Winter is Seville orange season.  These brightly-coloured, bitter fruits make a brief annual appearance in British groceries for a mere three months from December. By the end of February, the gardens and streets of Seville with fallen fruit, and the supply to British supermarkets will have all but dried up.

If you’re partial to marmalade, now’s the time buy your Seville oranges and bring out the the preserving pan. Those of you who do make your own marmalade are taking part in a centuries-old tradition. Here is an 18th century recipe for ‘Marmalade of Oranges’ from our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies:

A Georgian-era recipe for orange marmalade from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Georgian-era recipe for orange marmalade from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Marmalade of Oranges

Take yr large orange & rasp them. Rub some salt all over them. Steep them in water 4 days & shift them every day. Take them & cut them in halves & take out all the clear as whole as you can & dont break the partitions. Then boyle yr peel till it is so soft as to run a straw through it. Take it out of the water & take out all the strings, but take out as little of the white as possible. Pound the peel very small. Take their weight of loaf sugar & dip it in boyling water & make it in a clear sirrop with whites of eggs, & boyle yr pounded peel & clear lumps in it very well. Then lay it up when cold for use. Jelly is made the same way, only leave out the peel & use the clear lumps instead.

A Good Scotch Haggis for Burns Night

How better to mark the birthday of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, than with a Good Scotch Haggis! Burns famously penned an Address to a Haggis, an ode to the ‘great chieftain o’ the pudding race’, which first appeared in print in the Caledonian Mercury of 20 December 1786.

This recipe was copied into our Georgian Cookbook from The Cook’s Oracle by Dr William Kitchener, who in turn had taken it from Mrs Maciver, a cookery school teacher in late 18th century Edinburgh. Susannah Maciver was practising her art of cookery around the time when Burns was immortalising the hearty haggis in poetry. 

A Scottish recipe for haggis,  borrowed from a Mrs Maciver of Edinburgh for Dr Kitchiner's Cook's Oracle

A Scottish recipe for haggis, borrowed from a Mrs Maciver of Edinburgh for Dr Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

A  Good Scotch Haggis

Make the haggis bag perfectly clean. Parboil the draught. Boil the liver very well so as it will grate. Dry the meal before the fire. Mince the draught and a pretty large piece of beef very small. Grate about half of the liver. Mince plenty of the suet and some onions small. Mix all these well together with a handful or two of the dried meal. Spread them on the table and season them with salt and mixed spices. Take any of the scraps of beef and some of the water that boiled the draught and make about a choppin (sic.) a quart of good stock of it. Then put all the haggis meat into the bag and that broth in it. Sew up the bag, but be sure to put out all the wind before you sew it quite close. If you think the bag is thin, you may put it in a cloth. A large one will take two hours boiling. From Mrs Maciver of Edinburgh.

Scotch ‘Scollops’

The title of this dish is a little misleading. It might have you expecting a fine seafood dish, but rather than scallops these are in fact ‘Scotch Collops’: thinly sliced veal in a rich gravy.

The term ‘collop’ is thought to derive from the French escalope and essentially means the same thing: a boneless slice of meat, which could be fried, broiled or stewed. This Scottish variation offers a rich winter treat, but wouldn’t be cheap to make today: the recipe calls for both oysters and truffles.

There’s another ingredient which is rarely seen today: the recipe instructs that, should a heifer calf be used for the veal meat, then the udder should be cut up finely ‘like coxcombs’ and fried up as a garnish for the dish!

Extract from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies showing an 18th century recipe for "Scotch Scollops"

Extract from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies showing an 18th century recipe for “Scotch Scollops”

Scotch Scollops Excellent

Take a leg of veal. Cut of as thin as possible, ye round way, as much scollops as will fit yr dish, & beat them with [a] rowling pin. Strowe them all over with flower, then put an ounce and half of butter in ye pan & when it is hot, lay in the meat & lay ye same quantity of butter over it. Then cover them with a plate & let them stew till all ye liquor is consumed & ye are a fine light brown. Then put a pint & half of good brown greavy & half a pint of white wine, some thyme & parsley, two anchovys, two onions shred, half a nuttmeg grated, half an hundred of large oysters, some lemon peel, ye juice of a lemon, some morells & troafels that have been first soaked in water. Stew all till you think they are done, then toss them up with a lump of butter rolld in flower till ye sauce is pretty thick & sticks to ye meat. If you cant get morrels and troafels, dried mushroons will do. Put in some roasted chessnuts. If heifer veal, slice ye udder thin like coxcombs. You may lard them if you like it better then plain. Garnish with some slic’d lemon, fryed bacon and forsd balls.

A Skirret Pye

We know what you’re thinking… what on Earth is a skirret?!

Sium sisarum, commonly known as skirret, is a root vegetable in the Umbelliferae family of plants. The skirret plant grows clusters of long, knobbly, edible roots, which can grow up to a metre or so in length. Each individual root looks a little like a parsnip or carrot in appearance and, when cooked, has a firm texture and a sweet, nutty taste.

Although almost unheard of in British supermarkets today, the skirret is surprisingly easy to grow. It is a perennial plant and is resistant to cold as well as to many pests. It is therefore little wonder that the skirret was a staple food in Medieval Britain.

Following the introduction of the potato to the British diet in the late 16th century, the popularity of skirret declined. By the early 1700s skirrets were being used less widely and by the turn of the 19th century they had disappeared from most recipe books altogether. Our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies suggests just one dish using the vegetable: skirret  pie.

18th century recipe for skirret pie from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century recipe for skirret pie from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Skirret Pye

Take the largest skirrets you can get & parboyle them & peel them & season them with cinnimon & powder sugar & put them in a dish with a good deal of fresh butter & some sliced citron & candid orange peel & candid eringoroot, 3 spoonfulls of rose water, 4 of white wine, some Jerusalem hartichokes boyled & sliced. Make it with cold butter paste. When it coms out of the oven, have ready a caudle made of half a pint of sack, some sugar & nutmeg & the yolks of 4 eggs & a print of butter poured on it very hot & the lid laid on it again.

There’s a fantastic article about skirrets in the Food History Jottings blog, complete with photos of an impressive reconstruction of a 17th century skirret pie. Well worth a look!

Orange Cream

If this orange cream is any bit as delicious as the lemon version created by our Cooking Up History team, then it’s well worth a try!

A Georgian recipe for orange cream from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Georgian recipe for orange cream from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Orange Cream

Take the juce of 4 sivil oranges & let half a pint of water be poured over night to the peels greated, & in the morning strain it to yr juce. Take the yolks of 5 eggs & 2 whites. Beat them very well with a qr of a pd of loaf sugar. Stir them into yr juce & water, then strain it into a sliver skillet & stir it continually one way till it be pritty thick. Take it of & stir into it the bigness of a walnut of fresh butter till you cant see it. Then put it in cups. You may sometimes put white wine insteed of water.

Peristaltic Persuaders

Our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies contains quite a number of home remedies, tackling anything from rheumy eyes to whooping cough. Today’s recipes take on common but uncomfortable ailments. The first up is the wonderfully titled ‘peristaltic persuaders’, Dr Kitchiner’s cure for constipation:

These "peristaltic persuaders" contain a laxative, rhubarb, would have been taken in cases of constipation

These “peristaltic persuaders” contain a laxative, rhubarb, would have been taken in cases of constipation

To Make Forty Peristaltic Persuaders

Turkey rhubarb, finely pulverized, two drachms
Syrup, by weight, one drachm
Oil of caraway, ten drops (minims.)
Make into pills, each of which will contain three grains of rhubarb.
Two or three to be taken according to the constitution.

Rhubarb was a well known laxative, and was easy to get hold of. It was even sold by itinerant street traders in Regency London. To find out more, check out our ‘Rhubarb Rhubarb‘ post.

The next recipe claims to combat ‘gravel’ – that is, pain experienced when passing urine, sometimes due to crystalline deposits. Ouch!

"For Ye Gravel": an 18th century home remedy from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

“For Ye Gravel”: an 18th century home remedy from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

For Ye Gravel

Take two table spoonfuls of syrup of march mallows & one spoonfull of oyle of sweet almonds in half a pint of spring water, every morning before breakfast & every night going to bed for thirty one days & nights without missing a dose. You may warm the water a little if you chuse, but dont boile it.

As with all our Georgian recipes, please don’t try these at home! If you’re suffering from either of the above ailments, best check in with your doctor or pharmacist for modern medical advice.

Thank you!

Over the last few months, some of our friends in the Blogosphere have kindly nominated us for blogging awards.

This thank you is well overdue, but we’d like to take this opportunity to show our gratitude to Snail of Happiness,  who nominated us for a Super Sweet Blogger Award, Aneela of The Odd Pantry, who nominated us for a Liebster Award, and Transplanted Cook, whose Sunshine Award also brightened our day! Do take a moment to look through their blogs: they are well worth a visit!

If you’d like to find out a bit more about us, you’ll find 7 facts about Westminster City Archives – with pictures! – in an earlier blog post. Many other websites have inspired us while researching and writing about the Cookbook of Unknown Ladies, and we’d like to extend our thanks to them too. Here are some of the sites which have captured our imagination:

The History Kitchen

Tori Avey’s beautifully produced blog is full of fascinating articles on how we came to eat the dishes we enjoy today. Tori has also put together collections of ‘vintage’ and ‘literary’ recipes to try at home. We particularly like the sound of the ‘Smoking Bishop’ drink, a hot spiced punch drink mentioned in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol!

The Cook and the Curator

Sydney Living Museums are behind this fantastic site, bringing together cook Jacqui Newling and curator Scott Hill in an exciting collaboration to explore the way we ate and lived in times gone by. There are lots of historic recipes to try, but we also recommend taking a look at their articles on he development of dining conventions and the ‘lost arts’ of cookery. A great insight into the way our ancestors lived and ate.

NPR – The Salt

The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies featured on this site some months ago… National Public Radio’s food blog ‘The Salt’ brings you the latest news in gastronomy, including some intriguing discoveries and investigations into our food traditions. From the Roman roots of fish sauce to why we colour cheeses, it’s a really eye-opener!

Guildhall Library Blog

The Guildhall Library’s online newsletter acts as a showcase for their wonderful collections on London history, including special collections on wine and food. A recent article shares an 1808 recipe for Twelfth Night Cake


Keep up-to-date with the latest exhibitions and publications on 18th century history with the Enfilade blog. Well worth subscribing to!

Bite from the Past

This blog exudes enthusiasm, and it is infectious! Just as good for exploring the recipes of Jane Austen’s day as it is for raising awareness of lost dishes from the more recent past. The blog is beautifully illustrated with photographs, showing the principal steps of each recipe.