Foodie Friday: Curious Cookery of the 19th Century - "Rice Milk"

From The Southern Planter masthead, 1848

From The Southern Planter masthead, 1848

In the June 1849 issue of The Southern Planter, p. 165, we found the recipe below for a "substitute for milk" using rice.  In actuality, this was really a method of extending milk rather than completely replacing it. 

In some of the poor-law unions of the South, the following recipt has been adopted by which a considerable saving is effected in the article of milk.  So much as ten guineas a week are saved in the ratepayers of one of the unions, from which our correspondent writes:  "Steep one pound of rice in soft water, and next day boil it slowly, for two or three hours, so as to reduce the liquid to one gallon, which, added to one gallon of milk, make two gallons of excellent and nutritive milk, peculiarly wholesome, where dysentery is prevalent."

The recipe was reprinted from the Downpatrick Recorder, most likely an Irish publication.  Downpatrick is a town in Northern Ireland, and the Down Recorder is published there today.  "Guinea" was a British term for money at that time, and "poor-law unions" were local government institutions in the United Kingdom and Ireland to oversee poorhouses or workhouses that provided minimal relief for the destitute.  The 1849 date placed this during the great potato famine, when there would have been many people in Ireland in extreme economic circumstances.  So it appears that this recipe for a milk extender was used to help feed the starving Irish.  Despite the claim of it being "peculiarly wholesome" and perhaps medicinal, the main purpose of the milk substitute was to save the poor-law unions some expense.

It is interesting that a Southern U.S. publication would have picked up this recipe.  The intended audience for The Southern Planter was plantation and other land owners.  Could they have used the recipe to feed enslaved African Americans?

The Hathi trust has some years of The Southern Planter online, but unfortunately not any from 1849.  If you would like to review the original print version for June 1849, please request an appointment to see it using the Special Collections online form (please provide us with the call number:  S1 .S6 v.9(1849).)

Substitute for Milk article, The Southern Planter, June 1849, p. 165
Substitute for Milk article, The Southern Planter, June 1849, p. 165.