December 18, 2009

Hydrochloric Acid--for Cooking?


I was looking for a good housekeeping article and I came across a recipe tucked away under a statement which said that a proper lady only goes into the kitchen once a day, in the morning to write a list for her servants on a large slate. This recipe intrigued me because of the muriatic acid. I do not advise making this recipe but its historical content is fascinating.

An Excerpt from Monday Morning by Barbara Hutton (1863):

"Here are a few good recipes for luncheon-cakes:
            1. One pound of fine flour;
                 Two drachms muriatic acid;
                 Two drachms bicarbonate soda;
                 Three ounces of sugar;
                 Three ounces of butter;
                 Four ounces of currants—the best;
                One pint of fresh milk.
                Mix all together, and bake for one hour in a quick oven."       

Muriatic acid was used in the mid 1800s to add a citrus taste to foods. It is man made by absorbing hydrogen chloride in water and today is known as hydrochloric acid and is used for cleaning and etching concrete!

A drachm is a British unit of measurement that equals 1/8 of an ounce.

Bicarbonate soda is baking soda which also is known to neutralize hydrochloric acid. When used with an alkaline substance, it releases air which helps the food to rise. Today we use baking soda mixed with cream of tartar to make “baking powder.”

Sugar, used to be molded into cones for transport in the 1800s it was called a “sugar loaf.”  “Fine sugar” was regular granulated sugar broken off from the sugar loaf with sugar nippers, and then ground to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. 

Currants- Being a native plant, Black currants were popular in early America. They remained popular until farming of Black currants became illegal in the United States in the early 1900s. The plants were thought to cause white pine blister rust, a problem to loggers. The plant was widely grown in Great Britain during World War II because of its high vitamin C content. While Britain was at war, it could not get imported fruits such as oranges. Black currants were planted and made into syrups to prevent scurvy.   

Milk- Today we take it for granted but pasteurization was invented in the 1860s by Louis Pasteur. Fresh milk was non pasteurized milk, which can be very harmful. Milk only stays fresh three or four days if not pasteurized. In the 1860s in the cities, milk was delivered to your door on a cart, by the time it came to your door, it would only stay good for one day. 

If you are interested in loaf sugar or old fashioned candies, Deborah's Pantry has a good selection.
A good photograph or an original sugar loaf with a pair of sugar nippers: Loaf.

*Note: Etching by Philippe Galle in the 1600s. It is of a sugar mill, creating sugar loafs.

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