Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, August 2019, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

Part 27: Food & Beverage

Continuing to examine F&B as performed two centuries ago, we find the following:

The cleaning of decanters was of special interest to butlers, as they often decanted wine. The author rejects the many recommendations made by his colleagues (sand, earth, coal, cinders, egg shells, etc.) because they left small scratches.

His suggestion: Tear thick brown paper into small pieces and drop into the decanter with some soap cut into small pieces; add “milk warm” water and even pearl ash (potassium carbonate, much like baking soda) and swirl about the decanter. Uncooked rice grains seem to be the weapon of choice these days.

Where wine has been sitting in a decanter for a long time, and the decanter is scratched on the inside, a small sponge tied to a stick (or a bendable metal rod, such as a wire clothes hanger today) can be used to clean the inside of the decanter.

Use a cork, not the stopper, to store a decanter with wine in it for a while, as it will preserve the wine better and prevent the stopper from jamming. Today, of course, the wine will last better using the devices and mechanisms that allow the air to be extracted from a wine bottle. Although, after one day, it would probably be better to relegate any remaining wine to cooking.

For longer-term storage, and to prevent the stoppers from becoming stuck in the neck of the decanter, wrap some paper around the stopper before placing it in the decanter.

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications.

You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan AT

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