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Feeding Your Invalid in the 19th Century 5: Ale Caudle

Because Christmas is coming, here’s a more cheery recipe that you might even try. Ale caudle was possibly quite good for you. When Marian Halcombe‘s beloved husband Theophilus Camlet is injured in a carriage accident, he spurns sago gruel in favor of ale caudle, thus ensuring that he survives to have further adventures. There’s nutritive value in ale or beer, and adding a starch makes it stick to your ribs a little. If you didn’t boil it hard (notice the recipe doesn’t say to do that) the alcohol in the ale wouldn’t cook off. But the key ingredient in this recipe, in my opinion, is that final glass of spirits, any kind. Not even wine, ooh! As an American, I’d use bourbon. I’m sure a basin of this would indeed improve the invalid’s health and temper. And look at the spiff sterling-silver vessel Theo got to drink his ale caudle out of! No, this is definitely the way to dine if you must be ill in the 19th century.

Charles Francatelli was the period equivalent of a celebrity chef. He cooked for Queen Victoria, and published several cookbooks on the strength of it. Fans of Victoria on PBS will remember him making a flirtatious appearance below stairs. The groats he mentions is a mixture of whole grains, something akin to our modern granola. Use a dark ale or porter for more flavor.

Original Receipt from ‘A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes’ by Charles Elmé Francatelli (Francatelli 1846)

No. 186. How to make Caudle.

Mix four ounces of prepared groats or oatmeal with half a pint of cold ale in a basin, pour this into a saucepan containing a quart of boiling ale, or beer, add a few whole allspice, and a little cinnamon, stir the caudle on the fire for about half an hour, and then strain it into a basin or jug; add a glass of any kind of spirits, and sugar to taste.


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