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Areas of research currently being studied at Blackledge:

William Penn/Gulielma Penn cider & mead receipts, taken from the family recipe book dated 1674.

John Holt cyser receipt, taken from the publication "Agrigultural Survey, County of Lancaster, England", 1795.

George Fisher ginger cider receipt, taken from his publication "The American Instructor", 1758.

Eliza Smith cider & mead receipts, taken from the 1728 and 1739 editions of her book "The Compleat Housewife".

Richard Bradley raspberry wine receipt, taken from the publication "The Country Housewife and Ladies Director", 1737.

John James Dufour traditional methods for producing vinifera wines, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay & Viognier, taken from his publication "The American Vine Dresser's Guide", 1826.

Heirloom Apples: Golden Russet, Baldwin, Macintosh, Winesap, Jonathan.

Wild Pennsylvania Raspberries: Red & black varieties.

Pennsylvania Natural Yeast: Fermentation tests using yeast strains from Lehigh, Northampton & Berks Counties.

In addition to the historical recipes that we're working on, Blackledge is currently researching, calibrating and testing these original 18th century winemaking instruments.

18th century wine making instruments

1720's English Ivory Wine / Cider / Beer Hydrometer: A Boyle-pattern hydrometer from the first half of the 18th century; turned ivory, the scale is divided 1-12, the screw-off base holds lead shot for calibrating. Complete with original turned-wood case. Hydrometer length 4.5".
~ Blackledge collection

1720 Ivory Boyle-type hydrometer

1730's English Ivory Wine / Cider / Beer Hydrometer: A Boyle-pattern hydrometer from the first half of the 18th century; turned ivory, the scale is divided 1-12, the screw-off base holds lead shot for calibrating. Successfully tested using distilled water and sugar added into solution, measured at predetermined levels, and validated against a modern hydrometer and refractometer. Hydrometer length 4.75".
~ Blackledge collection

18th century ivory hydrometer

1750's English Brass Spirit Proofing Hydrometer: Wine was often distilled into brandy or other "proof spirits" which would then be blended to make a fortified wine or further refined to make industrial spirits such as "Spirit of Wine". Where the winemaking hydrometer measures potential alcohol prior to fermentation, the spirit proofing hydrometer is designed to measure the percentage of ethanol in water. Includes the complete set of weights & original instruction manual with tin storage container and maker's label from Heath & Wing, London. According to the instructions, the tin container doubles as the sample vial during testing.
Hydrometer length 7".
~ Blackledge collection

18th century spirit proofing hydrometer

About the maker Heath & Wing: Thomas Heath was a distinguished instrument-maker whose advertisements show that he made globes, spheres, weather-glasses, and mathematical instruments with books on how to use them. Around 1750 he formed a partnership with his former apprentice, Tycho Wing, who was also his son-in-law. One of their catalogs appears in the back of the 1765 publication The Practical Surveyor by John Hammond and Samuel Warner. In it, the instrument is represented under the heading "Instruments for Experiments on Motion, Weight, and Equilibrio of Fluids" with the line item "Hydrometers, of Brass or Copper".

18th century Heath and Wing label

Late 18th Century Spirit Proofing Beads: These English proofing beads were used to test the strength of manufactured distilled spirits. Each hand-blown glass bead is etched with a number that corresponds to the legend printed on the label. These numbers were standardized for the gravity of different spirits, with numbers "17" denoting "Spirit of Wine" (the strongest spirit being produced at the time) to "34" for "Very Weak". Depending on the amount of alcohol in solution the various beads would either float or sink. As the label states: "If the Spirits be Proof the BEAD will sink to the Bottom."
~ Blackledge collection

18th century spirit proofing balls or beads

Many early wine and cider recipes call for the addition of rum, brandy, high wine or simply "proof spirits" at some point in the fermentation or finishing process. By calibrating the beads using grain alcohol cut with measured amounts of distilled water, we know that common "proof spirits" were 48% to 53% alcohol (96 to 103 proof), "high wine" was 73% to 79% alcohol (146 to 158 proof), and "spirit of wine" was 85% alcohol or greater (170+ proof).

Spirit Proofing Beads

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