Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.
“I was in the store-room helping my mother to make cowslip-wine. I cannot abide the wine now, nor the scent of the flowers; they turn me sick and faint”
Cowslip flowers bud between April and May. Anne Pratt, a botanist and illustrator of the 19th century wrote that:
In the midland and southern counties of England, a sweet and pleasant wine resembling the muscadel is made from the cowslip flower, and it is one of the most wholesome and pleasant of home-made wines, and slightly narcotic in its effects. In times when English wines were more used, every housewife in Warwickshire could produce her clear cowslip wine…the cowslip is still sold in many markets for this purpose, and little cottage girls still ramble the meadows during April and May in search of it…country people use it as a salad or boil it for the table.
Herbalists also used them to alleviate headaches.
Victorian Cowslip wine recipe from Victoriana Magazine
Take nine gallons of water, add twenty-seven pounds of loaf sugar; put it into your boiler and add the whites of five eggs, beat well. Let it boil twenty minutes; take off the scum as it rises. Then have ready thirty-six quarts of cowslips, in a tub that will hold the liquor, and the rinds of twelve lemons pared thin. You must boil the rinds of the lemons with two pounds more sugar and a little water, to a thick syrup. When your wine is about luke warm, put it into a little yeast upon a crust of bread. Let it work one whole day, then put it into your barrel, squeezing your flowers well out before you close your barrel, which must be in about three days after it is tunned. Put in your syrup half an ounce of isinglass, and one quart of brandy. Let it stand six weeks, then bottle it off.