A letter from Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria to Tessa, her botanist friend who was on an extended botanical collecting trip in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere.
I loved your description of Yasunn tea, an Egyptian beverage of cinnamon, fennel seed, honey and really strong black tea! That it is said to keep colds at bay is an added bonus! Thanks for the crate of spices you sent back as it’ll be very useful here.
Isabella, our Librarian, was mucking about this past week in the unindexed material from the late 1700s when she found a recipe for something I hadn’t known existed — pumpkin wine! And I know that you love weird spirits so here’ it is:
Receipt for Pompion Ale
Let the Pompion be beaten in a Trough and pressed as Apples. The expressed Juice is to be boiled in a Copper a considerable Time and carefully skimmed that there be no remains of the fibrous Part of the Pulp. After that Intention is answered, let the Liquor be hopped cooled fermented &c as Malt Beer.
She also found a fiddler staying here from Philadelphia who played for her what he claimed America’s first folk song, written around 1643, about pumpkin beer:
Instead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies;
We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon;
If it was not for pumpkins we should be undone
… Hey down, down, hey down derry down….
If barley be wanting to make into malt
We must be contented and think it no fault
For we can make liquor, to sweeten our lips,
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.
It’s too late this year to make it as Head Cook can’t spare enough pumpkins from our Winter food needs to make a batch this year which means expanding the pumpkin patch next year.