Activities: Make Your Own Victorian Christmas Turkey & Stuffing
A roast turkey on the Christmas dinner table first gained popularity in the Victorian period, achieving full dominance over other roasted meats by the beginning of the 20th century. This is a Victorian roast turkey recipe by the Victorian cookery writer, Eliza Acton.
1 x 5-6kg/11-13lb 3oz turkey, preferably a bronze turkey
melted butter, for basting
225g/8oz dried breadcrumbs
small bunch flatleaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
handful fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
handful fresh marjoram leaves, finely chopped
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 lemon, zest only
115g/4oz butter, softened until almost melted, plus extra for greasing
2 free-range egg yolks
The turkey was roasted using a bottlejack but the instructions here are for a conventional oven. The closest modern match to a Victorian turkey would be a bronze turkey.
Serves 10-12 people
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
For the forcemeat stuffing, mix together all the forcemeat stuffing ingredients, except for the butter and egg yolks, in a bowl until well combined.
Add the softened butter and mix thoroughly, using your hands, until well combined.
Add the egg yolks and work them into the mixture, using your hands, until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
Moisten your fingers with water, then carefully slide your fingers under the skin of each side of the turkey breast, until your fingers reach the end of the breast, to separate the skin from the meat. Stuff the cavity between the skin and breast with the forcemeat stuffing.
Fold the excess flaps of skin back into the cavity of the bird. Truss the legs of the turkey with cooking string. Grease a sheet of greaseproof paper all over with butter and lay it on top of the stuffed turkey breast. Secure the sheet of greaseproof paper to the turkey using cooking string.
Transfer the turkey to a large roasting tin and roast for between 3 hours 20 minutes and 4 hours, depending on the weight of your turkey, or until cooked through. To test if the turkey is cooked through, pierce the thickest part with a skewer. The juices should run clear.
During cooking, baste the turkey all over with melted butter, at 15 minute intervals.
Remove the sheet of greaseproof paper covering the turkey breast 20 minutes before you remove the turkey from the oven.
When the turkey is ready to serve, carve the stuffed breast into thin slices. Serve with the bread sauce.
Tasty bread sauce to accompany your turkey
A popular Victorian festive drink, usually shared with carollers.
The centrepiece of any Christmas dinner.
See all 25 activities to make your own Victorian Christmas.
National Archives: Victorian Britain
History in Focus: The Victorian Era
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victorian Web
British Library: Online Exhibition: Victorian Britain
Pollock's Toy Museum