Conjuring the appearance of a 17th or 18th century Still Room yields a beautiful bounty of preserved foods for the grimness of winter, as well titillating sweetmeats. Here, harvests of the better months are sugared and salted, turning them into something more robust and intense. Fruits suspended in sugar, candies, a good tonic for darkening hair, and many a stringent spiced pickle issued forth from the Still Room. We might even get a little tipsy on quince brandy.
To make a fine Bitter.
Take an ounce of the finest Jesuit powder, half a quarter of an ounce of snake-root powder, half a quarter of an ounce of salt of wormwood, half a quarter of saffron, half a quarter of cochineal, put it into a quart of the best brandy, and let it stand twenty-four hours; every now and then shaking the bottle.
–The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse, 1805 Alexandria VA, edition.
Lest you think this is a food preservation or home remedy blog, let me clarify my purpose. My Still Room is for the percolation of past thoughts, wants, and the daily coincidence in the street. I’m pulling these stories into the Still Room for preservation and sharing with my friends. So my earthenware crocks are labeled many a different thing. I’m a Museum Collections Manager in a New York area museum, so museums and collections care will be widely talked about. Some other topics dear to my heart are historic preservation, transit, food and foodways, textiles and costume, women’s history and reproductive rights, general social history, indentured and enslaved servants, road trips, living history, and genealogy. A bit of original fiction and poetry might trickle in from time to time. I live a liberal arts life.
One note: still rooms of the past served as workshops for home remedy making. While canning, domestic history, and agricultural history are certainly my thing, homeopathy and home remedies certainly are not. Many people over the centuries have struggled to bring us the wonder that is science – if you are sick, please see a medical doctor. If you want to read about some slices of life, stick with The Still Room.
Perhaps you’ll find a little of this and that to catch your fancy in this blog. Not everyone is a fan of pickles or cares for raisin wine, but perhaps a little from this jug or that pot will suit. I hope to hear your ideas. Don’t forget a caraway comfit on your way out.