Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thomas Jefferson's Coffee Recipe

Or more likely a recipe from someone who worked in the kitchen at Jefferson's Virginia plantation, Monticello:


On one measure of the coffee ground into meal
pour three measures of boiling water.
boil it, on hot ashes lined with coal till the meal dis
     - appears from the top, when it will be precipitated.
pour it three times through a flannel strainer.
it will yield 2 1/3 measures of clear coffee.
an ounce of coffee meal makes 1 1/2 cup of clear coffee
     in this way.
the flannel must be rinsed out in hot or cold wa
     - ter for every making.

The story this recipe led to is fascinating. I saw the recipe on Maria Popova's Brain Pickings site, where she reviews the book from whence it came, Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America.

The recipe may have originated with Hemings. And Hemings, it turns out, lived a life worthy of any biographer. He was born a slave, in fact a half-brother to Jefferson's wife (Jefferson's father-in-law had 6 children with his slave Betty Hemings, James' mother). At the age of 19, Hemings traveled with Jefferson to Paris, apprenticed with several master chefs, became the head chef at Jefferson's private residence on the Champs-Elysées, used a portion of his wages to pay for French lessons, returned to Philadelphia with Jefferson where he ran his kitchen there, and for a brief time the kitchen at Monticello while Jefferson was President. Hemings was an intelligent, educated, well-traveled master chef, and in later life a free man, but he died of an apparent suicide at the age of 36 with little material legacy save for an inventory of cooking utensils and 4 recipes.
The coffee photo is mine from this morning. I make it not unlike this recipe, with about 3 or 4 measures of water to 1 measure of coffee grounds. I mix them together in a French Press, let sit a few minutes (without boiling), and plunge the mesh strainer, trapping the grounds on the bottom.

1 comment:

cody said...

wow.. nice to have thomas jefferson's coffee recipe..thanks for sharing.. I'll try this today.