This is where I note my efforts as I try to recreate some old recipes. Most are taken from my small collection of handwritten recipe books which date from the late 1700's to around 1922. I also have a collection of old tatty old recipe books, well thumbed and heavily splashed from years of use. I love them all!

The old-fashioned very stylised handwriting writing is sometimes difficult to decipher, measurements and cooking instructions are minimal, no tin sizes given. Luckily I enjoy a challenge. Just to complicate things I cook and bake on my wood-fired Rayburn, which can be... unpredictable.

I suspect this blog is less about the food and more about my passion for these lovely old books and the wonderful women who wrote them.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Primrose Vinegar, Cowslip & Rhubarb, too.

My old recipe books continue to delight me, on so many levels.    

When I did my recent spring clean of the pantry I was surprised when I saw just how many varieties of vinegar I had in there...and this isn't the lot, there are three other bottles which I forgot to put out.

They do all get used, some for culinary purposes, others for cleaning.

So I really shouldn't have been surprised to find that there are so many recipes for vinegar in my old books.   I don't just mean for the pretty, or fancy, varieties, either.

Many households used to brew their own vinegar, but I was surprised at how large some of the brews were.  

I found this recipe in the parchment-covered book in the blue slip-cover,  which you can see in about the centre of the header photograph.

To Make Vinegar

To 7 pints of rain water put one pint of pyrolignus ascid (sic) and it is ready for use immediately.

Mmmmn, not sure I fancy that one!   Please don't try it at home.

Sugar Vinegar

To one gallon of water put 1 1/4 lb of the coarsest brown sugar you can get and 1/4 oz of hops.   Boil this 20 minutes, when cold put in a little yeast and work it 3 days.  Then put it in a cask and let it stand till fit for use.   Keep a bit of paper pricked full of holes over the bung hole.

...sounds a bit more wholesome although the instructions are a little vague.

We have been enjoying our home-grown rhubarb for the last few weeks, I'm not sure that I would want to put it to this use while it is so young and tender - but give it a month or two and I probably wouldn't mind.

Rhubarb Vinegar

Get a good bunch of rhubarb to a gallon of water.
2 lbs of brown sugar and 1 lb of treacle.   Let it boil 20 minutes then strain it.   When cold work with a little barm.    Stir it two or three times a day for 3 or 4 days.    Put into a barrel and store in a dark place.

Excellent Vinegar

Boil 6 gallons of water and put in a tub, let it go quite cold.  Get a quantity of rhubarb, peel it and cut in small pieces.   Measure 11 quarts and then bruise well in a mortar.  Put it into the cold water and let it stand 24 hours, stirring occasionally.  Strain it through a sieve into another tub and to 6 gallons of liquor put 8 lbs of moist sugar, stirred in well.

Put all into the barrel and the
 ...looks like Mother? perhaps,  with it.

The barrel must not be quite full and over the bung hole stick with barm or paste a double piece of brown paper full of small holes.

Set in the cellar for 12 months.

It has been a marvellous Spring for primroses, the old railway line has absolutely masses of them growing on the banks this year.

Even so, I think we would struggle to pick enough flowers to make the next recipe.

Primrose Vinegar

Take 6 lbs lump sugar and boil it in 16 quarts of water, take off the scum.   When cold add three tablespoonfuls of yeast and 8 quarts of primrose flowers and stalks.    Let it stand 4 days.  Then put altogether into a cask with a little isinglass.  Keep it in a warm place till sour and then bottle it.

Final recipe for today, Cowslip Vinegar.

Boil 20 quarts of water ( a quart = 2 imperial pints) and 6 1/4lbs of very coarse sugar for 10 minutes and when cool, work it as you work beer (sorry, I don't know what that means!)   Put 5 1/2 quarts of unpicked cowslips and a tea-cupful of yeast.  Let it work three days, then strain it and put it in a cask.   Put a paper over the bung-hole with holes pricked in it, and expose it to the sun and air for three months and then bottle it.  The above makes 5 gallons.

Please note that I have not tried any of these recipes so cannot vouch for them.   

I also have the old recipes for Raspberry Vinegar, Blackberry, Camp, Cucumber, Elderflower, Gooseberry, Mint, Chilli, Tarragon, Celery, Lavender, and Garlic Vinegar - and there could well be more I haven't discovered yet.    I'll post some of them at a later date, but if you want a particular recipe please do let me know.


  1. I make Raspberry Vinegar annually. It is wonderful on summer salads.

    1. Hello Cro, I think I may try making a small batch this year - a tiny batch, compared to the volume of these Victorian ones - it sounds wonderful.