A Canadian Family Picnic – Circa 1867
Featuring a recipe for Old Fashioned Raspberry Cordial
CHC CANADA 150 FOOD BLOG CHALLENGE SERIES
I am a proud Canadian. When the Culinary Historians of Canada invited food bloggers to participate in the “CHC Canada 150 Food Blog Challenge”, I knew that I wanted in! What a great way to celebrate and honour Canada’s 150th birthday by featuring a different Canadian dish or discussing a topic which reflects on what it means to be Canadian. For the month of July, CHC invited food bloggers to share stories and recipes that relate to the topic of Canadian culinary history in this sesquicentennial year. I was intrigued by the invitation to host a 1867- or a 1967-themed picnic. I have chosen to write about an 1867 picnic and have developed a menu for a typical Canadian family of that period. I have taken a bit of literary licence to include options for refrigeration, which was unavailable to all but the wealthy of those times. My post includes a recipe for Old Fashioned Raspberry Cordial. I hope you enjoy going back in time with me for A Canadian Family Picnic – Circa 1867.
Everything that was used or consumed circa 1867 was locally made, raised or grown. I have chosen to write about a region of South Western Ontario, Essex County where I was born. I asked my Mom, who is in her 90th year, what she recollected about picnics during her parents and grandparents time. She described them as hard working folk who lived simply. The nucleus of their family lived within a few short blocks of each other. Gardens took up a significant portion of their large yards. Relatives and neighbours would often trade fresh produce; for example – eggs for a half-bushel of apples or other fruit. The maintenance and harvesting from the gardens took up a great deal of time and effort on the part of the whole family.
The canning of produce and preserving of meats was a year-round way of life in 1867. From a young age, children were taught the necessary life skills of how to catch, salt and dry fish and meat. Canning and preserving food was a social affair, with the ladies and the older children helping with the picking, peeling, pickling, salting, drying or canning, while the younger children played nearby.
After the work was done, there was time for feasting and fun. Picnics were very common and were typically an all day affair with entire villages coming together for a special event. They were often planned around a seasonal crop with celebrations such as Strawberry Social or a Fall Harvest Celebration. The picnic foods were transported in large hampers or baskets and were often set up along the riverbank or lake under the umbrella of large shade trees. Since there was a lack of refrigeration, ingenious methods were used to keep foods cool. Liquids such as raspberry cordial were kept cool by placing the jars or containers into a bubbling brook or shore of the lake.
Breads, scones, cakes and pies were made fresh daily and eaten within a day or two of baking. In my research for this article, I came across a pound cake recipe in a vintage cookbook (circa 1800s) that was actually made with a pound of butter and a pound of eggs. Times sure have changed since then – a modern pound cake is nothing close to its original predecessor with gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free versions commonplace today. The pastry chef side of me wants to recreate the original pound cake in all of its glory, however my more practical side suggests that I should move on.
I chose instead to share a recipe for a popular period beverage called Old Fashioned Raspberry Cordial. It is a delicious syrup concentrate made from fresh raspberries. In 1867, nothing went to waste, therefore making raspberry syrup that could be preserved and tucked away was not only practical but necessary for the meagre winter months when the prospect of picking fresh berries and garden produce was still many long cold months away. My Mom mentioned when she was a child that vinegar was often used as a substitute for lemon juice which was not readily available. The raspberry concentrate is served by pouring a little of the syrup into a glass and topping with cool water or with your beverage of choice.
I encourage you to try making this Old Fashioned Raspberry Cordial. It will surely become as popular today as it was in 1867.
According to my Mom’s recollections from her grandparents, the following is what a picnic menu might have consisted of. The menu links below can be found on the UrbnSpice blog.
Typical Everyday Canadian Family Picnic
Sample Menu Items of the Day – circa 1867
Old Fashioned Raspberry Cordial (recipe included below)
Preserves: Rhubarb Apple Compote; Strawberry Jam
Fresh churned butter
Pies using seasonal produce
Strawberries and Raspberries
Old Fashioned Raspberry Cordial
Yield: 2 – 2 1/3 cups (500 – 600 ml) of cordial
- 1 litre raspberries (4 cups), cleaned and sorted
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice or vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- ½ cup granulated sugar or raw cane sugar
- In a medium size bowl, crush the raspberries well.
- Pour one cup of boiling water over the raspberries and stir gently.
- Stir in the lemon juice or vinegar.
- Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Using a clean medium size bowl or container, drain the crushed berries and their juices through a piece of cheesecloth. Allow the juices to drain slowly without squeezing.
- Place the juices in a small pot on the stove and bring to a boil.
- Add the 2 Tablespoons of honey.
- Add sugar to taste.
- Boil the mixture for a further three minutes. Skim any foam, if necessary.
- To Store: the juice will keep in a refrigerator for one month. For longer storage, canning will preserve the juice.
- To Serve: Pour a little of the concentrated raspberry juice into a drinking glass and top with water, or white wine or seltzer water with a sprig of mint, and some ice chips.
Please CLICK the link above to access my UrbnSpice LEARNING TIPS, which are listed alphabetically on the Learning Tips blog post under the following subheadings:
- The Simple Spatula
You Might Also Enjoy these Culinary Historians Canada 150 Blog Posts:
- Blue Ribbon For Everyday Use in Canadian Homes Cook Book – Blue Ribbon Limited
- Watkins Cook Book by Elaine Allen – The J. R. Watkins Co.
- Canadian Cook Book by Nellie Lyle Pattinson
- Beeton’s Practical Encyclopedia of Cookery
- The Canadian Living Cookbook
- Elizabeth Baird’s Classic Canadian Cooking: Menus for the Seasons
- From Pemmican to Poutine: Eating in Canada
- 1867 Recipes for Picnics
- Raspberry Cordial
- Pickled Eggs
- Old Fashioned Blue Ribbon Pound Cake
If you try this recipe for Old Fashioned Raspberry Cordial, please leave me a comment below with your feedback.
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