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Catechism of Familiar Things; Their History, and the Events Which Led to Their Discovery, A

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_VI" id="CHAPTER_VI"></SPAN>CHAPTER VI.</h2> <h3><span class="smcap">Currants, Raisins, Figs, Rice, Sugar, Sugar Candy, &amp;c., Sago, Millet, Ginger, Nutmeg, Mace, Pimento or Allspice, Pepper, and Cayenne Pepper.</span></h3> <p><b>What are Currants?</b></p> <p>A kind of small raisins or dried grapes.</p> <p><b>Whence are they brought?</b></p> <p>From several islands of the Archipelago, particularly Zante and Cephalonia; and from the Isthmus of Corinth, in Greece.</p><p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_47" id="Page_47"></SPAN>[47]</span></p> <p><b>Do they grow on bushes like our Currants?</b></p> <p>No, on vines like other grapes, except that the leaves are somewhat thicker, and the grapes much smaller: they have no pips, and are of a deep red, or rather black color.</p> <p><b>When are they gathered, and how are they dried?</b></p> <p>They are gathered in August, and laid on the ground in heaps till dry; they are then cleaned, and put into magazines, from which they are taken and packed in barrels for exportation.</p> <p><b>What do you mean by Exportation?</b></p> <p>The act of conveying goods for sale from one country to another.</p> <p><b>What are Raisins?</b></p> <p>Grapes prepared by drying them in the sun, or by the heat of an oven. Raisins of Damascus, so called from the capital city of Syria, near which they are cultivated, are very large, flat, and wrinkled on the surface; soft and juicy inside, and nearly an inch long. Raisins of the sun, or jar raisins, so called from being imported in jars, are all dried by the heat of the sun; they are of a reddish blue color, and are the produce of Spain, whence the finest and best raisins are brought. There are several other sorts, named either from the place in which they grow, or the kind of grape of which they are made, as those of Malaga, Valencia, &amp;c.</p> <p><b>In what manner are they dried?</b></p> <p>The common way of drying grapes for raisins, is to tie two or three bunches of them together while yet on the vine, and dip them into a lye made of hot wood-ashes, mixed with a little olive oil. This makes them shrink and wrinkle: after this they are cut from the branches which supported them, but left on the vine for three or four days, separated on sticks, in an upright position, to dry at leisure. Different modes, however, are adopted, according to the quality of the grape. The commonest kinds are dried in hot ovens, but the best way is that in which <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_48" id="Page_48"></SPAN>[48]</span>the grapes are cut when fully ripe, and dried by the heat of the sun, on a floor of hard earth or stone.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Lye</i>, a liquor made from wood-ashes; of great use in medicine, bleaching, sugar works, &amp;c.</p></div> <p><b>What are Figs?</b></p> <p>A soft, luscious fruit, the produce of the fig-tree. The best figs are brought from Turkey, but they are also imported from Italy, Spain, and the southern part of France. The islands of the Archipelago yield an inferior sort in great abundance. In this country they are sometimes planted in a warm situation in gardens, but, being difficult to ripen, they do not arrive at perfection. The figs sent from abroad are dried by the heat of the sun, or in furnaces for the purpose.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Luscious</i>, sweet to excess, cloying.</p></div> <p><b>What is Rice?</b></p> <p>A useful and nutritious grain, cultivated in immense quantities in India, China, and most eastern countries; in the West Indies, Central America, and the United States; and in southern Europe. It forms the principal food of the people of eastern and southern Asia, and is more extensively consumed than any other species of grain, not even excepting wheat.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Nutritious</i>, wholesome, good for food.</p></div> <p><b>Does it not require a great deal of moisture?</b></p> <p>Yes, it is usually planted in moist soils, and near rivers, where the ground can be overflowed after it is come up. The Chinese water their rice-fields by means of movable mills, placed as occasion requires, upon any part of the banks of a river; the water is raised in buckets to a proper height, and afterwards conveyed in channels to the destined places.</p> <p><b>What is Sugar?</b></p> <p>A sweet, agreeable substance, manufactured chiefly from the Sugar Cane,<SPAN name="FNanchor_1_1" id="FNanchor_1_1"></SPAN><SPAN href="#Footnote_1_1" class="fnanchor">[1]</SPAN> a native of the East and West Indies, South America and the South Sea Islands; it is much cultivated in all tropical countries. The earliest authentic accounts of sugar, are <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_49" id="Page_49"></SPAN>[49]</span>about the time of the Crusades,<SPAN name="FNanchor_2_2" id="FNanchor_2_2"></SPAN><SPAN href="#Footnote_2_2" class="fnanchor">[2]</SPAN> when it appears to have been purchased from the Saracens, and imported into Europe.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <div class="footnote"><p><SPAN name="Footnote_1_1" id="Footnote_1_1"></SPAN><SPAN href="#FNanchor_1_1"><span class="label">[1]</span></SPAN> Most of the sugar in Europe is made from beets.</p></div> <div class="footnote"><p><SPAN name="Footnote_2_2" id="Footnote_2_2"></SPAN><SPAN href="#FNanchor_2_2"><span class="label">[2]</span></SPAN> See Chapter XVII., article <SPAN href="#NAVIGATION">Navigation</SPAN>.</p> </div></div> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Authentic</i>, true, certain.</p> <p><i>Crusades</i>, holy wars.</p> <p><i>Saracens</i>, Turks or Arabs.</p></div> <p><b>How is it prepared?</b></p> <p>The canes are crushed between large rollers in a mill, and the juice collected into a large vessel placed to receive it; it is then boiled, and placed in pans to cool, when it becomes imperfectly crystallized, in which state we use it. This is called raw or soft sugar: loaf sugar, or the hard white sugar, is the raw brown sugar, prepared by refining it till all foreign matter is removed.</p> <p><b>Is the Sugar Cane the only vegetable that produces Sugar?</b></p> <p>All vegetables contain more or less sugar, but the plant in which it most abounds is the sugar-cane. In the United States, a large quantity of sugar is prepared from the sap of the Sugar Maple Tree. The trees are tapped at the proper season by a cut being made in the bark, and the juice runs into a vessel placed to receive it; it is then prepared in the same manner as the juice of the sugar cane.</p> <p><b>What is Sugar Candy?</b></p> <p>Sugar purified and crystallized.</p> <p><b>What is Barley Sugar?</b></p> <p>Sugar boiled till it is brittle, and cast on a stone anointed with oil of sweet almonds, and then formed into twisted sticks.</p> <p><b>What is Sago?</b></p> <p>A substance prepared from the pith of the Sago Palm, which grows naturally in various parts of Africa and the Indies. The pith, which is even eatable in its natural state, is taken from the trunk of the tree, and thrown into a vessel placed over a horse-hair sieve; water is then thrown over the mass, and the finer parts of the pith pass through the sieve; the liquor thus obtained is left to settle. The clear liquor is then drawn off, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_50" id="Page_50"></SPAN>[50]</span>and what remains is formed into grains by being passed through metal dishes, with numerous small holes; it is next dried by the action of heat, and in this state it is exported. The Sago Palm also produces sugar.</p> <p><b>What is Millet, and in what countries does it grow?</b></p> <p>Millet is an esculent grain, originally brought from the Eastern countries. It is cultivated in many parts of Europe, but most extensively in Egypt, Syria, China, and Hindostan, whence we are furnished with it, it being rarely cultivated among us, except as a curiosity.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Esculent</i>, good for food.</p></div> <p><b>For what is Millet used?</b></p> <p>It is in great request amongst the Germans for puddings; for which it is sometimes used amongst us. The Italians make loaves and cakes of it.</p> <p><b>What is Ginger?</b></p> <p>The root of a plant cultivated in the East and West Indies, and in America; it is a native of South-eastern Asia and the adjoining islands.</p> <p><b>Describe its nature and use.</b></p> <p>It is a warm aromatic, much used in medicine and cookery. The Indians eat the root when green as a salad, chopping it small with other herbs; they also make a candy of it with sugar. The ginger sold in the shops here is dried, which is done by placing the roots in the heat of the sun or in ovens, after being dug out of the ground. Quantities not only of the dried root, but also of the candied sugar, are imported.</p> <p><b>What are Nutmegs?</b></p> <p>A delicate aromatic fruit or spice, brought from the East Indies. The nutmeg tree greatly resembles our pear tree, and produces a kind of nut, which bears the same name as the tree.</p> <p class="center"><ANTIMG src="images/image_05.jpg" alt="GLASS BLOWING AT THE GLASS-WORKS, PITTSBURGH, PA." width="568" height="314" /><br /> <span class="caption">GLASS BLOWING AT THE GLASS-WORKS, PITTSBURGH, PA.</span></p> <p><b>What is the appearance of the Nutmeg?</b></p> <p>Its form is round, and its smell agreeable. The nutmeg is <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_51" id="Page_51"></SPAN>[51]</span> inclosed in four different covers; the first, a thick fleshy coat, (like our walnut,) which opens of itself when ripe; under this lies a thin reddish network, of an agreeable smell and aromatic taste, called mace; this wraps up the shell, which opens as the fruit grows. The shell is the third cover, which is hard, thin, and blackish; under this is a greenish film of no use; and in the last you find the nutmeg, which is the kernel of the fruit.</p> <p><b>What are its uses?</b></p> <p>The nutmeg is much used in our food, and is of excellent virtue as a medicine. It also yields an oil of great fragrance.</p> <p><b>Is the Mace used as a spice?</b></p> <p>Yes, it is separated from the shell of the nutmeg, and dried in the sun. It is brought over in flakes of a yellow color, smooth and net-like, as you see it in the shops. Its taste is warm, bitterish, and rather pungent; its smell, aromatic. It is used both in food and medicine, as the nutmeg, and also yields an oil.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Pungent</i>, of a hot, biting taste.</p></div> <p><b>What is Pimento or Allspice?</b></p> <p>The dried unripe berry or fruit of a tree growing in great abundance in Jamaica, particularly on the northern side of that island, on hilly spots, near the coast; it is also a native of both Indies. The Pimento Tree is a West Indian species of Myrtle; it grows to the height of twenty or thirty feet; the leaves are all of a deep, shining green, and the blossom consists of numerous branches of small, white, aromatic flowers, which render its appearance very striking; there is scarcely in the vegetable world any tree more beautiful than a young Pimento about the month of July, when it is in full bloom.</p> <p><b>When is the time to gather the spice?</b></p> <p>About the month of September, not long after the blossoms are fallen, the berries are gathered by the hand; one laborer on the tree, employed in gathering the small branches, will give employment to three below (who are generally women and <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_52" id="Page_52"></SPAN>[52]</span>children) in picking the berries. They are then spread out thinly, and exposed to the sun at its rising and setting for some days; when they begin to dry, they are frequently winnowed, and laid on cloths to preserve them better from rain and dew; by this management they become wrinkled, and change from green to a deep reddish brown color. Great quantities are annually imported.</p> <p><b>What are its uses?</b></p> <p>It forms a pleasant addition to flavor food; it also yields an agreeable essential oil, and is accounted the best and mildest of common spices.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Essential</i>, pure; extracted so as to contain all the virtues of the spice in a very small compass.</p></div> <p><b>Why is it called Allspice?</b></p> <p>Because it has been supposed to combine the flavor of cloves, nutmegs, and cinnamon; the French call it <i>round clove</i>, from its round shape, and the taste being somewhat like that spice.</p> <p><b>What is Pepper?</b></p> <p>The product of a creeping shrub, growing in several parts of the East Indies, Asia, and America.</p> <p><b>In what manner does Pepper grow, and what part of the shrub is used?</b></p> <p>Pepper is the fruit of this shrub, and grows in bunches or clusters, at first green; as it ripens it becomes reddish, until having been exposed for some time to the heat of the sun, (or probably gathered before perfectly ripe,) it becomes black, as in the condition we have it. There are two sorts, the black and the white.</p> <p><b>What is the White Pepper?</b></p> <p>The white pepper is merely the black deprived of its outside skin. For this purpose the finest red berries are selected, and put in baskets to steep, either in running water, or in pits dug for the purpose, near the banks of rivers. Sometimes they are only buried in the ground. In any of these situations, they <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_53" id="Page_53"></SPAN>[53]</span>swell and burst their skins, from which, when dry, they are carefully separated by rubbing between the hands, or fanning.</p> <p><b>What is Cayenne Pepper?</b></p> <p>The dried fruit of a plant called bird pepper, a native of both Indies. It is more pungent than the other sorts.</p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /> <h2>
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