Brighton Meat Press: A Brimfield Treasure

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As a culinary historian, I am always drawn to vintage cookery books and kitchen tools that tell a story of that period in time.  On my last visit to the Brimfield flea market, I came across this amazing Brighton Meat Press on a table in an obscure section of the market.  The gentleman had a mere folding table with a few kitchen wares on display.  After a short negotiation, I was able to purchase the meat press for only $20.00 and thus began my research for more information on this beautiful cast iron piece of history, later finding them for sale upwards of $165.00.

The press was manufactured in the late 1800s by the Logan & Strobridge Iron Co. in New Brighton, Pennsylvania.  The press is just over 5 pounds and measures 8 inches tall and 4 1/2 inches wide. The press consists of 3 piece including the base with a twistable threaded rod, a cup to collect the juice with a pouring spout, and the top press plate.  The Logan & Strobridge Co. crafted a variety of these products geared towards making women’s work in the home easier.  They produced many manual coffee grinders, fruit presses, ice shavers, and meat grinders.

What exactly is a meat press and why would this have been found in late 1800s household?  The answer to these questions came from much research to find the reasoning behind it’s  intended purpose.  The meat press was used to extract the juices of meats to feed infants, invalids, convalescents and nursing mothers.  The concoction generally created was known as “Beef Tea” and unlike today’s versions of beef broths, the beef tea contained far superior nutrients from the meat and believed restorative qualities. This vintage meat press would have been used to press out every last drop of nourishment for the sick household member or the soldier recovering from wounds, such as those in the care of Florence Nightingale.  Beef tea was often prescribed by physicians through the early 1900s for patients experiencing inflammatory diseases and digestion problems. As you can read in the excerpt below the beneficial effects were assumed yet they were unable to confirm how the tea exactly helped the ill.  It has become a general consensus that the beef tea was far easier to digest and get nutrients from, rather that the often unpalatable cooked meats available at that time.  Often it was believed that meats required hours of boiling, which left the meat unflavorful and tough to chew and difficult to digest.  These beef teas when prescribed were often served at every meal.

To Make Beef Tea. (The Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton)

1858. INGREDIENTS. — 1 lb. of lean gravy-beef, 1 quart of water, 1 saltspoonful of salt.

Mode. — Have the meat cut without fat and bone, and choose a nice fleshy piece. Cut it into small pieces about the size of dice, and put it into a clean saucepan. Add the water cold to it; put it on the fire, and bring it to the boiling-point; then skim well. Put in the salt when the water boils, and simmer the beef tea gently from 1/2 to 3/4 hour, removing any more scum should it appear on the surface. Strain the tea through a hair sieve, and set it by in a cool place. When wanted for use, remove every particle of fat from the top; warm up as much as may be required, adding, if necessary, a little more salt. This preparation is simple beef tea, and is to be administered to those invalids to whom flavourings and seasonings are not allowed. When the patient is very low, use double the quantity of meat to the same proportion of water. Should the invalid be able to take the tea prepared in a more palatable manner, it is easy to make it so by following the directions in the next recipe, which is an admirable one for making savoury beef tea. Beef tea is always better when made the day before it is wanted, and then warmed up. It is a good plan to put the tea into a small cup or basin, and to place this basin in a saucepan of boiling water. When the tea is warm, it is ready to serve.

Time. — 1/4 to 3/4 hour. Average cost, 6d. per pint.

Sufficient. — Allow 1 lb. of meat for a pint of good beef tea.

MISS NIGHTINGALE says, one of the most common errors among nurses, with respect to sick diet, is the belief that beef tea is the most nutritive of all article. She says, “Just try and boil down a lb. of beef into beef tea; evaporate your beef tea, and see what is left of your beef: you will find that there is barely a teaspoonful of solid nourishment to 1/4 pint of water in beef tea. Nevertheless, there is a certain reparative quality in it — we do not know what — as there is in tea; but it maybe safely given in almost any inflammatory disease, and is as little to be depended upon with the healthy or convalescent, where much nourishment is required.”

 

 

The Brimfield antique flea market is held three times a year in Brimfield, Massachusetts.  This outdoor flea market hosts near a mile of various vendors and private sellers.  The flea market is held every May, July and September for a 6 day period each time. For more information visit their website at https://brimfieldantiquefleamarket.com/

©Susan Brassard, chef411@wordpress.com, July 10, 2017