The Ladies' Tea Guild

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #23: Soda Nectar from 1869.

Ingredients for Soda Nectar: sugar, lemon, soda.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The Challenge: # 23 -- Sweet Sips and Potent Potables Whether it’s hard or soft, we all enjoy a refreshing beverage! Pick a historic beverage to recreate - remember to sip responsibly!

This is definitely a catch-up posting, but I have a feeling that I'll be re-doing this challenge several times over the next few months, as the weather continues to heat up!  I have been collecting historical beverage recipes, both alcoholic and Temperance, for a while now, and it was really difficult to choose which one to make.  I didn't have all of the ingredients for some of the most interesting recipes, and I didn't have all of the equipment necessary to make others.  I still intend to make drinking chocolate the 18th century (or earlier) Spanish California way – once I get a chocolate pot and chocolate mill – and also a related drink called Racahout from 18th and early 19th century England, as well as some kind of punch and some of those Civil War-era soda powders (especially ginger!).  However, it took a particularly warm spring day, a dinner of Chinese take-out, and a lack of things to drink, to get me to complete this challenge, with things I already had in the kitchen.

Raspberry Vinegar ingredients, for the curious.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
I made Raspberry Vinegar a while back, and used it to make Raspberry Acid Royalle from the American Civil War era, but that was too far outside the time limit of this challenge.  I ended up choosing another mid-19th century recipe, for one of the first "sodas", called such because it was made fizzy by the use of soda – in this case carbonate of soda.  Those fizzy fruit drinks are the ancestors to our popular fruit-flavored soft drinks, which I usually don't drink in modern life, but I sure do like these 19th century versions!  Since they're alcohol-free, they're great for people who don't use any alcohol, as well as those like me, who use it on occasion, but mostly just want a refreshing beverage when it's hot outside. 

The Recipe: 
Soda Nectar.—Juice of 1 lemon, strained; three-quarters of a tumblerful of water; sugar to taste; ½ teaspoonful carbonate of soda; mix, and drink while effervescing. 
-- from Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks, 1869.

The Date/Year and Region:
United States, 1869.

Add the sugar to the lemon juice.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
How Did You Make It: 
Using a Meyer lemon from the tree in my back yard, I juiced the fruit, and poured it in the bottom of a tall juice glass—it made about 1 ½ tablespoons of juice.  Then I added 2 heaping teaspoons of sugar, and used a tumbler-style jam jar to measure out the cold water.  Lacking carbonate of soda, I used bicarbonate of soda, or baking powder, and measured about a half teaspoonful (using my iced tea spoon rather than an actual ½ teaspoon measure), and stirred it in.  It started fizzing immediately, and stayed mildly fizzy for about 10 minutes as I drank the beverage.

Time to Complete:
5 minutes or so.

Add the 3/4 tumbler-ful of cold water.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Total Cost:
Everything was in my pantry at the moment, but it would have cost me a couple of dollars to buy a lemon at the grocery store, another few dollars for a half pound of sugar (the smallest quantity the stores sell), and another few dollars for the box of baking soda.  So, less than $5 for all the supplies, but I'd have enough baking soda and sugar for several other recipes.

How Successful Was It?: 
I thought it was successful, although I would use more lemon juice and/or less baking soda next time.  Although it was fizzy, the baking soda neutralized basically all the acid in the lemon, so that the resulting beverage was bland, rather than tart.  I'd also add some ice, but otherwise, this recipe makes a tasty fizzy lemonade. I'd definitely make it again.
Adding the baking soda, and watch it fizz! Then drink it.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

How Accurate Is It?: 

Meyer lemons are not the same as regular lemons; they're a late-Victorian hybrid between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange, if I remember correctly.  Their flavor and appearance is that of a regular lemon, with some minor differences; the shape is rounder, the rind is thinner, smoother and a darker yellow (they can be almost orange when really ripe), the scent is floral—almost like lemon and roses—and the flavor is a bit sweeter than regular lemons.  I would have to make this recipe again with a regular lemon to see if the variety affects the final taste of the beverage, so I have to take some historical points off for the Meyer lemon.  Also, while I did have carbonate of soda (washing soda), and I read that it's a food additive to certain foods, I'm not sure that it's really ideal to be drinking it, so I substituted bicarbonate of soda (baking soda); there go another few historical accuracy points.  But everything else was accurate, so I'd say it gets at least 75% accuracy.  


Bernideen said...

That is very interesting recreating these historic beverages!

Steph said...

This is a really interesting one!

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

Yes, Bernideen and Steph, I've been looking at those recipes in my books for a while and thinking about making them! The raspberry vinegar is really good, especially when you dilute the syrup with carbonated mineral water, which results in a fizzy fruit drink by another method. Fizzy fruity drinks are not a new idea; more than 100 years old!

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)