Old Recipe: "Bee Wine"

Old Recipe: "Bee Wine"

Post by Nancy Jenn » Sun, 04 Aug 1996 04:00:00



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
copy.  

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,
before?
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
them?
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.

--Nancy Jenner

*******************************************************
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
cease.
        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.

 
 
 

Old Recipe: "Bee Wine"

Post by jo3s » Tue, 06 Aug 1996 04:00:00


Quote:

>1)Does it look like it would work?
>2)Has anyone seen this type of recipe, with the dried fruit and molasses,
>before?
>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
>them?
>4)Is anyone familiar with the term "bee" applied to this sort of yeast
>formation? Is it an obsolete term?  Is it regional?

1) Yes, it looks as though it would work, in the sense that you'd get
something at the end of it which would be at least stomachable, if not
appealing.

2) I've not MADE this type of recipe, as I'm primarily a beer brewer,
but many recipes I've seen call for raisins, and I've seen recipes
that call for molasses, although I can't recall one which asked for
both.

3) From context, I think the term "bees," as used in the recipe you
posted, might conceivably be related to (be a bastardization of?) the
word "lees," meaning the settlings from the bottom of a vessel of
wine. In my (beer) fermenter, I'd probably call it "trub," although
that's actually (technically) a totally different substance. Whatever
we decide to call it though, it's reasonably apparent that what the
recipe is talking about is the sedimented yeast from the bottom of a
fermenter previously used to ferment wine or beer. There's no reason
to despair, as good yeast cultures are readily available for (sorry)
sale at beer-and-wine brewing shops throughout the world, or by
mailorder if there's no shop convenient to you. From the methods
described in your post, I think it's reasonably likely that you'll get
what would, by my standards, be hopelessly ruined product due to
contamination by ambient wild yeast and bacteria, but the high
pitching rate (two quarts of yeast slurry for a four gallon batch is
an *incredibly high* rate of inoculation; I and many other home
brewers typically use anywhere from a teaspoon to a cup for a
five-gallon batch) may help to combat this; at any rate, I have a
feeling the results will be best drunk young. With currently accepted
sanitation practices (that is, accepted in the homebrewing crowd), the
result should be just fine to drink. As to it's tast, I can't, and
won't guess, but, were I you, I'd eagerly  tie up a fermenter for a
while, just to see what happened. Your best bet is to spend a while
talking to a knowlegeable home brewer about techniques (feel free to
email me with questions), buy a book or two about beer or winemaking,
learn a bit about it, and give it a shot. All you have to lose is some
time and amusing effort, and all you have to gain is insight, and
possibly some tasty (?) brew.

Jo3sh

DNRC Crown Prince of Chortlers-at-Work

 
 
 

Old Recipe: "Bee Wine"

Post by The Docto » Fri, 09 Aug 1996 04:00:00



[snipped anecdotal origion of recipie]

Quote:
> My questions are:

> 1)Does it look like it would work?

Yup.  Looks very much like a traditional recipie to me.

Quote:
> 2)Has anyone seen this type of recipe, with the dried fruit and molasses,
> before?

I've seen several traditional recipies using dried fruit, molasses, and
just about anything else you can name that would have sugar in it.

Quote:
> 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
> them?

I'm guessing that this is a VERY old recipie that has been copied over and
over.  I imagine that the origional fermentations were done in barrels.
If you take the top off of a barrel after fermenting something in it,
you'll find this STUFF all over the inside of your barrel.  Naturally,
this stuff is yeast.  To the person who had to clean this stuff off of the
inside of the barrel, it was probably a pain, and might have been as bad
as scraping barnacles.  Hence "Yeast barnacles".  If the particular yeast
was extremely flocculent, it might have formed small yeasty nodules
looking like "yeast bees".

Quote:
> 4)Is anyone familiar with the term "bee" applied to this sort of yeast
> formation? Is it an obsolete term?  Is it regional?

Well, "bees" could also be a regional mis-pronunciation of "lees".  Or it
could be a leftover reference from meadmaking, where you might find some
bees stuck to the bottom of a barrel if you didn't get them all out of the
honey.

Quote:
> The hard part, obviously, will be identifying and locating some "bees."  
> I wonder if the term refers to a now extinct strain of yeast?

Probably the family's own strain of yeast.  Got any old bottles of family
vintage?

[snip]

Quote:
> *******************************************************
> 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 have heard of washing yeast, but have never attempted such a thing.

Quote:
>  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.

Probably added to the recipie in a prohibition era...

Quote:
>         Tradition says:  Never sell or buy or the strange work of nature will
> cease.

Old superstition?  For a long time no one realized that yeast were part of
making ***.  Fermentation was considered a "miracle of Nature".

Quote:
>         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.

Yeast propogation... Put your yeast in a starter...

Quote:
>   In twenty four hours pour off water and repeat.  This is called resting
> and the required time is supposed to be 48 hours.  

... and keep feeding it fresh sugar to keep the yeast alive and healthy.

Quote:
>         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.

Barrels have gone by the wayside, so use a big jar instead.  The rest of
it sounds like you're mixing the yeast/water you've got with a couple
pounds of molasses and nothing else!!  I would expect this to lead to some
serious yeast shock... Or would it be somekind of superchaged
proto-slurry?

Quote:
>         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.  

Raisin paste in a grain bag?  I have seen a lot of traditional recipies
with raisins.  Presumably because grapes are seasonal, but raisins are
available year round.  The Raisins are for flavor, and you keep feeding it
sugar for a week.

Quote:
>         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.

Since this is an open fermentation, you get a slime of infections on the
top.  This also explains why the yeast was propogated so heavily, so the
yeast would overpower anything else that tried to get a foothold in the
sugar-water.

Quote:
>         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.

A siphon maybe?  And you're catching the yeast for the next propogation cycle.

Quote:
>         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.

I've heard of washing yeast, but this is the first I've seen instructions
for making your own dried yeast packets at home!  :)

I'd imagine that the primary characteristic of this recipie would be
***.  I can't see that it would be particularly thick.  I'd be tempted
to say start with an ale yeast and build up your own "bees" from that.
Love to hear how it goes if you attempt this.  I'd imagine it would taste
pretty thin, but it might surpise you.

Doc

--
Just a guy with his own opinions.
"I only know everything when you ask the right questions."

Please, no advertizements.  When I want to buy something, I'll come looking for you.

 
 
 

Old Recipe: "Bee Wine"

Post by John R. Prath » Fri, 09 Aug 1996 04:00:00




Quote:
>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.

Brer Rabbit Molasses is still available in the stores today.  It is an old brand
that was obviously started after the book Song of the South was written.  The
hero of the book was Brer Rabbit.  Since this is a US product you are probably
looking at a prohibition era bathtub concoction, possibly derived from a post
civil war recipe.  

Raisin wines were quite common during prohibition.  Large quantities of grapes
were not so available unless you grew them yourself.  The raisins served to
flavor the wine.

Quote:

>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?

Yes

Quote:
>2)Has anyone seen this type of recipe, with the dried fruit and molasses,
>before?

Yes, but no mention of "Bees".  

Quote:
>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
>them?
>4)Is anyone familiar with the term "bee" applied to this sort of yeast
>formation? Is it an obsolete term?  Is it regional?

Like the other respondant, I believe it would probably make a reasonably
drinkable wine.  The lack of the addition of acid however would make it rather
bland.

As far as yeast bees go.  It is probably "lees" or the settlings from wine
fermentation.  Note at the end of the recipe it describes the recovery of the
lees from the fementer.  They are washed and dried.  The end product resembles
the active dry yeast available in stores (either bread or wine yeast).  

Modern home wine making processes would produce a better product than your
grandmother ever imagined.  Additionally the addition of some wine acids would
make it more appealing.  The use of molasses alone would be and interresting
challenge.

Quote:

>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.

Perhaps the wine was often drank young with the yeast still active which would
have given it a sparkling characteristic.  Thus the champagne title.
There are a few problems.  Replace the jar with a sealed glass carboy.  These
are available at wine making suppliers.  

Molasses has a natural oil content.  This is probably the reference to slime.  
Allowing the wine to settle and racking, (removing the wine from the lees)
several time would probably serve better.  This would produce a clearer wine.  

I also doubt, even with correct bottling that the wine would age well, but
stranger things have been seen.  Give it a try.  

I would recommend that you read a book on home wine making.  The cost of
supplies is minimal.  

 
 
 

Old Recipe: "Bee Wine"

Post by annievesterb.. » Mon, 20 Aug 2012 20:50:44


Ok i know this is an old discussion but if anyone's Reading it as i just did, i would like to say that water kefir grains is also known as California bees, they Will grow as the recipe says, they feed on sugar/molasses and dried fruit and they produce a slight carbonation when placed in a sealed container such as a capped bottle :-)