Remedies from the 1740’s and a Ginger Bread Recipe

For Christmas my mum-in-law gave me an awesome book of Georgian Cures and Remedies. It is written by a British woman whose godmother left her a few silver antique pieces and a suede covered book belonging to her great great grandmother Elizabeth who was born in 1712.

Elizabeth married late in life, waiting until after the passing of her ailing father whom she cared for.  Her husband was a successful lawyer, and they lived in a luxurious house in the Thames Valley and had another in London.

The book is a diary of sorts which she titled; “Elizabeth, her Physick Book”.  It is a catalog of remedies, cures and recipes, and their sources. Being of the privileged class, Elizabeth had access to renowned physicians, surgeons and apothecaries, and so  could order necessary ingredients from the latter.

Some of the supplies (precious stones, exotic and expensive spices, roots, berries, and large amounts of brandy and wine) necessary for the various remedies were purchased and shipped from France.  Elizabeth’s family would have been able to obtain these despite the considerable cost.

The book was handed down through 3 generations and contains about 170 ‘receipts’ of which the great majority of contributors are named. A few were concoctions from friends and neighbors.

Since the lady of the house was the primary dispenser of first aid and a supplier of advice and medication for illnesses, many wives kept such records. Many grew their own herb gardens for both culinary and medicinal purposes, and had to keep watch over the expensive, and sometimes lethal, ingredients.

For fun, I thought I’d share one of the Remedies with you, and her Ginger Bread recipe!

Notice the ingredients in this recipe…spices and seeds are central to the majority of cures used for centuries.  Cochineal is a soft-bodied, flat, oval-shaped scale insect that lives on cacti. The insect produces carminic acid that deters predation by other insects. Carmine is today primarily used as a food coloring and for cosmetics, especially as a lipstick coloring.

Mr. Walder’s Receipt for the Tincture for Gout and Colick in Stomach

  • 2 1/2 lbs. of raisins, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. of rhubarb, shred very thin
  • 2 oz. coriander seeds
  • 1 oz. fennel seeds
  • 1 oz. cochineal
  • 1/2 oz. of saffron
  • 1/2 oz. of liquorish

Infuse these in two gallons of  best brandy; let it stand 10 days in a large bottle, sometimes stirring it, the strain it off and put in five quarts of brandy.

Let it remain for a month or six weeks; it will be as good as the first.

Take a wine glass when the pain is troublesome and if the pain is not better in two hours, take another.  The quarter of this quantity is enough to make at a time.

victorian kitchen


To Make Ginger Bread

  • one pound of flour
  • six ounces of butter
  • six ounces of coarse sugar
  • one ounce of dried ginger, powdered up in one ounce of Jamaican pepper (allspice), and one ounce of caraway seeds.

Mix the butter and flour as fine as possible and put in an ounce of treacle (if wanted) and a spoonful of water that has been boiled and stood to be cold, then mix all these ingredients together and put in a slack oven (i.e. one that burns slowly).



I am thinking of adapting this recipe to one that complies with a low-sugar, low-carb, healthy-fats diet.  Wish me luck!

And so we usher in 2014.


8 thoughts on “Remedies from the 1740’s and a Ginger Bread Recipe

  1. an old fave. the best one i tasted was in New London, CT, on the Thames, but a pilgrim version . best wishes hoda

  2. Really you are luck to have such vintage books ,your mother’s cooking book and your mother’s in law book..

    1. I am lucky to have my Mom’s book for sure. In the 70’s my sister and a few friends translated all 400+ recipes into English. Then 17 years ago, I began to modify the ingredients to suit today’s health conscious cooks, I got part of the way through, and was distracted by my catering business and new baby! I hope we can publish a subset of her work soon. Especially the recipes she created.

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