Home » Cookbook recipes » 18th century recipes » Pickled pork and pease pudding

Pickled pork and pease pudding

Pickled pork and pease pudding is something of an English classic. Here we pair two recipes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies, the first from an anonymous 18th century contributor, and the second ‘borrowed’ from Dr William Kitchiner’s cookery guide The Cook’s Oracle:

To pickle pork: a Georgian recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To pickle pork: a Georgian recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Pickle Porke

Make a pickle strong enough to bear an egg. Add to his one pound of brown sugar, one ounce of salt peter. Let it boyle while you can. Skim it when cold. Put it on your porke, as much as well cover it, & keep it close coverd. Cut your porke in picies the size you wold chuse to have them & pack them close. Before you put on the pickle, lay a stone on the meat to keep it under the pickle. If you make much pickled porke, you must add a nother ounce of salt peter & a nother pound of sugar.

A salty pickle mix is the starting point for this recipe. The pickle should be salty enough for a fresh egg to float on top of it (‘strong enough to bear an egg’). This pickle would have been an infusion of vinegar, salt and spices, which could be flavoured in any number of ways – with black pepper, mustard, root ginger, capsicums…  see our All in a Pickle post for more ideas.

The salty-sour taste of the pickle is balanced with a generous amount of brown sugar. Saltpetre (potassium nitrate, a curing salt) is added to further inhibit decomposition and to help retain the pink colour of the meat.

Pickled like this and stored in an airtight container, pork could be stored safely for a relatively long time. When the time came to eat it, the pickle was scraped off and the meat boiled slowly. Pease pudding was a well-loved accompaniment:

A Regency recipe by Kitchiner for a pease pudding, as reproduced in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Regency recipe by Kitchiner for a pease pudding, as reproduced in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Peese Pudding

Put a quart of split pease into a cloth. Do not tie them up too close. Put them to boil in cold water. Two and a half hours will do good pease. Rub them thro’ a sieve into a deep dish, adding an egg or two, an ounce of butter, some pepper & salt. Beat them well together for ten minutes. When well mixed, flour the cloth well. Put the pudding into it, tie up quite tight and boil an hour longer.

3 thoughts on “Pickled pork and pease pudding

  1. Never heard of adding eggs to pease pud. Regional variations also call in some places for the peas to be left intact not sieved to a goo. This will be one that you can turn out to be a solid pudding and cut in slices, being much of a consistency as blanc mange or flummery. I believe this is the northern version. The older style pease pottage still prevailed – and prevails – in the easterly part of England where the smoked or pickled ham/bacon is added while it cooks to add flavour and is by nature a thick stew which may be cooked until the peas break up or maybe eaten when they are but softened enough to fall apart on eating. ‘pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold, pease pudding in the pot 9 days old’ probably refers to the peasant habit of keeping the pot of pease pottage on the fire and adding more, in order to ladle out a bowlful at need as well as it being quite edible cold as hot. What the recipe doesn’t mention is something ‘every cook knows’ that dried yellow peas need to be soaked in cold water overnight before being cooked. Without that the recipe might well be doomed to failure.
    Pease pottage is still a staple in our household. it makes 4oz or so of bacon/ham go round 6 servings.

    • Hi Sarah!

      Thanks very much for your comments on the recipe! The tip about soaking the peas before use will be indispensable to anyone thinking of trying out Kitchiner’s Pease Pudding – as in so many of the Cookbook’s recipes, the compilers seem to assume a considerable amount of prior knowledge from their readers. Directions as to how to bone meat, gut fish or prepare vegetables for cooking are few and far between in the manuscript!

      I’d quite forgotten about the traditional nursery rhyme ‘pease pudding hot’! It’s a really nice illustration of how important the dish was to poor rural households, especially as the pudding could be eked out to provide hot dinners over several days.

      Thanks again for sharing this with us!

  2. Hi, I’ve always wondered, but have never found the answer in the early recipes I’ve read – were pease (ie split peas) green or yellow? I’ve always leant towards green rather than yellow chickpeas, but was interested to see Sarah understanding them to be yellow. Any evidence for either gratefully received, or perhaps regional differences? Cheers, Jacqui (Australia)

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