This recipe for Fever Drink doesn’t say if it treats a fever or if it soothes patients who are running a temperature. It was found in an 1877 cookbook under “Food for the Sick.”
Flax seed is one of the ingredients in this beverage. I don’t know if this was readily available 150 years ago. However, the recipe doesn’t give any ingredient measurements. This makes me believe that cooks knew how to prepare it.
Given the date of the cookbook, I’m guessing Civil War soldiers drank this for fevers whenever it was available. Its use seems to have died out because I couldn’t find anything else about it. I love to bring historical practices to light.
Figuring out the ingredient measurements the first time was a complete guess. The recipe said to add boiling water to flax seeds, so I used ¼ cup of flax seeds with 1 cup of water and set it aside. The seeds were supposed to become “ropy.”
I brought this to a gentle boil and lowered to a medium heat. It was supposed to boil for 30 minutes. The wheat bran boiled dry in 10 minutes. I added more water, but quickly realized I had used too much wheat bran.
To make matters worse, there was no change in the flax seeds—definitely not ropy.
I started over. This time I tried to figure out the right ratio for only 1 glass of Fever Drink.
I added a cup of boiling water to 1 teaspoon of flax seeds and set aside.
I put 1 tablespoon of wheat bran into a small saucepan with 2 cups of water. I stirred it occasionally and it reduced quite a bit. After 30 minutes, I strained it twice. It made ½ cup of wheat bran broth.
The recipe also called for lemon juice and sugar—lemonade. I added 1 tablespoon of sugar to the juice of 1 lemon. It was the perfect amount.
I stirred the lemonade into the wheat bran broth. Though it was probably traditionally served hot, I decided to drink it cold. I added ice to the glass.
The flax seeds softened but never became ropy. I added these to the drink. The bran flavor was equally as strong as the lemon flavor. Lemonade improved the beverage though I can’t say I liked it.
A friend told me that flax seed powder is available. This might be a good alternative for regular flax seeds in this beverage.
The measurements used in the second try—1 tablespoon wheat bran to 1 teaspoon flax seeds—seemed to work well. I don’t know if this is the correct combination they used to ease a feverish patient. Since the 1877 cook didn’t divulge that secret, it remains a guess.
And I didn’t have a fever when I drank the Fever Drink so I can’t say how well it works.
I’d love to hear if you try this. Enjoy!
-Sandra Merville Hart
Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.