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Mashed Potatoes for Christmas

 

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone–too nervous to bear witnesses–to take the pudding up, and bring it in.
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, 1843

Goose, stuffing, applesauce and mashed potatoes. The Cratchitt’s Christmas dinner sounds a lot like what many of us will be enjoying this Christmas, but in Jane Austen’s day, only twenty or thirty years before the writing of A Christmas Carol potatoes were a fairly new offering on the dinner table. One that was often eyed with suspicion more than anything else.

Though potatoes were brought to Spain from South America in the 1500’s, it would take almost 300 more years before they were adopted with any alacrity by the rest of Europe. Eventually, they were recognized to contain almost every necessary vitamin for survival. The idea that one acre of potatoes could support a family of 10 was especially well received in Ireland. In 1780 widespread cultivation of white (versus sweet) potatoes began in Ireland, eventually reaching Britain and beyond. The population explosion in Ireland in the early 1800’s owes itself to this new food source, and when, in the 1840’s a blight wiped out the entire crop, there was widespread famine across the country, bringing to life a massive exodus of Irish immigrants to the United States.

We know that Jane Austen was familiar with potatoes and probably enjoyed them frequently, though it is left to our imaginations to wonder if the dish enjoyed by Dr. Grant in the Mansfield Parsonage was baked, boiled, roasted or mashed. It is curious to note that what was once served as a delicate and rare dish became, in a few decades time associated with a poor man’s dish and therefore fit for the Cratchitt’s table.

Mashed Potatoes
Ingredients:
Potatoes: to every lb. of mashed potatoes allow 1 oz. of butter,
2 tablespoonfuls of milk, salt to taste.

Mode
Boil the potatoes in their skins; when done, drain them, and let them get thoroughly dry by the side of the fire; then peel them, and, as they are peeled, put them into a clean saucepan, and with a large fork beat them to a light paste; add butter, milk, and salt in the above proportion, and stir all the ingredients well over the fire. When thoroughly hot, dish them lightly, and draw the fork backwards over the potatoes to make the surface rough, and serve. When dressed in this manner, they may be browned at the top with a salamander, or before the fire. Some cooks press the potatoes into moulds, then turn them out, and brown them in the oven: this is a pretty mode of serving, but it makes them heavy. In whatever way they are sent to table, care must be taken to have them quite free from lumps.
Isabella Beeton Book of Household Management, 1859

 

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and quartered
    (Yukon Gold are best)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A potato masher

Put potatoes into a saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add water until potatoes are covered. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes, or until done (a fork can easily be poked through them.)

Warm cream and melt butter together, either in microwave or in a pan on the stove. Drain water from potatoes. Put hot potatoes into a bowl. Add cream and melted butter. Use potato masher to mash potatoes until well mashed. Use a strong spoon to beat further, adding milk to achieve the consistency you desire. (Do not over-beat or your potatoes will get gluey.) Salt and pepper to taste.

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Make your Own Butter

Susan and an attendant girl, whose inferior appearance informed Fanny, to her great surprise, that she had previously seen the upper servant, brought in everything necessary for the meal; Susan looking, as she put the kettle on the fire and glanced at her sister, as if divided between the agreeable triumph of shewing her activity and usefulness, and the
dread of being thought to demean herself by such an office. “She had been into the kitchen,” she said, “to hurry Sally and help make the toast, and spread the bread and butter, or she did not know when they should have got tea, and she was sure her sister must want something after her journey.”
Mansfield Park

 

What is more traditional at tea time than bread and butter? Butter, that all essential ingredient to the rich sauces and pastries enjoyed during the Regency was a kitchen staple. Common in the country, its expense was lamented in the city, where fresh cream was harder to obtain. While living at Steventon, the Austen ladies would have been intimately familiar with the management of the family’s dairy and with all aspects of milking, cream separating and butter making. Wealthier families, like the Lefroys, at Ashe, could leave the dairy to trained dairy maids, but Mrs. Austen took a very hands on approach to feeding her family.

Who knows but what the traditional view of Dairy Maids as having rosy cheeks and a sweet temperment may not be true. There is a story told of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh who, “lived a prodigal life at Uppark entertaining lavishly and included the Prince Regent among his frequent guests. In 1810, however, he withdrew from society and devoted his attentions to discussing improvements to the house and grounds with Humphry Repton.

When passing by his newly renovated dairy one day, he heard the dairymaid’s assistant, Mary Ann Bullock, singing. Sir Harry presented himself and asked for her hand in marriage. Mary Ann Bullock, aged twenty-one, was sent to Paris to be educated before being married to Sir Harry in September 1825.

 

After taking this extraordinary step (he was well over 70!) he left the entire estate to her on his death in 1846. She, in turn, left it to her unmarried sister and together they made provision for the estate to pass, after the life tenancy of a neighbour, to the second surviving son of another friend and neighbour, the fourth Earl of Clanwilliam, on the condition that he should assume the name of Fetherstonhaugh.*

So…who’s to say that butter making was not the way to fame and fortune!! Still, it was a back breaking job. Cows needed to be milked (by hand) twice a day. Milk was then set out in cold “dairies”, often lined in stone. Once cooled, the cream would rise to the top to be skimmed off. The resulting milk could be drunk or used in baking. The Cream would be taken to be used as cream or made into butter in one of the many churns available at the time.

Once made (all churns used the concept of agitating the cream until the milk solids congeled into butter and separated from the resulting “butter milk”) the butter would be washed in cool water and salted, to preserve it.

Butter is very easily procured at any grocery store or market, but there is charm in making it on your own, and eating it fresh, as Jane Austen would have done. It is undeniably quicker to make your butter using an electric mixer, but you will never get a good feel for the life of a dairy maid until you’ve made it yourself.

This may take half an hour to an hour.

Things You’ll Need

  1. Regular (not heavy) whipping cream – 1 pint
  2. approximately 1 tsp. of salt
  3. medium-sized sealable plastic container (such as Tupperware), or a Mason Jar with a lid
  4. 1 cup or bowl
  5. paper towel/cheese cloth
  6. refrigerator

Getting Started

  1. Gather your ingredients (below).
  2. Pour the cream into your container and seal the lid. Make sure that there is as little air inside aspossible.
  3. Start shaking at a steady pace – about one shake per second.(It is very important to shake at a steady pace.Changes in speed will ruin your butter.)
  4. When the cream thickens to a paste, add a pinch of salt.
  5. Keep shaking, but do not open the container. This is a crucial time for the butter fats.
  6. When a liquid is formed, you should keep shaking steadily, about 100 more times.
  7. Place paper towel/cheese cloth over cup, and make a well.
  8. Slowly pour the liquid into the paper towel, and let the liquid drain into the cup below.
  9. Remove the butter from the cheese cloth or paper towel.
  10. Gently knead the butter, while running under very cold water to wash the butter, work the butter with yourhand or utensil until all the milk is washed out and any liquid is clear,any milk left in will spoil the butter.
  11. Add salt to taste. (Do not open after adding salt unless you want sour buttermilk.)
  12. Let cool and set overnight.
  13. Enjoy on crackers, toast, etc.

How to Make Butter using an Electric Mixer

  1. Purchase a container or more of heavy cream. Try to find plain cream without added sugar.You will want to buy a lotof heavy cream because the amount of butter is smaller than the amount of cream used. One gallon of cream will produce approximately three pounds of butter
  2. Chill your bowl in the refrigerator prior to butter making.
  3. Pour the cream into a bowl. Whip it using an electric mixer until it gets stiff. It won’t be as stiff as astick of butter yet.
  4. It will go through different stages- the first two are pretty self-explanatory.
    • Frothy Milk Stage.
    • Whipped Cream Stage.
    • Break Stage(This is where the whipped cream appears very dry looking)
    • Break Down Stage-Continuous whipping will cause the air cells to collapse into, BUTTER.
  5. It might get stuck to the whisk. Drain some liquid and repeat. The liquid you drain off is buttermilk. Addback an equal amount of clean water to the forming butter
  6. Chill the butter in the refrigerator for an hour. If it is not hard, drain more liquid out and refrigerate again. Taste the butter and if it doesn’t taste like butter but like cream, whip it some more.

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Pumpkin Pie

One of the highlights of this time of year is the prevalence of cold weather comfort food, whether it’s hearty soups and stews or apple and pumpkin pies. Just the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg in the air is enough to tingle our senses, bringing “Autumn” in every heavenly sniff.

According to The Food Timeline, “Recipes for stewed pumpkins tempered with sugar, spices and cream wrapped in pastry trace their roots to Medieval cuisine. We find several period European/Middle Eastern recipes combining fruit, meat and cheese similarly spiced and presented. The Colombian Exchange [16th century] flooded the “old world” with “new world” foods. These new foods (pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes, peanuts, corn etc.) were incorporated/assimilated/adapted into traditional European cuisines, each in their own way and time. Culinary evidence confirms it took several generations before many “new world” foods were accepted by the general public. Pumpkins seem to have skipped this honeymoon period. They were similar to “old world” gourds and squash, and superior in flavor. They were also just as easy to cultivate. As such, pumpkins (aka pompions) were embraced almost immediately.

If pumpkins are a “New World” food, why are they sometimes listed as ingredients in Medieval European recipes? If you notice, these references are usually found in Medieval cooking books with modernized recipes. The original recipes simply call for squash or gourds. Why substitute pumpkin? Some Medieval recipes for members of the curcurbit family (gourds, calabash, cucumbers, melons) are more palatable to contemporary tastes if you make them with pumpkin. It’s also readily available.

“As for pumpkin pie, in particular, in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England “people of substance” were familiar with a form of pumpkin pie that both followed the medieval tradition of “rich pies of mixed ingredients” and also bore resemblance to the consumption of apple-stuffed pumpkins typically engaged in by people of lesser substance…Pumpkin pie went out of fashion in Britain during the eighteenth century. Perhaps Edward Johnson reflected this emerging attitude in the 1650s when he offered as a sign of New England’s progress toward prosperity the fact that in most households people were eating “apples, pears, and quince tarts instead of their former Pumpkin Pies.” Pumpkin had been superseded by the more civilized fruits (free of association with the natives), of which the settlers had first been deprived. Such an anticipation that pumpkin pie was on the way out was premature, as far as the developments on this side of the Atlantic were concerned.*”
In 1803, Susannah Carter offered this recipe “To Make Pumpkin Pie” in her cookbook, The Frugal Housewife, or, Complete woman cook; wherein the art of dressing all sorts of viands is explained in upwards of five hundred approved receipts, in gravies, sauces, roasting [etc.] . . . also the making of English wines. To which is added an appendix, containing several new receipts adapted to the American mode of cooking. This title is updated from her earlier work, simply entitled The Frugal Housewife and printed in 1765. An American Edition was printed in 1772 on plates created by silversmith, Paul Revere. In 1829, American author Lydia Maria Child published a book with the same title. After a run in over Copyright infringement, Child’s Publisher was required to change it’s title in 1832 to the now famous, American Frugal Housewife.

To make Pumpkin Pie
Take the Pumpkin and peel the rind off, then stew it till it is quite soft, and put thereto one pint of pumpkin, one pint of milk, one glass of malaga wine, one glass of rosewater, if you like it, seven eggs, half a pound of fresh butter, one small nutmeg, and sugar and salt to your taste.

Susannah Carter, The Frugal Housewife, or, Complete woman cook, London, 1803.

  • 2 cups of Pumpkin (1 small sugar pumpkin, 3-4lbs)
  • 2 Cups of Milk
  • 1/2 cup Malaga wine (or sweet Sherry, or Port– all fall into the “Sweet, Fortified Wine” category)
  • 1/2 cup rosewater
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp ground nutmeg, 1 nutmeg, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Sugar to taste, (about 1 cup)
  • 2- 9″ single crust pie shells

One of the easiest ways to cook pumpkin is to roast it. This brings out a lovely rich orange color and, if using a Sugar Pumpkin, much more sweetness than boiling the flesh.

Preheat your oven to 350*. Slice your pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and place it cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Add a little water to the pan so that it stands about 1/4″ deep and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the squash is well roasted and the flesh is soft. Remove it from the oven, let it cool a bit and then scoop the flesh out of the shell. Discard the shell and start baking your pie!

Mix all ingredients together and our into the prepared pastry shells. Bake at 425 degrees F. For 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F. And bake for 40 minutes more, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Garnish with pecans and whipped cream.

This makes a much lighter, less “pumkin-y” pie than traditional Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie.

 


*America’s Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking, Keith Stavely & Kathleen Fitzgerald [University of North Carolina Press:Chapel Hill] 2004 (p. 67-8)


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A Visit to Stoneleigh Abbey

The Abbey stands in one of the most beautiful and luxuriant parts of the county, between Kenilworth and Leamington; the Avon winding through its pleasure grounds and deer park. In the medieval part of the building there is an ancient gate- house, upon which is still to be seen a stone escutcheon bearing the arms of Henry II., the founder of the Abbey.

In the days of the Stuarts the Leighs were ardent Royalists. It was in Stoneleigh Abbey that King Charles I. found a

resting-place in 1642. “The King was on his way to set up his standard at Nottingham and had marched to Coventry; but

finding the gates shut against him, and that no summons could prevail with the mayor and magistrates to open them, he

went the same night to Sir Thomas Leigh’s house at Stoneleigh, and there his majesty met with a warm and loyal welcome

and right plenteous and hospitable entertainment from his devoted subject Sir Thomas.” Was Sir Walter Scott, we wonder,

thinking of this same Sir Thomas Leigh when he described the character of his fine old cavalier, Sir Harry Lee, of

Woodstock?

In her book, Jane Austen and the Clergy, Irene Collins relates the following

fascinating history of Jane Austen’s own

 

connection with this great house.

During the interlude in which the Austen ladies quit Bath (with such happy feelings of escape) and the time that they

joined their Son and Brother, Francis Austen, in Southampton, “Mrs Austen decided to visit her relations in

Gloucestershire, taking Jane and Cassandra with her. She was proud of her descent from the young branch of the Leigh

family, which had owned Adlestrop Park since the Reformation. Most of the house built by her great grandfather had been

pulled down in the 1750s and replaced by a Gothic structure whose exquisite south-west front was the admiration of the

county. It was occupied by her cousin, James Henry Leigh, whose wife Julia was the daughter of Lord Saye and Sele. Mrs

Austen seems to have regarded the couple as above her touch; however, at the rectory alongside lived her widower cousin,

the Rev. Thomas Leigh, and his sister Elizabeth. It was to these that she now repaired.

Jane and Cassandra had visited Adlestrop twelve years earlier; Jane was fond of Elizabeth Leigh, who was Cassandra’s

godmother; but her feeling for the Rev. Thomas Leigh was less certain. In his younger days, he had been in the habit of

calling at Steventon on his way to London and had usually given the Austen boys a little present of money when he left.

Jane had not come in for these attentions but she had always heard of Mr Leigh spoken of in the family as a good and kind

person. This was probably how she had thought of him until her attitude was clouded by the situation which met them on

their arrival at Adlestrop.

The Rev. Thomas Leigh had recently heard some amazing news. On 1 July 1806 the last representative of the elder branch of

the Leigh family, the Honourable Mary Leigh, had died at the ancestral home of Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire. In her

will she had stipulated that the mansion and its huge estate should revert to the Adlestrop Leighs– to the Rev. Thomas

Leigh for his life, and then to James Leigh-Perrot (Mrs Austen’s brother) for his life, and finally to James Henry Leigh

of Adlestrop Park. The first two were childless old men. Nobody supposed that they would show much interest inthe legacy

or that the forty-year-old James Henry Leigh would be long in succeeding. Indeed the Leigh family lawyer imagined that

the two older legeatees would relinquish their claims at once for suitable financial compensation. The Rev. Thomas Leigh,

however, had other ideas. He was evidently tired of being regarded as the poor relation and was determined to enjoy a few

years of consequence. He had already paid one visit to Stoneleigh but had been obliged to return to London to establish

his claim with the lawyers. He was now so keen to secure possession that as soon as Mrs Austen and her daughters arrived

at Aldestrop he set out for Warwickshire, taking them with him.

The visit to Stoneleigh had its own rewards, as Jane was to make good use of it in her fiction. The ladies were

astonished at the sheer size of the mansion, as well as the sudden contrast between the older portions and the new

Palladian range. The Rev. Thomas Leigh introduced a strict regimenf prayers, morning and evening, in the private chapel,

which was draped in black on account of the previous owner. This was Jane’s first experience in a private chapel,

although she had probably heard about the famous on at The Vyne from Tom Chute. At Stoneleigh, visitors normally entered

the chapel from the first floor of the house, by a door leading into the gallery and left it by descending into the nave

where another door led straight into the garden. This layout provided Jane with a model for the chapel she was to

describe at Sotherton Court and hence with the setting for a crucial episode in Mansfield Park.”

Constance Hill, follows suit with this additional anecdote from her work, Jane Austen: Her Homes & Her Friends

 

:

“The visit of Miss Jane Austen and her mother to Stoneleigh Abbey is chronicled in the following amusing letter, written

by Mrs. Austen to a daughter-in-law, the greater part of which has fortunately been preserved:

STONELEIGH ABBEY,

August 13, 1806.

MY DEAR MARY, –

The very day after I wrote you my last letter, Mr. Hill wrote his intention of being at Adlestrop with Mrs. Hill on

Monday, the 4th, and his wish that Mr. Leigh and family should return with him to Stoneleigh the following day, as there

was much business for the executors awaiting them at the Abbey, and he was hurried for time. All this accordingly took

place, and here we found ourselves on Tuesday (that is yesterday se’nnight) eating fish, venison, and all manner of good

things, in a large and noble parlour, hung round with family portraits. The house is larger than I could have supposed.

We cannot find our way about it – I mean the best part; as to the offices, which were the Abbey, Mr. Leigh almost

despairs of ever finding his way about them. I have proposed his setting up direction posts at the angles. I had expected

to find everything about the place very fine and all that, but I had no idea of its being so beautiful. I had pictured to

myself long avenues, dark rookeries, and dismal yew trees, but here are no such dismal things. The Avon runs near the

 

house, amidst green meadows, bounded by large and beautiful woods, full of delightful walks.

At nine in the morning we say our prayers in a handsome chapel, of which the pulpit, &c. &c., is now hung with black.

 

 

At nine in the morning we say our prayers in a handsome chapel, of which the pulpit, &c. &c., is now hung with black. Then follows breakfast, consisting of chocolate, coffee, and tea, plum cake, pound cake, hot rolls, cold rolls, bread and butter, and dry toast for me. The house steward, a fine, large, respectable-looking man, orders all these matters. Mr. Leigh and Mr. Hill are busy a great part of the morning. We walk a good deal, for the woods are impenetrable to the sun, even in the middle of an August day. I do not fail to spend some part of every day in the kitchen garden, where the quantity of small fruit exceeds anything you can form an idea of. This large family, with the assistance of a great many blackbirds and thrushes, cannot prevent it from rotting on the trees. The gardens contain four acres and [Page 165] a half. The ponds supply excellent fish, the park excellent venison; there is great quantity of rabbits, pigeons, and all sorts of poultry. There is a delightful dairy, where is made butter, good Warwickshire cheese and cream ditto. One manservant is called the baker, and does nothing but brew and bake. The number of casks in the strong-beer cellar is beyond imagination; those in the small-beer cellar bear no proportion, though, by the bye, the small beer might be called ale without misnomer. This is an odd sort of letter. I write just as things come into my head, a bit now and a bit then.

Now I wish to give you some idea of the inside of this vast house – first premising that there are forty-five windows in front, which is quite straight, with a flat roof, fifteen in a row. You go up a considerable flight of steps to the door, for some of the offices are underground, and enter a large hall. On the right hand is the dining-room and within that the breakfast-room, where we generally sit; and reason good, ’tis the only room besides the chapel, which looks towards the view. On the left hand of the hall is the best drawing-room and within a smaller one. These rooms are rather gloomy with brown wainscot and dark crimson furniture, so we never use them except to walk through to the old picture gallery. Behind the smaller drawing-room is the state-bedchamber – an alarming apartment, with its high, dark crimson velvet bed, just fit for an heroine. The old gallery opens into it. Behind the hall and parlours there is a passage all across the house, three staircases and two small sitting-rooms. There are twenty-six bedchambers in the new part of the house and a great many, some very good ones, in the old. There is also another gallery, fitted up with modern prints on a buff paper, and a large billiard-room. Every part of the house and offices is kept so clean, that were you to cut your finger I do not think you could find a cobweb to wrap it up in. I need not have written this long letter, for I have a presentiment that if these good people live until next year you will see it all with your own eyes.

Our visit has been a most pleasant one. We all seem in good humour, disposed to be pleased and endeavouring to be agreeable, and I hope we succeed. Poor Lady Saye and Sele, to be sure, is rather tormenting, though sometimes amusing, and affords Jane many a good laugh, but she fatigues me sadly on the whole. To-morrow we depart. We have seen the remains of Kenilworth, which afforded us much entertainment, and I expect still more from the sight of Warwick Castle, which we are going to see to-day. The Hills are gone, and my cousin, George Cook, is come. A Mr. Holt Leigh was here yesterday and gave us all franks. He is member for, and lives at, Wigan in Lancashire, and is a great friend of young Mr. Leigh’s, and I believe a distant cousin. He is a single man on the wrong side of forty, chatty and well-bred and has a large estate. There are so many legacies to pay and so many demands that I do not think Mr. Leigh will find that he has more money than he knows what to do with this year, whatever he may do next. The funeral expenses, proving the will, and putting the servants in both houses in mourning must come to a considerable sum; there were eighteen men servants.”

The Lady Saye and Sele alluded to was a cousin of the Austens, her mother having been a Leigh. It is the same Lady Saye and Sele whom Fanny Burney met “at a rout” in 1782, and of whom she gives an amusing account in her “Diaries. This lady seems to have been a sort of “Mrs. Leo Hunter.” On being introduced to the author of Evelina, she exclaimed, “I am very happy to see you; I have longed to see you a great while; I have read your performance, and I am quite delighted with it! I think it’s the most elegant novel I ever read in my life . . . . I must introduce you,” continued her ladyship, “to my sister (Lady Hawke), she’ll be quite delighted to see you. She has written a novel herself, so you are sister authoresses. A most elegant thing it is I assure you. It’s called the ‘Mausoleum of Julia!’ . . . Lord Hawke himself says it’s all poetry . . . . My sister intends to print her ‘Mausoleum’ just for her own friends and acquaintances.”

What ecstasies would Lady Saye and Sele have experienced could she have foreseen the future renown of the young cousin with whom she was walking and talking at Stoneleigh Abbey!”

Visit Stoneleigh Abbey.org for more information about the house and the special Jane Austen tours they provide.

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Fresh Strawberry Tarte

It was now the middle of June…Strawberries, and only strawberries,
could now be thought or spoken of.
~ The best fruit in England ~ every body’s favourite ~
~ always wholesome. ~ These the finest beds and finest sorts. ~
~ Delightful to gather for one’s self ~
~ the only way of really enjoying them. ~
Morning decidedly the best time ~ never tired ~ every sort good ~
~ Hautboy infinitely superior ~ no comparison ~
the others hardly eatable ~ hautboys very scarce ~
~ Chili preferred ~ White Wood finest flavour of all ~
price of strawberries in London ~ abundance about Bristol ~
~ Maple Grove ~ cultivation ~
~ beds when to be renewed ~ gardeners thinking exactly different ~
~ no general rule ~ gardeners never to be put out of their way ~
~ delicious fruit ~ only too rich to be eaten much of ~
inferior to cherries ~ currants more refreshing ~
~ only objection to gathering strawberries the stooping ~
~ glaring sun ~ tired to death ~ could bear it no longer ~
~ must go and sit in the shade. ~
Emma

The Strawberrying party at Donwell and the events surrounding it are surely some of the most comic scenes in all of Emma. Jane Austen must have spent time gathering her own berries in order to write such a precise account of what it is actually like to “gather for one’s self.” Once you have spent time picking, the next question is, what to do with the berries! Below you’ll find an historic recipe for a Strawberry Tart.

To Make Short Paest for Tarte
Take fyne floure and a curscy of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttel saffron, and the yolkes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye.
A Proper Newe Book

3/4 c flour
1 T + 1 t water
1/2 stick = 4 T butter
6 threads saffron
1 egg yolk

Cut butter into flour, then crush saffron into 1 t of water; mix that and the rest of the water with the egg yolk and stir it into the flour-butter mixture. Roll out or flatten into pan.

A Tarte of Strawberries
Take and strain them with the yolks of four eggs, and a little white bread grated, then season it up with sugar and sweet butter and so bake it.
A Proper Newe Book

2 c strawberries
4 egg yolks
1/2 c bread crumbs
1/3 c sugar
4 T butter
8″ pie shell (see recipe below)

Force strawberries through a strainer or run through a blender, then mix with everything else (the butter should be melted). Bake crust for 10 minutes, then put filling into the crust and bake at 375deg. for 20 minutes. Garnish with fresh berries if desired.

 

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Boiled Pudding: The Vicar’s Treat

Mrs. Cassandra Austen (mother of Jane Austen) was known to have a sparkling wit and a fine aristocratic nose (which she was pleased to have passed along to her children). She also had a wonderful sense of rhyme. Not necessarily poetry, but fun light verse. The following is a recipe she submitted to her daughter-in-law Martha Lloyd for her Household Book. As Mrs. Austen was the wife of a clergyman (the Rev. Austen was pastor of Steventon Church) one can well suppose she would know what to feed one.

A Receipt for Pudding

If the vicar you treat,
You must give him to eat,
A pudding to his affection.
And to make his repast
By the Cannon of Taste,
Be the present receipt your direction.

First we take 2 lbs. of bread,
Be the crumb only weigh’d,
For the crumb, the good wife refuses.
The proportions, you’ll guess
May be made more or less,
To the size the family chuses.

Then it’s sweetness, to make;
Some currents you take,
And sugar, of each a half pound.
Be butter not forgot,
And the quantity sought
Must the same with your currents be found.

Cloves & Mace you will want,
With rose water, I grant,
And more savory things, if well chosen.
Then to bind each ingredient,
You’ll find it expedient
Of eggs to put in a half dozen.

Some milk, don’t refuse it,
But boil, as you use it,
A proper pint for it’s maker.
And the whole, when complete,
[Shall be ready to eat]
With care, reccommend the baker.

In praise of this pudding,
I vouch [it] a good one,
Or should you suspect a fond word,
To every guest,
Perhaps it is best
Two puddings should smoke on the board.

The two puddings-yet-no!
For if one will do,
The other comes in out of season;
And these lines, but obey,
Nor can anyone say,
That this pudding’s without rhyme or reason.
 

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Rich Pound Cake

Cake, often regarded as dessert, was in fact, during Jane Austen’s day, saved for breakfast or tea. Dessert, as mentioned in an earlier article, would have been fruit and nuts. Upon a visit to Stoneleigh Abbey, Mrs Austen, Jane’s mother, was known to have remarked on the quantity of food at breakfast, listing, “Chocolate Coffee and Tea, Plumb Cake, Rich Pound Cake, Hot Rolls, Cold Rolls, Bread and Butter, and dry toast for me”. The capitalizations are hers. Continue reading Rich Pound Cake