It is Spring and our winter weary souls are craving sunshine and fresh air! It’s everywhere, kids on their bikes, chomping at the bit of their parents limits. Young minds wandering from their school work at the call of the warm Spring days.
There is no better way to celebrate the coming of summer, than a picnic in the sunshine. There are many kinds of picnics…but the very best are those of our childhood.
Childhood picnics didn’t require much planning…begging a loaf of homemade bread, and some molasses for sandwiches or to accompany a freshly caught trout or mess of recently dug clams. A friend or two as company and the picnic is ready…provided of course the destination affords a source of water, fresh spring water!
As summer progresses, informal picnics were replaced with a different kinds of days in the sunshine with friends… work parties, haying or barn raising. Everyone, men, women and children gathering to accomplish as task together. Voices and spirits raised by the sharing of work and of food.
No fancy clothing…no parasols or top hats…just good people working and celebrating together. And food, lots and lots of food…and drink! The preparation of food began days in advance, the baking, the roasting, the cooking all done by women, the hostess and others, family, friends and neighbours.
In past days a good hostess would have also assured workers had plenty of water… and drink to sustain them through their days effort. Some would provide hot tea, sweetened and with milked which required the effort of lugging china cups and mugs to the field. Still others would make the extra effort to prepare ‘drinking vinegars’.
While mead, beer and wine were necessary replacements for clean potable water in middle age Europe, the availability of fresh Spring fed streams, and ponds in North America provided a source of pure Adam’s Ale.
Childhood picnics usually included a destination with a Spring… cold clean water to scoop up with the ‘dipper’ which hung near by for all to use. Cold Spring water to mix with a pack of Kool Aid™ or to enjoy on its own.
Of course no ‘good’ hostess would ever serve Kool Aid™ to farm workers… but drinking vinegars are another matter.
So what is a drinking vinegar? It is a fruit drink fortified with vinegar, usually apple cider vinegar. Thirst quenching and fortified, drinking vinegars are a better supply of electrolytes and micro-nutrients than commercial sugary drinks… and far tastier! Here is a spring version using Rhubarb from My Mother’s Cookbooks.
4 cups washed and finely chopped Rhubarb
1 cup white sugar
11/2 cups Wine vinegar or Apple Cider vinegar (divided)
1. Place fruit and half of the vinegar in a non reactive saucepan
2. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes
3. Skim the foam which forms, and then strain through a cheese cloth into a mason jar, add reserved vinegar and let cool.
4. Refrigerate, until ready to use. Dilute with water (or soda water)
This vinegar is wonderful on salads and in other recipes where vinegar is used.
Stay tuned for My Mother’s Cookbooks full blog released Saturday, this week we’ll explore Victoria Day picnics and two Victorian era women.