To collar meat

We last looked at ‘collaring’ when we put together a Regency menu of beef and Yorkshire pudding for St George’s Day. Today’s first two recipes use the same technique of tightly rolling and binding meat, which is then pickled for use at a later date.

Nowadays, brawn (in its culinary sense) is often used to refer to a jellied preparation of pig’s head and tongue. In this Georgian recipe for collared brawn, it refers to the raw head meat. The meat is stripped from the skull before being salted, seasoned and boiled in a vinegar solution. Then, rolled up tightly in cloth, it is steeped in a strong pickle until tender and ready for use:

An 18th century recipe for collaring and pickling brawn from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

An 18th century recipe for collaring and pickling brawn from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Collar Brawn

Take a quarter of brawn, lay it in salt three days. Then take some all spice, cloves & mace & season it. Boyle it in a cloath very soft with some vinegar, salt & water till it be tender. Then rowl it over new with another cloath & fresh tape as hard as possible. Then let it be cold. Then boyle yr pickle with some brawn with a little fresh water. Let it be cold & keep ye brawn constantly in it tyed up. Make fresh liquor once a fortnight.

A very similar method is used to prepare breast of veal:

18th century recipe "to collar a breast of veal" from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

18th century recipe “to collar a breast of veal” from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

To Collar a Breast of Veal

Bone a large breast of veal, wash it clean, soak it in 2 or 3 waters. Dry it well. Season it with salt, pepper, cloves & mace, some sweet herbs. Dip it all over in a batter of eggs. Roll it up hard in a cloth. Boyle it in salt & water, vinigar & allspice. Boyle it well & skim it. Take out yr collar & keep it in this pickle when both are cold.

But collared meat needn’t be pickled at all. In the following recipe for mutton collars, the meat is served up hot in a rich, flavoursome gravy with a colourful garnish of lemon and red cabbage. There’s also an innovative technique for keeping the mutton moist: it is baked in a pot along with white bread and water and sealed with a pastry lid:

This 18th century recipe for collaring mutton creates a colourful impression of work in the Georgian kitchen

This 18th century recipe for collaring mutton creates a colourful impression of work in the Georgian kitchen

Mutton Collars

Take a breast & neck of mutton, bone it, spread it on ye dresser. Take ye yolks of 3 eggs boyled hard & shred small, half a lemon peel shread, 3 anchoves shred, some shives, thyme, some pepper & allspice pounded. Strow these all over ye in side of ye meat but first rub ye in side with the white of an egg. Then clap the breast on the neck & roll ym up hard with a tape & cloth in a collar. Bake it in a crok with white bread, fill’d up with water & cover’d with paste. When it coms out, take it out of ye crok & let it lye till next day in ye cloth. Then take it out & cut it in 3 collars the height of yr hand. Then toss up a sauce of strong greavy, white wine, anchoves shred, lemon peel & onion, thyme & parsley, pepper, all spice, a lump of butter roll’d in flower. Toss these up together, then heat the collars in it. You must have a good deal of liquor, for you must allow for waste in heating yr collars. Garnish yr dish with slices of lemon & red cabbage.

There’s some lovely imagery in this recipe – the meat being spread out on the kitchen dresser, the ‘clap’ as one cut is laid on the other for rolling… Further clues as to what work was like in the kitchens of our ‘unknown ladies’.

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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.

Ways with eggs

The Georgians were great meat-eaters, but over the course of the 18th century this staple of the English diet was becoming increasingly expensive. The rapid expansion of urban populations saw a rise in demand for meat, and as a consequence it both rose in price and declined in quality.

Eggs, on the other hand, were highly nutritious and more affordable than meat. Our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies show how eggs could be used to eke out dishes, while still satisfying those with more carnivorous inclinations.

The first recipe is a hearty version of eggs on toast. Hard boiled eggs are stewed in a rich concoction of strong beef gravy, white wine and shredded spinach, and served on small pieces of toasted bread (the ‘sippits’ in this recipe):

18th century recipe for a fricassee of eggs, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century recipe for a fricassee of eggs, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Fricasie of Eggs (18th century)

Take 12 hard eggs. Cut ym in quarters & put ym in yr toss pan with a pint of strong beef greavy, a wine glass full of white wine, some nutmeg, a little blanch’d spinage shred, a lump of butter rol’d in flower. Let these stew a little & stir ym gently. Serve ym on sippits crispted in yr frying pan.

There are also two Regency recipes. Poached eggs give some body to a plain dish of broiled mutton, and a simple omelette is given a meaty flavour by the addition of some diced kidney:

Cold meat broiled with poached eggs: a Regency recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Cold meat broiled with poached eggs: a Regency recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Cold Meat Broiled with Poached Eggs (19th century)

For this dish, a leg of mutton or inside of a sirloin of beef is best. Cut the slices even and equal. Broil them over a clean fire. Lay them in a dish before the fire to keep hot while you poach the eggs.

19th century recipe for a "common omelette" from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

19th century recipe for a “common omelette” from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

The Common Omelette (19th century)

Five or six eggs. Break them and leave out half the whites. Beat them well, adding a teaspoonful of salt. Have ready chopped two drachms of onion, one of parsley. Beat all up well together. Take four ounces of fresh butter, break half of it into little bits and put it into the omelette, the other half into a clean frying pan. When it is melted, pour in the omelette and stir it with a spoon till it begins to set. Then, turn it up all around the edges and when it is a nice brown, it is done. The easiest way to take it up is to put a plate on the omelette and turn the pan upside down. Kidney, boiled first and cut in dice, is sometimes used instead of the parsley and onion.