Today’s recipe in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book is from the section called Invalid Cooking. I wasn’t feeling well so it seemed a good time to try something from this part of the cook book. Most of the recipes in this section are “From a nurse in a City Hospital” including Barley Water (p. 282).
People get sick whether they lived in the new city of Berlin in 1912, or in Kitchener in 2012. Often those minor illnesses are treated at home with prescriptions from a doctor or over the counter remedies or something made at home like chicken soup or lemon and honey.
Lemon Barley Water and Orange Barley Water are still popular soft drinks in Britain and many grocery stores here in Canada carry it in the mixers section along with Lime Cordial, Grenadine, and Margarita mix. I actually like the commercial versions of lemon and orange barley water so I was curious if homemade would taste as nice.
I weighed the pearl barley and discovered that 2 ounces is about 1/3 cup. I washed it as instructed and put it in a saucepan along with 3 cups (1 1/2 pints) of water and a strip of lemon peel. I recommend a large saucepan since mine started to boil over. After twenty minutes I strained it and had 2 cups of pale yellow liquid — the colour is the result of the peel. I saved the barley to use in soup. The amount of sugar and lemon juice added will depend on the cook’s or patient’s taste. I found 2 or 3 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice was palatable for me. I tried it first while it was still hot and then again once it was cold. It tasted somewhat like the commercial concentrated barley waters but much more watery. Of course it was at this point I discovered I’d used something called pearl wheat instead of pearl barley! I’ll have to try it again with the correct ingredient but I’m not sure how much difference it will make.
Nurse’s barley water is going to stay on my list of recipes simply because it soothed my sore throat and would probably be good if I ever need to consume “nourishing liquids”. I think it would be refreshing in the summer especially for anyone who finds lemonade too acidic. It might be fun to substitute the lemon juice with another flavour.
Take 2 ounces of pearl barley and wash well with cold water, 2 or 3 times. Put into a saucepan with 1 1/2 pints of water and allow it to boil for 20 minutes closely covered. Strain, sweeten and flavor with lemon juice, a little lemon peel may be added while boiling, if desired.