Monday, June 30, 2003

A Gill of Wine Is How Much?

By the time I got fairly good at cooking, I was starting to lose interest in modern cookery theory, or to you, the everyday cookbook.

As an award winning amateur brewer, I had come across George Amsinck's: Practical Brewings : A Series of Fifty Brewings in Extenso: comprising London and Dublin Stout and Porter, export stock and running; East India Pale Ales and Burton Ales. London and Scotch Ales; with observations on plant, water, malt, hops, sugar and return wort, and other useful information. This self-published book was priced at £5 in 1868. That's around $100 today. It contained recipes in quantities such as someone in their home might be tempted to recreate. The only problem was that the author had strange measurements in his ingredients list. I was baffled as to how to convert: 4 quarters of Pale Devonshire Barley into American pounds. I could remember that the Imperial gallon is 160 fluid ounces, a much larger figure, compared with the puny American gallon at 128 fluid ounces. I wrote the Master Brewer's Guild in London England, but received no response. I wrote the Brewer's Guild of the Americas and received no reply. The same for the Guiness Brewery Museum in Ireland. I was starting to get desperate and went to the court of last resort, my reference librarian at the Albuquerque Public Library. There the omniscient librarian found my answer. Author Ronald Zupko, had written a book on the subject of weights and measures. Entitled: A Dictionary of English Weights and Measures; from Anglo-Saxon times to the nineteenth century. It contained a history of what a pound weighed and when it weighed it. Strange to say, over the course of about 1000 years, the pound has shrunk in weight. Much like a pine two by four, which now measures one and three-quarters by three and one-half inches, instead of a fair and square two by four, the pound, a millennium ago, probably weighed 5 of our current pounds. Now, on a roll, about fluid volume versus avoirdupois weights, I drank Zupko's information like a thirsty man. At last, I could accurately convert his measurements. This problem of differing standards at differing times leads us back to what this article is written for. Many Culinary Historians read antiquarian cookbooks and are likely to be tripped up at the mere mention of (even the word): gill. The UCLA Campus Telephone Directory gives this measurement as 4 ounces. That's 4 fluid ounces, mind you. So the next time you get out an old recipe, give some thought to whether it's English or American at it's origin. Fortunately, most recipes are quite forgiving in measurement, but it's nice to know accurately what your doing. Having then scratched the surface of the mystery of measurement, let me say that modern accurate measurement is traced back to The Boston Cooking School and Mary Johnson Lincoln. It is she, the mother of modern cooking, who demanded and received in return, accurate measures. Of everything from flour to sugar to salt to wine; we owe our understanding of the phrase: "1/4 teaspoon". As a reference for those who do more than read old cookbooks, I am supplying my compilation of a variety of usual and unusual measures. If they aren't consistent, then neither are the authors. Especially perplexing is the fact that sometimes a tablespoon is 2 teaspoons and sometimes 3. If anybody knows anything about this, please inform me of such. But for now:

Milo Miloradovich, in The Art of Fish Cookery gives the following:
1 T. of salt is 1 ounce
1 T. of flour is 1/4 ounce
2 T. of butter is 1 ounce
1 teaspoon is 25 drops

The next author, relies on British measure:

1 pint is 20 fl. ounces, yet 1 pound is 16 ounces.

Eva Willis, writing in Sauce and Sage, says:

1 teacupful is equal to 1/4 pound
4 teaspoonfuls is 1 ounce and the one never to be missed: 1 stone is 14 pounds.

1 tumblerful is 1/2 pint or 10 fl. ounces
1 breakfastcupful is 1/2 pint or 10 fl. ounces
1 teacupful is 1 gill or 5 fl. ounces

Playwright Leonard Louis Levenson, in The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes gives a few useful conversions:

1/3 Cup is 1/2 cup and 1 teaspoon
2/3 Cup is 10 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon
3/4 Cup is 12 tablespoons
7/8 Cup is 14 tablespoons

In Ice Cream Soda Fountain Recipes, written by a certain Mr. Howard Johnson says:

"it is at times useful to know that a wineglass holds 2 ounces,
a tablespoon, 1/2 ounce,
a dessert spoon, 1/4 ounce,
a teaspoon, 1/8 ounce or dram.

Also that a teacupful of sugar weighs 1/2 lb.
And 3 tablespoonfuls, 1/4 lb.

16 fluid ounces equals 1 pint,
2 pints equals 1 quart,
4 quarts equals 1 gallon

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1981 edition) defines standards of measure as:

1 ounce is 16 drams, or 437.5 grains.
1 dram is 27.343 grains
and 1 grain is .036 drams.

1 scruple is 1.3 grams.
1 grain is .06 grams.

This would be helpful, except that Webster has now mixed liquid and dry measure and to further compound the confusion, had mixed Troy with Avoirdupois. By the time I realized this, I was reduced to eating hamburger at McDonald's, lest I mismeasure some key ingredient and tempt the hand of fate to forevermore run against my recipes.

So, with more cookbooks in hand, I derived the following: Dry Measure 1 gram (a Metric measure) is 15.432 grains (an American/English measure)

28.35 grams is 1 ounce
29.57 fluid grams is 1 fluid ounce

 Of course, that only true at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but who's counting?
Just in case you are buying in quantity: 175 pounds Troy is 144 pounds Avoirdupois

Elizabeth David, in Elizabeth David Classics, states:
1 dessertspoon is 2 teaspoons
1 liqueur glass is 1 1/2 fl. ounces
a coffeecup is 4 to 5 fl. ounces
a teacup is 6 fl. ounces

and a breakfastcup is "almost" 8 fl. ounces.

Interestingly, the amount of protein in wheat flour is calculatable as follows:
4 ounces of cake flour, the protein content is 8 grams
4 ounces of all-purpose flour the protein content is 9 to 12 grams
4 ounces of unbleached flour the protein content is 10 to 14 grams
4 ounces of bread flour the protein content is 13 to 15 grams

this can be useful when you don't have all the ingredients on hand.

20 grains is 1 scruple
3 scruples is 1 dram
8 drams is 1 ounce
12 ounces is 1 pound

27 11/32 grains is 1 dram
15 drams is 1 ounce
25 pounds is 1 quarter
4 quarters is 1 hundred weight (cwt.)

1 Pennyweight is 1.555 grams
24 grains is 1 pennyweight (pwt.)
20 pwt. is 1 ounce

Long Measure 5 1/2 yards is 1 rod
40 rods is 1 furlong
8 furlongs equals 1 mile (statute)
3 miles is 1 league (nautical)
1 hand is 4 inches (horse trading)
1 link (surveyor's measure) is 7.92 inches
1 span is 9 inches or 22.86 centimeters

Mariner's Measures
6 feet is 1 fathom
120 fathoms is 1 cable length
7.5 cable lengths is 1 mile which is:
6076.1 feet

Our Central Intelligence Agency has some ideas about measurements. For them:
1 barrel of beer is 31 gallons or 117.35 liters
1 barrel of proof spirits is 40 gallons or 151.4 liters

the Avoirdupois dram is 1.772 grams or .0625 ounces
the Troy dram is 3.886 grams or .125 Troy ounces

the Avoirdupois dram (liquid) is 3.696 fl. milliters or .125 fl. ounces

The US Minim is .061 milliters or .002 fl. ounces or 1/16 of a dram.

Penultimately, from Bradbury's Unofficial Formulary and Memory Work of Pharmacy comes:

Teaspoonful is about 1 fluid dram/drachm
Dessertspoonful is 2 fluid dram/drachm
Tablespoonful is 4 fluid dram/drachm
Wineglassful is about 4 fl. Ounces
Breakfast-cupful is 4 fl. Ounces
Tumblerful is about 8 fl. Ounces
Thimbleful is about 3/4 fl. dram/drachm
a Pinch (of leaves or flowers) is 1 dram/drachm (Troy)
a Handful (of leaves or flowers) is 120 dram/drachm (Troy)

I admit that there are inconsistencies, but with a little experimentation on your part, I'm sure you will soon be measuring with the masters.

Much time passed before I found the World's Best Book on Weights and Measures. I couldn't believe that it was 1. Online, 2. Free, 3. It simply had all the units of measurement from the dawn of the Christian Bible to 1857, it's year of publication.

Alexander, J. H. (John Henry), 1812-1867.
Universal dictionary of weights and measures, ancient and modern; reduced to the standards of the United States of America. B. J. H. Alexander.
Publication date: 1857.

Under the heading: Mexico we see:

MEXICO Under this Republic as well as under the numerous governments which are continually shifting or springing up in the territories of Central and South America and which it would require a special and co-temporaneous research to signalize and verify the Weights and Measures of Spain have been throughout and are still recognized with only such local variations as other causes besides the cessation of European control and intercourse with a parent power might be expected naturally to produce Of course this comprehensive field for the influence of the Spanish system does not include vast territories such as Patagonia for instance which although claimed by foreign or domestic powers are yet in fact domineered over by various indigenous tribes more or less nomadic and uncivilized. Of systematic Weights and Measures in those territories there are none in modern times and ancient ones such as in Mexico and Peru which comparatively recent researches have partially systematized are designedly omitted as neither certain nor of practical application as yet.

Next is:


1 Mint or troy pound 12 ounces 240 pennyweight 5760 grains
1 apothecary pound 12 ounces 96 drachms 288 scruples 5760 grains
1 commercial pound 16 ounces 256 grams 7000 grains
1 long ton 20 cwt 80 quarters 2240 commercial pounds
1 short ton 20 hundred weight 2000 commercial pounds

In the actual Government standards the ounce troy is divided decimally down to the 1/10000 part These weights are identical with those of England In both countries they repose in fact upon actually existing masses of metal brass which have been individually declared by law to be the units of the system In scientific theory they are supposed to rest upon a permanent and universal law of Nature the gravitation of distilled water at a certain temperature and under a certain atmospheric pressure And in this aspect the origination is with the grains which must be such that 252,458 of these units in brass will be in just equilibrium with a cubic inch of distilled water when the mercury stands at 30 inches in a barometer and in a thermometer of Fahrenheit at 62 degrees both for the air and for the water. Unfortunately the expounders of this theory in England used only the generic term brass and failed to define the specific gravity of the metal to be employed the consequence of this omission is to leave room for an error of 1/100,000 every attempt to reproduce or compare the results. This is the minimum possible error the maximum would be a function of the difference in specific gravity between the heaviest and lightest brass that can be cast.

and for instance, in Crakow Poland:

1 funt = 2 mark = 48 skoyciec.
Apothecary-weight is that of Nurnberg.
Liquid Capacity.—1 stangiew = 2 beczka = 72 garniec = 288 kwart.
Dry Capacity.—1 korzec = 2 polkorzow = 4 cwierc = 32 garcy, or garniec.
Length.—1 stopa = 12 calow = 144 liniow = 1728 punkt.

and so on for the entire remainder of the planet.

September 24, 2009. Years after the above work, I came across a unit of measure I'ld never seen before. It is the barleycorn. Three barleycorns make one inch.

Short Bibliography

Author: Alexander, J. H. (John Henry), 1812-1867.
Title: Universal dictionary of weights and measures, ancient and modern; reduced to the standards of the United States of America. B. J. H. Alexander.
Publication date: 1857

It's always good to know what a Batman is!

George Amsinck
Practical Brewings : A Series of Fifty Brewings in Extenso: comprising London and Dublin Stout and Porter, export stock and running; East India Pale Ales and Burton Ales. London and Scotch Ales; with observations on plant, water, malt, hops, sugar and return wort, and other useful information.
London : The Author, 1868

Ronald Zupko
A Dictionary of English Weights and Measures; from Anglo-Saxon times to the nineteenth century.
Madison : Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1968.

Milo Miloradovich
The Art of Fish Cookery
Garden City : Doubleday, 1949

Eva Willis
Sauce and Sage
London : Frederick Warne and Co., Ltd., 1933)

Leonard Louis Levinson
The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes
New York : Hawthorne Books, Inc., 1965

Clyde H. Campbell
The Campbell's Book
New York : Canning Age, 1929

Robert Bradbury, MD
Bradbury's Unofficial Formulary and Memory Work of Pharmacy
Chicago : Bradbury Publishing Co., 1890
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1981 edition)

Elizabeth David
Elizabeth David Classics
New York : Knopf, 1980

Howard Johnson
Howard Johnson's Presents Old Time Ice Cream Soda Fountain Recipes
New York : Winter House Ltd., 1971

Information obtained from the CIA is from an Internet Website and
has no bibliographical data.

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