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Coffee-Milk: The Regency Café au lait

It is rather impertinent to suggest any household care to a housekeeper, but I just venture to say that the coffee-mill will be wanted every day while Edward is at Steventon, as he always drinks coffee for breakfast.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
June 11, 1799

Regency coffee and milk has been part of the European kitchen since the 17th century (there is no mention of milk in coffee pre 1600 in Turkey or in the Arab world). ‘Caffèlatte’, ‘Milchkaffee’ and ‘Café au lait’ are domestic terms of traditional ways of drinking coffee, usually as part of breakfast in the home. Public Cafés in Europe and the US it seems has no mention of the terms until the 20th century, although ‘Kapuziner’ is mentioned in Austrian coffee houses in Vienna and Trieste in the 2nd half of the 1700s as ‘coffee with cream, spices and sugar’ (being the origin of the Italian ‘cappuccino’).

Café au lait is a French coffee drink. The meaning of the term differs between Europe and the United States; in both cases it means some kind of coffee with hot milk added, in contrast to white coffee, which is coffee with room temperature milk or other whitener added.


Continue reading Coffee-Milk: The Regency Café au lait

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Arthur Parker’s Fortifying Cocoa

cocoa

Arthur Parker’s Fortifying Cocoa

“Then I will help myself,” said he. “A large dish of rather weak cocoa every evening agrees with me better than anything.” It struck her, however, as he poured out this rather weak cocoa, that it came forth in a very fine, dark-colored stream…”
-Sanditon

cocoa
Antique silver Chocolate Pot from http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/

Cocoa, or Chocolate, as it was often referred to (chocolate as a candy had not yet been introduced) was a popular Regency drink served most often at breakfast, but sometimes in the evening as well. Creating cocoa at home took time, skill and a special pot. The chocolate pot, looking like a small samovar or carafe, stood on legs so that a heat source could be placed beneath it. The chocolate and milk were melted together, stirred from the top by a whisk, and poured out. This task would be performed at the table by one of the members of the family.

The cakes of chocolate talked about in this recipe were made by grinding cocoa beans and mixing them with sugar and spices, such as aniseed, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla and nutmeg. The whole mixture was then moistened and formed into bricks or cakes to be used at a later date. Today’s cocoa recipes can gain a flavor of the past by including a spoonful or two of whatever spices you like best.

Chocolate
Cut a cake of chocolate in very small bits; put a pint of water into the pot, and, when it boils, p
ut in the above; mill it off the fire until quite melted, then on a gentle fire till it boil; pour it into a basin, and it will keep in a cool place eight or ten days, or more. When wanted, put a spoonful or two into milk, boil it with sugar, and mill it well.
Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1806

cocoa

54 g / 2 oz / ¼ cup good quality cocoa powder

240 ml / 8 fl oz / 1 cup water

54 g / 2 oz / ¼ cup Sugar

720 ml / 24 fl oz / 3 cups Milk

Stir the cocoa powder with the water over a medium heat until the chocolate is completely melted into the water and the mixture boils. Stir in the sugar and reduce the heat. Pour in the milk and continue stirring the chocolate until it is scalding hot, but not boiling.

Serve piping hot with a dash of your favorite spice and a dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 4-6

 


Excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends by Laura Boyle.

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.

 

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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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Clotted cream

 We are not so happy as we were. A message came this afternoon from Mrs. Latouche and Miss East, offering themselves to drink tea with us to-morrow, and, as it was accepted, here is an end of our extreme felicity in our dinner guest. I am heartily sorry they are coming; it will be an evening spoilt to Fanny and me.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
November 24, 1815

Clotted cream is a thick yellow cream made by heating unpasteurized cow’s milk and then leaving it in shallow pans for several hours. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface and forms ‘clots’. Clotted cream purists prefer the milk to come from cows in the English counties of Devon and Cornwall.

Scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, served in our Tea Room.

Clotted cream is generally served as part of a cream tea (also known as a Devonshire Tea) on (warm) scones with strawberry or raspberry jam.

Legends vary, assigning the origins of Clotted Cream to both Devonshire and Cornwall, but regardless of it’s beginnings, it had become a popular dish in it’s own right by the late 1600’s. Numerous recipes abounded, some for creating a plain cream dish, others used citrus flavourings to make a sweet dessert. Common period instructions suggested that you:

“Take the night’s milk and put into a broad earthenware pan. In the morning, set over a slow fire and allow it to stand there from morn to night, making certain not to boil the liquid, only heat it. Take off the fire and set overnight in a cool place. Next morning, dish off your cream and it will be quite thick.”

Clotted Cream can often be purchased for an authentic tea-time treat. When clotted cream is not commercially available, a reasonable facsimile may be made by combining two parts whole milk with one part whipping (heavy) cream, heating at the very lowest possible heat for a couple of hours until a skin forms, leaving it undisturbed overnight, and then harvesting the skin and its underclots. The remaining milk may be consumed or used in any number of recipes.

Some information from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

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