Some time last year I posted a note asking for some input on a recipe Id
found in with some family papers. A couple of people expressed interest
and asked for copies of the recipe. Naturally, the day after I made the
initial inquiry the sheaf of papers got misplaced, and I never did get
back to anyone. The papers have resurfaced, and Id like to start over.
Anyway, for a little provenance, this recipe was tucked in a cookbook
that belonged to my great-grandmother. She had worked in a her fathers
bakery in Victorian England, and the handwritten recipes in the book are
for confections such as hot-cross buns and wedding cakes. The recipe
itself seems to be of a later vintage, as it is a type-written carbon
My thoughts are that either this is some sort of sickly-sweet English
"folk" beverage, or that it is from later, when the family moved to
California, which means it could possibly be a Prohibition era home-brew.
I could probably try to track down the brand name "Brer Rabbit Molasses"
to see when and where it came from.
In any case, it looks like it would produce a rather thick, vile
concoction. Nevertheless, Id like to give it a try for curiosity's sake.
My questions are:
1)Does it look like it would work?
2)Has anyone seen this type of recipe, with the dried fruit and molasses,
3)Where in the world am I going to find these "Yeast barnacles," or
"Bees" particularly since the folk wisdom is that Im not supposed to buy
4)Is anyone familiar with the term "bee" applied to this sort of yeast
formation? Is it an obsolete term? Is it regional?
The hard part, obviously, will be identifying and locating some "bees."
I wonder if the term refers to a now extinct strain of yeast?
Ive typed up the recipe. Aside from correcting a couple of obvious
typing errors, I havent changed anything, as I rather like the style.
I think the title is supposed to be "Champagne" but on the off-chance
that "Champagene" is a real term, I left it in.
I welcome any advice or general musings-- or donations of bees.
Bee Wine Or Champagene (sic.)
The Bees or wine barrel barnacles should be given to you after being
thoroughly washed by several changes of water until they are a white mass,
i.e., they should have no odor of the preceding fermentation. They
should be pure white and smell yeasty.
Two quarts of Bees makes four gallons and at the end of fermentation the
growing of these strange multiplying joys will be nearly doubled. So:
hand them (those you do not need) to some poor guy with his tongue
*** out of his mouth and make him do the work himself.
Tradition says: Never sell or buy or the strange work of nature will
After bees are thoroughly cleansed, put in glass, earthen or porcelain
receptacle and cover with water (cold) and add one half cup of cane sugar.
In twenty four hours pour off water and repeat. This is called resting
and the required time is supposed to be 48 hours.
Now gently put bees in a 5 or 6 gallon jar and pour in with them a two
pound and four ounce can of yellow label light brown Brer Rabbit Molasses.
Now gently stir (the hand is best) until it all becomes one or
thoroughly mixed. Let this stand 24 hours.
Now add four gallons of water (cold), also two pounds of small seedless
raisins washed, stemmed, ground and put in a loose woven bag and three
cups of cane sugar stirring gently; Repeat the three cups of sugar every
day for seven days after which let it stand 48 hours.
Filter through a cloth (the slime accumulated during fermentation makes
this a tedious proposition). If the weather isnt too warm it can stand
in a five gallon bottle loosely corked until clear, bottle and cap or tie
down corks, ready in three or four weeks.
Press the raisins in bag gently daily during fermentation.
The liquid must be removed from jar with dipper or something and poured
through a strainer into the cloth filter to catch the bees.
The bees must then be washed by going through several changes of water,
bulks of it at a time, then rested or sugared as described above before
used again, or they can be dried; however if you dry them they must not
be sugared after washing.
To dry them spread them out on a large towel or cloth placed in the hot
sun with paper over them to keep flies etc. off. When dry they are very
small and brown in color, put in a fruit can (glass) and***down air
tight. Be sure they are thoroughly dry or they will blow up. To use
again soak and proceed as above.