“Hot Spiced Gingerbread!”

This man cried "Hot Spiced Gingerbread" as he sold sweet treats to passersby in Oxford Street

This man cried “Hot Spiced Gingerbread” as he sold sweet treats to passersby in Oxford Street

Hot Spiced Gingerbread, sold in oblong flat cakes of one halfpenny each, very well made, well baked and kept extremely hot is a very pleasing regale to the pedestrians of London in cold and gloomy evenings. This cheap luxury is only to be obtained in winter, and when that dreary season is supplanted by the long light days of summer, the well-known retailer of Hot Spiced Gingerbread, portrayed in the plate, takes his stand near the portico of the Pantheon, with a basket of Banbury and other cakes.

Itinerant Traders of London (1804)

This ‘gingerbread man’ was one of over 30 street traders featured by William Marshall Craig in his book, Itinerant Traders of London. Craig himself seemed pretty impressed by the cakes, describing them as ‘very well made’ and ‘well baked’, and cheap at the price of a ha’penny.

We don’t know whether the unknown ladies of our Cookbook ever patronised this street trader’s stall at the Pantheon, but we do know that they were fans of gingerbread. They recorded two recipes for this spicy cake in their manuscript recipe book.

The first recipe comes to us courtesy of Mrs Ryves, whom we last met when she was making cream cheese. Here, we share her simple method for a classic gingerbread:

"To make gingerbread Mrs Ryve's Way"

“To make gingerbread Mrs Ryve’s Way”

To Make Ginger Bread Mrs Ryves’ Way

Take two pound of fine flower, half a pound of white sugar, won ounce of pounded ginger all well dryed and sifted, a pound and a quarter of treacle, half a pound of fresh butter. Boyle the butter and treacle together then take it of and make it into a past with the things above nam’d and make it into what shapes you pleas. Butter your papers very well you bake them on. Your oven must be as hot as for Chease Cakes.

The second recipe is a little different from the gingerbread we’re used to today. Along with the ginger, caraway seeds and candied citrus are used to flavour the mix. It sounds rather intriguing… one to try as warming treat at tonight’s Bonfire Night celebrations? The mixture also contains eggs, so although our ladies make no mention of cooking, don’t forget to bake it!

A Georgian gingerbread recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

A Georgian gingerbread recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

To Make Ginger Bread

Take fore qurts of flower, a pinte of treacle, & not quite halfe a pound of butter, four eggs, halfe an ounce of pounded ginger, halfe an ounce of carraway seeds, a qr of a pd of brown sugar, a nagin of brandy, som canded lemmon or orange. Mix all these in the flower. Melte the treacle & butter to geather. So mix all very well.

Shopping on the move: the street traders of Georgian London

Pictures of London’s street traders provide a colourful and characterful insight into how Georgian Londoners shopped, and the range of goods that were made available to them from the city’s streets. In today’s blog post, Archivist Jo Buddle explores a selection of images from the collections City of Westminster, capturing the energy and vigour of Georgian street traders at work.

Traders, hawkers and pedlars were an important part of London street life in the Georgian era. They could be found on street corners, at major landmarks, and perhaps even under your window, selling a wide variety of goods including food. Men, women and children were involved in the various trades, and many different nationalities were represented.

From fat geese to hat boxes, almost anything could be bought from pedlars on London's streets

From fat geese to hat boxes, almost anything could be bought from pedlars on London’s streets

The street traders brought colour, variety and vibrancy to the streets of London, and many became famous characters, instantly recognisable by their distinctive cries. “Fair Lemons and Oranges!”, “Twelve Pence a Peck, Oysters!”, “Four for Sixpence, Mackerel!”, “”Sixpence a Pound, Fair Cherries!” echoed throughout the city.

"Fair lemons and oranges" was a familiar street cry in Georgian London

“Fair lemons and oranges” was a familiar street cry in Georgian London

This street trader sold rabbits round and about Portland Place

Rabbits sold at Portland Place

One trader near Portland Place sold rabbits for eighteen or nineteen pence each, a much cheaper rate than was available in the shops. A man known simply as ‘The Turk’ sold rhubarb in and around Russell Square for many years. The criers also acted as early equivalents of fast food: baked apples could be prepared and sold to busy pedestrians using a lighted pan of charcoal and a tin plate.One man operating near the Pantheon on Oxford Street sold gingerbread cakes for one halfpenny each as a winter-warmer treat. During the summer, he sold Banbury and other cakes.

This man cried "Hot Spiced Gingerbread" as he sold sweet treats to passersby in Oxford Street

This man cried “Hot Spiced Gingerbread” as he sold seasonal treats to passersby in Oxford Street

Though resented by some shopkeepers as unfair competition, the traders and their street cries were a source of much fascination to the local population. Illustrated books depicting the criers were extremely popular. Although in the later 19th century street traders would become – unfairly – associated with the criminal poor in London, well into the Regency period they were appreciated and celebrated as an integral part of city life and the capital’s flourishing economy.

“Appel dumplins”

Apples being sold in Stratford place at the beginning of the 19th century

Apples being sold in Stratford place at the beginning of the 19th century

Today’s 18th century style apple ‘dumplins’ are baked rather than boiled, making them a little less messy than the orange and lemon versions our Cooking Up History tried out.

Appel Dumplins

Scoop some of the largest appels you can get & fill their skin with some good stewed appels. The[n] is the pap sweetned. Stick a piece of citron in the middle of them & set them in the oven that will bake tarts. Let them stand in the oven half an hour, then serve them with melted butter, rose water & sugar. This is for a first course.

Although sweet to taste, the dumplings were intended to be set out on the table as part of an array of first course dishes.

Today we structure our meals quite differently, and these baked apple skins would probably be thought of by most diners today as a dessert. If you are tempted to part with Georgian dining tradition, why not go the whole hog and serve them with a jug of warm custard…

The lavender of London

Last weekend, the Carshalton Lavender fields opened up to the public for their annual harvest fair. Visitors were free to explore three acres of fragrant purple flowers – an unlikely floral haven in the middle of a London borough.

Carshalton's community lavender field in July 2013

Carshalton’s community lavender field in July 2013

The lavender field is at the centre of a community-led project with an impressive vision: to revive the lavender industry in the south-west reaches of Greater London.

Up until the First World War, Mitcham, Sutton and Waddon were host to acre upon acre of blue lavender: a flourishing industry that had grown up from the beginning of the 18th century. The flowers were destined for a variety of uses. Some were cut, dried and sold on the streets of London, while others were sent to the distilleries for the fragrant oil to be extracted.

A lavender seller from William Marshall Craig's prints of 'Itinerant Traders'

A lavender seller at Temple Bar in the early 19th century

In the Victorian era, the Mitcham area became important supplier for cosmetic companies such as Yardley’s. But the flower was also historically prized for its medicinal properties.

Today’s recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies is for ‘compound spirit lavender’, a powerful infusion of fresh lavender flowers, brandy and spices. Our unknown ladies don’t indicate what the concoction was to be used for, but lavender was commonly thought to aid recovery from fainting and dizziness. Some even believed that it could help to cure infertility.

18th century method for making compound spirit lavender

18th century method for making compound spirit lavender

To Make Compound Spirit Lavender

Take a quart of lavender flowers, pickd from the stalks, & put them into a q[uar]t of brandy. Cork them close. Put half a pint of brandy into another bottle with the size of two large nutmegs of ginger, a quarter of an ounce of mace bruised, a drachm of cochineal, half a quarter of an ounce of saffron & a quarter of an ounce of cloves, all beaten togather. Let them stand a month or more, then filter them off. Mix them & you may put a little fresh brandy into the bottles to extract the virtue.

As with all the medicinal recipes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies we’d advise you not to try this at home! But if you’d like to experience a bit of London’s lavender heritage, do take a trip over to Sutton.  Carshalton Lavender will be closed until next year’s harvest, but commercial field Mayfield Lavender will be welcoming visitors until late September…

There’s also a great article on the history of local lavender production on the Sutton Council website. Enjoy!

A white frygasy of chickens

In Georgian England, cooks bought live chickens from street sellers

In Georgian England, cooks bought live chickens from street sellers

Here’s a recipe for someone who knows a bit about butchery!

Many of us have lost these skills now that poultry and other meat can be bought fully prepared and packaged from the supermarket.In the Cookbook of Unknown Ladies there are no such shortcuts. Georgian cooks had to be prepared to get their hands dirty, as chickens were sourced live from small-holdings or street traders.

Vendors announced their arrival with the cry of ‘Buy my fat chickens‘ as they walked the London streets with cages of chickens slung over their shoulders.

In this recipe for a white fricassée, three large chickens need to be gutted, skinned and jointed before being popped in the cooking pot.

To make a white frygasy - fricassée - of chickens: an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To make a white frygasy – fricassée – of chickens: an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make a White Frygasy of Chickens

Take 3 large chickens, skin them & cut them joynts & wash them very white & rub them with a dry cloath & then boyl very well in water whitend with a little flower. When the are boild enough poure of the water & take a little cream & stire them a little in it & then take near half a pint of cream & thicken it up with 3 yolks  & 2 or 3 prints of butter drawn thick. Beat all these together. When the chickens have stued a while in the cream, put about a nagin of white wine wth some cloves & mace & when it is near redy, put in the thickning. 

There are a couple of antiquated terms in the recipe, which are worth explaining:

A print of butter

Dairies would use a carved wooden stamp to ‘print’ their pats of butter. The print design could feature a simple emblem, such as a thistle, or even comprise the producer’s initials. As well as being decorative, it marked the butter as the work of a particular producer. Once stamped, each pat of butter would be wrapped in linen for sale.

A ‘nagin’ of white wine

A nagin or ‘noggin’ was a measurement of spirits, equivalent to ¼ of a pint.

Rhubarb rhubarb…

This image, taken from William Marshall Craig’s Itinerant Traders of London (1804), shows a man in Turkish garb, selling rhubarb in Russell Square.

Rhubarb seller from William Craig's Itinerant Traders of London, 1804

Rhubarb seller from William Craig’s Itinerant Traders of London, 1804

His wares are carried in a wooden box which hangs from his shoulders, and in his hand he carries a small pair of scales.

His trade was in rheum palmatum – Chinese or Turkey rhubarb. This rhubarb was not destined for the dining table, as in the spring fruit recipes we looked at yesterday, but rather sold dried as a medicine.  Well known for its purgative and antibacterial qualities, dried rhubarb root was commonly used as a laxative.

Rheum rhabarbarum (edible rhubarb) started to be used in English kitchens from the end of the 18th century, when sugar became more affordable.

In 1815, the accidental discovery of the ‘forcing’ technique at Chelsea Physic Garden led to another boost in its popularity. ‘Forcing’ extended the rhubarb season by several months, and gave a product with a sweeter flavour.  Today, forced rhubarb is best known as Yorkshire produce, but it is interesting to find that it has its ‘roots’ in London.