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’.

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.

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.