Baking Victorian Bread

Years ago, when I was a Mark Bittman devotee, the no-knead bread craze hit. I hadn’t made bread before because I was scared of the process, which seemed like a sacred art of sorts. When Mark Bittman published his version of the no-knead recipe in the New York Times, I had found a bread recipe that even I could do. I had started my gluten-free-ish lifestyle by that time, but I still loved making bread for the sensory aspects: the smell, texture, how the bread transformed over the cooking process, and the joy that warm bread gave others.

However, my growing children demanded my time, and it was easier to buy bread at the grocery store bakery than to bake our own. That is until the pandemic hit and store shelves were stripped bare. Now, stuck at home, I, like many Americans, have been baking. I’ve found an updated version of my beloved no-knead recipe that makes wonderful bread. My children are amazed that I can actually bake. However, my teens are amazed whenever I show any kind of aptitude. This morning, as my latest baking project rose on the counter, I researched Victorian bread making. I’ve decided to excerpt from two books that are from the earlier decades of the Victorian Era because they explain how to make yeast.  

Let’s start with The Good Housekeeper, Or the Way to Live Well, And To Be Well While We Live, published in 1839 and written by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, supposed author of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and a long-time editor for Godey’s Lady’s Book.

ADVANTAGES OF BREAD MAKING. If you wish to economize in family expenses, bake your own bread. If this is good, it will be better as well as healthier than baker’s bread.

The rich will find several advantages in having a portion, at least, of their bread baked at home, even though the saving of money should not be an object. They can be certain that their bread is made of good flour. This is not always sure when eating baker’s bread. Much damaged flour, sour, musty, or grown, is often used by the public bakers, particularly in scarce or bad seasons. The skill of the baker and the use of certain ingredients-(alum, ammonia, sulphate of zinc, and even sulphate of copper, it is said, has been used !)—will make this flour into light, white bread. But it is nearly tasteless, and cannot be as healthy or nutritious as bread made from the flour of good, sound wheat, baked at home, without any mixture of drugs and correctives. Even the best of baker’s bread is comparatively tasteless, and must be eaten when new to be relished. But good home-baked bread will keep a week, and is better on that account for the health.

If the sponge be set at seven or half past, in the morning, and everything well managed, the bread will be ready to be drawn from the oven by twelve. Four or five hours of attention, then, is required ; but three fourths of this time might be employed in needlework, or other pursuits. Only half or three quarters of an hour, devoted to kneading the bread, is wanted in active exertion ; and this would be one of the most beneficial exercises our young ladies could practise.

I have dwelt at length on this subject, because I consider it as important as did “Uncle John,” that “ Girls should learn to make bread—the staff of life”–and that to do this well is an accomplishment which the lovely and talented should consider indispensable, one of the “ must haves” of female education.

There are three things which must be exactly right, in order to have good bread—the quality of the yeast; the lightness or fermentation of the dough ; and the heat of the oven. No precise rules can be given to ascertain these points. It requires observation, reflection, and a quick, nice judgment to decide when all are right. Thus, you see, that bread-making is not a mere mechanical treadmill operation, like many household concerns ; but a work of mind ; the woman who always has good home-baked bread on the table shows herself to have good sense and good management.

MAKING BREAD, A large family will, probably, use a bushel of flour weekly; but we will take the proper quantity for a family of four or five persons.

Take twentyone quarts of flour, put it into a kneading trough or earthen pan which is well glazed, and large enough to hold double the quantity of four. Make a deep, round hole in the centre of the flour, and pour into it half a pint of brewer’s yeast, or the thick sediment from homebrewed beer—the last if good, is to be preferred. In either case the yeast must be mixed with a pint of milk-warm water, and well stirred before it is poured in. Then with a spoon stir into this liquid, gradually, so much of the surrounding four as will make it like thin batter; sprinkle this over with dry flour, till it is covered entirely. Then cover the trough or pan with a warm cloth, and set it by the fire in winter, and where the sun is shining in summer. This process is called ” setting the sponge.” The object is to give strength and character to the ferment by communicating the quality of leaven to a small portion of the flour ; which will then be easily extended to the whole. Setting sponge is a measure of wise precaution-for if the yeast does not rise and ferment in the middle of the flour it shows that the yeast is not good ; the batter can then be removed, without wasting much of the flour, and another sponge set with better yeast.

Let the sponge stand till the batter has swelled and risen so as to form cracks in the covering of flour ; then scatter over it two table spoonfuls of fine salt, and begin to form the mass into dough by pouring in, by degrees, as much warm water as is necessary to mix with the flour. Twentyone quarts of flour will require about four quarts of water. It will be well to prepare rather more ; soft water is much the best ; it should in summer be warm as new milk ; during winter, it ought to be somewhat warmer, as flour is a cold, heavy substance.

Add the water by degrees to the flour, mix them with your hand, till the whole mass is incorporated; it must then be worked most thoroughly, moulded over and over and kneaded with your clenched hands, till it becomes so perfectly smooth and light as well as stiff, that not a particle will adhere to your hands. Remember that you cannot have good bread, light and white, unless you give the dough a thorough kneading.

Then make the dough into a lump in the middle of the trough or pan, and dust it over with flour to prevent its adhering to the vessel. Cover it with a warm cloth, and in the winter the vessel should be placed near the fire. It now undergoes a further fermentation, which is shown by its swelling and rising ; this, if the ferment was well formed, will be at its height in an hour-somewhat less in very warm weather. It ought to be taken at its height, before it begins to fall.

Divide the dough into seven equal portions ; mould on your paste-board, and form them into loaves ; put these on well floured tin or earthen plates, and place immediately in the oven.

The oven, if a good one and you have good dry wood, will heat sufficiently in an hour. It is best to kindle the fire in it with dry pine, hemlock furze or some quick burning material; then fill it up with faggots or hard wood split fine and dried, sufficient to heat it-let the wood burn down and stir the coals evenly over the bottom of the oven, let them lie till they are like embers; the bricks at the arch and sides will be clear from any color of smoke when the oven is sufficiently hot. Clean and sweep the oven, throw in a little flour on the bottom, if it burns black at once, do not put in the bread, but let it stand a few moments and cool.

It is a good rule to put the fire in the oven when the dough is made up—the batter will rise and the former heat in about the same time.

When the loaves are in the oven, it must be closed and kept tight, except you open it for a moment to see how the bread appears. If the oven is properly heated, loaves of the size named, will be done in an hour and a half or two hours. They will weigh four pounds per loaf, or about that—thus giving you twentyeight pounds of bread from twentyone quarts (or pounds) of flour. The weight gained is from the water.

It is the best economy to calculate (or ascertain by experiment) the number of loaves of a certain weight or size, necessary for a week’s consumption in your family, and bake accordingly. In the winter season bread may be kept good for a fortnight; still I think it the best rule to bake once every week. Bread should not be eaten at all till it has been baked, at least, one day. When the loaves are done, take them from the oven, and place them on a clean shelf, in a clean, cool pantry. If the crust happen to be scorched, or the bread is too much baked, the loaves, when they are taken out of the oven, may be wrapped in a clean, coarse towel, which has been slightly damped. It is well to keep a light cloth thrown over all the loaves. When a loaf has been cut, it should be kept in a tight box from the air, if you wish to prevent its drying.

YEAST. It is impossible to have good light bread, unless you have lively sweet yeast. When common family beer is well brewed and kept in a clean cask, the settlings are the best of yeast. If you do not keep beer, then make common yeast by the following method.

Take two quarts of water, one handful of hops, two of wheat bran; boil these together twenty minutes ; strain off the water, and while it is boiling hot stir in either wheat or rye flour, till it becomes a thick batter; let it stand till it is about blood warm ; then add a half pint of good smart yeast and a large spoonful of molasses, if you have it, and stir the whole well. Set it in a cool place in summer and a warm one in winter. When it becomes perfectly light, it is fit for use. If not needed immediately, it should, when it becomes cold, be put in a clean jug or bottle ; do not fill the vessel and the cork must be left loose till the next morning, when the yeast will have done working. Then cork it tightly, and set in a cool place in the cellar. It will keep ten or twelve days.

MILK YEAST. One pint of new milk ; one tea-spoonful of fine salt, and a large spoon of flour-stir these well together; set the mixture by the fire, and keep it just lukewarm; it will be fit for use in an hour. Twice the quantity of common yeast is necessary ; it will not keep long. Bread made of this yeast dries very soon; but in the summer it is some. times convenient to make this kind when yeast is needed suddenly

Never keep yeast in a tin vessel. If you find the old yeast sour, and have not time to prepare new, put in salæratus, a tea-spoonful to a pint of yeast, when ready to use it. If it foams up lively, it will raise the bread, if it does not, never use it.

HARD YEAST. Boil three ounces of hops in six quarts of water, till only two quarts remain. Strain it, and stir in while it is boiling hot, wheat or rye meal till it is thick as batter. When it is about milk warm add half a pint of good yeast, and let it stand till it is very light, which will probably be about three hours. Then work in sifted [corn] meal till it is stiff dough. Roll out on a board; cut it in oblong cakes about three inches by two. They should be about half an inch thick. Lay these cakes on a smooth board, over which a little flour has been dusted; prick them with a fork, and set the board in a dry clean chamber or store-room, where the sun and air may be freely admitted. Turn them every day. They will dry in a fortnight unless the weather is damp. When the cakes are fully dry, put them into a coarse cotton bag ; hang it up in a cool dry place. If rightly prepared these cakes will keep a year, and save the trouble of making new yeast every week.

Two cakes will make yeast sufficient for a peck of flour. Break them into a pint of lukewarm water and stir in a large spoonful of flour, the evening before you bake. Set the mixture where it can be kept moderately warm. In the morning it will be fit for use.

Let’s cross the ocean to England and look at yeast made from potatoes, as well as, a time-table for baking rolls. This excerpt comes from  The Young Cook’s Assistant, and Housekeeper’s Guide, published in 1841.

To make Yeast or Barm.

Boil three pounds of potatoes, in as much water as will cover them, to a mash, and pass them with the water through a sieve (take care in paring the potatoes that all the eyes are picked out); then add more water, till it is about the thickness of common yeast. Put in six ounces of lump sugar, and when nearly cold, add four table spoonfuls of good yeast: stir it in at the time, but not after. Let it stand twelve hours in a rather warm place-any part of a room where there is a fire will do. Then put it in a cold situation, and in twelve hours it will be fit for use. Put it in a jar, and tie a paper over: it will keep a week or ten days.


When good potatoes are not to be had, use a flour paste made about as thick as gruel. Add to every pint of it, when nearly cold, one ounce of sugar and a spoonful of yeast. Work it as the potato yeast, and keep it in a jar. As this is seldom made except in hot weather, it will not keep more than three or four days. It must stand in a cold place, but not in ice, for that destroys the strength of the yeast.

Rolls for Breakfast. The last thing over-night take three pounds of fine flour, rather more than half-a-pint of potato yeast, or of the paste-yeast, a little salt, and two eggs: then warm a little milk (which in hot weather should boil and get cold again), and make a light dough of it; set it on the kitchen table all night, covered with a cloth. The next morning turn it on the dresser, mould it over, and make it up in whatever shape you want it. Twists are made by taking a bit of butter on the dresser instead of flour, and rolling out a long thin length of the dough: then cut it in lengths and turn it in whatever shape you fancy, or may have seen. Place them on the baking-sheet and set it by the fire half-an-hour, to rise, while the oven is heating. For French rolls, put a piece of dough in each shape, set them to rise, and place them in the oven ten minutes before the others, as they must be rasped. The very small fancy twists, &c., should be brushed over the top with an egg, beaten with a little milk, before you set them to rise. Bake these in a slow oven, as they should be coloured but very little.

Buns. Take a piece of the dough made for the rolls; dissolve a bit of butter in a very little warm milk, beat it together, and mix with the dough. Add a little sifted lump sugar, one egg, a little allspice, carraway seeds, and currants—any or all of them, as approved. It must then have an hour to rise; after which, take a little flour on the dresser, and make the buns in whatever shape you please. Place them on the bakingsheet, and set them by the fire to rise. Brush them over with the eggs and milk as prepared for the small rolls, or sift a little white sugar on the top; for which purpose whisk the white of an egg, brush it over, and then sift the sugar upon it. These must have rather a slow oven, and will take a little longer baking than rolls of the same size.

Household Bread. The potato yeast is best for this purpose; and moist sugar will do if lump is a consideration. For a bushel of flour use the quantity of yeast that two pounds of potatoes make, with a handful of salt, and lukewarm water. First make a hole in the middle of the flour, put in the yeast and salt, and three quarts of water, and stir it up to a stiff batter: this is what is called the sponge. Shut it up two hours, and then make it into dough with warm water, but not very stiff.

Cover it up again another hour, or an hour and a half, and in the meantime heat the oven; then take out the dough on the moulding-board before the oven, and mould it in pieces the size of half a loaf: give it a good moulding, and leave it on the board before the fire, at least half-an-hour; it will then only require making into loaves, when the oven is ready. If you make eight loaves of a bushel of flour, they will take three hours and a half baking. Take care the oven is hot, and while it is heating frequently scrape one side and turn the fire over to it, and then scrape the other side. You need not shut the door at first, if too warm.

French Cottage Bread. French bricks are made of the same dough as rolls, or they may be made of a piece of the bread dough. Mould it well, and put it into a tin shape-it should be only half full-set it by the fire, and it will rise to the top. Do not shake it in putting it into the oven. Bake according to the size of the tin used: all kinds of bread ought to be well baked.

Victorian Eggnog Recipes

I’m posting some eggnog recipes from the mid-1800s to help you get into the holiday cheer or to simply cope with the holidays. No judgment here.

Of course, these old versions are made with raw eggs, so if you want to try these recipes, you may want to find a technique to gently heat the eggs to the minimum temperature to destroy the pathogens.

According to Jerry Thomas in his 1862 book How to Mix Drinks: Or, The Bon-vivant’s Companion, “Egg Nogg is a beverage of American origin, but it has a popularity that is cosmopolitan. At the South it is almost indispensable at Christmas time, and at the North it is a favorite at all seasons.”

Here is Thomas’ basic eggnog recipe. I believe “do.” means ditto of the measure in the preceding line.

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Egg Nogg
(Use large bar glass.)

1 table-spoonful of fine sugar, dissolved with
1 do. cold water, 1 egg.
1 wine-glass of Cognac brandy. 
½ do. Santa Cruz rum.
1/2 tumblerful of milk.

Fill the tumbler ¼ full with shaved ice, shake the ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed together, and grate a little nutmeg on top. Every well-ordered bar has a tin egg-nogg “shaker,” which is a great aid in mixing this beverage.

Here is another version of Egg Nogg from Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks, by William Terrington, 1869.

Hot Egg Nogg, or “Auld Man’s Milk”

Heat a pint of Scotch ale;  add while warming 1/4 oz. bruised cinnamon, 1/4 oz. grated nutmeg, 1/4 oz. powdered ginger; beat up the yolks of 2 eggs with a little brown sugar; pour in the ale gradually; when well amalgamated, add glass of whiskey

The remainder of the recipes in this post are from Jerry Thomas.

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Hot Egg Nogg
(Use large bar glass)

This drink is very popular in California and is made in precisely the same manner as the cold egg nogg above, except that you must use boiling water instead of ice.

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Sherry Egg Nogg

1 table-spoonful of white sugar.
1 egg.
2 wine-glasses of sherry.

Dissolve the sugar with a little water; break the yolk of the egg in a large glass; put in one-quarter tumblerful of broken ice; fill with milk, and shake up until the egg is thoroughly mixed with the other ingredients, then grate a little nutmeg on top, and quaff the nectar cup.

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Mississippi Egg Nogg
(Use large bar glass)

1 egg.
1 ½ teaspoonful of sugar.
2 or 3 small lumps of ice.
Fill the tumbler with cider and shake well.

This is a splendid drink and is very popular on the Mississippi River.

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Egg Nogg
(For a party of forty)

1 dozen eggs.
2 quarts of brandy.
1 pint of Santa Cruz rum.
2 gallons of milk.
1 1/2 lbs. white sugar.

Separate the whites of the eggs from the yolks, beat them separately with an egg-beater until the yolks are well cut up, and the whites assume a light fleecy appearance. Mix all the ingredients (except the whites of the eggs) in a large punch bowl, then let the whites float on top, and ornament with colored sugars. Cool in a tub of ice, and serve.

Baltimore Egg Nogg
(For a party of fifteen)

Take the yellow of sixteen eggs and twelve table-spoonfuls of pulverized loaf-sugar, and beat them to the consistence of cream; to this add two-thirds of a nutmeg grated, and beat well together; then mix in half a pint of good brandy or Jamaica rum, and two wine-glasses of Madeira wine. Have ready the whites of the eggs, beaten to a stiff froth, and beat them into the above-described mixture. When this is all done, stir in six pints of good rich milk. There is no heat used.

Egg Nogg made in this manner is digestible and will not cause headache. It makes an excellent drink for debilitated persons, and a nourishing diet for consumptives.

Helpful Hints for the Victorian Cook

Last week I spent an evening researching the merits of various multi-cookers, slow cookers, pressure cookers, and rice cookers. Finally, hopelessly confused, I went with what America’s Test Kitchen recommended. In an oddly parallel situation, I spent a frustrating few hours yesterday researching cooking with antique open ranges, kitcheners, closed ranges, gas ovens, or on open grates in fireplaces. I wish there was a Victorian’s Test Kitchen with recommendations and explanations to guide the clueless.

On a positive note, I found some helpful Victorian kitchen hints in The Illustrated London Cookery Book, containing upwards of fifteen hundred first-rate receipts selected with great care, and a proper attention to economy; and embodying all the latest improvements in the culinary art; accompanied by important remarks and counsel on the arrangement and well-ordering of the kitchen, combined with useful hints on domestic economy. The whole based on many years’ constant practice and experience; and addressed to private families as well as the highest circles… Profusely illustrated with engravings on wood. This 1852 volume was written by Frederick Bishop, the late cuisinier to St. James Palace, Earl Grey, The Marquis of Stafford, Baron Rothschild, Earl Norbury, Captain Duncombe and “Many of The First Families Of The Kingdom.” It also contains a short story and poetry!


IMPORTANT HINTS TO COOKS, which they will not regret following with attention.

Let there be a place for every article, and when not in use let every article be in its place.

Keep every utensil clean and ready for immediate use.

The stockpot should never be suffered to be empty, as almost any meats (save salt meats) or fowls make stock; the remnants should never be thrown anywhere but into the stockpot, and should too much stock be already in your possession, boil it down to a glaze: waste is thus avoided.

Keep your meat in a cool dry place, your fish on ice, and your vegetables on a stone floor free from air.

Cut your soap when it comes in, and let it dry slowly.

Keep your sweet herbs in paper bags, each bag containing only one description of herb. They should be dried in the wind and not in the sun, and when ordered in a receipt should be cautiously used, as a preponderance in any seasoning spoils it.

When oranges or lemons are used for juice, chop down the peel, put them in small pots and tie them down for use.

Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Pomegranate – Jan van Hulsdonck

Apples.—In choosing apples, be guided by the weight; the heaviest are the best, and those should always be selected which, on being pressed by the thumb, yield with a slight crackling noise. Prefer large apples to small, for waste is saved in peeling and coring.

Apples should be kept on dry straw in a dry place, and pears hung up by the stalk.

Batter for fish, meat, fritters, &c, —Prepare it with fine flour, salt, a little oil, beer, vinegar, or white wine, and the whites of eggs beaten up; when of a proper thickness, about the size of a nutmeg, it will drop out of the spoon at once. Fry in oil or hog’s lard.

Carrots, if young, need only be wiped when boiled—if old they must be scraped before boiling. Slice them into a dish, and pour over them melted butter.

Cauliflowers.—Cut off the stalks, but leave a little of the green on; boil in spring water with a little salt in it: they must not boil too fast.

Celery.—Very little is sufficient for soups, as the flavour is very predominating. It should be particularly cleanly washed and curled when sent to table. To curl celery, wash well, and take off the outside stalks, cut it to a proper length, split each stalk into three or four divisions with a large needle, then place the head of celery in spring water with the root uppermost, and let it remain for four or five hours—it may then be tastefully arranged on the dish.

Game may often be made fit for eating when it seems spoiled, by cleaning it and washing with vinegar and water. Birds that are not likely to keep, should be drawn, cropped, and picked, then wash in two or three waters, and rub them with salt; have in readiness a large saucepan of boiling water, and plunge them into it one by one, drawing them up and down by the legs, so that the water may pass through them. Let them stay for five or six minutes, then hang them up in a cold place; when they are completely drained, well salt and pepper the insides, and thoroughly wash them before roasting.

Juan Sánchez Cotán

Gravies.—The skirts of beef and the kidney will make quite as good gravy as any other meat, if prepared in the same manner. The kidney of an ox, or the milt, makes excellent gravy, cut all to pieces and prepared as other meat, and so with the shank end of mutton that has been dressed, if much gravy is not required. The shank bones of mutton add greatly to the richness of gravies, but they should be first well soaked and scoured clean. The taste of gravies is improved by tarragon, but it should be sparingly used, immediately before serving.

Lard should be carefully melted in a jar put in a kettle of water and boiled, and run into bladders that have been strictly cleaned; the bladders should not be too large, as the lard will become rank if the air gets to it. While melting it, put in a sprig of rosemary.

Mustard mixed smooth with new milk, and a little cream added, will keep; it is very soft, and by no means bitter.

Sago should soak for an hour in water previous to using, to take off the earthy taste.

Suet may be kept for a twelvemonth, thus: choose the firmest and most free from skin or veins, remove all trace of these, put the suet in a saucepan at some distance from the fire, and let it melt gradually; when melted, pour it into a pan of cold spring water; when hard, wipe it dry, fold it in white paper, put it into a linen bag, and keep it in a dry cool place; when used, it must be scraped, and will make an excellent crust, either with or without butter.

Tongue, which has been dried, should be soaked in water three or four hours. One which has not been dried will require but little soaking; put it in cold water, and boil gently till tender.

Raisin wine may be substituted for sherry, for sweets generally.

Copper vessels, when the tinning is worn off, must never be used, or the poisoning of those who partake of whatever may have been cooked in them is inevitable. They should be sent to be re-tinned immediately they require it.

Still-life with various copper cooking utensils on a hearth – Martin Dichtl

Keep tapes and jelly bags clean, or when again used they will impart an unpleasant flavour.

All soups should be moderately thin and bright.

Meats such as beef, mutton, and venison, must rather be underdone than overdone, excepting veal and pork, which require to be well done.

Fish should be quite done, but not overdone.

Pastry must be carefully baked; it should be sent to table a pale gold colour.

Onions should be kept on ropes in a dry place—a specked one should be removed or it will contaminate the others.

Cold water cracks hot iron infallibly.

Pudding towels should be carefully washed, and kept clean in a dry place. Put a clean round towel on the jack roller quite as often as necessary.

Be very particular in not letting your stocks and sauces pass over two days without boiling them up, and be careful to stir the thick soups and sauces all the time they are on the fire, and change all your cold meats into fresh clean dishes every morning, wiping down the dressers and shelves, and if allowed larding cloths see that they are clean. Keep your larder door shut, free from dust and damp; do not have your baked paste in the larder, but in your kitchen cupboard, and then see to your game larder, wiping and peppering and gingering your venison, arranging the game which requires to be dressed first, and see that all the blood which may have dropped from the game or venison is cleaned from the dressers and flooring. Then see to the vegetables, removing all stale and what is not wanted, giving it to the poor, either as dressed in some way or natural; do not be over-stocked, yet always keep a little reserve. This will save much trouble to the gardener, and frequently to the kitchen-maid, who will otherwise have to run from her work down to the garden, which, even if she likes it, takes her from other more important things. Be sure to look well every morning to your pickled pork and hams, keep and rub them well and turn them, marking those to be used first; your fish must be looked to and well cleaned and washed, and if intended for that day’s dinner, kept in water until required; if not, keep it on the marble or stones; your doors should always be shut.

Still life of game in a larder – Benjamin Blake

Clean hands, always clean hands.

A dirty kitchen is a disgrace to every one connected with it.

In conclusion, the mistress of the household will understand that the well-being of her establishment depends upon her surveillance; and though her too frequent presence in the kitchen would be unnecessary and annoying to the cook, yet she should not be deterred from visiting it by any false delicacy, or deference to an absurd custom which makes it vulgar for a lady to visit her cook in her own domains. If the cook is thrifty and clean, she will be glad to receive the praise to which she is fairly entitled; if dirty and careless, it is very essential that the lady should be acquainted with the fact in order to remedy it by a change.

Good housewifery provides, ere a sickness do come,
Of sundry good things in her house to have some—
Good aqua composita, and vinegar tart,
Rose water, and treacle, to comfort thine heart.
Cold herbs in her garden, for agues to burn,
That over strong heat to good temper may turn,
White endive and succory, with spinach enow—
All such, with good pot-herbs, should follow the plough.
Get water of fumitory, liver to cool,
And others the like, or else lie like a fool.
Conserves of barbary, quinces, and such,
With sirops that easeth the sickly so much.
Ask medicas‘ counsel, ere medicine ye take,
And honour that man for necessity’s sake:
Though thousands hate physic because of the cost,
Yet thousands it helpeth that else should be lost.;
Good broth and good keeping do much now and then—
Good diet, with wisdom, best comforteth man.
In health, to be stirring, shall profit thee best—
In sickness hate trouble; seek quiet and rest.
Remember thy soul; let no fancy prevail;
Make ready to God-ward; let faith never quail :—
The sooner thyself thou submittest to God,
The sooner he ceaseth to scourge with his rod.

Tusser, 1710.

La Petite cuisinière – Pierre Édouard Frère

Victorian Life Hacks

y family and I have been enjoying the Victorian Farm and Victorian Pharmacy BBC series on YouTube. We enjoy watching faux Victorians toil while munching on our microwaved popcorn from the comfort of our sofa. I’ve had the companion books to both series lying about for a year or two, but I hadn’t had a chance to peruse them because, up until recently, my life had been rather chaotic because of long, tiring commutes.

Yesterday as I was flipping through the pages of the companion book to Victorian Farm, the reference to The Family Save-All book jumped out at me. I looked up the book on Google books and found a delightful volume published in 1861 about how to use what we would call “leftovers” so that they possess “all the warmth and nicety of appearance of the original Cookery”, and how to cook with “secondary parts of animals” such as liver, tripe, feet and head, and hints for the “practical matters” of household. The author writes, “Perhaps there are none but the houses of the wealthier classes in which joints and other eatables are not, as a general rule, sent to the table twice or even thrice.” The book comprises thousands of hints, and, in small print at the bottom of the pages, are humorous anecdotes from Victorian life. The author, Robert Kemp Philp, wrote several books about practical daily life matters in Victorian times.

For hint one, he recommends making a pudding from cold roast beef.
MINCE about a pound of the cold Beef, add to it one teaspoonful of salt, the same of flour, and half that quantity of pepper ; mix well ; fill the paste with the prepared meat, and add a gill of water ; a little chopped onions and parsley may be added ; cover in the ordinary manner, shake well, and tie in a cloth. Boil for half an hour, or longer, if the paste is thick. Chopped gherkins, pickled walnuts, or mushrooms, may be added, or a little of the vinegar of any well-seasoned pickle.

For hint 538, he recommends saving coal by lighting fires with the following method:
BEFORE lighting the fire in the morning, thoroughly clean out the grate ; lay a piece of thick paper, cut to the form and size of the grate, at the bottom; pile up fresh coal, nearly as high as the level of the top bar; the pieces should be about the size of small potatoes or walnuts, but this is not absolutely necessary; the larger lumps should be laid in front, the smaller ones behind ; then put a liberal supply of paper, or shavings, and sticks, on the top, and cover the whole with yesterday’s cinders, adding a very little coal. Thus, it will be seen, the fire is to be lighted at the top. The results will be not only satisfactory, but astonishing… One fair trial of this system will satisfy everybody; and the servant will soon find that it will not only save her master an incredible quantity of coals, but that it will also save her a vast amount of trouble : the bell will be rung less frequently for the coal-scuttle, and the hearth will not require sweeping so often ; the fire, if properly made, will never require to be relighted during the day; there will be no soot-flakes on the furniture, and so little even in the chimney, that the services of the sweep will seldom be required.

Hint 555 is a suggestion for how to make a bed for an impoverished person.
BEECH leaves are recommended for this purpose, as they are very springy, and will not harbour vermin. They should be gathered on a dry day in the autumn, and be perfectly dried.

Hint 572 is a clever way to kill pesky flies.
TAKE some jars, mugs, or tumblers, fill them half-full with soapy water; cover them as jam-pots are covered, with a piece of paper, either tied down or tucked under the rim. Let this paper rubbed inside with wet sugar, treacle, honey, or jam-in fact anything sweet, and it must have a small hole cut in the centre, large enough for a fly to enter. The flies settle on the top, attracted by the smell of the bait; they then crawl through the hole, to feed upon the sweet beneath. Meanwhile the warmth of the weather causes the soapy water to ferment, and produces a gas which overpowers the flies, and they drop down into the vessel. Thousands may be destroyed this way, and the traps last a long time.

Hint 966 explains the tedious process of washing clothes with lime.
The method of Washing with Lime is as follows : Take half a pound of quicklime, half a pound of Soap, and half a pound of Soda. Shred the soap and dissolve it in half a gallon of boiling water ; pour half a gallon of boiling water over the soda ; and enough boiling water over the quicklime to cover it. The lime must be quite fresh. Prepare each of these in separate vessels. Put the dissolved lime and soda together, and boil them for twenty minutes. Then pour them into a jar to settle. Set aside the Flannels and Coloured things, as they must not be washed in this way. The night before washing, the collars and wristbands of shirts, the feet of steckings, &c., should be rubbed well with soap and set to soak. In the morning pour ten gallons of water into the copper,· and having strained the mixture of lime and soda well, taking great care not to disturb the settlings, put it, together with the soap, into the water, and make the whole boil before putting in the clothes. A plate should be placed at the bottom of the copper to prevent the clothes from burning. Boil each lot of clothes from half an hour to an hour. Wash the finer things first. Then rinse them well in cold blue water. When dry they will be beautifully white. The same water will do for three lots.

• Susanna’s Note: blue dye was a chemical brightener.

The last pages of the book contain many small, handy hints that I’ve excerpted below.
1057 Port Wine sediment, is excellent as a flavouring to coffee.
1058 Biscuits, broken, and biscuit dust are good for puddings.
1059 Chestnuts may be made into soups or puddings.
1060 Milk, morning, is richer than that of the evening.
1061 Leeks, green tops of, sliced thin, capital flavouring for soups.
1062 Wood ashes form a good lye for softening water.
1063 Bricks covered with baize, serve to keep open doors.
1064 Rye roasted, is the best substitute for coffee, with chicory.
1065 Turnip-peel, washed clean, and tied in a net, imparts good flavour to soups.
1066 Gold green tea, well sweetened, put into saucers, will destroy flies.
1067 Celery leaves and ends, are useful for flavouring soups, gravies, sauces, &c.
1068 Beans, roasted, form an agreeable substitute for coffee, with chicory.
1069 Walnuts, the outer green husks supply, with vinegar, a very good catchup.
1070 Cherry kernels, broken, steeped in brandy, make a nice flavouring for tarts.
1071 Mulberry juice in small quantity greatly improves the colour and flavour of cider.
1072 Wheat, roasted, forms an agreeable substitute for coffee, with chicory.
1073 Cloth of old clothes, may be made into door mats, pen-wipers, &c.
1074 Bay leaves, in their green state, allay the inflammation of bee-stings.
1075 Linen rags should be washed and preserved for various domestic uses.
1076 Apple pips impart a fine flavour to tarts and dumplings.
1077 Old shoes make excellent slippers, and being occasionally polished look very well.
1078 The Soot should be brushed from the backs of kettles daily, and the front parts be polished.
1079 Sage leaves in small quantity, make an excellent addition to tea.
1080 Lemon juice will allay the irritation caused by the bites of gnats and flies.
1081 Clothes lines should be well wiped before they are put away. Gutta percha lines are best.
1082 Ashes and soap-suds are a good manure for shrubs and young plants.
1083 Oyster shell, put into a teakettle, will prevent its becoming furred.
1084 The white of egg, beaten to a froth with a little butter, is a good substitute for cream in tea or coffee.
1085 Honey and castor oil mixed are excellent for the asthmatic. A tea-spoonful night and morning.
1086 Soap suds, and soapy water, supply a good manure for garden soils.
1087 Cold potatoes, mashed with peas, make an excellent and light peas pudding.
1088 Wooden spoons are generally best for articles that require beating or stirring in cookery.
1089 Milk when slightly acid, mixed with a little lukewarm water, is a cooling drink for invalids.
1090 Bran, dusted over joints of meat when hung, will keep them good for an extra time.
1091 As much carbonate of soda as will lie on a four-penny piece, added to tea, will increase its strength.
1092 Parsley eaten with vinegar will remove the unpleasant effects of eating onions.
1093 Fine coals are excellent for cleaning bottles. Put them in with a little hot or cold water, and shake well.
1094 Lemon Peel is useful for flavouring gravies, sauces, puddings, punch, grog, &c.
1095 Plum stones, broken, and steeped in brandy, afford an excellent flavouring for tarts.
1096 The juice of Bean Pods is an effective cure for warts.
1097 Eggs white of, useful for clearing coffee; and as a cement for broken china, with lime.
1098 A little cider added to apple tarts, greatly improves them.
1099 Fried cucumber, added to Soups, greatly improves them. They should be fried in slices.
1100 Gras meters may be prevented from freezing by keeping one burner lighted during the whole day.
1101 Scotch oatmeal, carefully dried, will keep cream cheese good and dry, if laid over it.
1102 The leaves and roots of the blackberry shrub make an excellent and refreshing tea. The berries are a corrective of dysentery.
1103 Stale bread, after being steeped in water, and re-baked for about an hour, will be nearly equal to new.
1104 Pea-shells and haulm are excellent food for horses, mixed with bruised oats, or bran. Good also for pigs.
1105 Butter which has been used for covering potted meats, may be used for basting, or in paste for meat pies.
1106 Bleeding from the nose may be stopped by putting bits of lint into the nostrils; and by raising the arms over the head.
1107 Egg shells, are useful for the stock-pot, to clarify the stock.
1108 In winter, get the work forward by daylight, which will prevent many accidents and inconveniences with candles, &c.
1109 In ironing, be careful first to rub the iron over something of little value; this will prevent the scorching and smearing of many articles.

1110 When chamber towels wear thin in the middle, cut them in two, sew the selvages together, and hem the sides.
1111 One flannel petticoat will wear nearly as long as two, if turned hind part before, when the front begins to wear thin.
1112 For turning meats while broiling or frying, small tongs are better than a fork. The latter lets out the juice of the meat.
1113 Persons of weak sight, when threading a needle, should hold it over something white, by which the sight will be assisted.
1114 Lemon and orange seeds either steeped in spirits, or stewed in syrups, supply an excellent bitter tonic.
1115 Gutta Percha is useful for filling decayed teeth, stopping crevices in windows and floors, preventing windows from rattling, &c.
1116 Potatoes may be prevented from sprouting in the spring season, by momentarily dipping them into hot water.
1117 To loosen a glass stopper, pour round it a little sweet oil, close to the stopper, and let it stand in a warm place.
1118 Raspberries, green, impart an acidity to spirit more grateful than that of the lemon. A decoction in spirit may be kept for flavouring.
1119 Acorns, roasted, form a substitute for coffee, and produce a beverage scarcely less agreeable especially if with an addition of chicory.
1120 The presence of copper in liquids may be detected by a few drops of hartshorn, which produces, when copper is present, a blue colour.
1121 Cold melted butter may be warmed by putting the vessel containing it into boiling water, and allowing it to stand until warm.
1122 Cabbages, (red), for pickling, should be cut with a silver knife. This keeps them from turning black, as they do when touched with iron.
1123 Common radishes, when young, tied in bunches, boiled for twenty minutes, and served on buttered toast, are excellent.
1124 Eel skins, well cleansed, to clarify coffee, &c. Sole skins, well cleansed, to clarify coffee, &c, and making fish soups and gravies.
1125 Charcoal powder is good for polishing knives, without destroying the blades. It is also a good toothpowder, when finely pulverised.
1126 The earthy mould should never be washed from potatoes, carrots, or other roots, until immediately before they are to be cooked.
1127 Apple pips, and also the pips of pears, should be saved, and put into tarts, bruised. They impart a delicious flavour.
1128 Potatoe water, in which potatoes have been scraped, the water being allowed to settle, and afterwards strained, is good for sponging dirt out of silk.
1129 Sitting to sew by candle-light, before a table with a black cloth on it, is injurious to the eyes. When such work must be done, lay a black cloth before you.
1130 Straw matting may be cleaned with a large coarse cloth, dipped in salt and water, and then wiped dry. The salt prevents the straw from turning yellow,
1131 Cold boiled potatoes used as soap, will cleanse the hands, and keep the skin soft and healthy. Those not over-boiled are best.
1132 In mending sheets, shirts, or other articles, let the pieces put on be fully large, or when washed the thin parts will give way, and the work be all undone.
1133 Leaves, green, of any kind, worn inside the hat in the heat of summer, are said to be an effectual preventive of sun-stroke.
1134 Cakes, Puddings, &c, are always improved by making the currants, sugar, and flour hot, before using them.
1135 It is an error to give fowls egg shells, with the object of supplying them with lime. It frequently induces in fowls a habit of eating eggs.
1136 Buttermilk is excellent for cleaning sponges. Steep the sponge in the milk for some hours, then squeeze it out, and wash in cold water.
1137 Lamp shades of ground glass should be cleaned with soap or pearlash; these will not injure noi discolour them.
1138 When reading by candle-light, place the candle behind you, that the light may pass over your shoulder and fall upon the book from behind.
1139 Walnut pickle, after the walnuts are consumed, is useful for adding to gravies and sauces, especially for minced cold meats, and hashes.
1140 Coffee grounds are a disinfectant and deodorizer, being burnt upon a hot fire-shovel, and borne through any apartment.
1141 Cold boiled eggs may be warmed by putting them into cold water and warming them gradually, taking them out before the water boils.
1142 The best plan to collect dripping is, to put it while warm into water nearly cold. Any impurities it may contain will sink to the bottom.
1143 Hay, sprinkled with a little chloride of lime, and left for one hour in a closed room, will remove the smell of new paint.
1144 Tea leaves, used for keeping down the dust when sweeping carpets, are apt to stain light colours; in which case, use newly-mown damp grass instead.
1145 Moths deposit their eggs in May and June. This, therefore, is the time to dust furs, &c, and to place bits of camphor in drawers and boxes.
1146 Bran may be used for cleaning damask or chintz. It should be rubbed over them with a piece of flannel.
1147 A cut lemon kept on the washing-stand, and rubbed over the hands daily after washing, and not wiped off for some minutes, is the best remedy for chapped hands. Lemon juice, or Salts of Lemon, will clean Sponges perfectly.
1148 Elder flowers, prepared in precisely the same manner as 1153, furnish a very cooling ointment, for all kinds of local irritation, and especially for the skin when sun-burnt.
1149 Common washing soda dissolved in water, until the liquid will take up no more, is an effective remedy for warts. Moisten the warts with it, and let them dry, without wiping.

1150 Bran water, or water in which bran has been steeped, greatly improves bread, instead of plain water. The bran may afterwards be given to fowls, or pigs.
1151 After washings, look over linen, and stitch on buttons, hooks and eyes. For this purpose keep a box or bag well supplied with sundry threads, cottons, buttons, hooks and eyes, &c.
1152 It has been suggested that the sea; of eggs may be determined by the situation of the air-cell; but careful experiments have shown that no dependence can be put upon this criterion.
1153 The leaf of the common dock, bruised and rubbed over the part affected, will cure the stings caused by nettles. Leaves of sage, mint, or rosemary are also good for the same purpose.
1154 Pudding cloths should never be washed with soap. They should be rinsed in clean water, dried, and be put away in a drawer, where they will be free from dust.
1155 Add a tea-spoonful of Alum, and a tea-spoonful of Salt, to each three gallons of Vinegar for Pickling, and immerse in it whole pepper, ginger root, and mixed spices, and it will be greatly improved.
1156 It is a great economy in serving Dinners to provide a plentiful supply of good vegetables, thoroughly hot. For which purpose they should not be served up all at once, but a reserve “to follow” should be the plan.
1157 It is an error to wash weak children, in cold water, with the view of strengthening them. The temperature should be modified to their condition, and be lowered as they are found to improve.
1158 Onions, eschalots, scallions, chives, garlic, and rocambole are pretty much the same, and may be substituted one for the other in many instances, as a matter oi convenience or economy.
1159 For Soft Corns, dip a piece of linen rag in Turpentine, and wrap it round the toe on “which the corn is situated, night and morning. The relief will be immediate, and after a few days the corn will disappear.
1160 The Juice of an Onion will relieve the pain from a bee-sting; dusting the blue from a washerwoman’s “blue bag ” will have a similar effect. The venom must first be pressed out.

The Joy of Victorian Cooking

I was reading Bill Bryson’s fabulous book At Home when I came across a reference to Eliza Acton’s cookbook Modern Cookery, in All Its Branches: Reduced to a System of Easy Practice, for the Use of Private Families. In a Series of Receipts, which Have Been Strictly Tested, and are Given with the Most Minute Exactness from 1845. According to Bryson, Acton was one of the first cookbook writers to use precise measurements and cooking times in her recipes. My curiosity piqued, I skedaddled over to Google Books and had a look-see. As is my style, I skipped over meat and vegetable parts and went right for the desserts.  A few days later, I was telling my foodie friend about the book over breakfast. I opened the book on my iPhone and was scanning the pages when I came across a section illustrating the various cooking implements. This excited me because (I’m weird) whenever I visit historically accurate kitchens, I’m just clueless about the equipment. It’s all large and sinister looking, as if the food was first tortured then cooked. I really enjoyed reading the following excerpts (because of the many references to bacon) and came away with a profound appreciation to be born in the twentieth century. So go pop something to eat in the microwave and then munch on it while you read.  



ironboilerLarge joints of meat should be neatly trimmed, washed extremely clean, and skewered or bound firmly into good shape, when they are of a nature to require it; then well covered with cold water, brought to boil over a moderate fire, and simmered until they are done, the scum being carefully and entirely cleared from the surface of the water, as it gathers there, which will be principally from within a few minutes of its beginning to boil, and during a few minutes afterwards. If not thoroughly skimmed off at the proper time, it will sink, and adhere to the joint, giving it a very uninviting appearance.

We cannot too strongly again impress upon the cook the advantages of gentle simmering over the usual fast-boiling of meat, by which, as has been already forcibly shown (see article Bouillon, Chapter I.), the outside is hardened and deprived of its juices before the inside is half done, while the starting of the flesh from the bones which it occasions, and the altogether ragged aspect which it gives, are most unsightly. Pickled or salted meat requires longer boiling than fresh; and that which is smoked and dried longer still. This last should always be slowly heated, and if, from any circumstances, time cannot have been allowed for soaking it properly, and there is a probability of its being too salt when served, it should be brought very softly to boil in a large quantity of water, which should in part be changed as soon as it becomes quite briny, for as much more that is ready boiling.

copperpotIt is customary to lay large joints upon a fish-plate, or to throw some wooden skewers under them, to prevent their sticking to the vessel in which they are cooked; and it is as well to take the precaution, though, unless they be placed over a very fierce fire, they cannot be in danger of this. The time allowed for them is about the same as for roasting, from fifteen to twenty minutes to the pound. For cooking rounds of beef, and other ponderous joints, a pan of this form is very convenient.

Large Copper or Iron Stockpot * The most suitable, and the most usual form of stockpot for making soup in large quantities is the deep one, which will be found at page 2; but the handles should be at the sides as in that shown above, with others on the cover to correspond (or with one in the centre of it), which, from some inadvertence, have been omitted in the present engraving.

By means of two almost equally expensive preparations, called a poêlée, and a blanc, the insipidity which results from boiling meat or vegetables in water only, may be removed, and the whiteness of either will be better preserved. Turkeys, fowls, sweetbreads, calf’s brains, cauliflowers, and artichoke bottoms, are the articles for which the poélée and the blanc are more especially used in refined foreign cookery: the reader will judge by the following receipts how far they are admissible into that of the economist.


Cut into large dice two pounds of lean veal, and two pounds of fat bacon, cured without saltpetre, two large carrots, and two onions; to these add half a pound of fresh butter, put the whole into a stewpan, and stir it with a wooden spoon over a gentle fire, until the veal is very white, and the bacon is partially melted; then pour to them three pints of clear boiling broth or water, throw in four cloves, a small bunch or two of thyme and parsley, a bay-leaf, and a few corns of white pepper; boil these gently for an hour and a half, then strain the poélée through a fine sieve, and set it by in a cool place. Use it instead of water for boiling the various articles we have already named: it will answer for several in succession, and will remain good for many days. Some cooks order a pound of butter in addition to the bacon, and others substitute beef-suet in part for this last.


Put into a stewpan one pound of fat bacon rasped, one pound of beef-suet cut small, and one pound of butter, the strained juice of two lemons, a couple of bay-leaves, three cloves, three carrots, and three onions divided into dice, and less than half a pint of water. Simmer these gently, keeping them often stirred, until the fat is well melted, and the water has evaporated; then pour in rather more than will be required for the dish which is to be cooked in the blanc; boil it softly until all the ingredients have given out their full flavour, skim it well, add salt if needed, and strain it off for use. A calf’s head is often boiled in this.


roasterRoasting, which is quite the favourite mode of dressing meat in this country, and one in which the English are thought to excel, requires unremitting attention on the part of the cook, rather than any great exertion of skill. Large kitchens are usually fitted with a smoke-jack, by means of which several spits, if needful, can be kept turning at the same time; but in small establishments, a roaster which allows of some economy in point of fuel is more commonly used. That shown in the print is of very advantageous construction in this respect, as a joint may be cooked in it with a comparatively small fire, the heat being strongly reflected from the screen upon the meat; in consequence of this, it should never be placed very close to the grate, as the surface of the joint would then become dry and hard.

A more convenient form of roaster, with a spit placed horizontally, and turned by means of a wheel and chain, of which the movement is regulated by a spring contained in a box at the top, is of the same economical order as the one above.

Improved Spring-jack and Roaster

* The bottle-jack, without the screen, is used in many families very successfully; it is wound up like a watch, by means of a key, and turns very regularly until it has run down.

For roasting without either of these, make up a fire proportioned in width and height to the joint which is to be roasted, and which it should surpass in dimensions every way, by two or three inches. Place some moderate-sized lumps of coal on the top; let it be free from smoke and ashes in front; and so compactly arranged that it will neither require to be disturbed, nor supplied with fresh fuel, for some considerable time after the meat is laid down. Spit the joint and place it very far from the fire at first; keep it constantly basted, and when it is two parts done, move it nearer to the fire that it may be properly browned; but guard carefully against it being burned. A few minutes before it is taken from the spit, sprinkle a little fine salt over it, baste it thoroughly with its own dripping, or with butter, and dredge it with flour: as soon as the froth is well risen, dish, and serve the meat. Or, to avoid the necessity of the frothing which is often greatly objected to on account of the raw taste retained by the flour, dredge the roast liberally soon after it is first laid to the fire; the flour will then form a savoury incrustation upon it, and assist to prevent the escape of its juices. When meat or poultry is wrapped in buttered paper it must not be floured until this is removed, which should be fifteen or twenty minutes before either is served.

Remember always to draw back the dripping-pan when the fire has to be stirred, or when fresh coals are thrown on, that the cinders and ashes may not fall into it.

When meat is very lean, a slice of butter, or a small quantity of clarified dripping should be melted in the pan to baste it with at first; though the use of the latter should be scrupulously avoided for poultry, or any delicate meats, as the flavour it imparts is to many persons peculiarly objectionable. Let the spit be kept bright and clean, and wipe it before the meat is put on ; balance the joint well upon it, that it may turn steadily, and if needful secure it with screw-skewers. A cradle spit, which is so constructed that it contains the meat in a sort of framework, instead of passing through it, may be often very advantageously used instead of an ordinary one, as the perforation of the meat by this last must always occasion some escape of the juices; and it is, moreover, particularly to be objected to in roasting joints or poultry which have been boned and filled with forcemeat. The cradle spit (for which see “Turkey Boned and Forced,” Chapter XII.) is much better suited to these, as well as to a sucking pig, sturgeon, salmon, and other large fish; but it is not very commonly to be found in our kitchens, many of which exhibit a singular scantiness of the conveniences which facilitate the labours of the cook. For heavy and substantial joints, a quarter of an hour is generally allowed for every pound of meat; and with a sound fire and frequent basting, will be found sufficient when the process is conducted in the usual manner, but by the slow method, as we shall designate it, almost double the time will be required. Pork, veal, and lamb, should always be well roasted; but many eaters prefer mutton and beef rather under-dressed, though some persons have a strong objection to the sight even of any meat that is not thoroughly cooked.

Joints which are thin in proportion to their weight, require less of the fire than thick and solid ones. Ribs of beef, for example, will be sooner ready to serve than an equal weight of the rump, round, or sirloin; and the neck or shoulder of mutton, or spare rib of pork, than the leg.

When to preserve the succulence of the meat is more an object than to economize fuel, beef and mutton should be laid at twice the usual distance from the fire, and allowed to remain so until they are perfectly heated through; the roasting, so managed, will of course be slow ; and from three hours and a half to four hours will be necessary to cook by this method a leg of mutton of ordinary size, for which two hours would amply suffice in a common way; but the flesh will be remarkably tender, and the flow of gravy from it most abundant. It should not be drawn near the fire until within the last hour, and should then be placed only so close as to brown it properly. No kind of roast indeed should at any time be allowed to take colour too quickly; it should be heated gradually, and kept at least at a moderate distance from the fire until it is nearly done, or the outside will be dry and hard, if not burned, while the inside will be only half cooked.


steamerThe application of steam to culinary purposes is becoming very general in our kitchens at the present day, especially in those of large establishments, many of which are furnished with apparatus for its use, so admirably constructed, and so complete, that the process may be conducted on an extensive scale, with very slight trouble to the cook; and with the further advantage of being at a distance from the fire, the steam being conveyed by pipes to the vessels intended to receive it. Fish, butcher’s meat, poultry, vegetables, puddings, maccaroni, and rice, are all subjected to its action, instead of being immersed in water, as in simple boiling; and the result is to many persons perfectly satisfactory; though, as there is a difference of opinion amongst first-rate cooks, with regard to the comparative merits of the two modes of dressing meat and fish, a trial should be given to the steaming, on a small scale, before any great expenses are incurred for it, which may be done easily with a common saucepan or boiler, fitted like the one shown above, with a simple tin steamer. Servants not accustomed to the use of these, should be warned against boiling in the vessel itself any thing of coarse or strong flavour, when the article steamed is of a delicate nature. The vapour from soup containing onions, for example, would have a very bad effect on a sweet pudding especially, and on many other dishes. Care and discretion, therefore, must be exercised on this point. By means of a kettle fixed over it, the steam of the boiler in the kitchen range, steamingmay be made available for cooking, in the way shown by the engraving, which exhibits fish, potatoes, and their sauces, all in progress of steaming at the same time.* The limits of our work do  not permit us to enter at much length upon this subject, but the reader who may wish to understand the nature of steam, and the various modes in which its agency may be applied to domestic purposes, will do well to consult Mr. Webster’s excellent work, of which we have more particularly spoken in another chapter. The quite inexperienced cook may require to be told, that any article of food which is to be cooked by steam in a saucepan of the form exhibited in the first of the engravings of this section, must be prepared exactly as for boiling, and laid into the sort of strainer affixed to the top of the saucepan; and that water, or some other kind of liquid, must be put into the saucepan itself, and kept boiling in it, the lid being first closely fixed into the steamer.


This very wholesome, convenient, and economical mode of cookery is by no means so well understood nor profited by in England as on the continent, where its advantages are fully appreciated. So very small a quantity of fuel is necessary to sustain the gentle degree of ebullition which it requires, that this alone would recommend it to the careful housekeeper; but if the process be skillfully conducted, meat softly stoved or stewed, in close-shutting, or luted vessels, is in every respect equal, if not superior, to that which is roasted; but it must be simmered only, and in the gentlest possible manner, or, instead of being tender, nutritious, and highly palatable, it will be dry, and indigestible.

hearthThe common cooking stoves in this country, as they have hitherto been constructed, have rendered the exact regulation of heat which stewing requires rather difficult; and the smoke and blaze of a large coal fire are very unfavourable to many other modes of cookery as well. The French have generally the advantage of the embers and ashes of the wood which is their ordinary fuel; and they have always, in addition, a stove of this construction in which charcoal or braise (for explanation of this word, see remarks on preserving, Chapter XXI.) only is burned; and upon which their stewpans can, when there is occasion, be left uncovered, without the danger of their contents being spoiled, which there generally is with us. ovenIt is true that of late great improvements have been made in our own stoves; and the hot plates, or hearths with which the kitchens of good houses are always furnished, are admirably adapted to the simmering system; but when the cook has not the convenience of one, the stewpans must be placed on trevets high above the fire, and be constantly watched, and moved, as occasion may require, nearer to, or further from the flame. No copper vessels from which the inner tinning is in the slightest degree worn away should be used ever for this or for any other kind of cookery; or not health only, but life itself, may be endangered by them.

We have ourselves seen a dish of acid fruit which had been boiled without sugar, in a copper pan from which the tin lining was half worn away, coated with verdigris after it had become cold; and from the careless habits of the person who had prepared it, the chances were greatly in favour of its being served to a family afterwards, if it had not been accidently discovered. Salt acts upon the copper in the same manner as acids: vegetables, too, from the portion of the latter which they contain, have the same injurious effect; and the greatest danger results from allowing preparations containing any of these to become cold (or cool) in the stewpan, in contact with the exposed part of the copper in the inside. Thick, well-tinned iron saucepans will answer for all the ordinary purposes of common English cookery, even for stewing, provided they have tightly-fitting lids to prevent the escape of the steam; but the copper ones are of more convenient form, and better adapted to a superior order of cookery

* Sugar, being an antidote to the poisomous effects of verdigris, should be plentifully taken, dissolved in water, so as to form quite a syrup, by persons who may unfortunately have partaken of any dish into which this dangerous ingredient has entered.

We shall have occasion to speak more particularly in another part of this work, of the German enamelled stewpans, so safe, and so well suited, from the extreme nicety of the composition, resembling earthenware or china, with which they are lined, to all delicate compounds. The cook should be warned, however, that they retain the heat so long, that the contents will boil for several minutes after they are removed from the fire, and this must be guarded against when they have reached the exact point, at which further boiling would have a bad effect; as would be the case with some preserves, and other sweets.


Broiling is the best possible mode of cooking and of preserving the flavour of several kinds of fish, amongst which we may specify mackerel and whitings; it is also incomparably conjurersuperior to frying for steaks and cutlets, especially of beef and mutton; and it is far better adapted, also, to the preparation of food for invalids; but it should be carefully done, for if the heat be too fierce, the outside of the meat will bescorched – and hardened so as to render it uneatable; and if, on the contrary, it be too gentle, the gravy will be drawn out, and yet the flesh will remain so entirely without firmness, as to be unpleasant eating. A brisk fire perfectly free from smoke, a very clean gridiron, tender meat, a dish and plates as hot as they can be, and great despatch in sending it to table when done, are all essential to the serving of a good broil. The gridiron should be well heated, and rubbed with mutton suet before the meat is laid on, and it should be placed slopingly over the fire, that the fat may run off to the back of the grate, instead of falling on the live coals and smoking the meat: if this precaution should not prevent its making an occasional blaze, lift the gridiron quickly beyond the reach of the smoke, and hold it away until the fire is clear again. Steaks and chops should be turned often, that the juices may be kept in, and that they may be equally done in every part. If, for this purpose, it should be necessary, for want of steak-tongs, to use a fork, it should be passed through the outer skin, or fat of the steak, but never stuck into the lean, as by that means much of the gravy will escape. Most eaters prefer broiled beef or mutton, rather under-dressed; but pork chops should always be thoroughly cooked. When a fowl or any other bird is cut asunder before it is broiled, the inside should first be laid to the fire: this should be done with kidneys also. Fish is less dry, and of better flavour, as well as less liable to be smoked, if it be wrapped in a thickly buttered sheet of writing paper before it is placed on the gridiron. For the more delicate-skinned kinds, the bars should be rubbed with chalk instead of suet, when the paper is omitted. Cutlets, or meat in any other form, when egged and crumbed for broiling, should afterwards be dipped into clarified butter, or sprinkled with it plentifully, as the egg-yolk and bread will otherwise form too dry a crust upon it. French cooks season their cutlets both with salt and pepper, and brush a little oil or butter over them to keep them moist; but unless this be done, no seasoning of salt should be given them until they are just ready to be dished: the French method is a very good one.

* Salmon broiled in slices, is a favourite dish with eaters who like the full rich favour of the fish preserved, as it is much more luscious (but less delicate) dressed thus than when it is boiled. The slices should be cut from an inch to an inch and a half thick, and taken from the middle of a very fresh salmon; they may be seasoned with cayenne only, and slowly broiled over a very clear fire; or, folded in buttered paper before they are laid on the gridiron; or, lightly brushed with oil, and highly seasoned; or, dipped into egg-yolks and them into the finest crumbs mixed with salt, spice, and plenty of minced herbs, then sprinkled with clarified butter; but in whichever way they are prepared they will require to be gently broiled, with every precaution against their being smoked. From half to three quarters of an hour will cook them. Dried salmon cut into thin slices, is merely warmed through over a slow fire.

conjurer2Steaks or cutlets may be quickly cooked with a sheet or two of lighted paper only, in the apparatus shown in the preceding page, and called a conjurer. Lift off the cover and lay in the meat properly seasoned, with a small slice of butter under it, and insert the lighted paper in the aperture shown in the plate; in from eight to ten minutes the meat will be done, and found to be remarkably tender, and very palatable: it must be turned and moved occasionally during the process. This is an especially convenient mode of cooking for  persons whose hours of dining are rendered uncertain by the nature of their avocations. For medical men engaged in extensive country practice it has been often proved so. The conjurer costs but a few shillings. Another form of this economical apparatus, with which a pint of water may be made to boil by means of only a sheet of paper wrapped round a cone, in the inside, is shown in the second plate.


sauteThis is an operation, which, though apparently very simple, requires to be more carefully and skillfully conducted than it commonly is. Its success depends principally on allowing the fat to attain the exact degree of heat which shall give firmness, without too quick browning or scorching, before anything is laid into the pan; for if this be neglected the article fried will be saturated with the fat, and remain pale and flaccid. When the requisite degree of colour is acquired before the cooking is complete, the pan should be placed high above the fire, that it may be continued slowly to the proper point. Steaks and cutlets should be seasoned with salt and pepper, and dredged on both sides lightly with flour before they are laid into the pan, in which they should be often moved and turned, that they may be equally done, and that they may not stick nor burn to it. From ten to fifteen minutes will fry them. They should be evenly sliced, about the same thickness as for broiling, and neatly trimmed and divided in the first instance. Lift them into a hot dish when done; pour the fat from the pan, and throw in a small slice of butter; stir to this a large teaspoonful of flour, brown it gently, and pour in by degrees a quarter-pint of hot broth or water; shake the pan well round, add pepper, salt, and a little good catsup, or any other store sauce which may be preferred to it, and pour the gravy over the steaks: this is the most common mode of saucing and serving them.

Minute directions for fish, and others for omlets, and for different preparations of batter, are given in their proper places; but we must again observe, that a very small fryingpan (scarcely larger than a dinner-plate) is necessary for many of these ; and, indeed, the large and thick one suited to meat and fish, and used commonly for them, is altogether unfit for nicer purposes.

The sauté-pan, shown in the preceding page, is much used by French cooks instead of a frying-pan; it is more particularly convenient for tossing quickly over the fire small collops, or aught else which requires but little cooking.

wireAll fried dishes, which are not sauced, should be served extremely dry, upon a neatly-folded damask cloth: they are best drained, upon a sieve reversed, placed before the fire. A wire basket of this form is convenient for frying parsley and other herbs. It must be placed in a pan well filled with fat, and lifted out quickly when the herbs are done: they may likewise be crisped in it over a clear fire, without being fried.


americanovenThe oven may be used with advantage for many purposes of cookery, for which it is not commonly put into requisition. Calves’ feet, covered with a proper proportion of water, may be reduced to a strong jelly if left in it for some hours; the half-head, boned and rolled, will be found excellent eating, if laid, with the bones, into a deep pan and baked quite tender in sufficient broth, or water, to keep it covered in every part until done; good soup also may be made in the same way, the usual ingredients being at once added to the meat, with the exception of the vegetables, which will not become tender if put into cold liquor, and should therefore be thrown in after it begins to simmer. Baking is likewise one of the best modes of dressing various kinds of fish: pike and red mullet amongst others. Salmon cut into thick slices, freed from the skin, well seasoned with spice, mixed with salt (and with minced herbs, at pleasure), then arranged evenly in a dish, and covered thickly with crumbs of bread, moistened with clarified butter, as directed in Chapter II, for baked soles, and placed in the oven for about half an hour, will be found very rich and highly flavoured. Part of the middle of the salmon left entire, well cleaned, and thoroughly dried, then seasoned, and securely wrapped in two or three folds of thickly buttered paper, will also prove excellent eating, if gently baked. (This may likewise be roasted in a Dutch oven, either folded in the paper, or left without it, and basted with butter.)

Hams, when freshly cured, and not over salted, if neatly trimmed, and closely wrapped in a coarse paste, are both more juicy, and of finer flavour baked than boiled. Savoury or pickled beef, too, put into a deep pan, with a little gravy, and plenty of butter, or chopped suet on the top, to prevent the outside from becoming dry; then covered with paste, or with several folds of thick paper, and set into a moderate oven for four or five hours, or even longer, if it be of large weight, is an excellent dish. A goose, a leg of pork, and a sucking pig, if properly attended to while in the oven, are said to be nearly, or quite as good as if roasted; but baking is both an unpalatable and an unprofitable mode of cooking joints of meat in general, though its great convenience to many persons who have but few other facilities for obtaining the luxury of a hot dinner renders it a very common one.

It is usual to raise meat from the dish in which it is sent to the oven by placing it, properly skewered, on a stand, so as to allow potatoes or a batter pudding to be baked under it. A few button onions, freed from the outer skin, or three or four large ones, cut in halves, are sometimes put beneath a shoulder of mutton. Two sheets of paper spread separately with a thick layer of butter, clarified marrow, or any other fat, and fastened securely over the outside of a joint, will prevent its being too much dried by the fierce heat of the oven. A few spoonsful of water or gravy should be poured into the dish with potatoes, and a little salt sprinkled over them.

A celebrated French cook recommends braising in the oven : that is to say, after the meat has been arranged in the usual manner, and just brought to boil over the fire, that the braising pan, closely stopped, should be put into a moderate oven, for the same length of time as would be required to stew the meat perfectly tender.

American Oven.

By means of this oven, which, from its construction, reflects the heat very strongly, bread, cakes, and pies, can be perfectly well baked before a large clear fire; but, as we have stated in another part of our work, the consumption of fuel necessary to the process renders it far from economical. A spit has lately been introduced into some of the American ovens, converting them at once into portable and convenient roasters.


braisinBraising is but a more expensive mode of stewing meat. The following French recipe will explain the process. We would observe, however, that the layers of beef or veal, in which the joint to be braised is imbedded, can afterwards be converted into excellent soup, gravy, or glaze; and English Braising-pan. that there need, in consequence, be no waste, nor any unreasonable degree of expense attending it; but it is a troublesome process, and quite as good a result may be obtained by simmering the meat in very strong gravy. Should the flavour of the bacon be considered an advantage, slices of it can be laid over the article braised, and secured to it with a fillet of tape.

“To braise the inside (or small fillet, as it is called in France) of a sirloin of beef: Raise the fillet clean from the joint; and with a sharp knife stripoff all the skin, leaving the surface of the meat as smooth as possible; have ready some strips of unsmoked bacon, half as thick as your little finger, roll them in a mixture of thyme finely minced, spices in powder, and a little pepper and salt. Lard the fillet quite through with these, and tie it round with tape in any shape you choose. Line the bottom of a stewpan (or braising-pan) with slices of bacon; next put in a layer of beef, or veal, four onions, two bay-leaves, two carrots, and a bunch of sweet herbs, and place the fillet on them. Cover it with slices of bacon, put some trimmings of meat all round it, and pour on to it half a pint of good bouillon or gravy. Let it stew as gently as possible for two hours and a half; take it up, and keep it very hot; strain, and reduce the gravy by quick boiling until it is thick enough to glaze with brush the meat over with it; put the rest in the dish with the fillet, after the tape has been removed from it, and send it directly to table.”

Equal parts of Madeira and gravy are sometimes used to moisten the meat.

No attempt should be made to braise a joint in any vessel that is not very nearly of its own size.

A round of buttered paper is generally put over the more delicate kinds of braised meat, to prevent their being browned by the fire, which in France is put round the lid of the braisingpan, in a groove made on purpose to contain it. The embers of a wood fire mixed with the hot ashes, are best adapted to sustain the regular, but gentle degree of heat required for this mode of cooking.

stewpanThe pan shown at the head of this section, with a closely — fitting copper tray, serving for the cover, is used commonly England for braising; but a stewpan – of modern form, or any other vessel which will admit of embers being placed upon the lid, will answer for the purpose as well. Common cooks sometimes stew meat in a mixture of butter and water, and call it braising.



Cut into slices, of the same length and thickness, some bacon of the finest quality; trim away the outsides, place the slices evenly upon each other, and with a sharp knife divide them obliquely into small strips of equal size. For pheasants, partridges, hares, fowls, and fricandeaux, the bacon should be about the eighth of an inch square, and two inches in length; but for meat which is to be larded quite through, instead of on the outside merely, the bits of bacon (properly called lardoons) must be at least the third of an inch square.

In general, the breasts only of birds are larded, the backs and thighs of hares, and the whole of the upper surface of a fricandeau: these should be thickly covered with small lardoons, placed at regular intervals, and in lines which intersect each other, so as to form rather minute diamonds. The following directions for larding a pheasant will serve equally for poultry, or for other kinds of game:—

Secure one end of the bacon in a slight larding-pin, and on the point of this take up sufficient of the flesh of the bird to hold the lardoon firmly; draw the pin through it, and part of the bacon, of which the two ends should be left of equal length. Proceed thus, until the breast of the pheasant is entirely garnished with lardoons, when it ought to resemble in appearance a cake thickly stuck with slips of almonds.

The larger strips of bacon, after being rolled in a high seasoning of minced herbs and spices, are used to lard the inside of meat, and they should be proportioned to its thickness, as they must be passed quite through it. For example: a fourinch slice from a rump of beef will require lardoons of very nearly that length, which must be drawn through with a large larding-pin, and left in it, with the ends just out of sight on either side.

In France, truffles, anchovies, slices of tongue, and of fat, all trimmed into proper shape, are occasionally used for larding. The bacon employed there for the purpose is cured without any saltpetre (as this would redden the white meats), and it is never smoked: the receipt for it will be found in Chapter XI. A turkey is sometimes larded with alternate lardoons of fat bacon and of bullock’s tongue, which has been pickled but not dried: we apprehend that the lean of a half-boiled ham, of good colour, could answer the purpose quite as well, or better. Larding the surface of meat, poultry, or game, gives it a good appearance, but it is a more positive improvement to meat of a dry nature to interlard the inside with large lardoons of well seasoned, delicate, striped English bacon.


Very minute directions being given in other parts of our volume for this, we confine ourselves here to the following rules:—in disengaging the flesh from it, work the knife always close to the bone, and take every care not to pierce the outer skin.


This is merely to throw either into a pan of boiling water for a few minutes, which gives firmness to the first, and is necessary for some modes of preparing vegetables.

The breast only of a bird is sometimes held in the water while it boils, to render it firm for larding. To preserve the whiteness of meat, and the bright green of vegetables, they are lifted from the water after they have boiled a few minutes, and are thrown immediately into spring water, and left till cold. to 10 minutes.


glazingThis process we have explained at the article Glaze, Chapter III. The surface of the meat should be covered evenly, with two or three separate layers of the glaze, which, if properly made, soon becomes firm. A ham should be well dried in the oven before it is laid on. Cutlets of all kinds may be glazed before they are sent to table, with very good effect. The figure above represents a glaze-pot and brush, used for heating and applying the preparation: a jar placed in a pan of boiling water may be substituted for the first, when it is not at hand.


toastA very cheap apparatus, by which chops can be dressed before a clear fire, is shown by the first of these figures; and the second is peculiarly convenient when bread or muffins are required to be toasted expeditiously and in large quantities, without much time and attention being bestowed upon them.

To brown the surface of a dish without baking or placing it at the fire. 

This is done with a salamander, as it is called, formed like the engraving below; it is heated in the fire, and held over the dish sufficiently near to give it colour.  It is very much used in a superior order of cookery. A kitchen shovel is sometimes substituted for it on an emergency.


Susanna’s note: Here are some instructions on fish


We find that all the smaller kinds of fish keep best if emptied and cleaned as soon as they are brought in, then wiped gently as dry as they can be, and hung separately by the head on the hooks in the ceiling of a cool larder, or in the open air when the weather will allow. When there is danger of their being attacked by flies, a wire safe, placed in a strong draught of air, is better adapted to the purpose. Soles in winter will remain good a couple of days when thus prepared; and even whiting and mackerel may be kept so without losing any of their excellence. Salt may be rubbed slightly over cod fish, and well along the back-bone, but it injures the flavour of salmon, the inside of which may be rubbed with vinegar, and peppered instead. When excessive sultriness renders all of these modes unavailing, the fish must at once be partially cooked to preserve it, but this should be avoided if possible, as it is very rarely so good when this method is resorted to.


The application of the pyroligneous acid will effect this when the taint is but slight. A wineglassful, mixed with two of water, may be poured over the fish, and rubbed upon the parts more particularly requiring it; it must then be left for some minutes untouched, and afterwards washed in several waters, and soaked until the smell of the acid is no longer perceptible. The chloride of soda,* from its powerful anti-putrescent properties, will have more effect when the fish is in a worse state. It should be applied in the same manner, and will not at all injure the flavour of the fish, which is not fit for food when it cannot be perfectly purified by either of these means. The chloride may be diluted more or less, as occasion may require.

* The reader will be sure to obtain the best preparation of the chloride of soda, by ordering Beaufoy’s, which, with the directions for its use, may be procured at any druggist’s in sealed quart bottles, at three and sixpence each. It is better adapted to delicate purposes than the chloride of lime. We would also recommend the use of Beaufoy’s pyroligneous acid.



Never leave it in the water after it is done; but if it cannot be sent to table as soon as it is ready to serve, lift it out, lay the fish-plate into a large and very hot dish, and set it across the fish-kettle; just dip a clean cloth into the boiling water, and spread it upon the fish; place a tin cover over it, and let it remain so until two or three minutes before it is wanted, then remove the cloth, and put the fish back into the kettle for an instant that it may be as hot as possible; drain, dish, and serve it immediately: the water should be kept boiling the whole time.



In season all the year. A fine turbot, in full season, and well served, is one of the most delicate and delicious fish that can be sent to table; but it is generally an expensive dish, and its excellence so much depends on the manner in which it is dressed, that great care should be taken to prepare it properly. After it is emptied, wash the inside until it is perfectly cleansed, and rub lightly a little fine salt over the outside, as this will render less washing and handling necessary, by at once taking off the slime; change the water several times, and when the fish is as clean as it is possible to render it, draw a sharp knife through the thickest part of the middle of the back nearly through to the bone. Never cut off the fins of a turbot when preparing it for table, and remember that it is the dark side of the fish in which the incision is to be made, to prevent the skin of the white side from cracking. Dissolve in a well-cleaned turbot, or common fish-kettle, in as much cold spring water as will cover the fish abundantly, salt, in the proportion of four ounces to the gallon, and a morsel of saltpetre; wipe the fish-plate with a clean cloth, lay the turbot upon it with the white side upwards, place it in the kettle, bring it slowly to boil, and clear off the scum, thoroughly as it rises. Let the water only just simmer until the fish is done, then lift it out, drain, and slide it gently on to a very hot dish, with a hot napkin neatly arranged over the drainer. Send it immediately to table with rich lobster sauce, good plain melted butter, and a dish of dressed cucumber. For a simple dinner, anchovy, or shrimp-sauce is sometimes served with a small turbot. Should there be any cracks in the skin of the fish, branches of curled parsley may be laid lightly over them, or part of the inside coral of the lobster, rubbed through a fine hair-sieve, may be sprinkled over the fish; but it is better without either, when it is very white, and unbroken. When garnishings are in favour, a slice of lemon and a tuft of curled parsley, may be placed alternately round the edge of the dish. A border of fried smelts, or of fillets of soles, was formerly served, in general, round a turbot, and is always a very admissible addition, though no longer so fashionable as it was . From fifteen to twenty minutes will boil a moderate-sized fish, and from twenty to thirty a large one; but as the same time will not always be sufficient for a fish of the same weight, the cook must watch it attentively, and lift it out as soon as its appearance denotes its 3eing done.

Moderate sized-turbot, 15 to 20 minutes. Large, 20 to 30 minutes. Longer, if of unusual size.

Obs-A lemon gently squeezed, and rubbed over the fish, is thought to preserve its whiteness. Some good cooks still put turbot into boiling water, and to prevent its breaking, tie it with a cloth tightly to the fish-plate; but cold water seems better adapted to it, as it is desirable that it should be gradually heated through before it begins to boil.