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Mrs. Martin’s Mashed Turnips

“They must not over-salt the leg; and then, if it is not over-salted, and if it is very thoroughly boiled, just as Serle boils ours, and eaten very moderately of, with a boiled turnip, and a little carrot or parsnip, I do not consider it unwholesome.”

The turnip, while an extraordinarily humble vegetable was, like the carrot and potato, one of the few fresh vegetables that could be counted on throughout the winter without the help of a hothouse. They provided a double benefit as well, since both the vegetable root and greens could be eaten. Turnips are quite a bit sweeter than potatoes and this recipe makes a lovely, fluffy side dish. White or yellow turnips may be used.
mashed turnips

To Dress Turnips
They eat best boiled in the pot, and when enough take them out and put them in a pan, and mash them with butter, a little cream, and a little salt, and send them to table.
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

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Bergère, Poke and Cottage: Early 19th Century Headwear

Bergère, poke and cottage are all types of Regency bonnet.

“The proliferation of terms used to describe millinery of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries can be overwhelming. This book provides an introduction to the many styles of headwear fashionable in this period. Additionally it explores the millinery trade, as well as contemporary construction techniques.”

Serena Dyer book cover

With the publication of Bergere, Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headwear, Serena Dyer, an accomplished seamstress who specializes in period reproductions, has gathered several of the most common hat and bonnet styles of the Regency and brought them together in this charming little book. I’ve been sewn literally hundreds of Regency Bonnets in the 12 years since I’ve opened my shop, and I found the information in her book fascinating! Not only does she devote a section to the different styles of bonnets popular during Jane Austen’s era (complete with details about materials used and hand drawn illustrations for each style) she includes a further section on milliners and seamstresses of the time, giving details about their working conditions, shop supplies, services and even pricing. Quoting from fashion journals, private diaries and even period shop accounts, it’s clear that she’s done her homework and has a lot to offer. Despite it’s small size (28 pages), this book is a fun and informative read for anyone looking to know a bit more about Regency bonnets and style.

This book would also give fantastic background information to the author looking to place their Regency heroine in a milliner’s shop (one of the few “acceptable” occupations for a woman at the time)

Bergère, poke and cottage are all types of Regency bonnet.
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DIY Tea Wreath

DIY Tea Wreath:

“But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.”
Mansfield Park

DIY Tea Wreath
Kojo Designs’ DIY Tea Wreath

A few months ago my sister sent me the link for Kojo-Designs’ DIY Tea Wreath tutorial. I thought the idea was great, and looked easy enough to accomplish, so one afternoon when the kids were sick and we were all home, I pulled out my papers and craft supplies and made my own…with a Jane Austen twist! Following Kojo’s instructions, I used black and white patterned papers, but covered my clothespins with upcycled pages from one of Jane Austen’s novels and added a Jane Austen silhouette to the top. Jane Austen and tea. A match made in heaven! A lovely way to display tea during theses chilly months, they also make very pretty, affordable gifts for  the upcoming holidays.

DIY Tea Wreath
My take on the Tea Wreath, using Jane Austen’s novels for inspiration.

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.

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In Love with “La Pomme D’Amour”

tomatoesHave you any tomatas? Fanny and I regale on them every day…”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
October 11, 1813


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 the 1590s. One of the earliest cultivators was John Gerard, a barber-surgeon. Gerard’s Herbal, published in 1597, and largely plagiarized from continental sources, is also one of the earliest discussions of the tomato in England. Gerard knew the tomato was eaten in Spain and Italy. Nonetheless, he believed it was poisonous (in fact, the plant and raw fruit do have low levels of tomatine, but are not generally dangerous). Gerard’s views were influential, and the tomato was considered unfit for eating (though not necessarily poisonous) for many years in Britain and its North American colonies.By the mid-18th century, tomatoes were widely eaten in Britain, and before the end of that century, the Encyclopædia Britannica stated the tomato was “in daily use” in soups, broths, and as a garnish.”*  So much so that by 1813, Jane Austen was regaling on them daily at Godmersham.

To Preserve Tomatoes for Soup
The tomatos should be perfectly sound and quite ripe. Peel them, take out the seeds and lay them in a large wide pan with plenty of pepper and salt. Lat them remain twenty-four hours for the juice to run out; then put the whole into a stewpan, and boil it very gently for an hour and a half, frequently stirring it. Put it into small jars, and when cold, tie them down; small jars are preferable to large ones, as frequent opening would spoil the tomatos.

This recipe calls for “hot packing” the tomatoes and tying the lids tight with paper and string. This, I would strongly discourage– although tomatoes are very acidic and usually keep well, when properly canned, it is important to make sure that you *do* properly can them to avoid botulism (unknown at the time of the recipe’s printing)

If you are unfamiliar with the canning process, has a wonderful step by step instruction page with photographs for everything. If you are an experienced canner, then this will be an easy recipe to try– I know I’m looking forward to it! The salt and pepper will be a different taste from the garlic and lemon juice used in traditional tomato sauces, and just think of how delicious it will be to whip up some hearty soups this winter using your own canned fruits.

  • Since there are no suggestions for number of tomatoes used, it should be noted that 7 large tomatoes will fill 1 quart or 4 half pint jars.
  • Peeling the tomatoes is fairly easy with either a vegetable peeler, or by cutting an X into the bottom and scalding them in boiling water for a few seconds. Run them under cold water and the skins will slide right off.

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.

*Quoted from

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Dressing Up Regency Style with hats, bonnets, reticules and scarves

Trying on some Regency Costume

We’ve recently added a new section to the exhibition where we allow our visitors the opportunity for dressing up using Regency bonnets, top hats, shawls, fans, reticules and parasols. As you would imagine, it is going down very well and everyone is having a lot of fun.

When you visit you must try it yourself.

Help with dressing up and pictures

Our friendly staff are always on hand to offer tips and advice on how to wear the various bonnets and accessories. They will also offer to take your photo on your own camera if you wish. The staff will also suggest good places to stand to get that authentic shot.

This is proving an extremely popular part of the exhibition and we intend to increase the quantity of items to try on to include various dresses and spencer jackets.

There are often hoots of delight as our visitors have fun posing in front of the full length mirror or in front of one of our Regency displays


What Jane Austen said in a letter to her sister Cassandra whilst she was holidaying in Bath in 1799

Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats… Elizabeth has given me a hat, and it is not only a pretty hat, but a pretty style of hat too. It is something like Eliza’s, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon. I flatter myself, however, that you can understand very little of it from this description. Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such encouragement to explanations as to give a clear one on any occasion myself! But I must write no more of this. . .

Jane Austen to Cassandra
Queen’s Square, Bath
June 2, 1799


How to trim your Regency Bonnet  Advice from our online magazine.

A Youtube video on how to make a Regency poke bonnet 















































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Creating a Straw Bonnet from “Scratch”

Creating a Straw Bonnet

A recent trip to Old Sturbridge Village (a living museum located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, which re-creates life in rural New England during the 1790s through 1830s) for their exhibit, Trimmed to Taste, gave a new appreciation for the work required to produce even one bonnet. It’s easy enough to read a period description of the work involved in plaiting, sewing and blocking a bonnet, but to see one actually in process brings the reality of the work involved in creating a straw framed bonnet vividly to life.

Straw plaiting, or platting, was a common activity in rural England, just as it was in New England. It could be taken on as a career or as a hobby to earn a little extra money on the side. The preferred straw was rye. Hertfordshire, the Bennet’s home county, was famous, along with Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, and Berkshire for the employment of many thousands of women and young children in the plaiting industry; but this had largely ended by the beginning of the 20th century: the number of English plaiters, all told, was not more than a few hundreds in 1907, as compared with 30,000 in 1871.

The districts around Luton in Bedfordshire and the neighboring counties were, since the beginning of the 17th century, the British home of the straw-plait industry. The straw of certain varieties of wheat cultivated in that region is, in favorable seasons, possessed of a fine bright color and due to tenacity and strength. The straw is cut as in ordinary harvesting, but is allowed to dry in the sun, before binding. Subsequently straws are selected from the sheaves, and of these the pipes of the two upper joints are taken for plaiting. The pipes are assorted into sizes by passing them through graduated openings in a grilled wire frame, and those of good color are bleached by the fumes of sulfur. Spotted and discoloured straws are dyed either in pipe or in plait. The plaiters work up the material in a damp state, either into whole straw or split straw plaits. Split straws are prepared with the aid of a small instrument having a projecting point which enters the straw pipe, and from which radiate the number of knife-edged cutters into which the straw is to be split. The straws were put through a small mangle to flatten them. They were then braided to produce a woven strip which was sold to the makers of hats, bonnets, baskets and other wares.

In the photo at the top of the page, you can see two young women plaiting straw into 8 strand braids. Eleven strand braids or plaits, were also common and could command a much higher price, as the work involved was much more complicated. You can see the whole straws standing in a pot of water, waiting to be split (wet straw was easier to split without breaking and bent easily for the braids.) Women and children who plaited on a professional basis were taught the skills in plait schools. Here the owner of the school would educate the children he employed in the rudiments of reading and writing, instead of paying a wage for the straw plaiting they produced for the remainder of the day. At its peak in the early nineteenth century a woman could earn more by plaiting than a man could earn on the land. There was concern that the industry led to dissolution and idleness in the menfolk.

Professional plaits were sold in 50 yard increments. If you were plaiting from home in the hopes of selling your “Braid” to the local storekeeper (to be then sent on to a straw hat factory) you would need at least 25 yards of braid, since 20-25 yards of platting was needed for each bonnet.

At the factory, workers would determine the shape of the bonnet to be made, and began sewing the braid, one line at a time around a wooden or plaster form (called blocking). The result was a plain straw bonnet, which could then be purchased to be trimmed at home, or bought by a milliner’s shop to trim up in a much more fashionable manner for wealthy clients.

In 1809, Mary Kies became the first woman to be issued a US patent in 1809 for the rights to a technique for weaving straw with silk and thread to make bonnets. This method created a fabric like mat, which could be cut and shaped, like the buckram used in fabric covered bonnets.

Alternately, hats could be woven from palm fronds imported and purchased for this purpose. Not surprisingly, the tree most associated with this process is the Sabal causiarum, commonly known as the Puerto Rican hat palm. Palm leaves were split, not unlike the straw used in the plats, and woven in the form of the desired hat. The palm weave created a tight “mat” like piece which would then be further blocked and shaped. Hat were woven for both men and women and could command higher prices than braided straw. The most famous of these, is, of course the Panama hat. This hat is based on the “Pilgrim” hat of the 17th century.

There are two main processes in the hat’s creation: weaving and blocking. The best way to gauge the quality of the weave is to count the number of weaves per square inch. Fewer than 100 would be considered low quality. There are many degrees of increasing quality, up to the rarest and most expensive hats, which can have as many as 1600–2000 weaves per square inch; it is not unheard of for these hats to sell for thousands of dollars apiece. The quality of the weave itself, however, is more important. A high weave count, even an attractive-looking one, does not guarantee a well-woven hat. It is said that a Panama of true quality (a “superfino”) can hold water and when folded for storage can pass through a wedding ring.


Although the Panama hat continues to provide a livelihood for thousands of Ecuadorians, fewer than a dozen weavers capable of making the finest “montecristi superfinos” remain. The UK’s Financial Times Magazine (January 7) recently reported that there may be no more than 15-20 years remaining for the industry in Ecuador, due to the competition of paper-based Chinese-made imitations, especially as a few hat sellers dominate and manipulate the market.

Laura Boyle creates reproduction Regency hats and bonnets for her website, Austentaion. Although a cottage industry in itself, she now has an all new appreciation for the work involved in creating a “Straw Bonnet from Scratch”.

Special thanks to the historical interpreters at Old Sturbridge Village. Images from Old Sturbridge Village, featuring their historical bonnet collection.

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In the Kitchen with Jane Austen

It’s the hottest day of the year. Outside the August air is heavy —humid— as Jane Austen wrote, “keeping one in a constant state of inelegance”. At my sink, I feel like the embodiment of a cliché. Pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen, I peel peaches, preparing them for homemade jam. My two daughters, 2 and 4, picked these earlier today, their little arms, struggling to hold their heavy pails, begging for another branch to be pulled down so they could pick one last peach before we had to go inside and escape the heat once again. I wonder how many times this scene has been repeated, year after year, mothers and daughters since Eve, gathering fruit in summer, preparing it for winter, cherishing the fast fleeting moments of childhood. I feel a connection to these women; to my grandmothers and great grandmothers—to women throughout history who’ve planned for and nurtured their families.

Bella struggles to keep her peaches in her pail…

As I work, I picture Mrs. Austen, with a young Cassandra and Jane holding her skirts, preparing food in the Steventon kitchen. She might not have been responsible for the day to day meals, but the kitchen, gardens and dairy were her province and she gloried in them. When summer fruit was brought in, no doubt she took her place overseeing their preservation for her ever increasing family. Here, Jane would have learned the secrets to jam and wine making that she would later employ at Chawton—I wonder what summer days in that kitchen were like; of the camaraderie between Cassandra and Jane and now Martha Lloyd.

Earlier this year, I was commissioned by the Jane Austen Centre to compile a cookbook with recipes used by the Austens and “extended” Austen family, i.e. characters in Jane’s novels. The research for this was fascinating—while Austen’s books may hold back on the details of preparing and consuming food, her letters are rife with menus and recipes and descriptions of meals and their organization. She was certainly no stranger to the kitchen. To begin, I turned to Martha Lloyd’s own household book- a little notebook she kept with many of the family’s favorite recipes. I also searched period cookbooks, like Hannah Glasse’s “Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy.” This could very well have been a staple in Mrs. Austen’s kitchen, as it is written not to “professed cooks, but … to instruct the ignorant and unlearned (which will likewise be of great use in all private families), and in so plain and full a manner, that the most illiterate and ignorant person, who can but read, will know how to do everything in Cookery well.”

Lucky me, for in knowing nothing of 19th century cookery, I was, indeed, a most ignorant and unlearned cook. A study of practices of the time, including baking, hearth cooking and roasting soon convinced me that the fabulous spreads of Regency fame, with 20 or more dishes per course, were nothing short of a miracle on the part of the cook. Translating these recipes to modern stoves and other appliances felt a bit like cheating (though thankfully, one no longer has to “beat the whites of five eggs with a fork on a plate for one hour” to achieve a fluffy meringue.) Meals that were once the result of a year’s worth of preparation and several days worth of cooking, could be created in hours, with fresh ingredients purchased at a local supermarket, no matter what the season.

What I did gain, in addition to a new repertoire of dinner recipes (most were surprisingly good!) was a peek into Jane’s life that I would have been unable to fathom by simply reading her novels or a biography. Creating the foods she made with her own hands, enjoying recipes she relished, even tasting foods mentioned in the novels, brought her life and works to life for me. I felt a kinship with her, as if I was joining a sort of sisterhood where everything was harvested locally and made by hand and not a frozen pizza or refrigerated pie crust in sight…though this does sound suspiciously like the creed of the modern “grown local” movement very much alive at farmer’s markets around the country. Perhaps it’s not such a new idea after all.

I hope those who read the resulting book, Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, will find the same joy in experimenting with these recipes and trying new, old dishes. In the meantime, it’s hot and I’m tired. I am going to take a short cut, here in my air conditioned house, that Jane could never have imagined. Hours of stirring a pot of boiling preserves over a hot stove, magically evaporate as I contemplate two life saving words, “Freezer Jam”.

Come this winter, however, we will remember these last days of summer with the taste of fresh juicy peaches. I will think of the tiny hands and sticky fingers that picked them, and hope that someday, my granddaughters will be standing at a sink somewhere (if kitchens have not, by then, been replaced by food replicators) peeling peaches, picked fresh, on the hottest day of summer, preserving a bit of sunshine for the long cold months ahead.

Buy Cooking with Jane Austen and Freinds online at our Jane Austen Centre Gift Shop! Click here.



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. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 3 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

This article originally appeared in the JASNA newsletter.

Read more about Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends

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Paper Dolls

Paper dolls have existed as long as there have been paper and creative people to apply images to it. In France in the mid-1700s, “pantins” were all the rage in high society and royal courts. This jointed jumping-jack figure, a cross between puppet and paper doll, was made to satirize nobility.

Paper dolls as we know them first appeared in the latter half of the 18th century. A set of rare hand-painted figures dated late in the 1780s can be found in the Winterthur Museum of Winterthur, Delaware. It shows coiffures and headdresses for sale at the shop of Denis-Antoine on Rue St. Jacques, Paris. In 1791, a London advertisement proclaimed a new invention called the “English Doll.” It was a young female figure with a wardrobe of underclothes, headdresses, corset and six complete outfits. At about three shillings for a complete doll and wardrobe–plus an envelope to store her in–dressmakers could afford to own several sets and distribute these dolls among their favorite customers. Dolls like these were also sold in Germany and France.

In 1810, the London firm of S. & J. Fuller & Company printed the first commercially popular paper doll, Little Fanny, with a 15-page book that included seven figures and five hats. Fanny’s head & neck were separate, and fitted into various outfits as the moral tale, The History of Little Fanny: Exemplified in a Series of Figures, was told. At five to eight shillings for each book, their primary audience included wealthy families.

The success of Little Fanny was followed two years later in America, when J. Belcher printed a paper doll with a similar moral tale, The History and Adventures of Little Henry. Within ten years, boxed sets of paper dolls were popular playthings for children in Europe and America.

For the full text of this article, visit The Art of Fashion Plates and Paperdolls in our History section

While there are several artists who have created paperdolls based on Jane Austen’s Characters, it is also possible to print your own Regency styled paperdolls right off the internet. One of these dolls, A Regency Lady of Quality was drawn by Helen Page in 1989. You can click on the photograph for all eight full colour, printable pages to cut and enjoy.

We also have a tiny Regency doll for you to dress at our giftshop. She is very sweet and only £3 – click here!

It would, of course, be impossible to forget to mention Tom Tierney’s wonderful collection of historical paperdolls. Many of his books feature Regency Fashions (also known as Empire in France and Federalist in the United States) Along with period fashions, the fashions of noted political leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, Dolley Madison and Napoleon Bonouparte can be found in his collections.

Austentation: Custom Made Regency Hats and Accessories
Laura Boyle has an extensive collection of historical paperdolls. She runs Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe.