By Gladys Suggitt

Originally Published in Roses and Thorns

Vinegar was not purchased by the bottle from the grocery store, but was manufactured at home. When the maple syrup season ended, the same equipment was used to tap the white or sweet birch tree. The sap from these trees, when boiled, made very good vinegar and was the only vinegar used for years by the early settler. Later each family had their own vinegar barrel, and into it went any bits of syrup of juice of fruits. In the barrel it was very necessary to have a piece of ‘mother.’ If the vinegar lacked this all important ingredient, a small portion was borrowed from a neighbour. If ‘mother’ could not be obtained, a small piece of brown paper was added. ‘Mother’ was a thick leathery brown substance which formed on the top of good homemade vinegar and was produced by the fermentation process.

The last run of maple syrup was used as cooking molasses and if the vinegar barrel was low at any time, a portion of the molasses was allowed to ferment and was added to the barrel. When storekeepers locally became better settled, they made their own vinegar, by placing four pounds of ascetic acid and one gallon of molasses in a forty gallon cask. This was then to be filled with rain water, stirred well, and let stand from one to three weeks. This made good vinegar. If a sharper vinegar was desired, a little more molasses was added.

The grocer, Mr. Carl in Coboconk, made his own vinegar and sold it by the gallon in stone jugs. He didn’t want for rain to fill the barrel, but simply dipped sufficient water from the river. People today may hold their up their hands in horror at the thought of his unsanitary method of making vinegar, but we must remember the early settlers chose their homesteads near lakes and streams because of the water supply, and water from these spring-fed lakes and rivers was pure. Man had not as yet polluted them.

One cookbook of those days, in recording the different items becoming available to cooks of the day said of ascetic acid “To those who object to using vinegar sold in stores because an acid is used, let me say to such that ascetic acid is concentrated vinegar, and to take one pint, or any other quantity, and add seven times as much soft (rain) water, you have as good of vinegar as can be made from cider.”

Joseph Eades [of Baddow] planted a large orchard and when it reached bearing age, he purchased a cider mill and made large quantities of cider and cider vinegar for his own and neighbour’s use. A cheap cider vinegar was made by taking the water in which dried apples were soaked, and after straining, it was put into a vessel along with a pound of sugar or its equivalents in molasses. A small piece of ‘Mother’ was added, and the vessel placed where it would stay warm. In a few weeks, it produced a good cider vinegar. The more concentrated the cider, the better the vinegar and the stronger vinegar was made from boiled juices. Pickle recipes have not changed to any great extent, and there were the usual number of recipes, with each family having a few favourites. Most of the pickle recipes were for large amounts, as they were stored in large stone crocks, the family was often large and a year’s supply was needed.

Green Tomato Pickles: Slice one peck [37 ¼ cups] of tomatoes into a stone crock, sprinkle a little salt over each layer, and let them stand twenty four-hours. Drain off the liquor; put the tomatoes into a kettle with a teaspoon each of the following spices—ground ginger, allspice, cloves, mace, cinnamon, add a teaspoon of scraped horseradish, three large red peppers, three onions and a cup of brown sugar; cover all with vinegar and boil slowly for three hours and bottle.

Mother’s Favourite Recipe: A quick recipe.

One quart raw cabbage chopped fine, one quart boiled beets, chopped fine, two cups sugar, granulated, one tablespoon salt, one teaspoon black pepper, one-quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper and half cup of horseradish. Cover above ingredients with cold vinegar and bottle.

Annie Watson’s Chili Sauce.

12 tart apples

12 large ripe tomatoes

9 onions, chopped fine

One quart of vinegar, one-half cup salt

Three cups brown sugar, one teaspoon mustard

One teaspoon of ginger, one teaspoon of black pepper, one teaspoon of cinnamon and one-third teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Boil all together until thick, and bottle while hot.

Nine day pickles, tomato catsup, chow chow, whole cucumber pickles, mustard beans and bread and butter pickles were all included in our Grandmother’s pickle making and recipes have been passed down from generation to generation and are still made by many of today’s housekeepers.

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