Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas Foods in Britain

There are several foods that one will invariably encounter this time of year over here, they are completely unavoidable, thrust in ones face at every turn should one step outside the house.

Mincemeat pies. I always heard of these when in the US. I thought they would be something to do with hamburger or at least shredded beef, but they taste mainly of sugar and fruit. Turns out, however, that even modern recipes include beef suet. Sounds disgusting, but these are quite delicious, in small amounts. Bill caught me looking at this 19th century recipe and reminded me that we in fact have an 18th century recipe, that of Elizabeth Smith, in her book dated 1732:

Par boyle sheeps hearts, 2 pd (ie pound?) of meat and a pd of suet. Mince them fine then to every pd put 2 pd of currans [currants], half an ounce of cinnamont mace cloves and nutmeg. Half a gill [ apparently pronounced 'jill'] of sack [a dry fortified wine such as Port or Sherry], a little brandy, rosewater, orange flower water, half a pd of sugar, lemon and orange pill [peel], 3 pippins [apparently these are small apples]. Mix them well.

So, now you know what to do with sheep's hearts...

Shortbread. Everyone knows what this stuff is, largely flour, sugar and butter. Rich and delicious, one of my favourites from childhood when sweets were not commonly allowed. Their history is an interesting read.

Christmas Pudding. When in Newcastle the other day I dived into the Lit and Phil Library to consult Mrs. Beeton's for a recipe. Little did I know I could have got it online.

Mrs. Beeton is practically a household word over here, sort of like Betty Crocker or perhaps even Martha Stewart in the US. Actually, looking through the online text, however, I do not find this recipe for Christmas Pudding (Rich) - Pudding de Noel, so it's a good thing I wrote it out after all:

Ingredients.- 1/2 a lb. of beef suet, 1 ounce of flour, 1/2 a lb. of raisins, 1/4 of a lb. of mixed peel, 1/2 a grated nutmeg, 1/2 an ounce of mixed spice, 1/2 an ounce of ground cinnamon, 1 gill of milk, 1 wineglassful of rum or brandy (optional), 1/2 a lb. of breadcrumbs, 1/2 a lb. of sultanas, 1/4 of a lb. of currants, 1 lemon, 2 ounces of dessicated coconut or shredded almonds, a pinch of salt, 4 eggs.

Method.- Shred the suet or use shredded. Clean the fruit, stone the raisins, finely shred the mixed peel. Peel and chop the lemon rind. Pull all the dry ingredients in a basin and mix well. Add the milk, stir in the eggs 1 at a time, add the rum or brandy and the strained juice of the lemon. Work the whole thoroughly for some minutes, so that the ingredients are well blended. Put the mixture in a well-buttered pudding basin or pudding cloth; if the latter is used it should be buttered or floured.

Time.- Boil for about 4 hours or steam for at least 5 hours.

Sufficient.- for 8 or 9 persons.


Rick Stone said...

Mincemeat pies. Mom used to make these. I never cared for them. Jo says her Italian relatives also made them.

Martha Stewart? You have been out of this country awhile. Now it is Rachael Ray.

Jo said to tell you we are having Lasagna for our Christmas with the girls tonight. We have our two oldest grand daughters, and their mothers, over the weekend before Christmas so as to not interfere with their time with their extended families.

Anonymous said...

I think I will stick with our stand-bys of pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, cranberries, etc. I know the Italians had minced meat pie but I never got into that. Have seen the filling for sale in the stores.