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Bath Buns and Jane Austen

Bath buns

Jane Austen and A Taste for Bath Buns

Though, to be sure, the keep of two will be more than of one, I will endeavor to make the difference less by disordering my stomach with Bath buns.
Jane Austen to Cassandra, January 3, 1801

Jane Austen was only too familiar with Bath Buns. She often found it necessary to sneak them surreptitiously into her room to augment the rather meagre meals given by her well-meaning but rather stingy Aunt Leigh Perrot. Continue reading Bath Buns and Jane Austen

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Boiled Eggs for Easter: Dying Methods and Uses

Boiled eggs for easter

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….
Mr. Woodhouse, Emma

Continue reading Boiled Eggs for Easter: Dying Methods and Uses

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Biscuits & Marmalade

“She looks much as she used to do, is netting herself a gown in worsteds, and wears what Mrs. Birch would call a Pot Hat. A short and compendious history of Miss Debary!”
~Jane Austen
25 November, 1798

Martha Lloyd, by kind permission of private owners collection.In 1807 Jane Austen’s dear friend Martha Lloyd spent several days visiting the Debary family. Jane feared for her friend, writing, “The living of which he has gained…I cannot help thinking she will marry Peter Debary.” It would seem there was no love lost between the Austens and those whom Jane referred to as “the endless Debarys”. Fortunately, Martha would instead marry Francis Austen, though Jane would not live to see it. One thing Ms. Lloyd did retain from her friendship with the Debarys is the following recipe for Scotch Marmalade.

Scotch Orange Marmalade
Each lb. of oranges requires 1 1/2 lbs of lump sugar. Quarter the oranges, then take off the rind and cut part of the white substances from it. Put the rinds into boiling water and boil them quickly for an hour and a half or two hours. Slice them as thin as possible. Sqeeze the pulp thro’ a sieve adding a little water to the dregs. Break the sugar fine. Put it in a pan, pour the pulp on it- when dissolved add the rinds, then boil the whole for twenty minutes- a little essence of lemon may be added before it is taken off the fire, in the proportion of a small teaspoonful to twelve oranges.
Donated by Miss Debary

Biscuits
Take two ozs of lard or butter [1/8 cup or half a stick of butter] and 2 lbs [8 cups] of flour. Mix them well together with a little cold water. Work or knead them very well. Roll your biscuits very thin and prick them exceedingly. Bake them on a tin in a very quick oven, (looking constantly or they will scorch).
Donated by Mrs. Dundas.

For great recipes for both biscuits and marmalade, visit www.melecotte.com

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Black Butter

“The last hour, spent in yawning and shivering in a wide circle round the fire, was dull enough, but the tray had admirable success. The widgeon and the preserved ginger were as delicious as one could wish. But as to our black butter, do not decoy anybody to Southampton by such a lure, for it is all gone. The first pot was opened when Frank and Mary were here, and proved not at all what it ought to be; it was neither solid nor entirely sweet, and on seeing it Eliza remembered that Miss Austen had said she did not think it had been boiled enough. It was made, you know, when we were absent. Such being the event of the first pot, I would not save the second, and we therefore ate it in unpretending privacy; and though not what it ought to be, part of it was very good.”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Castle Square, Tuesday (December 27, 1808)

Prefer to buy your Black Butter? Try Jersey Black Butter– a centuries old recipe!

Black Butter is based on a medieval “apple sauce” recipe. Through the centuries it was been adapted to fit current cooking practices and ingredients. Black Butter is a dark, sweet type of Apple Sauce. It can be spread on toast and biscuits or eaten by itself. The American version, Apple Butter, has been a national favorite for centuries.

Apples have been grown in England since Roman times. In the 16th and 17th centuries orchards were extensively planted in Kent. Apple growing was also well advanced in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. Protection of the fruit market during the Napoleonic Wars and high tariffs on imported fruit after the wars led to an expansion of new orchard planting in the 1820s and 1830s.

Black Butter
Take 4 pounds of full ripe apples, and peel and core them. Meanwhile put into a pan 2 pints of sweet cider, and boil until it reduces by half. Put the apples, chopped small, to the cider. Cook slowly stirring frequently, until the fruit is tender, as you can crush beneath the back of a spoon. Then work the apple through a sieve, and return to the pan adding 1lb beaten (granulated) sugar and spices as following, 1 teaspoon clove well ground, 2 teaspoons cinnamon well ground, 1 saltspoon allspice well ground. Cook over low fire for about ¾ hour, stirring until mixture thickens and turns a rich brown. Pour the butter into into small clean jars, and cover with clarified butter when cold. Seal and keep for three months before using. By this time the butter will have turned almost black, and have a most delicious flavour.

Modern Equivalent:

6 lb cooking apples
3 cups sugar
8 c Apple cider
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 Tablespoon whole cloves
Or 6 (16 ounce) jars applesauce**
6 cups apple juice
8 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  1. Peel, quarter, and core the apples.
  2. Place the apples in large kettles of boiling water. Cook over medium heat until apples are tender, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook apple cider over high heat for about 30 minutes or till reduced by half.
  4. Drain*, sieve apples with food mill or potato masher.
  5. **Combine applesauce and reduced cider in large dutch oven or crock pot.
  6. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat.
  7. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Stir in sugar and spices. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat.
  9. Stir mixture from time to time and taste after a few hours. Add more sugar or spices if necessary.
  10. When apple mixture reaches the consistency of apple sauce, turn off heat.
  11. You can leave the apple butter with this textured consistency. If you prefer it smoother, process the hot mixture in a food processor for a minute or so.
  12. Spoon the apple butter into freezer containers or store it in the refrigerator. It keeps for three months.

*At this time you can place the apples in zipper-style freezer bags. Freeze apples until you are ready to make apple butter. Thaw apples before proceeding with recipe.

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All the Delights of the Season

There was now employment for the whole party– for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches soon collected them round the table.
Pride and Prejudice

In Georgian times, centerpieces that were both exquisite and edible were an inherent part of fine dining. In fact, food was the only centerpiece used until the 1750s. The goal of every great hostess was a captivating and inviting arrangement- a treat to the eyes and the taste. The more elaborate, the better. After all, your wealth and social status were clearly assessed by the size and complexity of the centerpiece.

Food stylist Debbie Brodie created many such arrangements for the A&E film “Emma”. Her challenge was to create confections that would look beautiful while standing up to the heat and transportation necessary in filming.

We created these colassal fruit pyramids, which are certainly not the thing to do when you’ve got four-hundred weight of food to put out and you’re in a complete tiz. They take a very long time. You have to have a completely level base onto which you put a layer of the larger fruits (apples, peaches, oranges).Food Stylist Debbie Brodie creates a pyramid of Peaches for the Box Hill picnic scene This you then spray with mounting glue and add a layer of leaves. I used Ivy leaves but you can use vine or bay leaves.Once that has dried, you do the next layer in the same way, with fruits getting smaller as it gets higher. Any fruits can be used: cherries, strawberries, whatever takes your fancy. After a second layer, I spear down through the fruit with cocktail sticks to give extra strength. These dishes may have to be moved many times during the day and, though I wouldn’t say you could drop one without collapsing, they can certainly take some rough handling.

Traditional pyramid centerpieces, made of exotic fruits, nuts and tiny desserts, were arranged on glass salvers (cake stands stacked one on the other), meant to be as delicious as they were beautiful. To create this centerpiece in your own home, you will need three attractive glass or porcelain cake stands in graduated sizes. These are available as sets from many retailers. The “Georgian pyramid” was originally made by placing like-sized pieces of fruit on a plate, topping with a smaller plate and more fruit, and so on, until a tall pyramid was formed. Boxwood or other greens were then tucked between the fruit to fill in the gaps. Though they are few and far between, a careful viewing of both Emma2 and Emma3 as well as Persuasion2 and P&P2 will reveal scenes of glorious fruit concoctions set out at dinner parties and meals.

For a freestanding, one tiered arrangement, hostess Mary Ellen Pinkham suggests arranging fruit in a pyramid on a cake stand. For the center of the pyramid, cut the flesh off of a large pineapple so that only the core remains. Attach to the middle of the cake stand and arrange whole and cut fruit around it, forming a pyramid.

The Apple Cone is available by mail order from the Colonial Williamsburg Marketplace.

An easy, non-edible alternative is suggested by artisans in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Crafters at Colonial Williamsburg market a conical wood form, called an apple cone, which makes creating one of these pyramids a piece of cake. The form has many nails embedded over the surface of the cone. Apples are impaled onto the nails forming a treelike shape. Often a pineapple, the symbol of hospitality, is placed at the top. Other fruits such as Lemons, limes, pears and pomegranates can be used in place of the apples. Like the early fruit pyramids, boxwood sprigs are tucked between the fruit mounted on the cone. To complete the centerpiece, the base of the cone is decorated with large flat leaves (such as magnolia or ivy).

A similar design can be created by cutting the top off a Styrofoam cone so that it is flat. Use florist’s picks to attach the fruit to the cone. You may want to use two picks each for particularly large pieces of fruit or the pineapple on top, or try the step by step instructions found here

  • Select small apples (Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Lady apples are all good choices) or like sized other fruits.
  • If using pineapples, look for some on the smaller side. Bigger is not always better- especially in this case!
  • Check with a local florist to obtain magnolia leaves and boxwood sprigs. If nothing fresh is available, you can use silk or artificial leaves.
  • Keep your pyramid fresh by storing it in a cool place when not in use on the table. To refresh your centerpiece, replace fruit that has started to soften. At best, the fruit on the cone will last one to two weeks.
  • To protect your tablecloth or table from the effects of “weeping fruit”, place your completed pyramid on a plate or platter before setting it on the dining room table.
  • Additional greenery, fruit, nuts and wrapped candies can be tucked into the greens to extend the centerpiece across the table and provide an edible feature, since the fruit affixed to the nails on the cone is no longer edible.

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Regency White Soup

“As for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall send round my cards.”
Charles Bingley, Pride and Prejudice

Wilma Paterson, author of “The Regency Cookbook” relates that, “regency white soup is a very old recipe. As a delicate veal broth, it was made in Scotland as soup-a-la-reine, a remainder of the ‘Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and France. A more elaborate version, Lorraine soup (possibly a corruption of La Reine) it appeared frequently on fashionable dinner and supper menus during the Regency.” White Soup seems to have been made from veal or chicken stock (broth), egg yolks, ground almonds and cream. Served with negus* (hot sweetened wine and water) they were warming and intoxicating beverages at balls. Continue reading Regency White Soup