This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Except for its popular essence as a stomachic, Ginger is better known to the cook, and confectioner, than as a medicament. Nevertheless, this condimentary root-stock, crushed, or in powder, will serve most admirably as a stimulant in various bodily emergencies. Its restorative effect is immediate, and more telling than that of alcohol; furthermore, its pain-relieving qualities are positive, though the modus operandi cannot be easily explained. Whenever there is a sudden reduction of the temperature, with coldness of the skin and extremities, and with a sense of depressing chill, all accompanying some severe pain, Ginger in a quickly operating form will afford prompt, and specific relief. It is the rhizome of a plant which grows in the East, and West Indies, and is scraped before importation. Its odour is due to an essential oil, and its pungent, hot taste to a resin. For gouty indigestion the root may be powdered in a mortar, and a heaped teaspoonful of it should then be infused in boiling milk, to be taken warm at supper, or at breakfast. Ginger is best suited for persons of relaxed habits, especially when from the pale peeled root.
For making an essence of Ginger, take three ounces, freshly grated, and an ounce of lemon peel, cut thin; put these into a quart of French brandy, and let it stand for ten days, shaking it daily. Half a wineglassful of the same may be taken for a dose, with (or without) hot water. It will speedily subdue colic, or flatulent spasms. In cases of inert constipation, because the intestinal energies want rousing into activity, Ginger is an excellent spice, particularly in the form of Gingerbread, made also with honey, and brown treacle. Recipes for Ginger cake, and a Gingerbread loaf, as well as for Yorkshire "parkin," are given explicitly in Kitchen Physio. Preserved Ginger (imported) is a capital sweetmeat, which is cordial, and somewhat laxative. It is prepared by scalding the Ginger roots when they are green, and full of sap, then peeling them in cold water, and putting them into round jars with a rick syrup. This Ginger when cut into thin strips makes a delicious, and wholesome filling for sweet sandwiches.
Dr. Tobias Venner (1620) advised the Universities that "green Ginger is good for the memory; whilst a conserve of Rosemary, and Sage, if often used by students, particularly in the morning when fasting, doth greatly delight the brain." An extract of Ginger, very serviceable for domestic uses, may be made by crushing half a pound of fine whole Ginger in a mortar, and putting the same into a wide-mouthed bottle with half a pint of unsweetened Gin; let it stand for a month, shaking it from time to time; then drain it off into another bottle, allowing it to remain undisturbed until it has become clear. If a piece of Ginger root is chewed it causes a considerable flow of saliva, and will thus relieve heartburn by the patient swallowing the alkaline saliva as it continues to be secreted. Powdered Ginger mixed with some water into a paste, and applied against the skin, will produce much tingling, and heat of surface; to which end it may be spread on brown paper, and put as a plaster on the temples, or against the back of the neck, as a means for relieving the headache of passive fulness. Queen Elizabeth (so say the Arcana Fairfaxiana, 1640) had a famous "pother " (powder) "to be used att anietime after, or before meate, to expel winde, comforte ye stomack, and help digestion.
For making Brandy Snaps of Ginger, which are carminative, and gently relaxing to the bowels, take one pound of flour, half a pound of coarse brown sugar, a quarter of a pound of butter, one dessertspoonful of allspice, two dessertspoonfuls of ground ginger, the grated peel of half a lemon, and the juice of a whole. lemon; mix all together, adding half a pound of dark brown treacle (not golden syrup), and beat well. Butter some sheet tins, and spread the paste thinly over them, and bake in a rather slow oven. When done, cut it into squares, and roll each square round the finger as it is raised from the tin. Keep the Snaps in a dry, closely-covered tin, out of any damp, so that they shall remain crisp.
Now-a-days Ginger Ale is made thus: Of plain syrup, one gallon; essence of Ginger, four ounces; essence of Cayenne pepper, one ounce; white wine vinegar, four ounces; burnt sugar, for colouring, half an ounce; mixed together, and to be used from an ounce to an ounce and a half to each bottleful of water, or mineral water. The Ginger beer of ordinary use, as provided in stone bottles, and fermented with yeast, contains at least 2 per cent of alcohol as the result of its fermentation proceeding to the vinous stage. Dr. Robt. Hutchison, in his Food and Dietetics (1902) avers that the article named Ginger beer, as now commonly sold, may have nothing to do with Ginger at all, because the requisite degree of sharpness is usually obtained by aid of tincture of capsicum (Cayenne pepper). Genuine fermented Ginger-beer is a very different product; its ingredients are: water, seven gallons; loaf sugar, seven pounds; bruised ginger, half a pound; tartaric acid, two ounces; gum arabic, one-third of a pound; oil of lemon, one fluid drachm; yeast (brewer's), one-sixth of a pint.
We are warned that latterly in the making of Ginger essence certain unscrupulous manufacturers, particularly in America, and Germany, have taken to the use of wood alcohol, a poisonous agent, which has a deadly effect upon the nervous centres. Mothers are in the habit of giving this "Essence of Jamaica Ginger" for griping pains in the belly to their children after eating unripe fruit, thereby doing the poor sufferers much more harm than if they had been left alone to fight the battle of passing colic.
Grantham Gingerbread, a white form of Ginger biscuit, is made especially at Grantham, Lincolnshire, and sold there particularly at Fair times. Forty or fifty years ago the brown Gingerbread displayed on stalls at village Feasts, and Fairs, was shaped into the figures of animals, and whimsical devices (sometimes coarsely significant), which were gilded over with Dutch metal. In Tom Brown's School Days Gingerbread of such sort was retailed at the stall of "Angel Heavens," sole vendor thereof, "whose booth groaned with kings, and queens, and elephants, and prancing steeds, all glaring with gold; there was more gold on Angel's cakes than there is ginger in those of this degenerate age." Gingerbread ("Pain d'Epice") has been in use at Paris since the fourteenth century. For "Gingerbread Nuts," which are handy, comforting, and slightly laxative, rub half a pound of butter into one and a half pounds of flour, with half a pound of brown sugar, and three-quarters of an ounce of fine ginger, powdered; mix well with ten ounces of dark treacle; make into a stiff paste, and cut into circular nuts with a tin mould, or drop in buttons on a baking tin; bake in a moderate oven, and keep the nuts in an air-tight canister. "Parkin" is suitable at the light supper, or at the lunch, of a costive invalid.
Take one pound of flour (and, if approved, one pound of medium oatmeal), two pounds of brown treacle, one pound of dark moist sugar, half a pound of butter, one ounce of ground ginger, the yolks of four fresh eggs (well beaten), and half a teaspoonful of powdered carbonate of soda; melt the treacle in a warm oven, rub the butter into the flour (with the oatmeal), mix all the other ingredients well together, and stir into the flour; pour into well-buttered baking tins (not more than an inch thick of the mixture into the tins), and bake very slowly in a cool oven for quite an hour, then cut into suitable squares. For the prevention of habitual constipation a simple sort of Gingerbread made with some fresh butter (and perhaps oatmeal, unless this disagrees) is effective. In Dame Deborah Bunting's Booh of Receipts (1766) it is directed to "take half a pound of London treacle, two eggs beaten up, one pound of fresh butter (melted), half a pound of moist brown sugar, one and a half ounces of powdered ginger, which mix with as much flower (sic) as will roll it into a paste; roll it out, and cut it into whatever shapes you please; bake it into a slow oven; a little time does it".
Ginger Tea was at one time a popular beverage. Coleridge had a weakness for this infusion, and advised it to his wife for their small son Hartley. He thought the boy would like it, and that it would help him to grow, the father declaring that a teaspoonful of Ginger piled up would make enough tea to last the child for two days, always half-filling the teacup with milk; he himself took Ginger mixed in his morning coffee, and a cup of Ginger tea in the afternoon. Similarly, "When feeling cold think of Ginger," quoth the immortal Jorrocks.
For "Mandarin Pudding," a wholesome stomachic dish, "mix a quarter of a pound of fine bread-crumbs, a quarter of a pound of finely-chopped suet, a quarter of a pound of Jamaica preserved Ginger, with two eggs, and two tablespoonfuls of syrup of Ginger; pour into a buttered mould, and steam for four hours".