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Picnicking, Box Hill Style

picnicking at Box Hill

Picnicking, Box Hill Style

Two or three more of the chosen only were to be admitted to join them, and it was to be done in a quiet, unpretending, elegant way, infinitely superior to the bustle and preparation, the regular eating and drinking, and picnic parade of the Eltons and the Sucklings.

Ah! The picnic- what other meal is so synonmous with summer? Drawing it’s name from the 16th C. French pique-nique which means “to pack a trifle” picnicking began as a kind of pot luck dinner where everyone brought a dish to be shared. The word did not appear in print in English until the early 1800’s. It appears in Jane Austen’s Emma, as the neighborhood plans an outing at Box Hill. Though the word picnic commonly refers to a simple outdoor affair, viewers of A&E’s Emma (1997) can see just how much toil and work was required by cooks and servants to provide for this “fine day.”

Picnicking soon became standard entertainment after organized hunts (a good idea of this can be seen in Gosford Park, 2001) and grew in scale and grandeur. One Victorian writer, Mrs. Beeton, whose Book of Household Management appeared in 24 monthly parts between 1859–1861 lists the following as a


A joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal-and-ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium-sized lobsters, 1 piece of collared calf’s head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6 cucumbers.

Stewed fruit well sweetened, and put into glass bottles well corked; 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit, 2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs, 1 large cold plum-pudding (this must be good), a few baskets of fresh fruit, 3 dozen plain biscuits, a piece of cheese, 6 lbs. of butter (this, of course, includes the butter for tea), 4 quartern loaves of household broad, 3 dozen rolls, 6 loaves of tin bread (for tea), 2 plain plum cakes, 2 pound cakes, 2 sponge cakes, a tin of mixed biscuits, 1/2 lb, of tea. Coffee is not suitable for a picnic, being difficult to make.

Things not to be forgotten at a Picnic
A stick of horseradish, a bottle of mint-sauce well corked, a bottle of salad dressing, a bottle of vinegar, made mustard, pepper, salt, good oil, and pounded sugar. If it can be managed, take a little ice. It is scarcely necessary to say that plates, tumblers, wine-glasses, knives, forks, and spoons, must not be forgotten; as also teacups and saucers, 3 or 4 teapots, some lump sugar, and milk, if this last-named article cannot be obtained in the neighbourhood. Take 3 corkscrews.

3 dozen quart bottles of ale, packed in hampers; ginger-beer, soda-water, and lemonade, of each 2 dozen bottles; 6 bottles of sherry, 6 bottles of claret, champagne à discrétion, and any other light wine that may be preferred, and 2 bottles of brandy. Water can usually be obtained so it is useless to take it.

You can imagine the work required for such a event! By 1900 picnics had become smaller, portable feasts, such as we are used to today. No matter what the size, or occasion though, picnics remain a favorite way to spend a summertime meal, so grab a blanket and sandwich and let’s go!

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The Comforts of Cold Ham

My Mother has undertaken to cure six Hams for Frank;–at first it was a distress, but now it is a pleasure.
Jane from Southampton to Cassandra
October 1, 1808

Officers in His Majesty’s Navy, if they wished to avoid a diet of hardtack at sea, were responsible for providing their own meals. As you can see from the above quote Jane Austen’s mother was helping her son, Frank, prepare for a voyage.

Butchering time came around every fall along with the harvest, once the weather had cooled from the heat of summer. It was an all consuming task as wisdom of the day encouraged cooks to “use every part of the pig except the squeal.” Sausages, hams, bacon and more were put aside to last through the coming year.

The following recipes give some idea of the work that lay ahead for the cook of the family, once the hogs had been butchered. The first two are from Martha Lloyd’s Household book, the one for bacon, coming from Mrs. Craven, Martha’s aunt by marriage.

To Cure Bacon
Rub the flitches over the Salt Petre, particularly observing to force some in where the hocks are taken off, then take one pound of coarse feeding syrup [molasses] and as much common Salt as will mix together. Strew it regularly over the flitches, cover it over with the common salt and press down close with the hand, let it lay twenty four hours, then rub it well and add a little fresh salt, let it bur rubbed and changed every other day for a month and then hung up in a chimney where a moderate wood firse is kept for three weeks and it shoudl afterwards be kept in a chest with dry straw.
Mrs Craven



To Make Hams
Take two legs of pork, each weighing about fifteen pounds, rub them over with two oz of salt petre finely beaten, let them be a day and night, then take two pounds of Brown Sugar, one pound and a half of salt, mix them together and rub your Hams with it, let them eb three weeks, Turn and rub them with pickle every day.
Martha Lloyd’s Household Book


Very Fine Sausages
Take a leg of pork or veal; pick it clean from skin or fat, and to every pound of lean meat put two pounds of beef-suet pick’d from the skins; shred the meat and suet severally very fine; then mix them together, and add a large handful of green sage shred very small, season it with grated nutmeg, salt and pepper; mix it well, and press it down hard in an earthen pot, and keep it for use. When you use them roll them up with as much egg as will make them roll smooth, but use no flour: in rolling them up, make them the length of your finger, and as thick as two fingers: fry them in clarified suet, which must be boiling hot before you put them in. Keep them rolling about in the pan; when they are fried through, they are enough.
Adapted from E. Smith, The Compleat Housewife, London, 1758

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