Vintage VIttles: Civil War Nectar

Written by on November 23, 2013 in Vintage Vittles - No comments
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A bit unbelievable that Thanksgiving is upon us already. I’m sure your family, like mine, has many recipes included in your November meal that have been passed down from family elders. I’d love if you would leave some of those recipes in the comment section below.

I’m a huge fan of recipes with “starters.” That is, recipes that have a base, but can be passed from friend to friend. There are many varieties of bread that are like this — but I’ve never come across a sauce recipe built for sharing before.

We return to Sesqui Samplings for this recipe, which originates from the Civil War and is shared by a member of the Cravens family in Indianapolis. It reads, “Traditionally, this fermented fruit topping or conserve is begun from a cup of ‘starter’ and passed on from friend to friend. Some batches supposedly date back to the Civil War. You can, however, begin from scratch making your own starter.”

I couldn’t find any references to this recipe outside of Samplings, save for a 1967 newspaper article from the Kentucky New Era. It’s a fairly mysterious little recipe, but a perfect one to start as we get deep into the holiday season — after all, starter recipes like this are a ready-made gift!

July 5, 1967, Kentucky New Era

Recipe

Starter: 

2 cups brandy
2 cups sugar
2 cups drained fruit (choose from below)

Fruit: 

Royal Ann cherries, canned, quartered
Maraschino cherries, canned, quartered (green cherries may be used at Christmas time)
Pineapple, canned tidbits or chunks, halved
Peaches, canned slices, halved, or fresh, peeled, sliced and halved
Nectarines, canned slices, halved, or fresh, peeled, sliced and halved

Place starter ingredients in a 2-quart apothecary jar, cover and leave at room temperature for 2 weeks. Stir very gently every few days to help dissolve sugar. Do not use any of the fruit during this period. After 2 weeks, add another cup of drained fruit, 1 cup sugar, and stir gently every few days. Repeat this procedure every 2 weeks. Fruit must not be added more often than every 2 weeks, but it may be delayed a day or 2 without disastrous results.

You may begin using the fruit about 4 weeks from the time the starter was begun. The level of mixture in the jar must not get below 3 cups or fermentation will stop. Do not put lid on tightly (an apothecary lid is fine; it allows room for expansion) or mixture will explode or sour. Do not refrigerate.

Any time after 6 weeks, a start of fermented fruit may be given to a friend by taking a good cupful from your batch, just before an addition of fruit and sugar is due. After dividing, add 1 cup of fruit and 1 cup of sugar to both batches.

Source: Sesqui Samplings, recipe provided by Mrs. Maurice H. Cravens.  Read about her husband, Maurice, in the Linton-Stockton Public High School’s revue.

Use your Civil War nectar as a sauce for vanilla ice cream or cake. I’ve got no photos this week, as my starter has only just begun. If you’re lucky enough to have a few days off for Thanksgiving this year, I encourage you to start your Civil War nectar. It will be ready to pass on to a friend by the New Year!

 

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About the Author

Katherine Coplen is a writer and editor working in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the Music Editor for NUVO Newsweekly, where she writes about music 1) made in Indianapolis, 2) released on Indianapolis labels, and 3) touring through Indianapolis. Outside of NUVO, Katherine has been published frequently in The Billfold, HerCampus, The Herald Times, The Ryder, The Southside Times, and Livebuzz. She really, really loves food.

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