Thursday, August 20, 2009

Home use of hops ... not just for beer.

By: Gwen Miner, Supervisor of Domestic Arts
Yes, hops were used for more than making beer. Most households from the time of colonization had a few poles of hops under cultivation in the kitchen garden. Hops were an important ingredient in yeast that was made in the home and used for baking. Recipes for making yeast appear regularly in 19th century cookbooks. At the Lippitt Farmhouse we make yeast cakes. The yeast cakes are made by making a hop tea by boiling hops in water, straining it and then stirring in rye meal while boiling hot. The mixture is then cooled and lively yeast is added and the mixture is allowed to rise for a few hours. After the mixture has risen, it is then thickened with Indian (corn) meal until it is stiff enough to roll out and cut into squares. The squares are air dried. One square, dissolved in warm water will make a large loaf of bread.
Yeast Cakes made at the Lippitt House at The Farmers’ Museum.
Doughs made with yeast cakes could be stored to rise in dough boxes such as this one from the More House.
Hops were also used in the household to make “Table Beers”, beers which were a “good family drink” as Lydia Maria Child, author of The American Frugal Housewife, stated. A handful of hops mixed with a pail of water and a cup of molasses forms the basis of most table beers. The ingredients are brought to a boil for two to three hours. A cup more of molasses is added, then the whole is strained and cooled. When the liquid is lukewarm “lively yeast” is put into the barrel with the molasses/hop liquid. The beer is allowed to “work” or ferment for a few days. When the frothing has subsided the liquid is drawn off into stone jugs, with a lump of sugar in each and then securely corked. It will keep several months. Hops beer has a pleasant if not bitter taste and is definitely refreshing on a hot summer day.
To learn more about medicinal uses for hops, check out more blogs in this continuing series.


Anonymous said...

Like the post, what is the alcohol content of a "Table Beer"?

KGB said...

Have never tested a batch, but I can tell you the longer we let it ferment the stronger it gets. One batch that we ferment a few years ago for a couple of months had guite a kick to it. Intitially, though it is pretty mild.

Gwen Miner

adktrillium said...

That may explain the existence of hops growing on abandoned homesites in the Adirondacks--some of which haven't been inhabited for 150 years. Isolated Adirondack women were making their own yeast well into the twentieth century. I found this blog while researching breadmaking in this region--and plan to make some yeast with native hops.

adktrillium said...

I assume the hops were used in both beermaking and yeastmaking for their preservative qualities?

Treasured Chaos said...

I've been putting back a bit here lately and while moving flour from the store bags into longer term containers I realized I hadn't purchased any yeast. Then I walked outside and saw the most beautiful hop vines ever and sought to find a use for them. How funny. I'd say it was no accident I found your site! Sometimes too many things line up just right! I'll post my outcome because I've always wanted to try to make my own bread with my own yeast anyway, and this appeals to me way more than letting veggie scraps sit out in water!

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