Caudles and gruel

Glancing through ‘Cookery To-Day and To-Morrow’ by Nan Heaton and published in 1944, I came across a coupe of recipes for caudles. I had a faint idea of what they were, but it was elusive. When I turned to the recipes Caudles (1) – oatmeal, and Caudles (2) – rice, I remembered. A caudle is a drink made from a cereal of some sort – often to be drunk, but sometimes to be spooned. The first one starts ‘boil up a pint of gruel’ – more brain racking – gruel is a thin porridge I think… To Wikipedia:

Gruel is a food consisting of some type of cereal—such as ground oats, wheat, rye or rice—heated or boiled in water or milk. It is a thinner version of porridge that may be more often drunk rather than eaten and may not need to be cooked.

Nan helpfully includes a recipe for gruel ( I can’t help thinking of the musical, Oliver, and the refrain ‘If we live ’till eighty-four, all we ever get is gru-el!’)

Take one ounce of oatmeal and blend it with a little cold water, add one pint of water, put it in a pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring constantly. Add a knob of margarine and a sprinkling of salt and stir well before serving.

Here is Nan’s recipe, should you wish for a caudle:

Boil up a pint of gruel and add a little butter. Stir well and as it cools add sugar to taste and a little wine, grated nutmeg and a small piece of lemon peel, or lemon juice.

The addition of sugar, wine, nutmeg and lemon peel to what sounds like thin porridge with margarine doesn’t quite persuade me to try it however! Would I fancy rice caudle more?

Rice caudle
Soak 2 dessertspoonfuls of rice in water for about half an hour. Strain and put the rice in a pan with one and a quarter pints of milk. Simmer till the rice is soft enough to rub through a sieve then sieve it and return the pulp and milk to the pan. Add sugar and cloves to taste and simmer for five minutes before serving.

When I read further in Wikipedia about caudle it seems it was more than just a simple pleasant nourishing drink; it was useful for invalids, but for women who’d given birth, but it was also drunk in celebration of the happy event, and being alcoholic was no doubt much enjoyed. There are also folk traditions associated with it when it was part of May Day rituals and celebrations.

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