A teatime treat

This nineteenth-century recipe for shortcake biscuits translates well to the modern kitchen.

Rub together the flour and butter, sweeten with soft brown sugar and add currants for flavour. Combine with a beaten egg and milk and then bake in the oven for a simple but tasty teatime treat!

Nineteenth-century recipe for short cakes, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Nineteenth-century recipe for short cakes, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Short Cakes

Rub in with the hand one pound of butter into two pounds of sifted flour. Put one pound of currants, one pound of moist sugar and one egg. Mix all together with half a pint of milk, roll it out thin and cut into round cakes. Lay them on a clean baking plate and put them in a middling hot oven for about five minutes.

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Buttermilk cheese

There’s no doubting the freshness of this cheese: the recipe specifies that the milk should be taken “as hot as possible from the cow“! It is another indication that our unknown ladies kept their own cattle.

Making this cheese is a rather labourious process. The milk has to be churned, as if to make butter, in order to obtain the buttermilk. But the result is an incredibly fresh, soft cheese made purely from natural ingredients: milk, rennet, salt, and a splash of marigold juice for colouring:

Georgian recipe for buttermilk cheese from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Georgian recipe for buttermilk cheese from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make a Buttermilk Cheese

Take 36 qrts of milk as hot as possible from ye cow. Put it in ye churn which must be made hot with boyling water before you put ye milk in it. Churn it as you do butter & as long as any butter will come. Gather it & lay it by, yn pour out ye buttermilk into a tub yt had boyling water in it ye minute before. Let it be very warm. When you put in ye buttermilk, colour it wth ye juyce of marygolds. Put in 2 handfulls of clean salt & as much runnet as will make it come, & when tis well come, lead out all ye whey, breaking ye curd as small as possible. Put it into ye fatt, which must be larger a good deal what it will require when tis fininsh’d. Besure press out ye whey with yr warm hands very well. When you have put in all ye curd into ye fatt, put it into ye press & give it half a dozen turns to get out all ye whey. Then, take it out of ye fat, slice it & cut it like minc’d meat. Then pour warm water on it. Mix it quick with yr hands & pour of ye water as fast as you can, which will bring out a great deal of ye grease & whey. Then work ye butter you took of ye churn into ye curd very well & then put it into ye fatt, & so into ye press, turning it often with care, & often changing ye cloths. Let it remain in ye press till next day. Then, take it out of ye fatt & rub it wth salt. Let it stand in a dry place, turnning it & wiping it every day with care. Ye fatt must be a quarter & an half deep & a quarter wide.

A workout with a whisk

This recipe for a lemon sponge offers a good insights into the level of physical exertion demanded of kitchen staff in the Georgian era.

As the only raising agents in the recipe, the eggs needed to be whisked with sugar for an hour to incorporate sufficient air into the cake mix. And then there are the almonds, which were to be pounded down into a paste with rosewater before being combined with the other ingredients.

The whole process is made all the more cumbersome because of the large quantities involved. There are 3lbs (1.36 kg) of dry ingredients alone, without factoring the astonishing number of eggs required.

Today we could whip up this recipe in no time using an electric whisk and blender, but in the eighteenth-century it relied on good old-fashioned elbow-grease…

Extract from a recipe for lemon cake, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. Image property of Westminster City Archives

Extract from an eighteenth-century recipe for lemon cake, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Lemon Cake

Take 16 eggs, half the whites, a pd & half of dubble refind sugar. Put yr eggs & sugar together & whip them for an hour till as white as cream. Then put to it a nagin of rose water or orange flower water & the out side rind of 4 lemons greated, 1 pd of fine flower dryed, half a pd of Jordon almonds with rose water. Mix all well together with a whisk. Put paper in the pan. Put it quick in the oven. An hour and a qr bakes it.

Barley water

Barley water has been closely associated with the Wimbledon Championships since 1934, when Robinsons became the official supplier of its still soft drinks.

Whether you’ve managed to get tickets for the tennis or are planning on following the Championships on TV, enjoy the taste of the tournament with this 19th century recipe for barley water:

A Regency recipe for barley water, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Regency recipe for barley water, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Barley Water

Two ounces of pearl barley washed clean in cold water. Put it into half a pint of boiling water and let it boil five minutes. Pour off this water and add to it two quarts of boiling water. Boil it to one quart and strain. The following addition makes it an agreeable drink. Two ounces of figs sliced, two of raisins stoned, half an ounce of liquorice sliced & bruised, and a pint of water. 

Flummery

The English word flummery comes from the Welsh llymru. During the 1600s, the popularity of this cold oatmeal pudding spread to the English counties, and versions of it were famously eaten in Cheshire and Lancashire.

In Wales, llymru  still denotes a specific dish: oatmeal boiled until it reached a jelly-like consistency, and served cold as a pudding. But by the time our Cookbook was being compiled in the Eighteenth Century, the English were using flummery to describe other jellied desserts, such as blancmanges and semi-set creams:

18th century recipe for Spanish Flummery

An early 18th century recipe for Spanish Flummery

Spanish Flummery

Halfe an ounce of isinglass disolved in half a pinte of boiling water. When it is cold, put to it half a pint of white wine, the yolks of four eggs well beaten, the peel of a lemon and the juice of one and a halfe. Sweeten it to your taste, put it on the fire. Make it hot, just ready to boile. If you let it boil, it will be apt to curdell. Then run it through a cloath into a beason. Stir it whin cold. Eat in your cups. In sumner add a littell more isinglass.

While above dish of Spanish Flummery is a kind of lemony custard, the next recipe for ‘Allmond Flummerry’ results in something much more like a blancmange. The setting agent is calf’s foot jelly:

This 18th century flummery is flavoured with almonds and set with calf foot jelly.

This 18th century flummery is flavoured with almonds and set with calf foot jelly.

Allmond Flummerry

Take the jelly of 2 calves feet skimd clean from fat. Put to it a qr of a pd of almonds that are very sound pounded very small with rose water, the yallow rind of a lemon cut thin, a stick of cinnimon, 3 spoonfull[s] of orange flower water, some sugar to yr taste. Let these boyle 4 or 5 times together, then put in half a pint of good cream. Let it get a boyle or 2 in it, then take it of & strain it through a muslin. Stir it in a bason continually till it is cold.

A pickling plenty

As fresh produce burst forth from small-holdings and gardens during the summer months, Regency cooks had to cope with a constant stream of fruit and vegetables coming into the kitchen for preservation.

As we saw yesterday, one of the principal ways of treating vegetables was to bottle them in a pre-prepared pickle of vinegar and spices. Today we look at how the unknown ladies of our Cookbook would have prepared cucumbers and french beans, red cabbage and beetroot…

How to pickle gherkins and French beans the Regency way - a recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

How to pickle gherkins and French beans the Regency way – a recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Gherkins, French Beans &c 

Put them into unglazed stone pans. Cover them with a brine of salt & water, a quarter of a pound of salt to a quart of water. Cover them down. Set them on the hearth before the fire for two or three days till they grow yellow. Then put away the water, cover them with hot vinegar, set them again before the fire. Keep them hot till they become green. Then pour off the vinegar and cover them with pickle*, no shallots.

*As described in yesterday’s pickle post

Early nineteenth-century recipe for pickled beetroots from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Early nineteenth-century recipe for pickled beetroots from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Beet Roots

Boil gently till they are full three parts done – from 2 hours to 2 & ½. Then take them out and, when a little cooled, peel them and cut them in slices about half an inch thick. Have ready a pickle for it, to each quart of vinegar an ounce of black pepper, half an ounce of ginger pounded, same of salt and of horseradish cut in thin slices, a few capsicums if you like. Put these (stopped close) in a jar by the fire for three days. When cold, pour the clear liquor on the beet root, which have ready in a jar.

Recipe for pickled red cabbage, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Recipe for pickled red cabbage, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Red Cabbage 

Get a firm purple cabbage. Trim it, quarter it, take out the stalk. Shred the leaves in a cullender. Sprinkle them with salt. Let them lie till the morrow. Drain them dry. Put them into a jar and cover with same pickle as beet roots.

 

All in a pickle

Come early summer, thoughts turn to how best to preserve the produce of the season. In the Georgian period only the wealthiest households would have had an ice house for rudimentary refrigeration. Most domestic cooks needed to resort to other methods – such as salting and pickling – to ensure that the plethora of fresh produce did not go to waste.

Pickling was a popular way of preserving food so that it could be enjoyed for months to come. Our unknown ladies gleaned the following advice from 19th century cookery guru Dr William Kitchiner:

The strongest vinegar should be used for pickling. It must not be boiled or the strength of the vinegar & spices will be lost. By parboiling the pickles in brine, they will be ready in half the time. When taken out of the hot brine, let them get cold and quite dry before you put them into the pickle. To assist the preservation, add a portion of salt. For the same purpose, and to give flavor: long pepper – black pepper – white pepper – allspice – ginger – cloves – mace – garlick – mustard – horseradish – shallots – capsicum. The best method is to bruise in a mortar three or four ounces of the above materials. Put them into a stone jar with a quart of the strongest vinegar. Stop the jar closely with a bung. Cover that with a bladder soaked with pickle. Set it on a trivet by the side of the fire for three days, well shaking it up three or four times a day. By pounding the spice, half the quantity is enough and the jar being well closed and the infusion made with a mild heat, there is no loss by evaporation. Run a larding pin through the articles pickled to give them the better flavour. A wooden spoon full of holes to take them out.

Some decades earlier, another of our cookbook compilers recorded this simple recipe for pickled onions. The principles are in keeping with Kitchiner’s later method. After being soaking and boiled in salty water, they are flavoured with sliced horseradish, and bottled in an infusion vinegar, black pepper and ginger:

18th century for pickling onions from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century for pickling onions from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Pickle Onions

Take the smallest & hardest you can get. Peel their brown skin of them but take care you dont bruse them. Then putt them in salt & water in a crok, close cover’d, 2 days & nights. Then put them in a skillet of water on a clear fire. Let them just boyle & no more, then take of one skin more with a cloth but take care you dont bruse them. Dont take of the root till you are going to use them, for that will let the air into them & make them turn black. Put them in a dry crok. Put some horse redish slic’d betwen the layers. Scald some vinegar with a good dale of pepper & ginger whole. Pour it scalding hot on them. Cover them close immediately. Keep them always close cover’d with a blader & leather. You must not expect them to keep above 2 months rightly white. They may be done any time of the year.