As I mentioned before, we made homemade root beer this week. For the cost of a little over a cup of sugar and and whatever a teaspoon of vanilla and yeast costs, we made 1 gallon of root beer. Now, it wasn’t like the A&W Root Beer you buy in the store! But it did have a distinct root beer taste all of its own without the syrupy sweet taste like commercial soda pop.
Because of our efforts this week in trying to figure out how to make root beer, we ended up learning a lot about the history of root beer in America which shed some light on old fashioned homemaking. In the book, Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Popthere were several historical references about old fashioned homemaking and old fashioned living:
In years gone by, self-sufficiency was the goal on American farms. The small cash income went for land purchase, taxes, and a few exotic products such as coffee and cinnamon. Farm families aimed to produce their own clothes, furniture, rugs, brooms, brushes, harnesses, animal feed and fencing. They would also strive to make and preserve virtually all food for their own use — from bread, milk and cheese, to canned vegetables, fruit preserves, dried apples, and smoked bacon. An integral part of this self-reliance was the making and bottling of refreshing beverages for year-round use.
For many families, these beverages included wine and cider from apples, grapes and other fruits; beer made from barley, sorghum molasses, and hop; and nonalcoholic drinks flavored with the roots, bark, sap and leaves of local wild plants.
The book goes on to offer insight into the old fashioned cellar.
The root beers were not truly nonalcoholic, of course, but the alcohol content was low. Small amounts of alcohol are also produced in the making of apple cider, bread and other common food products. Several million American root cellars and spring houses were filled with the bottles of beverages, made from the harvest of farm and meadow.
I continue to be amazed at the incredible lack of knowledge and dependency we modern people have about basic life skills that once were common knowledge. Not that making root beer is a basic life skill, the point being that modern homemakers know more about consuming than they do about producing. As we sat on the porch sipping our root beer, one of my boys marveled at how amazing it was that a root in our woods produced the drink he was enjoying. It is truly amazing when you stop and consider where food and drink really come from, whether it be milk from the dairy cow or root beer from the sassafras root!