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.
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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