A cheap and cheery seasonal one this time! After spending a few years pouring over eighteenth-century household account books, it seems fitting that a little attention should be paid towards Christmas at the country house. And food is certainly a great tonic for the soul in these dreary winter months of the northern hemisphere! I’ve picked out two books; one which was first published in the first half of the eighteenth century and one from the start of the nineteenth century. Their respective authors had slightly different backgrounds but connections to the country house are strong. The first, John Simpson was eager to promote himself as ‘the Present Cook to the Most Noble the Marquis of Buckingham’ in his 1806 edition of A Complete System of Cookery, presumably in that role at Stowe House. The second, Richard Bradley was a botanist who had a vast knowledge of hot-houses, gardening and husbandry, but also spent some time working at Cannons, Middlesex for James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos.
All original spelling has been retained.
From A Complete System of Cookery, from a Plan Entirely New, Consisting of Every Thing that is Requisite for Cooks to Know in the Kitchen Business. John Simpson (1806)
Bills of Fare for Christmas feasting 1805, 25th December.
Rice Soup, Turkey & Truffles, Beef Collops, Semels Souffle & Poivrade Sauce, A Foul a la Daube and Mushrooms, Sweetbreads and Asparagus Peas, A Leg of Lamb and Haricot Beans, Chickens a la Reine, Haunch of Venison, Soup Vermicelli
Bacon Chine The Chine should be sprinkled with Salt, four days before roasted; – if large, it will take three hours roasting. – Send Apple sauce up in boat.
Chickens and Celery, Neat’s Tongue, Grenadines and Endives, Rabbits a la Portugueze and Sorrel Sauce
Appendix – Petit Pate of Oysters, Souties of Mutton and Cucumbers, Giblet Soup, Roast Beef
Partridges, Savoy Cake, Carmel Basket, Jerusalem Artichokes, Cauliflowers &c., Mince Pies, Cheesecakes, French Beans, Spinage &c., A Pheasant, Snipes, Asparagus, Red Cabbage, Apricot Torte, Mushrooms, Ragoo Mele, Chantilla Cake, Carmel Cake, Meringues, Guinea Fowl
From the Country Housewife and Lady’s Director In the Management of a House, and the Delights and Profits of a Farm. Richard Bradley (6th edition, 1762)
To make minc’d Pyes, or Christmas-Pyes.
Take an Ox-heart, and parboil it, or a Neat’s Tongue boil’d without drying or salting, or the Inside of a Surloin of Beef, chop this small and put to each Pound two Pounds of Beef-Suet, cleaned of the skins and blood, and chop that as small as the former; then pare, and take the Cores out of eight large Apples and chop them small, grate then a Two-penny loaf; and then add two or three Nutmegs grated, half an Ounce of fresh Cloves, as much mace, a little Pepper and Salt, and Pound and half of Sugar; then grate in some Lemon and Orange-Peel, and squeeze the Juice of six Oranges and two Lemons, with half a Pint of Sack, and pour this into the Mixture. Take care to put in two Pounds of Currans to every Pound of Meat, and mix it well; then try a little of it over the Fire, in a Sauce-pan, and as it tastes, so add what you think proper to it: put this in an earthen-glaz’d Pan, and press it down, and you may keep it till Candlemas, if you make it at Christmas.
Memorandum, When you put this into your Pyes, press it down, and it will be like a Paste. When you take these Pyes out of the Oven, put in a Glass of Brandy, or a Glass of Sack or White Wine, into them, and stir it in them.
Plum-Pottage, or Christmas-Pottage, from the same.
Take a Leg of Beef, boil it till it is tender in a sufficient quantity of Water, add two Quarts of red Wine, and two Quarts of old strong Beer; put to these some Cloves, Mace and Nutmegs, enough to season it, and boil some Apples, pared and freed of the Cores into it, and boil them tender, and break them, and to every Quart of Liquor, put half a Pound of Currans, pick’d clean, and rubbed with a coarse Cloth, without washing. Then add a Pound of Raisins of the Sun, to a Gallon of Liquor, and half a Pound of Prunes. Take out the Beef, and the Broth or Pottage will be fit for use.
Some gloriously heavy food in there, but it’s difficult to care too much about that at Christmas! If only I had the time and the energy … Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Kansas State Libraries rare books – cookery http://www.lib.k-state.edu/depts/spec/rarebooks/cookery/raffald1769.html
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, English Taste: The Art of Dining in the Eighteenth Century http://www.mfah.org/exhibitions/english-taste-dining-eighteenth-century/