One of the most popular cookbooks in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, is Charleston Receipts. Put together by the Junior League of Charleston in 1950, the cookbook is full of classic Charleston recipes and to date has sold more than 1 million copies. But it’s not my favorite Charleston-based cookbook. For this classic collection of receipts you have to go back a few more years. Almost 100, in fact.
The Carolina Housewife was compiled by Charleston native Sarah Rutledge and published in 1851, when women were rarely found in the publishing world. The cookbook consists of an amazing variety of recipes, from “Spruce Beer” to “To Dress Salsify in Imitation of Fried Oysters” to “Charlotte of Brown Bread and Apples” and everything in between.
Since Florida strawberries are starting to show up in the markets, I thought I’d share one of Ms. Rutledge’s strawberry recipes. Along with classic recipes for strawberry sherbet and strawberry cream, she has a wonderful recipe for strawberry syrup; perfect for angel food cake, salted caramel ice cream (or your favorite ice cream!), or simply spooned in a cool glass of milk:
Strawberry Syrup (from Carolina Housewife, by Sarah Rutledge, 1851)
when the fruit is quite ripe, express the juice and strain it through a bag. To one pint of the juice, put one pound of loaf sugar; stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved; then let it stand quiet, until the scum* rises, which will be quite thick. When that is taken off [NOTE: use a spoon to remove the scum from the syrup] the syrup is fit for bottling [or canning], which must be done without scalding [NOTE: that is, heat the strawberry syrup over low heat until boiling, then add to sterilized canning jars or bottles]. Cork the bottles tight, and keep them in in a cool place.
*The syrup must stand some time for the scum to rise, but requires watching to prevent its becoming mouldy or acid, which will be the case if the scum stands too long on it.
A good portion of the Carolina Housewife is available here on Google books, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in experimenting with vintage recipes.