Friday, January 15, 2016

Butter and Beer

In England, the price of butter fluctuated very much during the 17th century. Between 1643 and 1652 that product was very dear, but then declined for 30 years not to rise again in price until the last decade. In 1600, it commanded five pence and one-seventh of a penny per pound. Yet, by the end of the century, the price had sunk to still lower figures.

The Virginia colonists consumed as much cider as they did beer. Beer was popular because the water was considered impure in England and it was thought that beer was a wholesome drink. Cider was as common as beer and during apple season it was found in the home of every planter. The colonists, so closely linked with their English heritage, imported large quantities of cider and beer.  Cider was frequently used as a means of paying rent.  As an example is Peter Marsh of York County, Virginia entered into a bond during the year of 1675 to pay James Minge 120 gallons.  The facts are discovered in old last wills and testaments.   Alexander Moore of York County upon his decease bequeathed 20 gallons of raw cider and 103  of boiled cider. Richard Moore of the same county kept on hand as many as 14 casks of cider. Then there was Richard Bennett who compressed about 20 butts of cider annually, while the orchard of Richard Kinsman compressed pears. These liquors seemed to have been kept in butts, hogsheads and run-lets. Also, a great quantity of peach and apple brandy was also manufactured.

Previous to 1625, only two brewing houses were in operation in the colony, and the patronage which they received was very liberal.  So it was that the Assembly of 1623-1624 recommended to all new comers that they should bring in a supply of malt to be used in brewing liquor, thus making it unnecessary to drink the water of Virginia until the body had become hardened to the climate.  Some of the demand for beer was met when barley and Indian corn were planted as crops to be used for brewing.

Wild fowls were plentiful in rivers, creeks and bays, and were so numerous in autumn and winter that they were regarded as the least expensive food on the table of the planter. Sheepsheads, shad, bream, perch, soles, bass, chub and pike swarmed in the nearest rivers.  Also, large flocks of wild turkeys roamed loose in the countryside. The goose, mallard and the canvas-back, the red-head, the plover, and other species of the most highly flavored marine birds were more frequently cooked in the kitchen than domestic poultry. Source: Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 63.

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