in 24 hours its fit for use

In my last blog post, I mentioned that archivists frequently discover information about their collections serendipitously while working to find the answer to reference questions. Another way we learn new and sometimes surprising things about the records we house is from the researchers who work with them. Recently, a researcher examining Georgetown College financial records mentioned that an expense book from the early 1800s contains a recipe for spruce beer. And indeed it does, along with recipes for preparing calf's entrails and feet and dressing calf's head. Clearly the College, as financially challenged as it was in its first decades, fully embraced the concept of nose-to-tail cooking long before that concept had a name (other than being frugal). But spruce beer? I had never heard of that. I do find the occasional gin and tonic refreshing in the summer, however, and the idea of a spruce-based drink seemed no odder than a juniper-based one. And a little research showed that spruce beer has a long history (due apparently to its high vitamin C content and scurvy-preventing properties) and is still produced today.

I provide the recipe for adventurous souls who might be tempted to try it:

Recipe for spruce beer

(Click image to enlarge)

To make Spruce Beer

Take 10 Gallons Water, 1 Gallon Molasses, 1 Gill Spruce, 1/2 pint Yeast & Some Hops & Ginger Boiled. mix all together in a large tub. then put it in a Cask leave the Bunghole open so as it may work over. let it stand in the Cask for 24 Hours. then Bottle it off and in 24 Hours its fit for use.

NB Keep the Bottles in a cool Cellar or the [word missing?] will be apt to fly.

You can email me for the step-by-step instructions for preparing calf's entrails, instructions which if you follow them and then add drawn butter and parsley before serving will, apparently, make them fit for use . . . 

--Lynn Conway, University Archivist

September 15, 2017