Potting

We’ve already looked at a number of preserving methods, from pickles to jams and jellies. In today’s recipe, our unknown ladies have a go at ‘potting’ wildfowl:

18th century method for potting duck or woodcock from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century method for potting duck or woodcock from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Pot Wild Fowl

Take half a dozen woodcocks & the like number of ducks. Split them and break all their bowns. Take pepper, salt & nutmeg & season yr fowl with it. Take 1 ounce of salt peter & half a pint of clarrit. Mix them together. Lay yr fowl in a close earthen pot, then pour on yr wine & half a pnd of butter & cover them with brown paper. Bake them an exact hour & half. When they are baked, pres out all the liquor, then boyle half a pnd of butter with 1 shallet & a little pepper. Then pour yr butter over them.

The birds are plucked and gutted, then seasoned and cooked in an earthen pot with red wine and plenty of butter. When baked, any excess liquid is pressed out. Finally, melted butter is poured over the top and allowed to set, forming an effective air-tight seal over the meat.

As with so many of the recipes in the Cookbook, the method seems to be written for confident and experienced cooks, who break no bones (if you’ll excuse the pun) over skinning and gutting all kinds of animals.

A Surfeit of Snipes

12 August, the ‘Glorious Twelfth’, when Victorian high society would leave London for moors, marshes and hills and the grouse-shooting season. It was the Game Act of 1831 that had introduced closed seasons, defined periods when the shooting of certain wildfowl species was strictly prohibited. The popularity of game within Georgian households had threatened the survival of many wild bird species in the British Isles, and government legislation was considered essential to protect economic interests in game bird populations.

The common snipe was not included in the 1831 Game Act. Perhaps their effective camouflage and erratic flight patterns helped to keep snipe populations buoyant for much longer than those of grouse, pheasants and partridges. Despite snipe being notoriously difficult to catch, our 18th century cookbook compilers clearly knew someone skilled in hunting these elusive animals, for here is a recipe for a ‘surfeit’ of them.

It’s a rich, meaty dish, perfectly suited for the onset of chilly autumnal evenings. So while the summer is still with us, maybe just make a mental note of it for a later month, when you have an appetite for something hearty and comforting. Indeed, snipes are considered at their best between December and January.

Recipe for a "surfuit" of snipes, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Recipe for a “surfuit” of snipes, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A  Surfuit of Snipes

Take a fillit of veal. Cut it small with a pd of sewit, half a pd of good fat bacon, some thyme & pepper, a little shred lemon. Let these be minc’d extraordinary small, & made in forc’d meat wth an egg. Put a layer at ye bottom of yr dish & cut yr snipes in halves & lay a thin rashure of bacon on them, every one. After you have place’d ym handsomly in yr dish, strow a good deal of crumbs of bread & shred parsley & a very little pepper over all. Put some forc’d meat on ye edge of yr dish, & yr forc’d meat yt is left put as a lid over ym. Bake it an hour at least. When it coms out, cut a whole in ye top & pour in some very good greavy. So serve it up for first course.

It’s all but impossible to get hold of snipe at the supermarket, but a butcher with a specialism in game may be able to get hold of some for you. There are some handy tips on preparing snipe on the BBC Food website. Or why not consider adapting the recipe for quails, which are generally far easier to source…

‘Love food, hate waste’ the 18th century way

The Georgians delighted in gastronomic dishes, but they were also talented in consuming food efficiently, with very little waste.

Our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies contains many good examples of the  Georgians’ “waste not want not” ethic in the kitchen. Here, a recipe for roast hare is paired with another for preparing the pelt.

18th century recipe for roast hare from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century recipe for roast hare from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Roast An Hare

Lard ye hinder quarters but not ye fore. Put a pudding in ye belly made of ye liver minc’d, an anchovy shred, some crumbs of bread, & nutmeg, a raw egg, some good cream. Mix all these & stuf it & stick it up, & beast yr hare wth cream.

The second recipe is attributed to Mrs Hayne, who we last met when we looked at tansies. She washes the hare’s skin, reserved when preparing the roast, and treats it by steeping it in a strong pickle. After three days of pickling and washing, the tanned hide was hung up to dry:

Mrs Hayne's way to dress a hare's skin, an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Method for dressing a hare’s skin, an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Mrs Haynes Way to Dress an Hairs Skin

Take a fresh skin & boyle bran & water & wash ye skin in it. When it is milk warm, let it lye therein 4 or 5 hours. Yn wash ye bran of it & make a strong pickle of salt, allom, & water. Boyle ye pickle & when milk warm, wash ye skin well in it. Let it lye in ye pickle 24 hours, yn squeese it dry & warm ye pickle milk warm & wash it again. Doo this for 3 days, still taking out ye skin while ye pickle is warming, yn boyle bran & water & wash ye skin in it milk warm & hang it up to dry.