Read an article that was condemning US sugar consumption. It gave some interesting numbers:
1700 4 lbs/year
1800 18 lbs/year
1900 60 lbs/year
2000 100 lbs/year
Those are bizarre numbers that got me thinking. For one, I am well aware that the 1700s were heavy drinking years in the US, and fermentation uses huge amounts of sugar in various forms, certainly more than 4 pounds per year per person. So I looked for alcohol estimates from 1790:
40 gallons rum
34 gallons beer and cider
5 gallons distilled spirits
1 gallon wine
It takes a lot of sugar to produce that amount of hooch for everyone over the age of 15. Four pounds sugar per person per year? Not an accurate picture.
One reason alcoholic beverages were so common was that water was polluted. A low alcohol beverage was thought to be safer to drink than water. That may have been because the water was boiled first. Never mind colonists could drink pure maple sap for clean water… it did got give them a buzz.
Colonists also believed in the medicinal powers of alcohol, and its ability to make you not care if you are sick.
A little considered aspect of alcohol is its high caloric value for people who worked physically demanding jobs, often in cold weather. A little shot of the merry was also warm inside and an energy boost. Hard Cider was made from apple juice without added sugar and had a lower alcohol content of 3-6 percent for the most part. A lot of beer was also lower in alcohol. They drank both like water.
The US went through Prohibition which increased alcohol consumption in this country. It was repealed and things settled down a bit.
There has been great social pressure against the evils of drinking and yes, it causes a lot of trouble internally and externally when abused. Now the push is on against sugar consumption. Note that as alcohol consumption decreased, sugar consumption increased.
I have never been one to drink alcohol, but I do love my sugar. Even to the point of being willing to grow non GMO sugar beets here in the mountains. Too cold for cane and sugar beets are simpler to home process.
Now I am making alcohol for personal consumption and at my current rate I will produce about 24 gallons/year. Not quite enough to sterilize my drinking water but ya gotta start somewhere.
One possibility is that I can increase use of wine in my cooking. I have always used some in my cooking and it improves the flavor of many foods while the alcohol burn off. I have twice baked wheat bread with the remnants of cider making and it’s yeast residue. Tastes good.
The other possibility is to have the occasional glass of wine to sterilize my water intake, you know, in an emergency. Hundreds of years say it works but some modern experts say it does not. Okay, boil the water first…
I have been reading up on wine making to help improve my outcome based on my personal goals. I will try lowering the alcohol production somewhat. I notice that commercial wine yeasts guesstimate from 12-18 percent alcohol production, depending on the yeast strain.
Without getting into any fine wine argument, I am guessing I might prefer my hooch in the 10-12 percent range and my hard cider under 9 percent. That 3-6 percent hard cider from the olden days sounds good to allow for a little more drinking and a little less falling off my chair. My first batch of hard cider is likely way over that, considering the amount of sugar I put in there.
Conversely, I could go for 18 percent and become a flame blower. Kidding. I might distill it for lighting purposes. Confessions of a non drinker making hooch!
Alcohol and sugar are both named poisons, but they are also high caloric additions to your food supply that store long periods without degradation. They also have other uses for food preservation, along with their cousin, vinegar.
Wines are high in antioxidants essential for good health (moderation in everything) and a lovely welcome to friends. Sugar is essential to pair with chocolate. Maybe I’ll just keep a bit of both around.