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Mrs. Weston’s Wedding Cake

In Jane Austen’s day, weddings were often held first thing in the morning, after which the bridal couple and their guests returned home to celebrate with a wedding breakfast like that served to Anna Austen and Benjamin Lefroy in 1814: “The breakfast was such as best breakfasts then were. Some variety of bread, hot rolls, buttered toast, tongue, ham and eggs. The addition of chocolate at one end of the table and the wedding-cake in the middle marked the speciality of the day.” Though rich fruit and nut cakes had been used for centuries, in 1786 Elizabeth Raffald was the first to publish a recipe for a cake specifically for weddings. The cake was served not only at the wedding breakfast, but also shared with the household servants and sent in pieces to friends and relatives who had not attended the ceremony. These wedding cakes were single tiered, double frosted confections, though by no means small. Queen Victoria’s 1840 wedding cake measured 9 feet around and weighed 300 pounds, although it was only 14 inches high. A period depiction of Queen Victoria’s wedding cake. This recipe makes an enormous cake. I have quartered the ingredients and it fit nicely into my 12 ½cm/ 5in deep, 25cm /10in springform pan. To Make a Bride Cake Take four pounds of fine flour well dried, four pounds of fresh butter, two pounds of loaf sugar, pound and sift fine a quarter of an ounce of mace the same of nutmegs, to every pound (more…)
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Steventon Roast Potatoes Recipe

roast potatoes recipePotatoes were grown at Steventon as early as 1773. In this, Mrs. Austen was decades ahead of her time, and the wonder of her neighbours who supposed them to be a dish fit only for gentry. Puddings had served as the main source of starch in English diets, but a wheat shortage in 1794 led the Board of Agriculture to advise all clergy “to encourage, as much as they can, the farmers and cottagers to plant potatoes this spring, in order that the kingdom may experience no scarcity…” A silhouette of Mrs. Austen. Though nearly seventy when the family moved to Chawton Cottage, Mrs. Austen “found plenty of occupation for herself, in gardening and needlework. The former was, with her, no idle pastime, no mere cutting of roses and tying up of flowers. She dug up her own potatoes, and I have no doubt she planted them, for the kitchen garden was as much her delight as the flower borders, and I have heard my mother say that when at work, she wore a green round frock like a day-labourer’s.” (Fanny Caroline Lefroy, great-granddaughter of Mrs. Austen) There was, at the time, some difference of opinion about the preparation of potatoes, as voiced by Susannah Carter: “Some pare potatoes before they are put into the pot; others think it the best way, both for saving time and preventing waste, to peel off the skin as soon as they are boiled.” I chose the former manner for this roast potatoes recipe (more…)
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Host a Regency Tea Party

Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, is credited with creating the ritual of afternoon tea sometime in the early to mid 1800’s as a remedy against the “sinking feeling” she felt between luncheon and the late hour of Court dinners. The practice soon caught on among her friends in the upper class circles and the rest is history. Taking tea during Jane Austen’s day was nothing like what the term implied a few decades later with the advent of Afternoon Tea. During the Regency, Tea was produced about an hour after dinner, signaling the end of the port and cigars in the dining room and gossip and embroidery in the drawing room. The lady of the house, or her daughters, if she wished to show them off to advantage, would make and pour the tea and coffee, seeing to it that all guests were served. After tea, the family and any guests might remain in the drawing room to read aloud, sew or play games together until supper (if served) or bedtime. Sir John never came to the Dashwood’s without either inviting them to dine at the Park the next day, or to drink tea with them that evening. Sense and Sensibility If dinner had been late, supper might be replaced by light refreshments served with the tea, such as toast, muffins, or cake. Tea or wine and refreshment of some sort or other would be offered to visitors who stopped by throughout the day. Tea was also served at Breakfast (more…)
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Mrs. Bates’ Baked Apples

The bake house at Chawton cottage shows the types of ovens used by the Austen family. The bake house was quite often a detached building as an added measure of safety against fire and to preserve the house from the heat of year round baking.

Inside the bakehouse at Jane Austen's Chawton home.
Inside the bakehouse at Jane Austen’s Chawton home.

“There is nothing she likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome, for I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr Perry…” Miss Bates rattles on to Emma about Jane Fairfax’s enjoyment the apples sent by Mr. Knightley. As the Bates’ had no bake house, they were obliged to rely on Mrs. Wallis to bake their apples, though in reality, they are a simple dish to prepare. You may wish to pair this dish with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and cookies.

baked apples copy

 

To Bake Apples Whole
Put your apples into an earthen pan, with a few cloves, a little lemon-peel, some coarse sugar, a glass of red wine: put them into a quick oven, and they will take an hour baking.
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747

  • 4 Medium sized Apples
  • 12 Cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp Lemon Peel
  • 57 g / 2 oz / ¼ cup Brown Sugar
  • 240 ml / 8 fl oz/ 1cup Red Wine or Apple Juice, divided

Preheat your oven to 177° C / 350° F.
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Rendering Lard, the Regency Crisco

While researching Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, I found many recipes that called for lard or suet (the beef alternative). It was often not immediately clear whether or not the authors were talking about straight, diced lard (like the kind used for adding fat and flavor to drier cuts of meat, as in “larding your roast”) or rendered lard, however a trip the local living history museum helped put my questions to rest. A basic rule of thumb when looking at period recipes, if it goes into the food (larding your meat, dicing it for mincemeat, etc.) you are talking about lard straight off the meat, often with tiny bits of meat still attached. If you are using it for frying or in pie crust, basically anywhere you might substitute modern Crisco or solid shortening, use rendered lard.

800px-HomelardAccording to Wikipedia, “Lard is pig fat in both its rendered and unrendered forms. Lard was commonly used in many cuisines as a cooking fat or shortening, or as a spread similar to butter. Its use in contemporary cuisine has diminished; however, many contemporary cooks and bakers favor it over other fats for select uses. The culinary qualities of lard vary somewhat depending on the part of the pig from which the fat was taken and how the lard was processed.

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Tea with Jane Austen: Ideas for using the Jane Austen Silhouette Cookie Cutter

The Jane Austen Silhouette Cookie Cutter

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The other day I was having some fun experimenting with the new Jane Austen Silhouette Cookie Cutter . We tried sugar cookies (naturally) and toast (delicious) and tea sandwiches. However, I think my favorite trick was the silhouette sandwich, seen here.

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To create this sandwich, you’ll need two types of bread, ideally, of light and dark colors (white and wheat, wheat and pumpernickel, etc.)

Take two slices of your “base” layer, in this case Pumpernickel, and use the cutter to cut a silhouette from the center of one slice.

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To Dress Broccoli

The soup, ladled from a large tureen, was nameless and savourless, but Miss Gateshead and Mr. Cranbrook, busily engaged in disclosing to one another their circumstances, family histories, tastes, dislikes, and aspirations, drank it without complaint…The mutton, which followed the soup was underdone and tough, and the side dish of Broccoli would have been improved by straining…
Night at the Inn, Pistols for Two (1960)
by Georgette Heyer

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Georgette Heyer is acknowledged as one of the most respected Regency historians in the world of fiction authors. Her novels are as full of Regency customs and cant as they are daring sword fights, flights to Gretna Green and comic turns of phrase. Her collection of short stories, Pistols for Two, is no exception.

Amused by the description of the poor inn fare served in Night at the Inn, I was curious enough to search for a period recipe. I finally found one in one of my favorite Regency Era cookbooks, A New System of Domestic Cookery, by Eliza Kettelby Rundell (1806).

Despite my children’s protestations that Broccoli is not a “real” food at all, rather a product of scientific gene mutation and not intended by God for the table, the truth is that it is an ancient vegetable, perfected (some may say) by the Romans and eventually introduced to England in the mid-18th century by Peter Scheemakers; which is why I decided to “dress Broccoli.”

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In Love with “La Pomme D’Amour”

Have you any tomatas? Fanny and I regale on them every day…” Jane Austen to Cassandra October 11, 1813  Tomatoes The first tomatoes are beginning to come in from my garden now, and if the green fruit on my vines is any indication of the bounty to come, my family will, like Jane, be “regaling on them every day”. I can’t wait! This is the first year we’ve actually had a successful crop (possibly due to my new raised beds next to the house that actually get watered!!) We’ve also tried a topsy-turvy planter– which looks odd, but seems to be thriving as well. This, at least keeps the cherry tomatoes away from the Early Girls so that we are finally getting large and small versions this year– instead of the cross pollinated medium sized fruits from years past. Of course, tomato season also brings the onset of canning season. In the past we’ve canned peach and strawberry jam, apple sauce, pepper jam, pickles, beets and relish– this year though, I have high hopes of enough fruit to finally can tomatoes. To that end I’ve been reading up on recipes and found a fascinating one in Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell’s “New System of Domestic Cookery” (originally published in 1806) Ms. Rundell actually boasts recipes for Tomato Sauce à la française (2), à l’italienne (2), Tomato Ketchup (2), Marmalade, Preserves, Stewed Tomatoes, and Preserved Tomatoes for Soup. What makes this list so impressive is that “tomatoes were not grown in England until (more…)