Excellent barley water… according to Eliza!

Eliza Acton was an amazing woman, producing the cookery book from which Mrs Beeton later took many of her recipes. Eliza was born in 1799 and died in 1859, but her book, Modern Cookery, is very readable, very interesting, and very useful! She was a forerunner of listing ingredients and giving cooking times for her recipes.

Here she describes what we might think of as a summer drink, but she suggests for invalids (nineteenth century cookery writers were great at producing food and drinks for invalids!) We are so used to opening a packet of stuff and it being clean and ready to use, in earlier times, cooks would have to prepare the ingredients before using them.

Excellent Barley Water
(Poor Xury’s receipt)

Wipe very clean, by rolling it in a soft cloth, two tablespoonsful of pearl barley; put it into a quart jug, with a lump or two of sugar, a grain or two of salt, and a strip of lemon-peel, cut very thin; fill up the jug with boiling water and keep the mixture gently stirred for some minutes; then cover it down, and let it stand until perfectly cold. In twelve hours, or less, it will be fit for use; but it is better when made over night. if these directions be followed, the barley-water will be comparatively clear, and very soft and pleasant to drink. A glass of calf’s foot jelly added to the barley is an infinite improvement; but as lemon-rind is often extremely unpalatable to invalids, their taste should be consulted before the ingredient is added, as it should also be for the degree of sweetness that is desired. After the barley-water has been poured off once, the jug may be filled with boiling water a second time, and even a third with advantage.

Poor Xury by the way was a character in Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe; Xury was a servant young boy  – I don’t know whether he made barley water or not! A grain of salt is a measure of salt, not a single crystal – but it is not much more! 2 grains for the barley-water is 0.004571 ounce! Calf’s foot jelly is exactly that, a jelly made from boiling a calf’s foot… I think I can do without that, thank you, especially if I was an invalid!

By the way, if you want something to read while sipping your barley-water, with or without the calf’s foot jelly, my novel Radwitnter is now available as a paperback!


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