Tag Archives: Georgian cookery books

A Christmas Turkey – And A Plum Pudding

I live in Norfolk, one of the major centres in the 18th and 19th centuries for rearing geese and turkeys for the London market. Both were favourites for eating at Christmas and in the weeks before the roads to the Capital were full of flocks of geese being walked slowly to their doom, their feet protected by being dipped in tar and then sand. The arrival of the stagecoaches made transporting birds much faster and they could be slaughtered in Norfolk, then loaded onto the coaches and arrive without having walked off a good part of their condition.

The image above shows the Norwich stage arriving at the Bull Inn in London hung about with geese, but turkeys were transported in the same way. Not all were dead, as Cecil Aldin’s marvellous little sketch of an escaping bird at the top of this post illustrates. the label around his neck says, ‘Leadenhall Market’ and he’s wisely heading back to Norfolk as fast as he can!

Turkey was not just food for the well-off and middle classes as I discovered when researching for Regency Slang Revealed  The slang for all kinds of poultry was hollow, presumably because birds were cooked hollow inside. A turkey was a Bubbly Jock or a Gobbler, references to the sounds they make, or a Cobble Colter. A roast turkey garnished with a string of sausages was an Alderman, a reference to the chain of office. Not much was wasted at this level of society – the part of a chicken we call the parson’s nose was the Pope’s Nose to the Regency underworld and The Devil was a dish comprising the gizzard of the bird, scored, peppered until it was very hot to the taste and then broiled.

A New System of Domestic Cookery; formed upon principles of economy by A Lady (various editions in the early 19thc, mine is 1829) has advice for the prudent housewife on selecting your turkey:

“A Turkey Cock – If young, it has a smooth black leg with a short spur. If fresh, the eyes full and bright and the feet supple and moist. If stale the eyes will be sunk, and the feet dry. Hen-Turkey is known by the same rules; but if old, her legs will be red and rough.”

This book contains a number of recipes for turkey including a version of the Devil, mentioned above:

“An Incomparable Relish, or Devil, of Turkey 

On the rump, gizzard , and a drum-stick, put salt, pepper and Cayenne. Let them be broiled, and brought back as hot as possible; cut them in small pieces, pour over a ladle of mustard, ditto of melted butter, a spoonful of soy, ditto of lemon-juice, and some of the gravy out of the dish; mix quickly, and hand round.”

The instructions for roast turkey give the traditional accompaniments still served today. The stuffing is sausage meat with chopped shallots, breadcrumbs and a beaten egg. Sausages and bread sauce are served separately along with the gravy.

When I transcribed the receipt book of Regency housewife Mrs Jean Mills for Mock Oyster Sauce and a Cure for Corns  I found only one turkey recipe, for Turkey Pie, which involved leaving the meat seasoned with pepper, salt, nutmeg, pounded clove and mace overnight before baking it in a rich gravy.

However Mrs Mills does include the instructions for Plum Pudding, that other staple of the Christmas dinner. She often gives the name of the person who gave her a particular recipe and she attributes this one to her late first husband, Captain Ryan of the East India Company. Like all the recipes for plum cake and plum puddings that I can find in Georgian recipe books this does not include plums!

Captain Ryan’s Receipt for Plum Pudding

12 Eggs, 1 lb Suet, 1 lb Raisins, 1 lb Currants, 3 Table Spoons Grated Biscuits, 3 of Sugar, 1 Nutmeg, 1 Tea Spoon grated ginger, a little sweetmeat, 1 Glass Brandy. This pudding takes 4 hours to Boil.

If you want to try this with modern weights and measures, 1 lb = 453.5 grams.

On the same page you can see Mrs Edwards’ Plain Cake and Batter Pudding. The ‘do’ – ditto – makes me think Mrs Edwards contributed that too.

Have fun planning your Christmas dinner!

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Time For A Pudding

The evenings are drawing in, there’s a nip in the air – what better time to think about making a warming pudding?

Recipes0001

I’ve been consulting A New System of Domestic Cookery formed upon Principles of Economy and Adapted to the Use of Private Families by A Lady. It was published in 1829 by John Murray (Jane Austen and Byron’s publisher) and cost seven shillings and six pence.

Some of the recipes certainly would have been very economical, using up left-overs in a way that resonates with today’s concern about food waste. There are a number of recipes using bread such as this one:

A Rich Boiled Bread Pudding

Over half a pint of crumbs (from a previous recipes I think these must be stale white bread crumbs) pour half a pint of scalding milk; cover for an hour. Beat up four eggs, and when strained, add to the bread, with a tea-spoonful of flour, an ounce of butter, two ounces of sugar, half a pound of currants, an ounce of almonds beaten (I assume these would be ground almonds), with orange-flower water, half an ounce of orange, ditto lemon, ditto citron (juice??). Butter a basin that will exactly hold it, flour the cloth and tie tight over and boil one hour.

I rather like the sound of this savoury pudding although I’d add  more cheese myself. I imagine it would be baked in a pie dish:

A Cheese Pudding

Grate three ounces of cheese and five of bread (stale, I assume); and having warmed one ounce of butter in a pint of new milk (making this today I would use full fat milk), mix it with the above; add two well-beaten eggs and a little salt. Bake it half an hour.

Another one that I’d like to try is:

An Exceedingly Good Orange Pudding

On half a pound of crumbs of bread pour a pint of milk; let it boil up; stir in two ounces of butter and one of marrow (I think I might give the marrow a miss and add a bit more butter!), keeping the pan over the fire until all is incorporated. Let it become cold then mix in two eggs, two ounces of sugar, the same of orange marmalade, and a spoonful of orange flower water. Choose a basin that will exactly hold it, and tie over with a floured cloth very closely. Boil it an hour and a quarter. For sauce, melted butter, sugar, a little lemon-juice, and a spoonful of brandy.

Finally here’s a real novelty. I’m trying to persuade the cook in our household to try it to see if it lives up to its name. If I succeed, I will let you know!

Transparent Pudding

Beat eight eggs very well; put them into a stew-pan with half a pound of sugar pounded fine, the same quantity of butter, and some nutmeg grated. Set it on the fire and keep stirring it until it thickens.  Then set it in a basin to cool; put a rich puff pastry round the edge of the dish; pour in your pudding, and bake it in a moderate oven. It will cut light and clear. You may add candied orange and citron, if you like.

I haven’t tried any of these – so if you do, it is at your own risk! Happy baking.

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