Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management/Chapter XLVIII

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2949508Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management — Chapter XLVIII. General Observations on BeveragesIsabella Beeton


1. Coffee Cadbury's Cocoa, French Coffee, Vi-Cocoa, Fry's Cocoa Ceylon Tea, Coffee and Milk, Nestlé's Milk, Ceylon Tea, Cocoa and Milk, Van Houten's Cocoa. 2. Essence of Vanilla, Calves' Feet Jelly, Table Jelly, Maple Syrup, Essence of Cochineal, Orange Jelly, Lime Juice Cordial, Lemon Jelly, Lemon Squash, Lemon Jelly.



Bevrages may be broadly divided into four classes: (1) Water and milk; (2) Beverages of a simple character, generally infusions or decoctions; (3) Beverages consisting of mineral waters drawn from natural springs, or water containing a considerable quantity of carbonic acid gas; (4) Beverages containing alcohol.

Water.—To whichever class our beverages belong, water is the basis of them all. Even our solid food contains a large proportion of water; and nothing is of more importance to the housekeeper than to obtain an ample supply of sufficiently pure water. We say "sufficiently pure," for absolutely pure water, consisting only of 2 parts of hydrogen to 1 of oxygen, does not exist in nature; and when it is obtained by the distiller's art, it is flat and distasteful to those who have not accustomed themselves to its use. Water, as we get it, is never pure; the important point is its freedom from impurities dangerous to health. Dissolved air and gases make it bright and sparkling; they are driven off by boiling, and hence the insipid taste and dull appearance of boiled water

From whatever source water is obtained, it once existed in the form of rain. In the country it may pass through the air to the ground in a pure state, but in manufacturing towns considerable impurities are added to it in its passage. Whatever its condition as it falls upon the surface of the earth, it is rapidly changed in its passage through it. Some rocks, like granite, are insoluble, some, as for example chalk, are readily soluble, especially in water containing carbonic acid gas, which rain washes down out of the air. So, while one kind of water may contain only ½ a grain of mineral matter in a gallon, another has many grains in the gallon. We call the latter a "hard" water, and object to it for cooking purposes for several reasons. It tends to make the meat and vegetables cooked in it hard; it wastes soap; it deposits "fur" on saucepans and kettles. The "fur" is the mineral matter once dissolved in the water, now thrown down in the saucepan: (1) because the water has boiled away and gone off in steam, leaving behind it the mineral that could not be vapourized; (2) because carbonate of lime is dissolved only in water that contains carbonic acid gas, and the gas is driven off as soon as the water boils, and long before it has boiled away. It is upon this last reason that the softening of water by boiling depends. The harshness of water is also caused by sulphates. In the latter case boiling does not soften the water.

Organic impurities, by which is meant the animal and vegetable matter often present in water, are highly dangerous. Sewage contamination may exist in palatable sparkling water. This danger is increasing owing to the more and more prevailing custom of diluting sewage with water. The dangers and wastefulness of this system of drainage, especially when applied in country districts near the sources of our great water supplies, are clearly shown in the writings of those who have recently devoted considerable attention to this all-important subject.

Cisterns in which water is stored should be carefully cleansed at frequent intervals. Water brought on to premises in a pure condition may be contaminated by neglecting this precaution. Cisterns should also be provided with close-fitting lids; this prevents small animals and much dust from falling into the water.

To Purify Water.—Water that is unfit to drink is not made in any way less harmful by the addition of spirits, wine, or any flavouring matter. It may be rendered harmless by boiling, which is the only practicable household means of purifying water. Most of the decoctions and infusions are useful in this respect, because the water of which they are made must be boiled, the flavouring matter afterwards being added to conceal the insipidity. Boiled water can be aerated by pouring it from one jug to another, if only a small quantity has to be dealt with.

Filters should not be resorted to instead of boiling as a means of purifying water. Many simple forms of filters may be usefully employed as a mechanical means of separating suspended matter, but few, if any, remove or destroy impurities in perfect solution. Spongy iron, carbon and sand are valuable filtering agents, but one of the best mediums is porcelain, the only objection to filters made of this substance being the slow passage of the water through them.

Tea.—The most popular non-alcoholic beverage in this country is tea, now considered almost a necessary of life. Previous to the middle of the seventeenth century it was not used in England. Pepys says in his Diary: "September 25th, 1661.—I sent for a cup of tea (a China drink), of which I had never drunk before." Four years later it was so rare a commodity in England that the English East India Company bought 2 lbs. 2 ozs. of it as a present for his Majesty. In 1666 it was sold in London for 60 shillings a pound. From that date the consumption has gone on increasing from 5,000 lbs. to 215,000,000 lbs., an annual consumption of about 6 lbs. per head of the population of Great Britain.

The Tea Plant.—The cultivation of the plant requires great care. It is raised chiefly on the sides of hills; and, in order to increase the quantity and improve the quality of the leaves, the shrub is pruned, so as not to exceed the height of from 2 to 3 feet, much in the same manner as the vine is treated in France. They pluck the leaves, one by one selecting them according to the kind of tea required; and, notwithstanding the tediousness of the operation, each labourer is able to gather from 4 to 15 lbs. a day. When the trees attain to 6 or 7 years of age, the produce becomes so inferior that they are removed to make room for a fresh succession, or they are cut down to allow of numerous young shoots. Teas of the finest flavour consist of the youngest leaves; and as these are gathered at four different periods of the year, the younger the leaves the higher flavour the tea and the scarcer, and consequently the dearer the article.

Indian and Ceylon Teas.—Much Indian and Ceylon tea is now brought to this country, and is, as a rule, more highly flavoured than the Chinese, which it has displaced to so great a degree that now only about 10 per cent. of the tea consumed in this country comes from China, the remaining 90 per cent. being imported chiefly from Assam and Ceylon. The best tea is comparatively high priced, but not necessarily dear, as some tea is heavy and some light, so that a teaspoonful does not bear the same ratio to every pound, nor produce the same strength of infusion. "Strong, brisk, family tea" is generally warranted to produce the greatest quantity of the blackest liquid from a given number of spoonfuls, but the connoisseur does not need to be told that the best tea generally produces a pale-coloured infusion, and the depth of colour is not an invariable sign of strength. Orange, mandarin, imperial pekoe are used sparingly in this country, generally to mix with other qualities. Caravan tea comes overland to Russia, where it is sold at a high price, on the supposition that the sea voyage destroys the flavour. Some is brought to this country. Twankay, Hyson and Gunpowder are green teas; their use in England, has, however, now practically ceased. Tea, when chemically analysed, is found to contain woody fibre, extractives, colouring matters, and mineral ash. A more important constituent is the tannin, or tannic acid, to which it owes its bitter taste, particularly noticeable when the tea has stood for a long time, or has been boiled. It is to the tannin that its decided and often baneful effects upon the digestive organs are ascribed, effects that are most noticeable in those persons who have the habit of drinking tea that has stood or "drawn" for a length of time.

The constituent theine is now found to be identical with caffeine in coffee, theobromine in cocoa, and with the vegetable alkaloid found in maté, the tea of Paraguay. It must be considered as something more than coincidence that men under widely different circumstances of life, and in widely removed countries, should have brought into universal use beverages of identical effect, obtained from plants of entirely different species. Tea cannot be regarded as an article of food, for the nourishment it contains is that of the milk and sugar mixed with it, and no more. Theine acts directly on the nervous system, and it is for the sake of this action as a mild stimulant that tea is habitually consumed.

Chinese Tea.—The various names by which Chinese teas are sold in the British market are corruptions of Chinese words. There are about a dozen different kinds; but the principal are Bohea, Congou and Souchong, and signify respectively inferior, middling, and superior. Teas are often perfumed and flavoured with the leaves of different kinds of plants grown on purpose. Different tea-farms in China produce teas of various qualities, raised by skilful cultivation on various soils.

Chinese tea has frequently been adulterated in this country by the admixture of the dried leaves of certain plants. The leaves of the sloe, white thorn, ash, elder, and some others have been employed for this purpose, such as the leaves of the speedwell, wild germander, black currant, syringa, purple-spiked willow-herb, sweetbriar, and cherry tree. Some of these are harmless; others are to a certain degree poisonous, as, for example, the leaves of all the varieties of the plum and cherry tribe, to which the sloe belongs.

Coffee.—It appears that coffee was first introduced into England in 1652 by Daniel Edwards, a merchant, whose servant, Pasqua, a Greek, understood the art of roasting and preparing it. This servant, under the patronage of Edwards, established the first coffee-house in London, in George Yard, Lombard Street. Coffee was then sold at 4 or 5 guineas a pound, and a duty was soon afterwards laid upon it of 4d. a gallon when made into a beverage. In the course of two centuries, however, this berry, unknown originally as an article of food, except to some savage tribes on the confines of Abyssinia, has made its way through the whole of the civilized world. Mohammedans of all ranks drink coffee twice a day; it is in universal request in France, Germany, and the Continent generally, but the demand for it throughout the British Isles is daily decreasing; the consumption of coffee within the last forty years steadily declined to less than one-half. The approximate annual consumption of coffee per head of the population is about 13 ozs., as against 6 lbs. of tea per head.

Various Kinds of Coffee.—The Arabian is considered the best. It is grown chiefly in the districts of Aden and Mocha; whence the name of our Mocha coffee. Mocha coffee has a smaller and rounder bean than any other, and a more agreeable smell and taste. Very little, however, of the genuine Mocha coffee reaches this country. The next in reputation in quality is the Java and Ceylon coffee, and then the coffees of Bourbon and Martinique, and that of Berbice, a district of the colony of British Guiana. The Jamaica and St. Domingo coffees are less esteemed. The largest proportion of coffee consumed in England comes from Brazil, and is frequently sold under another name.

The Roasting of Coffee in the best manner requires great nicety, and much of the qualities of the beverage depends upon the operation. The roasting of coffee for the dealers in London and Paris has now become a separate branch of business, and some of the roasters perform the operation on a great scale, with considerable skill. Roasted coffee loses from 20 to 30 per cent. by sufficient roasting, and the powder suffers much by exposure to the air; but while raw, it not only does not lose its flavour for a year or two, but improves by keeping. If a cup of the best coffee be placed upon the table boiling hot, it will fill the room with its fragrance; but the coffee, when warmed again after being cold, will be found to have lost most of its flavour.

A considerable change takes place in the arrangement of the constituents of coffee by the application of heat in roasting it. Independently of one of the objects of roasting, namely, that of destroying its toughness and rendering it easily ground, its tannin and other principles are rendered partly soluble in water; and it is to the tannin that the brown colour of the decoction of coffee is owing. An aromatic flavour is likewise developed during the process of roasting, which is not perceived in the raw berry, and which is not produced in the greatest perfection until the heat has arrived at a certain degree of temperature; but if the heat be increased beyond this, the flavour is again dissipated, and little remains but a bitter and astringent in with carbon.

To have Coffee in Perfection it should be roasted and ground just before it is used, and more should not be ground at a time than is wanted for immediate use, or if it be necessary to grind more, it should be kept closed from the air. Coffee readily imbibes exhalations from other substances, and thus often acquires a bad flavour; brown sugar placed near it will communicate a disagreeable aroma. It is stated that the coffee in the West Indies has often been injured by being laid in rooms near the sugar works, or where rum is distilled; and the same effect has been produced by bringing over coffee in the same ships as rum and sugar. Dr. Moseley mentions that a few bags of pepper on board a ship from India spoiled a whole cargo of coffee.

With respect to the quantity of coffee used in making the decoction, much depends on the taste of the consumer. The greatest and most common fault in English coffee is the too small quantity of the ingredient. Count Rumford says that to make good coffee for drinking after dinner, a pound of good Mocha coffee, which, when roasted and ground, weighs only 13 oz., serves to make 56 full cups, or a little less than a quarter of an ounce to a coffee-cup of moderate size.

The use of chicory with coffee was originally a Dutch practice. The admixture was long kept a secret by the Dutch dealers, and only became known in other countries in the beginning of last century. For France alone the consumption now reaches 6,000,000 kilograms.

Cocoa.—The consumption of cocoa is yearly increasing in this country. It is prepared from the seeds of the Theobroma Cacao, a tree grown in South America, Asia, and Africa. Chocolate was introduced into Europe by the Spaniards, whose national beverage it still is, and it reached England during the latter half of the seventeenth century. Columbus brought it to Europe in 1520. Cocoa possesses to some extent the stimulating properties of tea and coffee, but it differs from them in that it contains also a considerable amount of fat and albuminous matter. It is, as its name implies, food as well as drink. Moreover, we drink not merely an infusion of cocoa, but the cocoa itself. The first step is to roast the nut and remove the husk.

The kernel, roughly ground, and usually with some of the fat removed, is sold as cocoa-nibs. Prepared cocoa is made by grinding the kernel to powder, removing some of the fat, and adding a certain proportion of starchy matter and sugar. To some of the cheaper cocoas the ground husk is added by way of adulteration. All these preparations are sweet, and thicken when mixed with boiling water and milk. The pure cocoa extracts and essences consist only of ground cocoa nibs with some of the fat removed; they have a distinctly bitter flavour, and they do not thicken with boiling. Some few harmful substances are occasionally added as adulterants. The best prepared cocoas are wholesome and nourishing, and contain only cocoa, starch, and sugar. Chocolate is prepared by grinding the finer sorts of cocoa beans over warm rollers, with a suitable addition of sugar and vanilla or other flavouring. Much skill is employed in its preparation, and the best qualities are sold at a high price. It is used as a beverage, but more often in this country as a luxury or a food. It is very nourishing and sustaining, and is often carried by pedestrians and mountaineers.

Maté.—The tea of Paraguay, prepared from the Brazilian holly (Ilex Paraguayensis), is sold in this country, and has some few drinkers. The leaf is dried and pulverized, and the infusion is prepared in a dried gourd or calabash, out of which it is sucked through a straw or bombilla.

Coca.—The dried leaf of the Erythroxylon Coca is consumed in Bolivia, Peru, and the adjoining countries, where the inhabitants chew it as well as drink the infusion. In this country the leaves are chewed by pedestrians and cyclists as preventives of fatigue, or as restoratives after exertion. Used in the same way as Chinese tea, it has a pleasant flavour, and it does not appear to have the same ill effects upon digestion, though there is no evidence to show what the effect of its prolonged use would be. Coca is used in surgery to deaden pain and as a medicine to soothe the nerves and induce sleep.

These substitutes are in no wise imitations of tea and coffee, but are consumed for their own merits. Other substitutes are of the nature of adulteration, and contain no theine nor analogous alkaloids. Much of the prepared coffee drunk in England is merely an infusion of burnt rye, beans and chicory, with coffee to flavour, and its power as a stimulant is that possessed by any hot liquid with accompanying nourishment in the shape of milk or sugar, a power that is very often forgotten or overlooked.

Wines.—The wines of France are more highly esteemed than those of any other country, and of these, champagne takes the lead. Sparkling wine was first made in the neighbourhood of Epernay, and the methods employed then were practically the same as those of today. Both red and white grapes are grown in the Marne. The red gives a dryer wine, the white a softer one; and the two are generally mixed together, so as to make a satisfactory average. Great care has to be exercised in the gathering of the red grapes, and much swiftness used in pressing them, so that none of the colouring matter contained in the skin be communicated to the juice. In hot years the grapes are so ripe that they easily burst when they are gathered, and during the pressing some of the pigments of colour from the skin communicate that light pink hue which distinguishes vintages of that year; but on the other hand, hot seasons usually give an exceptionally good wine. Immediately after pressing, the juice is stored in casks and directly undergoes the first stage of fermentation, after which it is racked so as to be freed from the heavier lees. The area that can be planted as vineyards in the champagne district is rather limited, and as the demand has gone on increasing at a very rapid rate, prices have been forced up, and other districts of France have tried their hand at making sparkling wine. Thus we have now sparkling Burgundy, sparkling Chablis, sparkling Saumur, all excellent wines for the prices they command. The name of claret is practically given to all red wine coming from France, with the exception of Burgundy and Roussillon, which form small classes apart. The best clarets are those grown in the Gironde, but there are many other departments which furnish claret to Bordeaux, to Paris, and to foreign parts.

The wines of Germany are generally dearer than those of France, owing chiefly to the large proportion of bad seasons in the Rheingan. The best are the superior Hocks and Moselles, still and sparkling, known to consumers as Johannisberger, Steinberger, Marcobrünner, Hockheimer, Niersteiner, etc.

Storage of Wine.—Wine of every description should be stored in a cool, dry cellar. This is particularly necessary in the case of sparkling wines that have to be stored for a great length of time, for a damp atmosphere is apt to destroy the wire and strings which secure the corks.

Service of Wine.—Formerly it was considered necessary that a different kind of wine should accompany each course, and they were served in the following order:—

Chablis or Sauterne with hors d'œuvres; Sherry or Marsala with soup; Hock or Sauterne with fish; Claret or Burgundy with entrées; Champagne with roast and entremêts; Port, Claret or Madeira with the dessert. Now the number of wines introduced at one meal is considerably reduced. Sometimes a glass of good sherry or mineral waters with whisky is served with the soup, after which champagne is served until the dessert, when port and old claret take its place. Frequently one, or, at the most, two kinds of wine are served throughout the meal, and these are either claret or Burgundy and champagne, or champagne alone. The following table gives the correct temperatures at which various wines should be served:—

Champagne35°deg. Fah.
Sherry40 deg. Fah.
Marsala40 deg. Fah.
Chablis and other wines of this class45 deg. Fah.
Sauterne and other wines of this class50 deg. Fah.
Port55 deg. Fah.
Madeira and claret65 deg. Fah.
Burgundy70 deg. Fah.

Ice should never be put into wine, but this does not of course apply to claret cup and similar mixtures which are dealt with hereafter. Champagne and similar wines should, of course, be served cold, but the temperature must be lowered in bottle. This may be done most expeditiously by surrounding the bottles with crushed ice, and allowing the whole to remain covered with a wet flannel for about an hour before being served. An agreeable fresh flavour may be given to all Rhine wine by cooling them slightly. Claret and Burgundy, on the contrary, should be drunk milk-warm; while port, if exposed to a low temperature, will acquire a harsh, thin, acid taste, which temporarily deprives it of all its characteristic qualities. The easiest method of raising the temperature of these wines is to place them near the fire or in a warm room for several hours; or it may be more speedily accomplished by surrounding the bottles with hot water.

Old wines that have been bottled for any length of time should be carefully decanted, for they nearly always have a crust or sediment which, if disturbed, may spoil the flavour of the wine. Decanting baskets are useful means of preventing this. Each bottle is transferred from the bin to a separate basket, lying therein in nearly the same position as that in which it was found in the bin, but with the neck a little higher.

Wineglasses.—It is usual to have various shapes of wineglasses for different wines. There is however one form which suits all wines, which is of the goblet or half globe shape. It is essential that the glass should be as thin as possible. Glasses running four or five to the reputed quart bottle are the best for size.