This recipe is from the 1861 publication of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management.
Featured in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss: "There were particular ways of doing everything in [the Dodson] family: particular ways of bleaching the linen, of making the cowslip wine, curing the hams, and keeping the bottled gooseberries. Funerals were always conducted with peculiar propriety in the Dodson family: the hatbands were never of a blue shade, the gloves never split at the thumb, everybody was a mourner who ought to be, and there were always scarfs for the bearers. A female Dodson, when in ‘strange’ houses, always ate dry bread with her tea, and declined any sort of preserves, having no confidence in the butter, and thinking that the preserves had already begun to ferment for want of the sugar and boiling."
To every gallon of water allow 3 lbs. of lump sugar, the rind of 2 lemons, the juice of 1, the rind and juice of 1 Seville orange, 1 gallon of cowslip pips. To every 4–1/2 gallons of wine allow 1 bottle of brandy.
Boil the sugar and water together for 1/2 hour, carefully removing all the scum as it rises. Pour this boiling liquor on the orange and lemon-rinds, and the juice, which should be strained; when milk-warm, add the cowslip pips or flowers, picked from the stalks and seeds; and to 9 gallons of wine 3 tablespoonfuls of good fresh brewers’ yeast. Let it ferment 3 or 4 days; then put all together in a cask with the brandy, and let it remain for 2 months, when bottle it off for use.
Mrs. Beeton suggests we pick the cowslips in the field and make this drink in April or May.