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“The Poultry Yard: The Management of Fowls”, Regency Style

duck isolated on whiteIt seems as though everywhere you go today, there are articles, advertisements and public service messages about using, growing or purchasing locally grown produce, dairy and even meat. On my suburban street alone, three families have set up hen houses, and free range chickens are becoming almost as common a sight as cats and dogs around town (of course, it wasn’t until my neighbor added a rooster to her brood that we really began to notice just how farm like our neighborhood had become!) With the local Tractor Supply offering adorable chicks and ducklings for sale each spring, the idea of starting your own brood seems simpler than ever. After all, what’s not to love? They eat kitchen and vegetable scraps, and in return provide unending fresh eggs and the occasional fryer.

I will admit, even I was swept away in the furor of home farming and could not resist the adorable ducklings for sale. Knowing that my sister in law intended on setting up a hen house that summer, I thought that the sweet little Mallard ducklings we found would be a fantastic present for her April birthday.

We only planned to get six.

Continue reading “The Poultry Yard: The Management of Fowls”, Regency Style

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To Make Brown Onion Soup


…The soup was fifty times better than what we had at the Lucases’ last week; and even Mr. Darcy acknowledged, that the partridges were remarkably well done; …
Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Raffald, from the frontspiece of her 1789 edition of The Experienced English Housekeeper.

Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were, throughout history, seen as food for poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow.  The rich flavor of the base is not due just to the broth, but to the caramelized onions (typically, the pot is full of sliced onions, which will shrink down to less than half the volume on cooking). Caramelization, in this case, is the procedure in which the onions are cooked slowly until the melting sugars approach burning temperature, becoming brown. Some recipes suggest a half an hour of cooking time, but many chefs and cooks allow for hours of cooking to bring out the flavors of the onions’ sugars.

A penny bun or a penny loaf was a small bread bun or loaf which cost one old penny at the time when there were 240 pence to the pound. A penny loaf was a common size loaf of bread in England regulated by the Assize of Bread Act of 1266. The size of the loaf could vary depending on the prevailing cost of the flour used in the baking. The nursery rhyme London Bridge Is Falling Down has a version which includes the line “Build it up with penny loaves”.  John Earfield hypothesizes that a one penny loaf in Jane Austen’s day would have weighed about one pound.

The following recipe comes from Elizabeth Raffald’s cookery book, The Experienced English Housekeeper, which begins with a dedication to Lady Elizabeth Warburton after fifteen years of service as her housekeeper. One of the most popular cookbook writers of the eighteenth century,  she also owned and managed two taverns, a sweet shop, and cooking school. It is different from French Onion soup, which traditionally uses beef broth  and sherry or wine (in place of water) and finishes with toast and/or cheese under a broiler. French Onion soup, so the story goes, was created by Louis XIV, who returned to his hunting lodge, famished, only to find the cupboards bare apart from some stale bread, onions and champagne.

This recipe can be followed almost in it’s given form, and produces a lovely warming soup of caramelized onions. The key with this soup is found in the final line, “before you send it up beat the yolks of two eggs, with two spoonfuls of vinegar, and a little of the soup, pour it in by degrees, and keep stirring it all the time one way.” By mixing the egg yolks, vinegar and few spoonfuls of soup together on the side (called “tempering”) you allow the eggs to cook slowly in a  liquid form, before being poured into the soup. If you do not do this, the eggs will cook as soon as they are poured into the broth and providing a lumpy, poached egg soup, instead of a smooth thickened soup.

To Make Brown Onion Soup
Skin and cut round ways in slices six large Spanish Onions, fry them in butter till they are a nice brown, and very tender, then take them out and lay them on a hair sieve to drain out the butter, when drained put them in a pot with five quarts of boiling water, boil them one hour and stir them often, then add pepper and salt to your taste, rub the crumbs of a penny loaf through a cullender, put it to the soup, stir it well to keep it from being in lumps, and boil it two hours more; ten minutes before you send it up beat the yolks of two eggs, with two spoonfuls of vinegar, and a little of the soup, pour it in by degrees, and keep stirring it all the time one way, put in a few cloves if you choose it.
– N.B. It is a fine soup, and will keep three or four days.
Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1769


Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Historical information about Onion Soup and Penny Loaves and onion image from

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Scotch Eggs

Scotch Egg by Sam Breach

A Scotch egg consists of a hard-boiled egg (with its shell removed) wrapped in a sausage meat mixture, coated in breadcrumbs or rolled oats, and deep-fried. The London department store Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented Scotch eggs in 1738,but they may have been inspired by the Moghul dish nargisi kofta (“Narcissus meatballs”).The earliest printed recipe is the 1809 edition of Mrs. Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery. Mrs. Rundell – and later 19th-century authors – served them hot, with gravy offers many recipe variations for this Georgian treat, including the following:

8 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1 lb. bulk pork sausage
3/4 c. bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
2 eggs, well beaten
Vegetable oil

Roll each hard boiled egg in flour. Form a large, flat patty out of 2 ounces of the sausage. Carefully work the sausage around one of the floured eggs. Repeat with other eggs. In a shallow bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, sage, salt, and pepper. Dip each sausage egg in the beaten egg and roll it in the bread crumb mixture. Heat 1 to 2 inches of vegetable oil in a 3 quart saucepan to 360 degrees. Fry the eggs in the oil 4 to 6 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Photo by Sam Breach, Becks & Posh blog

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Easter Eggs to Dye For

“Mrs Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an egg better than any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled by any body else; but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see — one of our small eggs will not hurt you. Miss Bates, let Emma help you to a little bit of tart — a very little bit.

The tradition of dyeing Easter eggs or eggs for Spring festivals goes back hundreds of years to the ancient Egyptians. In the Spring, they would dye eggs in bright colors and give them to friends as tokens of new life. Early Christians who avoided eating eggs during Lent would preserve them by boiling them. It is said that they dyed them red, using onion skins, in remembrance of Christ’s blood, shed for them. Boiled eggs are also a part of the Passover tradition. Later on, during the 16th century the tradition of exchanging eggs as Easter presents was in full swing and lovers would hand decorate special eggs with a variety of colors, gilt, wax and even paper for their sweethearts.

We don’t know if Jane Austen ever decorated Easter Eggs. If she had, only the most natural ingredients would have been available to her.

Here are some basic guidelines for transforming eggs into beautiful works of art:

  • Canned produce will produce much paler colors.
  • Boiling the colors with vinegar will result in deeper colors.
  • Some materials need to be boiled to impart their color (name followed by ‘boiled’ in the list below).
  • After your eggs dry, use a vegetable oil and soft cloth to polish them.

There are two basic ways to dye eggs: Cold dip and hot dip. The cold-dip method generally produces softer, more translucent tones.

Cold Dip Method #1:
Boil the eggs and ingredients separately. Let the dye cool, strain it and dip the eggs for 5 to 20 minutes (longer for deeper hues), then dry them on paper towels. To avoid uneven coloring, rotate the eggs occasionally.

Cold Dip Method #2:
I’m not trying to get complicated here by including another “cold” method, but some materials produce a nicer color by not being boiled. In this case, cover the boiled eggs with water, add dyeing materials, about a teaspoon of vinegar, and let the eggs remain in the refrigerator until the desired color is achieved.

Hot Dipping (preferred method):
This method involves boiling the eggs in the dye, which gives darker colors. As the eggs roll around in the hot, dye water, they take on a uniform color. Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan. Using a ratio of one tablespoon white vinegar for each quart of water, add liquid until the level is an inch or two above the eggs. Add dye ingredients and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water.

If you don’t have the patience to experiment with natural dyes, but want to make Easter egg dye from scratch, try using good old food coloring. Drip (liquid, paste or gel) food coloring into bowls of water, and stir until the water reaches your desired hue. Try combining different colors to make original colors.

Colors to Dye For
Working with natural dyes generally takes longer than commercial, day-glow dyes, depending on how intense you want the colors. For darker tones, let the eggs sit in the dyes overnight in the refrigerator.

Here is a list of dye materials I’ve collected over the years from a variety of sources. Don’t be afraid to experiment on your own.

Pomegranate juice and lots of red onion skins (ask the produce man to save some for you). Boil with the eggs for 1/2 to 1 hour. Hibiscus flowers (you can find it in a dried tea form). Red wines (you don’t have to add vinegar) also work great.

Beets (shred or grate first), cranberries or cranberry juice, raspberries, grape juice, juice from pickled beets, crushed red currants.

Soak hardboiled eggs overnight in hot water to which you have added crushed violet, pansy or geranium blossoms.

Lavender and Blue
Use purple pansies, violets, or grape juice. For a darker lavender use frozen, fresh or canned (with the juice) blueberries, blackberries, red cabbage leaves(boiled)

Yellow and Gold
Orange or lemon peels (boiled), carrot tops (boiled), celery seed (boiled), ground cumin (boiled), ground turmeric (boiled). To use turmeric, add 1 to two teaspoons of the spice and 1 teaspoon white vinegar to a cup of hot water. Also try ground yellow mustard, saffron, curry powder; goldenrod, tansy, dandelion and daffodil blossoms.

Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to a bowl of “violet blue” colored water before soaking the eggs. You can also soak eggs in boiled spinach water or liquid chlorophyll (available at natural food stores) or I dare you to try mixing a handful of fresh grass clippings and a little vinegar and water in a blender.

To a cup of hot water, add 3 tablespoons instant coffee and 1/2 teaspoon vinegar. Boiled back walnuts shells also produce a nice brown color.

How to Produce Color Variations
Rub or squish blueberries and cranberries directly on the dry shells for soft blues and pink. Mix them up for blotchy colors. Also, I’ve heard that a brown egg boiled in red cabbage dye and then soaked overnight, will come out a deep royal blue.

Designs and Patterns
Once the eggs have been hard-cooked and dried, hold one egg in your hand and drip glue (such as rubber cement) onto the egg’s surface. Drip the glue carefully to make a particular pattern, or just let the glue drip freely for an abstract effect. Place the egg on a stand that will allow the glue to dry without getting smudged. When the glue has dried, place the eggs in a prepared dye mixture until they are tinted to your liking. Remove them from the liquid and peel off the glue.

Tie-Dyed Eggs
Collect a handful of different sized rubber bands. Wrap the bands, one at a time, around the eggs. Dye the eggs, remove them from the liquid and let them dry completely before pulling off the rubber bands.

Crayon Eggs
Perhaps the easiest technique of all is the color-with-crayons method. Simply draw a design onto your eggs and then dye as you would any other Easter egg. Using a white crayon mimics the ancient art of decorating with wax before dyeing the eggs.

Half ‘n Half Eggs
Dip dyed eggs into a second coat of darker dye to add a whole new color. The first coat is boiled and the second is cold-dipped for 5 to 10 minutes. To cold-dip, place egg in a small glass bowl or paper cup and prop it up against the side. Some great color combinations include coffee and blueberry; turmeric and red cabbage; and onion skins and cranberry juice.

It’s a Wrap: With Onion Skins
This method is a little messy, but the results are always a pleasant surprise. Rub eggs with white vinegar and wrap in onion skins. Secure the skins with cotton string, dental floss, narrow rubber bands or nylon stocking. When boiled, the skins dye the shells giving a natural tie-dye look. To achieve a full, rich effect, practice using many layers of onion skins. Hint: Pre-dampening the skins helps them stick to the egg.

After dyeing eggs with your own colorful concoctions, you’ll find yourself looking at your garden and products in the store with an artist’s eye. Remember, don’t limit your egg dyeing adventures to the Easter holiday. Colorful, hard-boiled eggs are fun any time of the year. Red and green for Christmas eggs?

Marion Owen is President of PlanTea, Inc. and Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul

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Steps to a Brilliant Complexion

Young ladies should take care of themselves. —
Young ladies are delicate plants.
They should take care of their health and their complexion.

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet Throughout Jane Austen’s novels, a woman’s complexion, or lack there of is used as a measure against her over all refinement and good health. Both her gentlemen and ladies return to this topic time and again and it is one subject which can be used as a gauge in discovering our hero’s true intentions, whether they are love, spite or a desire to dissemble. Who can forget Mr. Darcy’s first dismissal of Elizabeth Bennet as “not handsome enough,” when his second was to notice “brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion”.

A woman’s complexion was one of her chief assets during the Regency when fashion dictated natural beauty in the face of the previous generation’s excessive use of cosmetics. Even a girl without natural beauty, points out Frank Churchill, is improved by a good complexion.

“Ladies can never look ill. And, seriously, Miss Fairfax is naturally so pale, as almost always to give the appearance of ill health. –A most deplorable want of complexion…Where features were indifferent, a fine complexion gave beauty to them all; and where they were good, the effect was — fortunately he need not attempt to describe what the effect was.”

We later learn that he is disguising his true feelings and Emma, to whom the first was addressed, must now suffer through the recounting of Jane Fairfax’s beauty,

“Did you ever see such a skin? — such smoothness! such delicacy! — and yet without being actually fair. –One cannot call her fair. It is a most uncommon complexion, with her dark eye-lashes and hair — a most distinguishing complexion! So peculiarly the lady in it. –Just colour enough for beauty.”

“I have always admired her complexion,” replied Emma, archly; “but do not I remember the time when you found fault with her for being so pale? –When we first began to talk of her. –Have you quite forgotten?”

Needless to say, with competition in the marriage market running so swiftly, young women were given strict instructions about the preservation of their skin. Potions and lotions were in high demand and gently bred girls were never found out of doors without bonnet, parasol and gloves lest they risk a tan and arouse the censure of their peers, as Elizabeth Bennet does in Pride and Prejudice.

“How very ill Eliza Bennet looks this morning, Mr Darcy,” [Caroline Bingley] cried; “I never in my life saw any one so much altered as she is since the winter. She is grown so brown and coarse! Louisa and I were agreeing that we should not have known her again.”

However little Mr Darcy might have liked such an address, he contented himself with coolly replying that he perceived no other alteration than her being rather tanned — no miraculous consequence of traveling in the summer.

“For my own part,” she rejoined, “I must confess that I never could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin; her complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all handsome. Her nose wants character; there is nothing marked in its lines. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her eyes, which have sometimes been called so fine, I never could perceive any thing extraordinary in them.”

One must imagine Caroline Bingley to have scarcely stirred out of doors during the warm months. It seems clear that though paleness was prized by women, men preferred a “healthy glow” brought about by fresh air and exercise. Perhaps their beauty standards were not so different after all.

The following recipes have been copied from The Mirror of Graces, printed in 1811. With such ingredients, one wonders what good they can possibly have done for one’s face!

Pommade de Seville

[This simple application is much in request with the Spanish Ladies, for taking of the effects of the sun, and to render the complexion brilliant.]
Take equal parts of lemon juice and white of eggs. Beat the whole together in a varnished earthen pipkin, and set on a slow fire. Stir the fluid with a wooden spoon till it has acquired the consistence of soft pomatum. Perfume it with some sweet essence, and, before you apply it, carefully wash the face with rice water.

A Wash for the Face

[This receipt is well know in France, and much extolled by the ladies of that country as efficacious and harmless]
Take equal parts of the seeds of the melon, pompion, gourd, and cucumber, pounded and reduced to powder or meal; add to it fresh cream, sufficient to dilute the flour; beat all up together, adding a sufficient quantity of milk, as it may be required, to make an ointment, and then apply it to the face: leave it there for half an hour, and then wash it off with warm, soft water.

A Wash to give Lustre to the Face

Infuse wheat-bran well-sifted, for three or four hours in white wine vinegar; add to it five yolks of eggs and a grain or two of ambergris, and distil the whole. When the bottle is carefully corked, keep it for 12 or 15 days before you make use of it.

Virgin Milk

A publication of this kind would certainly be looked upon as an imperfect performance, if we omitted to say a few words upon this famous cosmetic. It consists of a tincture of Benjoin, precipitated by water. The tincture of Benjoin is obtained by taking a certain quantity of that gum, pouring spirits of wine upon it, and boiling it till it becomes a rich tincture. If you pour a few drops of this tincture into a glass of water, it will produce a mixture which will resemble milk, and retain a very agreeable perfume. If the face is washed with this mixture, it will, by calling the purple stream of the blood to the external fibres of the epidermis, produce on the cheeks a beautiful rosy colour; and, if left on the face to dry, it will render it clear and brilliant. It also removes spots, freckles, pimples, erysipelatous eruptions, &c. &c. if they have not been of long standing on the skin.

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A Wash for the Hair

Egg Whites (even in the form of Mayonaise) have long been used in conjuncture with hair washing to give a glossy shine. This receipt, from the Mirror of Graces, printed in 1811, makes good use of them. In a time when hair washing was at a minimum and pomades made of lard and grease were widely used, shampoo (a word which dates back to 1768) a soap especially for hair was a delight instead of the harsh lye soaps traditionally used.

The term and service was introduced by a Bengali entrepreneur Sake Dean Mahomed, who opened a shampooing bath known as ‘Mahomed’s Indian Vapour Baths’ in Brighton, England in 1759. His baths were like Turkish baths where clients received an Indian treatment of champi (shampooing) or therapeutic massage. His service was appreciated; he received the high accolade of being appointed ‘Shampooing Surgeon’ to both George IV and William IV.

During the early stages of shampoo, English hair stylists boiled shaved soap in water and added herbs to give the hair shine and fragrance. Kasey Hebert, a London entrepreneur, was the first known maker of shampoo, and the origin is currently attributed to him.

Wash for the Hair
This is a cleanser and brightener of the head and hair, and should be applied in the morning.
Beat up the whites of six eggs into a froth, and with that annoint the head close to the roots of the hair. Leave it to dry on; then wash the head and hair thoroughly with a mixture of rum and rose-water in equal quantities.
The Mirror of Graces
, by a Lady of Distinction, 1811

It’s worth a try…..

Historical information from


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Let them eat Georgian [Cheese]cake!

georgian cheesecake

Georgian Cheesecake: What came before?

Our journey yesterday went off exceedingly well; nothing occurred to alarm or delay us… At Devizes we had comfortable rooms and a good dinner, to which we sat down about five; amongst other things we had asparagus and a lobster, which made me wish for you, and some cheesecakes, on which the children made so delightful a supper as to endear the town of Devizes to them for a long time.
Jane to Cassandra
13, Queen’s Square, Friday (May 17) 1799

An ancient form of cheesecake may have been a popular dish in ancient Greece even prior to Romans’ adoption of it with the conquest of Greece. The earliest attested mention of a cheesecake is by the Greek physician Aegimus, who wrote a book on the art of making cheesecakes (πλακουντοποιικόν σύγγραμμα—plakountopoiikon suggramma). Cato the Elder’s De Agri Cultura includes recipes for two cakes for religious uses: libum and placenta. Of the two, placenta is most like most modern cheesecakes, having a crust that is separately prepared and baked. It is important to note that though these early forms are called cheese cakes, they differed greatly in taste and consistency from the cheesecake that we know today.

To Make Almond Cheesecakes
Take 1/2 lb. of blanch’d almonds pounded small with a spoonful of orange flower water, a lb of double refined sugar, 10 yokes of eggs well beat. Add the peels of two oranges or lemons (which must be boiled very tender). Then beat in a mortar very fine, then mix them together. Then add 1/2 of a pound of almonds beat fine with orange flower water; 3/4 lb of a pound of sugar, and eggs (half ye whites), a little mace pounded, and a little cream; beat all together a quarter of an hour; bake them in a puff paste in a quick oven.
-From Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

Modern commercial “American” cream cheese was developed in 1872, when William Lawrence, from Chester, New York, while looking for a way to recreate the soft, French cheese Neufchâtel, accidentally came up with a way of making an “unripened cheese” that is heavier and creamier; other dairymen came up with similar creations independently. In 1912, James Kraft developed a form of pasteurized cream cheese. Kraft acquired the Philadelphia trademark in 1928, and marketed pasteurized Philadelphia Cream Cheese which is now the most commonly used cheese for cheesecake.

A Tangerine Georgian Cheesecake

1 cup Graham Crackers — Crushed
2 tablespoons Melted Butter
2 tablespoons Sugar

2-4 eight-ounce packages Cream Cheese — Softened
2 tablespoons Tangerine Juice
4 Eggs
1 tablespoon Grated Tangerine Peel (or other citrus)
1 cup Sugar

1 1/2 cups Sour Cream
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2 tablespoons Freshly Squeezed Tangerine Juice (or other citrus)

Combine first 3 ingredients thoroughly. Press into bottom and sides of 9″ springform pan. Bake 5 minutes and cool; (350 degrees F. oven). Turn oven to 250 degrees F.

Place 1 8-ounce package cream cheese and 1 egg in large mixer bowl; beat thoroughly. Repeat with remaining cheese and eggs, beating well after each addition. Gradually add sugar alternately with juice. Beat at medium speed for 10 minutes. Stir in peel. Pour into crust and bake 25 minutes. Turn off heat; let cake stand in oven 45 minutes and then remove.

Turn oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly combine topping ingredients. Let stand at room temperature. Gently spread over warm cake. Return to preheated 350 degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Partly cool on wire rack. Refrigerate overnight.


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Baked Apple Pudding

I am glad the new cook begins so well. Good Apple Pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.
Jane to Cassandra
17 October, 1815

In 1660 Robert May published The Accomplisht Cook, which became the most important cook book of it’s time. Robert was a professional chef who had trained in Paris. Catering to the aristocracy, he introduced many new recipes at a time when English cuisine was just beginning to borrow from the French.

One of his recipes, A Made Dish of Butter and Eggs, was gradually modified (the original called for 24 egg yolks!) into Marlborough Pie (or Marlborough Pudding), and taken to the new world by the pilgrims. This recipe soon became a Thanksgiving favorite and remains so, to this day. Martha Lloyd, Jane Austen’s Sister in-law , kept a similar recipe in her Household Book.

A Baked Apple Pudding (with Pastry)
Take a dozen of pippens, pulp them through your cullender, take six eggs, sugar enough to make sweet, the rind of two lemons grated, a 1/4 of a lb of butter (melted with flour or water). Squeeze the juice of the two lemons, let the apples be cold before the ingredients are put together. Make a puff paste in the bottom of the dish, half an hour bakes it.

Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

Marlborough Pie
1 1/2 cup applesauce
3 Tbs. butter, melted
1 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon rind, grated
4 eggs, slightly beaten

Blend all ingredients thoroughly and pour into an unbaked pie shell.

Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Reduce heat to 275 degrees and bake another hour until consistency of custard.

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