Another of my funny little cookery books is about making home-made liqueurs and wines. It was published in 1953 and was written by Ambrose heath; he seems an interesting fellow, born in 1891 and writing a large number of cookery books and other books about food. I first came across him in The National Mark Calendar of Cooking, published in 1936. He was born Francis Geoffrey Miller, but no doubt thought Ambrose Heath sounded more imposing. As well as being a food writer he was also a translator and was most famous for translating a cookery book which sound slike something from a comedy show, Madame Prunier’s Fish Cookery Book.
In his introduction to his wine making book, comments that ‘wines have been made at home from fruits, roots and flowers for many hundreds of years. He sensibly says that home-made wines should not be compared to professionally produced wines from countries such as France, because the original purpose of home made versions was often for medicinal or tonic use; however, he adds, some of the better known versions were called English Champagne (gooseberry wine) and English Port (elderberry wine) – this wasn’t to suggest they tasted like the original but gave some indication of how strong they were and how they might be drunk. he then has a little list of other ‘equivalents:
- ruby port – blackberry, damson and beetroot wines
- white port – raspberry and wheat wines
- Sauternes – apple and sugar-beet wines
- Claret – cherry wine
- Hock – grape wine
- white Burgundy – rhubarb, mangold and parsnip wines
- sherry – orange, raisin, carrot, brambletip wines
- brandy – potato
That is quite an extraordinary list; I think most people could understand the fruit wines being roughly equivalent in type to great wines from Europe, and even wheat, maybe… and maybe even at a pinch carrot or parsnip as they are sweet, but beetroot? sugar-beet? potato? mangold? And bramble tips? I guess we should admire people from eighty years ago who were ready to use whatever they had to produce a decent beverage.
One last thought, Ambrose Heath has recipes for quince wine… and I’ve mentioned several times I have a yen to make quince wine!!