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Watery porridge of pinhead oatmeal boiled in water. Although grander versions include currants, sweet spices and rosewater, water-gruel was commonly a subsistence food for the very poorest, or the desperately ill, as in this from 'Gammer Gurton's Garland.' of 1866:
His mother she made him some water-gruel,
And stirr'd it round with a spoon;
Giles Collins he ate up his water-gruel,
And died before 'twas noon, noon,
And died before 'twas noon.
Original Receipt from The Closet Of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight, Opened (Digby 1669)
ABOUT WATER GRUEL
When you set to the fire a big pot of Oat-meal, (which must be but once cut, that is, every corn cut once a two) and water, to make water-gruel; Let it boil long, till it be almost boiled enough, then make it rise in a great ebullition, in great galloping waves, and skim of all the top, that riseth; which may be a third part of the whole, and is the Cream, and hath no gross-visible Oat-meal in it. Boil that a while longer by it self, with a little Mace and Nutmeg, and season it with Salt. When it is enough, take it off, and put Sugar, Butter, and a little Red rose-water to it, and an Egg with a little White-wine, if you like it, and would have it more nourishing. This is by much better, then the part which remaineth below with the body of the Oat-meal. Yet that will make good Water-gruel for the servants.
If you boil it more leisurely you must skim off the Cream, as it riseth in boiling; else it will quickly sink down again to the rest of the gross Oat-meal. And thus you may have a finer Cream then with hasty boiling.
AN EXCELLENT AND WHOLESOME WATER-GRUEL WITH WOOD-SORREL AND CURRANTS
Into a Possnet of two quarts of water, besides the due proportion of beaten Oat-meal, put two handfuls of Wood-sorrel a little-chopped and bruised, and a good quantity of picked and washed currants, tyed loosly in a thin stuff bag (as a bolter cloth). Boil these very well together, seasoning the Composition in due time, with Salt, Nutmeg, Mace, or what else you please, as Rosemary &c. when it is sufficiently boiled, strain the Oat-meal, and press out all the juyce and humidity of the Currants and Herbs, throwing away the insipid husks; and season it with Sugar and Butter; and to each Porrenger-ful two spoonfuls of Rhenish-wine and the yolk of an Egg.
Original Receipt from 'The Ladies Book of Useful Information', 1896
Oat or corn meal, two tablespoonfuls; water, one quart. Boil for ten minutes and strain, adding salt and sugar if desired by the patient.
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