Sunday, July 5, 2009
The Southern Gardener and Receipt-Book: Containing Valuable Information, Original and Otherwise, on All Subjects Connected With Domestic and Rural Affairs, Gardening, Cookery, Beverages, Dairy, Medical, Veterinary, and Miscellaneous (third edition; Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and co., 1860), by Mary L. Edgeworth, contrib. by P. Thornton. Available online at the University of Michigan's Making of America digital library.
Mrs Edgeworth’s book is straight-forward, clearly written and provides some interesting insights on how food gathering, preparation and storage had to be handled in hot Southern climates (although her apparent dislike of starting new paragraphs may seem a little disconcerting to a modern reader). She devotes several pages to the proper smoking and curing of pork and beef, and I doubt these methods changed much, particularly in rural areas, until after the Second World War when electricity and modern refrigeration became common.
Here is her advice to settlers in need of honey to augment their supply of sweeteners.
The manner of hunting bees, as practiced in the new settlements, may be familiar to many but perhaps not to all. As advantage is taken of a peculiar instinct, it would, probably, be interesting to those unacquainted with it, to be informed of the process. A tin box is provided, capable of containing about a pint. Into this is put a piece of dry honey-comb; a bottle of honey and water mixed, about half and half, is also provided. The honey is diluted, in order that it may be more readily poured into the dry comb, that the bees may not be so liable to get it upon their wings, and will be able to fill themselves more expeditiously. Apparatus for making a fire may also be necessary. With these the hunter proceeds to a newly-cleared field, at a distance from any hive of domestic bees; and having poured a little of the composition into the comb, he proceeds to search among the wild flowers for a bee. If one can be found, he is caught in the box by shutting the lid over him. As soon as he becomes still, the lid is carefully removed, when he will be found busily filling himself with honey. When he rises he must be watched in order to ascertain his course. After making one or two circuits about the box, he will fly off in a straight course to his home. After an absence of a few minutes, say five or ten, he will return, bringing with him two or three of his companions. These will soon fill themselves, go home, and return again with a number more. Thus they will continue to increase in number till, in the course of half an hour, there will be one hundred or more in the box. By that time the line will be ascertained with precision. The lid is now shut over as many as possible, and the box is removed on the line to the edge of the woods, where it is again opened. The line will soon be found at the new station, as before, and thus the box is removed from station to station, until the whole tree is either discovered or passed. If the tree be passed, the line, of course, will be retrograde. A small pocket spyglass is a convenient thing for searching the tops of trees, as it requires a good eye to see a bee at that distance. If a bee cannot be found to commence operations with, a little honey is burned on a stone; and if a wandering bee happens to be near, he will be attracted by the smell. The proper time for hunting bees is on a fair warm day in the month of September or October. During the summer months, when food for bees is to be found everywhere, they will not traverse. If a bee tree is in the neighborhood of a sugar camp, bees will be found about the tree in the time of making sugar."
(fruit and vegetable illustrations from Dover Publications).