1950s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published August 1950

Dark red, clear as crystal, it pours from the bottle, a smooth, velvety syrup with a glistening look. Ribena by name, made from pure black currant juice and sugar, not a thing else. Add water for a drink that's tart, fresh, and fragrant. A newcomer this year to our grocery shelves, a product from England that has moved in to stay. Its makers, H. W. Carter and Company, Ltd., expect sales in the States to average a million dollars a year.

That may seem sheer optimism, but foreign firms have a monopoly here on black Currant products. The growth of this currant is restricted in the United States since the plant carries the white pine blister, a killer of the valuable pine, a tree disease native to Europe but curbed there by natural conditions. Here it threatens to wipe out the white pines as blight killed the chestnuts many years ago.

C. H. Massingham of the Carter firm of Coleford, Gloucestershire, who came here a short time ago to study the American market, told us something of Ribena's success. The syrup was made first in 1937 when the Curter chemists were working with the Agricultural Research Station of the English Government to find new ways of using surplus soft fruits. A beautiful syrup formula was developed for using strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, and black currants.

But little use for these until an Australian came to London to open England's first milk bar and conceived the idea of using the syrup in milk shakes. Soon other milk bars were opening, and the heavy, fragrant elixirs had ready sale.

The sugar shortage put an end to the syrup except for black currant, which the scientists had found richer in vitamin C than citrus. Ribena is still a priority product with over two and one-half million bottles selling in England a year, but now distribution is extended as production has doubled.

The firm has 400 acres of black currants under contract in different sections of England, staggered so the harvest runs forty tons a day for four to six weeks. Also arrangements have been made with Denmark and Australia to grow the currants. The juice is pressed where the currants are grown according to the firm's formula, then shipped to England where the syrup is processed.

The syrup will be promoted here as a sauce for puddings and ice cream, as an addition to punches and cocktails. The juice is derived from the same black currants used in crème de cassis—but unlike the French beverage, there is no alcohol in the English product.

The Carter plant in Birmingham is the most modern factory built in England since the war. John Brent, Inc., 37 West 57th Street, New York, the United States distributor, has placed the syrup in such stores as R. H. Macy, B. Altman, Gimbel Bros, the 13-ounce bottle 72 to 79 cents.

Fancy desserts can be achieved in a hurry if Martha Ann's Ice Cream Sauces are kept stocked in the pantry. Eight in the line, three of them fruits—strawberry, pineapple, and red raspberry; three of them chocolaty—bittersweet, plain, and thick fudge. Seventh sister, a butterscotch sauce, is extra rich, and the last, a caramel of old-fashioned homemade goodness, is one you are sure to enjoy. The sauces are made especially for ice cream but do as well when topping a pudding.

Recently story-hunting in Cincinnati, we took time out for a visit at the Grace Rush factory. We liked what we saw in this two-story building so immaculately kept. In one refrigerated room we counted over 500 barrels of fruits aging in syrup—pineapple, orange, cherries, citron, ginger, and lemon waiting their turn to be mixed into fruitcake batter or to be glacéed and into the package. The firm buys fresh fruit in brine and docs its own processing in order to control the quality. The ice cream sauces are in the delicacy stores in larger cities across the country.

Speaking of saucing ice cream, remember Nesselro by Raffetto. This is a caterers sauce not practically made in the home. It's a combination of imported marrons and fruits in a fine rum punch. It's delectable used for Nesselrode pic or in a pudding for a frozen dessert. Leading food shops of all the larger cities have the 10-ounce jar for around 70 cents.

France sends her famous tripes à la mode dec Caen packed at Capdenac-Gare in Aveyron. Tender two-inch pieces of tripe combine with boned beef feet in a thin winy gravy, an item discovered at Charles and Company, 340 Madison Avenue, New York City, the 14 ½-ounce tin $1, or servings for two. The gravy for this dish is made separately from the bone stock of the beef feet. Tripe and meat are cooked together first, then into an earthenware casserole to be hermetically scaled with dough and baked in a slow oven for long hours. Not to be forgotten: the bunch of fresh parsley, the indispensable stick of celery, the classical toe of garlic, the cayenne, the cloves, the thyme, the bay leaves. Then the white wine and last the cider brandy, so dear to Norman throats.

Live lobsters hermetically scaled into cans will soon be traveling to kitchen doors by express and by air. A method has been developed by the Live-Pak Seafoods, Inc., of Boston, Massachusetts, for keeping canned lobster in perfect condition for six days to two weeks. The cans contain a treated water plus oxygen and a material to absorb the waste product. During shipment the lobsters must be kept at forty degrees Fahrenheit to slow down metabolism and the oxygen requirements.

We read about live lobsters in tins and immediately ordered a sampling. Came a 30-pound box, lined in a shock-absorbing paper, two cans, each holding two medium-sized lobsters with two extra cans in the box, these scaled with a refrigerant. When the tins were opened, the lobsters seemed sluggish but a few moments later were traveling in a hurry down the kitchen table with every intent of going back to the sea. They cooked sweet, with a flavor reminiscent of lobster we have eaten at down Boat beach parties, fresh-trapped beauties boiled in sea water over a bed of spruce coals.

Subscribe to Gourmet