store. But the ideas are percolating, brewing, about vinegar trouble to put my characters through...

Thanks for reading!

Kristin Holt | Sweet Romance in the American Old West by USA Today Bestselling Author Kristin Holt


Come see a few related articles both here on Sweet Americana Sweethearts and on my own site, KristinHolt.com.

Kristin Holt | Paper: Common in the Old West? Related to How to Make Vinegar Like a Victorian by Kristin Holt.

Kristin Holt | Victorian Yeast Bread-- Easier after the Centennial
 
Kristin Holt | Croquettes: Economic Victorian Dining


Kristin Holt | Housekeeping: Women's Work

Copyright Ⓒ 2019 Kristin Holt LC

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