Friday 25th July Was expecting to go to Boston with
Mr Ames & Susan in the wagon but it was
misty & cloudy and we gave up going. It cleared
up very pleasant about nine I pick[ed] some
currants for some wine. Jane strained them
About ten Oclock Augustus carried me up to
see his new heir, found mother & babe comfortable
Evelina was disappointed not to travel into Boston today; the possibility of bad weather put her off the jaunt. However, she got to see William Gilmore, her new great-nephew. Her niece-in-law, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, and the baby seemed to be doing well, which must have been a relief. In an era when childbirth could be dangerous for mother and infant, Hannah and Willie were doing fine.
But what was going on in the kitchen at the Ames house? Evelina and servant Jane McHanna were making wine from the currants off the bushes in the back yard. Why did they do this? Alcohol was never served at the Ames house. As Sarah Josepha Hale, author of The Good Housekeeper, a popular cook book, stated emphatically, “t]here is one rule for drinks which no woman should violate – never make any preparation of which alcohol forms a part for family use!”
Yet here was alcohol being prepared in Evelina’s own kitchen. Rather than being made to be served as a beverage, however, it was being prepared for culinary and medicinal purposes and, for such cases, it was evidently permissible. In cooking, wine or cider could be used as a preservative in mincemeat pies, for instance. An even more viable use was as medicine for the sick. In Little Women, Mr. March stores away some wine bottles for his invalid daughter, Beth. In Evelina’s kitchen, the homemade wine would probably be served to someone who became ill and needed a tonic. A drink called wine whey, made from strained wine and milk, was a common treatment for fever and other ailments. Wine had its uses; distilled liquors did not.
* Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841