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Posts Tagged ‘food and cookery’

This image comes from The Library of Congress’s digital collection, and sits in John Trusler’s The honours of the table, or, Rules for behaviour during meals : with the whole art of carving, illustrated by a variety of cuts. Together with directions for going to market, and the method of distinguishing good provisions from bad; to which is added a number of hints or concise lessons for the improvement of youth, on all occasions in life. By the author of Principles of politeness, &c. … For the use of young people, London, 1791

My tenderest emotions go toward that veal, for it did not have much time on this earth to use its knuckle. And yet, Mr. Trusler writes of this delicacy with such feeling.

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The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary, Or, The Accomplish’d Housewifes Companion, By John Nott, Published by Printed for C. Rivington at the Bible and Crown, in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1723

food-18thJohn Nott, the chef for the Duke of Bolton, who resided in St. Jamess’s Street, wrote this charming introduction to his cookbook, which was published in 1723 and is now in the public domain. A learned man, Nott’s French inspired recipes show that vegetables, such as carrots and new varieties of asparagus and spinach, which were brought from overseas, were becoming more plentiful on tables. He also makes frequent mention of marmalades, blanc-manges, creams, biscuits, and sweet cakes.* The cookbook includes two peacock recipes and a collection of 13 red currant recipes.

He seems to have been a fairly-read and intelligent man, and cites, in the course of his work, many celebrated names and receipts. Thus we have:—To brew ale Sir Jonas Moore’s way; to make Dr. Butler’s purging ale; ale of health and strength, by the Viscount St. Albans; almond butter the Cambridge way; to dress a leg of mutton à la Dauphine; to dress mutton the Turkish way; to stew a pike the City way. Dr. Twin’s, Dr. Blacksmith’s, and Dr. Atkin’s almond butter; an amber pudding, according to the Lord Conway’s receipt; the Countess of Rutland’s Banbury cake; to make Oxford cake; to make Portugal cakes; and so on.- Old Cookery Books, W. Carew Hazlitt, 1902

In regard to the cookbook’s title, it is interesting to note that an extravagant use of sugar in recipes was a sign of the wealth and status, as sugar remained a luxury item for most people until well into the 19th century.** Nott told hostesses who served desserts (there should be as many dishes of dessert as courses offered) to make the table arrangement perfectly symmetrical in design and color, and provided an illustration of the ideal dessert “pyramid”.

Nott included bills of fare for every month of the year. Below is the one he created for January. Note the absence of vegetables.


The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary, Or, The Accomplish’d Housewifes Companion By John Nott, cook John Nott

Nott’s 18th Century Recipe for Hot Milk Chocolate (said to be rich and delicious):

1 quart milk
4 ounces chocolate without sugar
1/8 ounce fine sugar
1/8 ounce flour or starch
Salt to taste

Mix, dissolve and bring to a boil before serving hot.

Nott’s recipe for a posset, the 18th century version of a nightcap:

“To make a posset: set a quart of milk on the fire; as soon as it boils, take it off, and set it to cool a little; then, having put four spoonfuls of sack [sherry] and eight of ale into a basin with a sufficient quantity of sugar, pour your milk to it; then set it before the fire and let it stand till you eat it.”

More links:

  • Find a recipe at this Historic Foods link for Nott’s lamb pasty and pasty crust. In this 1720’s recipe, the design for the crust was created by Edward Kidder.

*Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine By William Carew Hazlitt, p 49

**Savoring the Past, Shax Riegler


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The orange wine will want our care soon. But in the meantime, for elegance and ease and luxury, the Hattons and Milles’ dine here to-day, and I shall eat ice and drink French wine, and be above vulgar economy. Luckily the pleasures of friendship, of unreserved conversation, of similarity of taste and opinions, will make good amends for orange wine.- Jane Austen to Cassandra, Godmersham, June 20, 1808

Icehouse, Bedale Park

Icehouse, Bedale Park

Jane wrote casually of eating ice in a day when the preservation of huge chunks of river and pond ice was no mean feat. Solid blocks of ice were hewn from nearby frozen ponds and rivers in winter, then hauled by teams of horses and men to a suitable storage space. Ships also brought in chunks of ice from glaciers and icebergs.

In early days, deep underground chambers whose doors faced north kept the temperatures freezing inside their heavily insulated structures, preserving the ice for up to two years.  By the 17th and 18th centuries, owners of great houses built icehouses adjacent to their dwellings. These storage spaces had double insulated walls and double doors that kept the warm air out. The cold chambers also kept water, milk, butter, and other perishables refrigerated.  Iced food remained the province of the rich, who could afford to build an ice house and pay servants who shaved the ice and prepared ices, ice sculptures, bombes, and ice cream. Experiments in flavors and designs abounded:

Squirrel ice cream mold, ruby lane antiques

Squirrel ice cream mold, ruby lane antiques

In the late 17th and early 18th century, long before refrigeration was available, Europeans were making ices and ice creams. Although they were often unsure about freezing techniques, they began experimenting with flavors immediately. Confectioners tried everything from breadcrumbs to grated cheese to candied orange flowers in these new frozen treats. They molded them into fanciful shapes and served them with style and flair. Once in a while, they stumbled – putting foie gras or puréed asparagus in ice cream, for example – but most of their experiments were successful. They led the way to the wonderful range of flavors we enjoy today. (Histories, Legends, and Myths of Ices and Ice Cream)

The great chefs were especially creative in the use of ice for preserving food, and making exotic foods. In a day before electricity, intricately carved ice sculptures of swans and cherubs and the like were all the rage in Europe. The great French chef Antonin Careme used iced water to make his spun sugar sculptures and kept desserts on ice and the pastry room cool to keep the unbaked pastries cool. (Crème du Carême)

Recipes for creating ices and ice cream haven’t changed much, but the methods have. By the mid 19th century small portable iceboxes and an ice cream maker had been invented, replacing laborious hand stirring with a handcrank until the mixture thickened. The following is an 18th-century ice cream recipe that illustrates how labor intensive and time consuming ice cream making had once been:

English ice cream pail, Derby 1790

English ice cream pail, Derby 1790. Image from Historic Foods.

Pare, stone and scald twelve ripe Apricots, beat them fine in a Marble Mortar, put to them six Ounces of double refined Sugar, a Pint of scalding Cream, work it through a Hair Sieve, put it into a Tin that has a close Cover, set it in a Tub of Ice broken small, and a large Quantity of Salt put amongst it, when you see your Cream grow thick round the Edges of your Tin, stir it and set it in again ’till it all grows quite thick, when your Cream is all Froze up, take it out of your Tin, and put it in the Mould you intend it to be turned out of, then put on the Lid, and have ready another Tub with Ice and Salt in as before, put your Mould in the Middle, and lay your Ice under and over it, let it stand four or five Hours, dip your Tin in warm Water when you turn it out; if it be Summer, you must not turn it out ’till the Moment you want it; you may use any Sort of Fruit if you have not Apricots, only observe to work it fine. – Ice cream recipe from The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald, 1769,  page 228:

  • Georgian Ices and Victorian Bombes is another informative post from Historic Food, one of the most interesting and historical food sites on the web. In it you will find a wealth of illustrations, photos, and information about making ice cream.
  • Lemon Ice: The Jane Austen Centre published a recipe for making lemon ice similar to one made in the 18th century. The article adds additional information about the origins of ice cream.
  • Ice Cream and Chocolate Parlor since 1700 describes an Italian ice cream parlor that has been in existence for over 300 years. Their specialty is an almond ice cream that is probably as easy to make and flavorful as the one below.
  • Histories, Legends, and Myths of Ices and Ice Cream provides a timeline and interesting tidbits of information about ices and ice cream over the ages.
Almond ice cream

Almond ice cream

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