Marmalade

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.

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Potted salmon with warming spices

This potted baked salmon is flavoured with cloves, mace and nutmeg: spices we’ve come to closely associate with the culinary world of our Unknown Ladies:

This potted salmon recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies produces a fish dish with distinctive 18th century flavours

This potted salmon recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies produces a fish dish with distinctive 18th century flavours

To Pot Salmon

Take a side of salmon & take all the skin of & chop it very fine with half a pnd of fresh butter. Then take half an ounce of cloves & mace, a nutmeg, half an ounce of pepper, a large ounce of salt. So season yr fish and put it in to a small close pot and let it bake an hour & half exactly. Then strain all the liquor very dry from it & then cover it with drawn butter for your use.

The melted butter which is used to cover the fish would set upon cooling, sealing the potted salmon from the air. This way, the salmon could be kept in a cool place for several days: far longer than a fresh, untreated fish ever could.

The product of this recipe is a rich, buttery fish dish, which would work very well warmed up and spread on toast. Our Cooking Up History team have come across similar spice combinations many times now: in almond puddings, as well as in veal florentine and citrus dumplings. For some of them, cloves, mace and nutmeg ‘tasted of Christmas’. So here’s an idea: why not ditch the smoked salmon blinis and mackerel pâté at your Christmas party this year, and make 18th century style potted salmon the talking point of your festive table?

Preserving fruits the sugar-free way

Two sugar-free recipes for preserving fruit.

The first, for green plums or apples, uses a layer of melted suet to seal the fruits from the air – a method commonly known as potting. We like the idea of boiling the fruits with kale leaf to them a lasting, vibrant green colour:

A method for potted plums or apples from the 18th century compilers of our The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A method for potted plums or apples from the 18th century compilers of our The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Preserve Green Plumbs or Apples

Take the plumbs and pare them very thin and as you pare them, throw them into cold water, parings and all. Then put them in to scald and green them with a cale leaf. When they are green, take them of and let them coole, Then take the ordinary plumbs or apples and boyle them to mash and when they are all cold, take an earthern croc well scalded, and lay a layer of pulp and a layer plumbs till your pot is full. Then take rendred seuit and power on them so the will keep all the year.

Regency cookery writer Dr William Kitchiner has another method up his sleeve – in this case gently heating fruit in wide-mouthed bottles, and then sealing them with corks to create an effective vacuum:

Dr Kitchiner’s instructions for bottling fruit, as transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Dr Kitchiner’s instructions for bottling fruit, as transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Preserved Fruit Without Sugar

Take damsons &c when not too ripe, pick off the stalks and put them into wide mouthed bottles (put in only those that are whole). Shake them well down. Stop the bottles with new soft corks, not too tight. Set them in a very slow oven (nearly cold) four or five hours. When they begin to shrink in the bottles, it is a sure sign that the fruit is thoroughly warm. Take them out and, before they are cold, drive in the corks quite tight. Set them in a bottle rack or basket with the mouth down.

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.

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.

To preserve raspberries

Raspberries offer a real taste of summer, but if you’d like to enjoy them all the year round, why not try this Georgian preserving recipe?

"To preserve rasberrys", a Georgian method from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

“To preserve rasberrys”, a Georgian method from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Preserve Rasberrys

Take aples & slice them & put them in a skilet to boyl & when thick, run them through a flannel bag. Then take an equal quantity of rasberrys & curran[t] juice with ye weight of sugar & boyl it tell it jelys. Then give yr raspberrys a boyl in it. Take them up and let them be only milk warm when you put them in yr crock.

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.