- 1.Twelfth Cake
From John Mollard, The Art of Cookery. London: 1802
Take seven pounds of flour, make a cavity in the centre, set a sponge with a gill and a half of yeast and a little warm milk; then put round it one pound of fresh butter broke into small lumps, one pound and a quarter of sifted sugar, four pounds and a half of currants washed and picked, half an ounce of sifted cinnamon, a quarter of an ounce of pounded cloves, mace, and nutmeg mixed, sliced candied orange or lemon peel and citron. When the sponge is risen, mix all the ingredients together with a little warm milk; let the hoops be well papered and buttered, then fill them with the mixture and bake them, and when nearly cold ice them over with sugar prepared for that purpose as per receipt; or they may be plain.
This the earliest known recipe specifically for a Twelfth Cake, makes a large yeast-leavened bun, more like a stollen than a rich English fruit cake of the kind we now associate with Christmas. Cakes of this kind were usually baked in wooden hoops, or garths. Twelfth cakes were iced with almond paste or sugar icing and ornamented with sugar-paste crowns and/or small sugar or wax sculptures of Twelfth Day characters.
From, John Nott, The Cook’s and Confectioners’s Dictionary. London: 1723
Take three pints of the best brandy, as much spring-water, a pint or better of the best lime-juice, a pound of double refined sugar. This punch is better than weaker punch, for it does not so easily affect the head, by reason of the large quantity of lime-juice more than common, and is more grateful and comfortable to the stomach.
A simple division sum enables these quantities to be reduced to a moderate quantity of this powerful, but delicious early English punch. Note that the recipe contains no spices, quite usual at this period. But punch was often made more relishing by dangling zests of Seville orange peel in the bowl. When these started to impart a bitterness to the beverage, they were removed. This detail is frequently shown in paintings and prints of punch parties such as William Hogarth’s Midnight Modern Conversation (1733).
3.Plum or Christmas Potage
To make this ancient Yuletide soup properly, you must prepare some real mutton or beef broth by simmering a piece of boned leg of mutton or beef topside weighing 2 lbs in 4 pints of water, with 2 chopped up onions. When the meat has been cooked gently for 3 hours in a covered pan, remove it. Strain the remaining liquid through a sieve and measure it . It should have reduced by about half and should taste strongly of the meat. If there is more than two pints, boil it a little to reduce it to the correct amount. If there is less than two pints, add water to make it up. Season it to taste with some salt. Add the following:
12 pitted prunes
1 ozs raisins
1 oz currants
1 teacupful of breadcrumbs
1 cinnamon stick
2 blades of mace
1 small glass of port
1 small glass of Madeira
1 oz of sugar
The juice of two lemons and one orange
Simmer these ingredients in the stock for about 30 minutes. Serve. This is enough for about eight people.
4.A Grand Sallet
From Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook. London: 1660
Dish first round the centre slic’d figs, then currants, capers, almonds and raisins together; next beyond that, olives, beets, cabbidge-lettice, cucumbers, or slic’t lemon carved; then oyl and vinegar beaten together, the best oyl you can get, and sugar or none, as you please; garnish the brims of the dish with orangado, slict lemon jagged, olives stuck with slic’t almonds, sugar or none.
The ingredients were chopped fine and arranged in concentric circles, rather like a target. The orangado used for garnishing the brims of the dishes were strips of orange peel preserved in syrup. The carved lemon slices were also called ‘jagged lemons’, indicating that the rinds of the slices were cut with indentations. Other, more ambitious grand salads were often ornamented with a tall plume of rosemary hung with redcurrants or other berries, a decoration known as a standard.
5.To Garnish Brawn or Pig Brawn
From Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook. London: 1660
Leach your brawn, and dish it on a plate in a fair clean dish, then put a rosemary branch on the top being first dipped in the white of an egg well beaten to a froth, or wet in water and sprinkled with flour, or a sprig of rosemary gilt with gold; the brawn spotted also with gold and silver leaves, or let your sprig be of a straight sprig of yew tree, or a straight furze bush and put about the brawn stuck round with bay-leaves three ranks round, and spotted with red and yellow jelly about the dish sides, also the same jelly and some of the brawn leached, jagged, or cut with tin moulds, and carved lemons, oranges and barberries, bay-leaves gilt, red beets, pickled barberries, pickled gooseberries, or pickled grapes.
This spectacular English special occasion dish was also garnished with elaborately carved citrus fruits. Brawn was a kind of pickled pork prepared from domestic boar meat poached until very tender in a souse of wine, vinegar and spices. The cuts of boned meat, which were called collars, were cooked for such a long time that they were tightly wrapped in linen parcels to stop them disintegrating. When they cooled, they became firmer as a result of the jelly released in the cooking process. Collars of brawn could be kept for a number of weeks in the souse. To leach the brawn was to carve it into thin slices. This now extinct dish had been a mainstay of English cookery since the late Medieval period when it was usually served with mustard at the beginning of a meal. It was particularly important during Christmas.
At important feasts it was presented to table in a highly decorative form, often gilded with gold leaf and decorated with coloured jellies. One of the side products of making brawn was a lot of highly flavoured savoury jelly, which was often coloured red with cochineal and yellow with saffron, stamped into decorative slices and used as a garnish.
If you want to replicate this extraordinary dish, cover a nice cut of rolled pork tenderloin and two pig’s trotters in a large saucepan with half water, half dry white wine. Add a few tablespoonfuls of vinegar, some salt, pepper, whole mace and a couple of bay leaves. Poach gently with the lid of the saucepan on until the tenderloin is cooked. Remove both the tenderloin and trotters. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer or jelly bag, divide it into two equal portions. Colour one with saffron and the other with cochineal. Pour it into two soup bowls and put in a cool place to set into the coloured jellies. Put half an apple in the middle of a large dish and insert a tall straight rosemary branch into it. When it is really cold cut the tenderloin into thin slices and cover the middle of the dish with them, including the half apple, which should not be visible. Decorate the meat with small spots of edible gold and silver leaf and bay leaves. Then cut the coloured jellies into cubes and garnish the brim of your dish with them.
A hackin was a kind of sweet haggis, sometimes also called a hack pudding, which was served in the Lake District until the middle of the 19th century on Christmas morning. It is almost certainly the ancient ancestor of Christmas or Plum Pudding. Like Plum Pudding, slices of hackin were sometimes “fired” or grilled under a rotating spit of beef or mutton and served with the meat in the first course of a Christmas meal. The following recipe is from Richard Bradley, The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director. London: 1736. Mutton was sometimes used instead of beef.
To make a Hackin. From a Gentleman in Cumberland.
There are some Counties in England, whose Customs are never to be set aside and our Friends in Cumberland, as well as some of our Neighbours in Lancashire, and elsewhere, keep them up. It is a Custom with us every Christmas Day in the Morning, to have, what we call an Hackin, for the Breakfast of the young Men who work about our House; and if this Dish is not dressed by that time it is Day-light the Maid is led through the Town, between two Men, as fast as they can run with her up Hill and down Hill, which she accounts a great shame. But as for the Receipt to make this Hackin, which is admired so much by us, it is as follows.
Take the Bag or Paunch of a Calf, and wash it, and clean it well with Water and Salt; then take some Beef-Suet, and shred it small, and shred some Apples, after they are pared and cored, very small. Then put in some Sugar, and some Spice beaten small, a little Lemon-Peel cut very fine, and a little Salt, and a good quantity of Grouts, or whole Oat-meal, steep'd a Night in Milk; then mix these all together, and add as many Currans pick'd clean from the Stalks, and rubb'd in a coarse Cloth; but let them not be wash'd. And when you have all ready, mix them together, and put them into the Calf's-Bag, and tie them up, and boil them till they are enough. You may, if you will, mix up with the whole, some Eggs beaten, which will help to bind it. This is our Custom to have ready, at the opening of the Doors , on Christmas-Day in the Morning. It is esteem'd here; but all that I can say to you of it, is, that it eats somewhat like a Christmas-Pye, or is somewhat like that boil’d. I had forgot to say, that with the rest of the Ingredients, there should be some Lean of tender Beef minced small.
©Ivan Day 2008