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.

Mrs. Beeton’s Victorian Menus for Picnics, Balls, and Wedding Breakfasts

While searching for information on afternoon teas, I stumbled across Mrs. Beeton’s picnic menu for forty. It’s a little overwhelming unless you’re a historic caterer. I decided to post it on my blog in case any of my characters were ambitious enough to throw such a picnic. Also included are menus for a ball and wedding breakfast.

Yikes! Hasty author’s note: When I originally posted this article, I stated that Beeton’s book was published in 1866 as listed on Google Books. Upon closer examination, I realized that no date was listed on the actual text. I searched on the famous author’s bibliography and quickly learned that Isabella Beeton had died in 1865. I knew she had led a short life, but I never knew the actual dates of her birth and death. This book may have been published after her passing. This is an interesting tidbit about Mrs. Beeton on the PBS site “The Secret Life of Isabella Beeton.”

“Isabella died at the age of 28 after giving birth to her fourth child in January of 1865. Her death is officially attributed to puerperal fever, an acute type of septicemia usually caused by an unsanitary environment. She was buried at West Norwood Cemetery in the London borough of Lambeth.

Samuel Beeton and subsequent publishers kept the news of Isabella’s death quiet, and continued to publish updates to Household Management, as well as completely new books, under her name.”

Isabella Beeton

The illustrations in this post can be found in La Mode Illustrée 1866 



Bill of Fare for a Picnic for 40 Persons.

A joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal-and-ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium-sized lobsters, 1 piece of collared calf‘s head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6 cucumbers.

Stewed fruit well sweetened, and put into glass bottles well corked; 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit, 2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs, 1 large cold plum-pudding (this must be good), a few baskets of fresh fruit, 3 dozen plain biscuits, a piece of cheese, 6 lbs. of butter (this, of course, includes the butter for tea), 4 quartern loaves of household bread, 3 dozen rolls, 6 loaves of tin bread (for tea), 2 plain plum cakes, 2 pound cakes, 2 sponge cakes, a tin of mixed biscuits, 1/2 lb. of tea. Coffee is not suitable for a picnic, being difficult to make.


Things not to be forgotten at a Picnic.

A stick of horseradish, a bottle of mint-sauce well corked, a bottle of salad dressing, a bottle of vinegar, made mustard, pepper, salt, good oil, and pounded sugar. If it can be managed, take a little ice. It is scarcely necessary to say that plates, tumblers, wine-glasses, knives, forks, and spoons, must not be forgotten ; as also teacups and saucers, 3 or 4 teapots, some lump sugar, and milk, if this last-named article cannot be obtained in the neighbourhood. Take 3 corkscrews.

Beverages.—3 dozen quart bottles of ale, packed in hampers; gingerbeer, soda-water, and lemonade, of each 2 dozen bottles; 6 bottles of sherry, 6 bottles of claret, champagne a discretion, and any other light wine that may be preferred, and 2 bottles of brandy. Water can usually be obtained  so it is useless to take it.







Author’s note: After publishing this blog, I realized that the only date

London Cooking Schools for Women in 1902

Shhh. I’m supposed to be writing fiction. I took a break to look for images for my new Facebook page (please like it, pretty please), when I came across “London Cooking-Schools and Their Teachers” in a 1902 issue of The Lady’s Realm. I couldn’t stop myself.  I excerpted some interesting (and infuriating) bits, but please take a look at the entire article if you interested in the names of the schools and the teachers. 


Here are eighteen girls from the School Board, ranging in age elven to fourteen, learning to be clever little housewives and competent cooks of the working man’s dietary. Forty happy hours of their school year are spent here in the concoction of “poor man’s venison,” shepherd’s pie, and other cottage charities.

In another classroom are “ladies of high degree” learning to lard quails, make ice puddings, fold serviettes in the daintiest fashion, and write menus in approved French.


In another classroom, a posse of uniformed Queen’s Jubilee Nurses are being initiated into the art of distract nurses’ cookery. The knowledge so gained will carry comfort and appetizing sick-room dishes into many a poor home

Workhouse diets are compiled at this school, Poor Law recipes tested and the committee has published a manual of model cookery for workhouses.


Visiting the various workrooms, one notes the enterprise of aspiring domestics anxious to ” better themselves.” For £5 15s. such ambitious young women can take a plain cook’s certificate, which is an investment yielding a quick return in increased wages. This course is open only to the domestic servant class. The highest branch of all is known as the Cordon Bleu Corps. To belong to this entails a forty-week training at an outlay in fees of £40. Students gaining 80 per cent, of the marks obtainable in all branches of cookery are granted the Cordon Bleu silver badge and blue ribbon. A 60 per cent, average brings the blue ribbon minus the badge.

The working-expenses of a large cooking school are very heavy. Something like £2,200 a year is spent here on food. A good deal of this is consumed on the premises by the resident pupils, some twenty five of whom are comfortably boarded and housed. There is a big dining-room, too, where many of the day pupils buy their meals at moderate prices. It rarely happens that there are fewer than a hundred and fifty pupils preparing for the full cookery teacher’s certificate. The resident pupils have bright, cheerful bedrooms, and a nice sitting-room furnished with books, rocking chairs, and a piano. Board and lodging in the school costs 25s. a week. The results of their and other pupils’ culinary labours are served up at a seven o’clock dinner, where many unsold delicious dishes figure on the table. Friday evening is set apart for concerts, theatres, and entertainments, for which “late passes” are granted. A large percentage of the pupils live at boarding establishments in the neighbourhood, or make arrangements as paying guests in private families.


What a pity—and what a topsy-turvy anomaly too !—it is that cookery and housekeeping are not taught as a matter of course in our girls’ high – schools, at Oxford, Cambridge, and all Varsities admitting feminine undergraduates! In a fair number of the leading American colleges for women a model home is attached where every branch of housewifery, housemaiding, and cookery is thoroughly learnt. A woman may possess all the diplomas and certificates that all the combined colleges and ‘varsities can bestow upon her; but if she be a domestic dunce no such titles or degrees warrant her in a claim to be a cultured, finished woman.


“Nearly all our lady-pupils want to begin with elaborate dinner-party dishes. They don’t like the drudgery of simple boilings and bakings,” complain most of the cookery teachers. What opening is there for a gentlewoman who graduates and takes her cookery diploma?” No woman who is either a practical cook or a good teacher ever fails to find lucrative employment,” agree all the experts. There is an encouraging demand at the present time for trained lady-cooks and housekeepers in schools, colleges, and institutions, such posts commanding good salaries. A few women lecturers who give demonstrations of cookery by gas-stove manage to clear something like 300 a year. This is one of the best-paid branches of cookery.


A staff of trained cools is kept in readiness to go out to private houses to prepare and serve dinners, luncheons, and ball-suppers. Mrs. Marshall does not think this kind of peripatetic cookery is suited to gentlewomen, unless they happen to be endowed with a strength of constitution beyond the powers of an average woman.

“Sometimes,” she says, “a day-cook going into the country for a dinner, leaver her home at 7:30am and does not return till after midnight. She is “on the go” and standing throughout the long, hard day.” Experience seems to show that this branch of cookery is better done by women of the domestic servant class.

A dinner for sixteen persons can be compassed in one day by a cook who receives 21s. for her task. For a ball-supper on a large scale, cooks need sometimes to stop at a country house for several days. Some “lady cooks” make long visits to country houses in order to train the cook already in possession, and impart a smattering of their art to the ladies of the household. Experienced cooks, with a special knowledge and skill in shooting-box menus, command very good fees in the autumn for duty done in distinction, inquiring young cooks are taught the latest idea in flower and fruit decoration, table illumination, and serviette architecture.


“What do the gods care for a woman?” is a cynical Chinese proverb. However indifferent the gods may be to the sex, it is perfectly certain that man here below most thoroughly appreciates a wife who is at the same time an excellent cook. If men possessed the strong instinct of self preservation with which they are accredited —especially by women—they would look to it that the law of the land should speedily enact that no girl be allowed to receive a marriage certificate till she could produce accredited diplomas in cookery, domestic economy, and housekeeping.

At the present time the percentage of girls who trouble to go through a course of cookery is infinitesimally small. They are secure in the knowledge that man is not a sufficiently logical person to demand that his mate shall possess some qualification for the partnership she assumes. Any girl who enters into matrimony minus a thorough knowledge of every art and cunning device of domesticity obtains her lifelong  position under false pretences!

Regency Mixology

Hungover from the holidays? How about a little hair of the dog?

This is a post about British alcohol in the Regency period, but I’ve inserted some French paintings from the same era for no other reason than because they make me happy.  And it’s my blog. My expression. I love pretty pictures that tell stories.

The following is excerpted from The Spirit, Wine Dealer’s and Publican’s Director by Edward Palmer and published in 1824. The wonderful French paintings were created by Louis-Léopold Boilly.

Louis-Léopold Boilly

British Brandy 

To twenty gallons of rectified spirits, put a quarter of a pound of bitter almonds, half a pound of cassia-buds, one ounce of orris-root, one pound of prunes, three pounds of sugar candy; and if you add one gallon of foreign Brandy it will be equal to Spanish; rummage it well in the cask for about a week, and then colour it, which can be done with a little burnt sugar, but the best brandy colouring is to be bought at Messrs. Staples and Co. ‘s in the Old Bailey, London, and as a gallon can be purchased for about nine shillings, it is scarcely worth the trouble of making.

British Gin

In ordering a puncheon of the above from the rectifiers, desire them to send strong unsweetened gin,” consequently they will send it of the strength of one in five, which is termed in the trade twenty two  per cent under proof; if you do not wish to reduce the whole at once, have a cask of sixty three gallons, then draw off fifty gallons, and add ten gallons of liquor to fill up, which will make a reduction of strength of one gallon in six, and it will then be glass proof, and of the quality that dealers sell to publicans at twelve shillings, when the strong gin is the same price; but if you should wish to make it, at any time, to sell at a higher price, you may then draw in your can such a portion of the strong gin, as you may judge will suit the price.

Now in order to prepare this, you must, to the sixty gallons, take four pounds of clarified lump sugar, let it be nearly cold, pour it into the cask and stir it well, force with four ounces of alum, and four ounces of salt of tartar powdered small, and boiled together in three quarts of water, till it becomes milk white, then put it into the cask hot, stir the liquor Well, both before and after.

Of Cordial Gin and British Brandy

Kill the above spirits with a pint of spirits of wine, and add eight,  and add about eight pounds of loaf sugar, twenty five gallons of spirits, one in five, which will bear five gallons of water; rouse it well, and in order to fine it, take two ounces of alum, and one of salt of tartar, boil it till it be quite white, then throw it into your cask, continually stirring it for ten minutes, bung it up, and when fine it will be fit for use.

Peppermint Cordial

Take six and a half gallons of strong gin, twelve and a half pounds of loaf sugar, half a pint of spirits of wine, three quarters of an ounce of oil of peppermint; the spirits of wine to be used for the purpose of killing the oil of peppermint, to do which take about two ounces of sugar, dry it by the fire, then pound the sugar and oil of peppermint well in a mortar, (those made by Wedgwood are preferable to brass) then add your spirits of wine by degrees, and continue for some time to stir the same either right or left till the oil has been completely killed. Your spirits of wine ought to be sufficiently strong to fire gunpowder, should it not be of that strength you will not kill your oil; in order to ascertain this, take a table-spoon and put a little gunpowder into it, then wet the gunpowder with the spirits of wine, and set fire to it with a piece of paper, and if it is not the full strength, the powder will, when the fire is out, remain wet, but on the contrary will explode.

Now pour the twelve and a half pounds of sugar, (having clarified it) into your ten gallon cask, with the prepared oil of peppermint, and well rouse the same for some time, fill up the cask with clean water, with one ounce of alum boiled in one pint of water, reagitate when you add the water which contained the alum, then bung it down, and in the course of a fortnight it will be fit for use.

Rum Shrub

Take fifteen gallons of proof rum, two gallons of lemon juice, one gallon of Seville orange juice, forty five pounds of loaf sugar, two quarts of tincture prepared [see below], and a few rinds of lemons; fill up your cask- with water. If not sweet enough with the above quantity of sugar, sweeten afterwards to your fancy.

Brandy Shrub

Take five gallons of brandy reduced one in eight, loaf sugar eighteen pounds, lemon juice three quarts, and one quart of the brandy tincture, put it into a ten gallon cask and nearly fill with water, then ascertain whether it wants an addition of any of the above ingredients, if so, add such as appear necessary to fill up your cask, and after well rummaging it, let it stand till fine.

The Tincture

Take any quantity of the rinds of Seville oranges and lemons pared very thin, so as to contain none of the white, put them into a jar and fill it nearly full of proof or over proof rum or brandy, and let it stand some time to digest.

An excellent and cheap method of making Shrub

To a twenty gallon cask take two quarts of tincture, two gallons of lime or lemon juice, twenty eight pounds of loaf sugar, five gallons of proof rum, and ten gallons of white currant wine, then fill nearly with water, and taste if it meet your approbation, if so, add to the cask to make it full such of the above ingredients as you may consider the most desirable.

N. B. As there is a great deal of trouble in expressing the juice from the lemons and oranges, I would recommend dealers and publicans to purchase the juice prepared, which may be bought in a high state of perfection at Messrs. Lucas’s, Bristol, at about three shillings and six pence per gallon, where also may be had the rinds of either dried.

The best method of making Punch

Put into your bowl, three quarters of a pound of loaf sugar, then in order to make a good sized bowl, take three lemons, rub some of the sugar over them to extract the flavour from the rinds, then pare them as thin as possible, and add the parings as well as all the juice you can extract, and if you like the pulp add that also; (ragged punch is admired in the country, but at the coffeehouses in London, they always send it in strained and quite clear, having only a thin slice of the lemon put into the glass) pour on the same some boiling water, and mix it up well for some time, to extract the flavour of the rinds; and when you find your lemonade is to your liking, then put the spirits to it, which should be done in the following proportions: to every three quarts or thereabout of lemonade, begin by putting in two glasses of rum and one of brandy alternately, till you find it sufficiently strong; it is not well to add water to it when made, but to this quantity one small tumbler of porter or strong beer is a great improvement, as it tends to soften and enrich the punch. Reserve about three slices of lemon to put into the bowl by way of garnish.

Milk Punch

Make a tincture as follows. Pare ten Seville oranges and twelve lemons thin, put the rind in two quarts of rum, and let it steep for a few days, occasionally agitating it. Then put six pounds of loaf sugar into a clean pan, squeeze the above lemons and oranges on the sugar, add two gallons of water, and one gallon of boiling hot- milk; mix all together, and then add the above tincture; filter it through a jelly bag, and it will be transparent and fit for immediate use; but when bottled it should be kept in a cold cellar.


To eight quarts of clear spring water, add one pound and a half of fine loaf sugar, and the juice of three lemons, with the yellow part of the rinds, stir it up till the sugar be dissolved, and let it stand till fine; after which, bottle and cork it, and in about ten days it will effervesce, and be very pleasant summer beverage.

Sixpenny worth of Crank

Make a good fourpenny glass-full of warm gin and water with sugar, add a slice of lemon and half a wine glass-full of fine porter.

Note—This will afford the Landlord an extra profit of twenty per cent, and is a liquor which would please his customers.

Roman Purl

This is a beverage, which is held in high estimation by the metropolitans, and by them made in greater perfection than by others. In London it is made from amber ale, with a mixture of gin bitters; the amber ought to be heated by a very quick fire, the gin and bitters put into a pewter half pint, and the ale added to it, at the exact warmth for a person to drink such portion at a single draught.


This is principally sold by confectioners at a very high price, but as it is now much used for sweetening of grog, punch, &c. the following receipt will enable all Publicans to manufacture it themselves, and it is an article they ought never to be without.

Take ten pounds of loaf sugar, two quarts of water, the whites of half a dozen eggs well beat up, put the whole into a stew pan and boil it till you have taken off all the scum, then filter it through a jelly bag, and when nearly cold, add to it a quarter of a pint of fresh orange flower water.

Cherry Brandy 

Take a wide mouth’d bottle and fill it nearly half full of the best Cognac brandy, then take to every two quart bottle half a pound of best loaf sugar grated, and add it to the brandy, shaking it till the sugar be properly dissolved; then cut the stalks off within half an inch of the cherry and prick each in three places with a needle, and drop it into the bottle, and when the bottle has been filled with the cherries, add as much brandy as the bottle will hold; cork it, and at Christmas you may venture to taste it, when I will engage it shall be excellent.

The species of cherries should be morellas, and not the least bruised.

Cherry Brandy

To every gallon of the juice of the cherry, add six quarts of British brandy or clean rectified spirits, one pound of brown sugar, a quarter of an ounce of cinnamon and cloves.

Raspberry Brandy

The plan laid down for the manufacture of cherry brandy, will answer for raspberry brandy likewise.

Caraway Brandy

 Three quarts of brandy one in eight, three pints of water, one pound of loaf sugar, one ounce of caraway seeds, and a quarter of an ounce, of cinnamon; digest them for fourteen days and filter through blotting paper or a flannel bag.

King’s Cordial

Take two quarts of East India Madeira, two quarts of best cherry brandy, a quarter of an ounce of caraway seeds, half a nutmeg grated, two drachms of cinnamon and mace bruised, two pounds of fine loaf sugar, three lemons with the yellow part of the rinds, and one quart of strong green tea; put the whole into a two gallon jar and fill it with water, let it stand ten days, then draw off what is fine, and filter the remainder through blotting paper.

Queen’s Cordial

Take six quarts of cherry brandy, two quarts of sherry, three pints of brandy or three pints of rum, quarter of an ounce of cassia, two drachms of mace, quarter of an ounce of caraway seeds and one of coriander seeds, also the juice of three lemons with the exterior part of the rinds, and two pounds of fine loaf sugar; the spice to be bruised, then fill up with rose water a three gallon cask, let it stand to digest, and when fine it will be fit for use.

Imperial Ratafia

Take half a pound of the kernels of apricots, peaches, and nectarines, and one pound of bitter almonds, bruised; half an ounce of compound essence of ambergris should be dissolved in two quarts of spirits of wine, after which add to the spirits of wine the kernels therein to digest for a few days, put it in the cask, and fill up with spring water, when fine it will be fit for use.

English Noyeau

Take fifteen gallons of pure rectified spirits, one in five, four pounds of bitter almonds bruised, half a pound of dried lemon peel, and twenty eight pounds of Loaf sugar, let it stand to digest in the cask, tap it high, and when you think the almonds &c. are properly incorporated and the liquor is fine, bottle it off. To make it more like the French noyeau, use Cognac brandy, and the kernels of apricots, nectarines, and peaches.


Take cloves, nutmegs, and cinnamon, of each- one ounce, coriander add: caraway seeds, two ounces each, four ounces of bitter almonds bruised, half a pound of liquorice root sliced, ten pounds of loaf sugar, and six gallons of British spirits; add also a little saffron to make it the usual colour; fill up with water; let these ingredients digest for some time, say one month, stirring them continually, afterwards filter them through a flannel bag.

Aniseed Cordial

Take one ounce of oil of aniseed, and kill it with a pint of spirits of wine, as directed in peppermint, ten pounds, of loaf sugar, seven gallons of British spirits, one in five, one ounce and a half of alum, powdered, then rummage it well, and fill up with water.

Poppy Syrup

Gather about eight quarts of fresh poppies, cut off the black parts of them, put them in a three gallon jar, and fill up with brandy, there to digest for a week, occasionally shaking the jar; filter it through flannel, and press the poppies to extract all the juice, clarify in two quarts of water three pounds of fine loaf sugar, put the contents in a clean cask or jar, and add a small quantity of cinnamon. In the course of a few weeks it will be fine and fit to bottle.


Take one ounce of cardamom seeds, two ounces of Seville orange peel dried, two ounces of gentian root, and steep the whole in two gallons of British gin, there to digest till wanted.

Excellent Bitters are made as follows.

Take a cask that will hold six gallons, and put into it five gallons of reduced gin, one pound and a half of bitter almonds bruised, four ounces of chamomile flowers, and a quarter of a pound of dried lemon peel; put them into the cask to digest, shaking it occasionally, and if not found to be bitter enough, add any of the ingredients that appear most wanted, and filter the same through blotting paper. If publicans were to keep it filtering in a clean decanter in the bar, they would sell it as fast as it would filter; it is a most capital bitter for purl.

Stomachic Tincture  

Make up in the same way as the above, with the addition of two ounces of bruised rhubarb, and also peruvian bark.

Imperial Nectar

Take six gallons of British spirits, six pounds of loaf sugar, one pound of bitter almonds, two ounces of lemon peel, one ounce of cloves, two ounces of cinnamon and six nutmegs; the cloves and cinnamon to be bruised, and the nutmegs grated: fill up with orange or raisin wine, shake the same till the ingredients are properly incorporated, and then let it stand till fine and fit for use. The colour ought to be that of brandy, which can be made so with burnt sugar, or brandy colouring.


Take three pounds of celery cut into small slices, half an ounce of mace, one ounce of cinnamon, one ounce of caraway seeds, four pounds of loaf sugar clarified, four gallons of British spirits, fill up with water, shake it occasionally, and then let it stand to digest, and when fine it will be fit for use. 

Cinnamon Cordial

Take a quarter of a pound of dried lemon peel, cardamom seeds four ounces, and half an ounce of cassia lignea killed with spirits of wine, five pounds of clarified loaf sugar, four gallons of strong British spirits, then add saffron to colour, and water to fill up ; agitate it occasionally, and when well incorporated, let it stand till fine: this is considered a very pleasant cordial.

Clove Cordial

Take three gallons of British spirits, one quart of cherry brandy, quarter of a pound of cloves ground to powder, three pounds of loaf sugar, then fill with water, and let it stand till fine

Wormwood Cordial

Take three gallons of rectified spirits, two pounds of loaf sugar, two pennyweights of oil of wormwood to be killed, one ounce of caraway seeds, one ounce of coriander seeds, four ounces of bitter almonds, then fill up the cask with water, let it steep for a fortnight, occasionally shaking it, and when clear it will be fit for use.

Gold Water

Three quarts of Cognac brandy, one in eight, half an ounce of cinnamon, quarter of an ounce of cloves, one drachm of saffron, and one pound and a half of loaf sugar, let these ingredients be put into a vessel to digest, shake it daily for ten days, and then filter it through cap paper. Add to the quantity when filtered enough pure water to make up five quarts.

Orange Cordial

Take two dozen Seville oranges, six lemons, pare off all the yellow part of the rinds, steep the same in the best French brandy for about a week, clarify five pounds of the best loaf sugar, then squeeze all the juice from the oranges and lemons,, and put the whole into the cask, add also three quarts of water, and fill up- with the best brandy, let it stand for three or four months, then bottle it off, and it will be a very fine cordial.

Excellent Lemonade

To the rinds of ten lemons pared very thin, put one pound of fine loaf sugar, and two quarts of spring water boiling hot; stir it to dissolve the sugar, let it stand twenty four hours: covered  close; then squeeze in the juice of the tea lemons, add one pint of white wine, boil a pint of new milk, pour it hot on the ingredients, when cold, run it, through a close filtering bag, when it will be fit for, immediate use.

N. B. By using about three Seville oranges to the above, you will impart to it a very agreeable perfume, but in general it is preferred unscented, and made from lemons only.

Citron Cordial

Take four quarts of French brandy, and add the following ingredients to make up two gallons: six citrons, one pound of Turkey figs, half a pound of prunes, quarter of an ounce of cloves, and two pounds of loaf sugar, then fill up with water.

The above ingredients, excepting the sugar, must be bruised in a mortar to a pulp, and steeped in part of the spirit for some time before being put into the cask.

N. B. If you wish it to be of a verdant hue, you must use the liquor of boiled spinage, and substitute a rectified British spirit in place of brandy, and leave out the prunes.

Clary Cordial

Take a handful of clary flowers, and steep them in brandy for about a week; then put into the cask half an ounce of ginger, quarter of an ounce of cinnamon bruised, two pounds of loaf sugar, one gallon of brandy, and then fill up with water.


Buying Fish and Shopping at Billingsgate Fish Market in Georgian and Victorian Times

It’s time to post another modern translation from John Trusler’s The London Adviser and Guide: Containing every Instruction and Information Useful and Necessary to Persons Living in London and Coming to Reside There published in 1786. In my last post from this book, we learned how to acquire poultry and meat in Georgian. Today, we will buy fish and visit Billingsgate Fish Market.  Once again, I am using information from both Trusler’s book and London Labour and the London Poor: a cyclopaedia of the condition and earnings of those that will work, those that cannot work, and those that will not work, by Henry Mayhew, published in 1851.

Billingsgate Fish Market in Trusler’s time was an open air market lined with booths and sheds.  An enclosed building had been erected approximately the same time that London Labour and the London Poor was printed. In 1877, the market again restricted and expanded. In this post, I’ll be using images from Trusler’s time and the new construction.

From Francis Wheatley's Cries of London. "New Mackerel. New Mackerel"

Let’s get started with Trusler

FISH is generally dearest and best, when in season.

1. Fish-mongers charge a price for fish according to their customers; to deal with one man regularly, and pay him once or twice a year, is as bad as dealing with butchers in the same way. A fish-monger near the squares will charge 2s. 6d. for a mackerel, which may be bought for half the money at Charing-cross; and for one third of the money from those who cry them about.

2. To such as live convenient, Billingsgate is the place to buy sea fish at, whether you want little or much. —— Market-days there are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; days; but market days are the dearest days. You may often buy them fresh, and forty per cent, cheaper, on the intermediate days. By purchasing at Billingsgate, you may buy at one-third of the price which fish-mongers charge; and if you lay out a few shillings, it will pay for a person to carry them home, or it may be sent by the Parcel-post. Fish-mongers, at this market, purchase at break of day; and, when the market is not glutted, they will, at those times, buy up all the largest fish, but there is always sufficient left to serve private families. There is an act of parliament to oblige fish-mongers to sell brill, bret, or small turbot, not exceeding 16 inches from eye to tail, for 6d. a pound, under a penalty of 20s. to the informer; for asking more or refusing to weigh or measure it, any person may seize the fishmonger and deliver him to a constable, to carry him before a justice, who will not only fine him, but make him return the money. But when turbot is in season, as in May and June, one of 6lb. weight may be bought at Billingsgate for 3s. 6d. or 4s. other fish in proportion.

3. Mackerel, in June and July, are in great plenty, and may be bought at Billingsgate by the quarter of a hundred, for 2d. or 3d. apiece. Mackerel and herrings, if fresh, will look bright, their gills red, and their eyes clear. Mackerel are reckoned cheap at 4.d. or 5d. each. If fish are not firm, not of a greenish hue, not flabby or slimy, the gills ruddy or bleeding, and the eyes bright, you may depend on it, it is fresh ; but if otherwise, not so. Salmon, when cut, should look red and bleeding fresh. But, put your nose to the gills, and you will soon find if it is stale. Thames salmon is always double the price of other salmon; not that it is better tasted, but being later out of the water, it can be crimped, which gives it firmness. The price of sea-salmon is from 9d. to 3s. a pound.

Billingsgate as an open market from Microcosm of London; or, London in miniature

Lobsters and crabs should always be bought a!ive.—Those of a middling size are always the best. No overgrown animal food is delicious; and the heaviest are fullest  of meat. A cock-lobster’s claw is larger than those of a hen. A hen-lobster’s-tail is broader in the middle than that of a cock. Hen-lobsters are reckoned best, on account of the spawn.

The average price of foals is about 1s. a pound, though they are not fold by the pound, but the pair. Herrings are bought for about one shilling a dozen; whitings 2s. a dozen; haddock according to their size, for about 6d. a pound. Large cod at the dearest time, may be purchased for about 1s., or 1s.3d. a pound; at the cheapest for one third of the money. Skate at about 6d. a pound, and barrel cod, in Lent, for about 6d. a pound. If a family could dispense with a quantity of salt-fish, dried cod may be bought at the dry fishmongers, in Thames-street, in winter, for about 5s. for 28lb. and barrel cod, or pickled salmon by the kit, at a very reasonable price. The price of a barrel of the best oysters, Colchester or Milton, is 3s. 6d. Dutch eels 4a. or 6d. a pound. Smelts from 2s. a hundred to 5s. Prawns from is. 6d. to 3s. a hundred.

Fresh-water fish is in price as follows:. Eels, jack, carp and perch, 1s. a pound; trout and tench is. 6d. gudgeons 6d. or 9d. a dozen; flounders from 3d. a piece, according to the size. Fresh-water fish are kept by fish-mongers, in cisterns, and should be bought alive.

Small turbots are easily distinguished from Dutch plaice; for plaice have many small yellow spots on their back, turbots have none.

Haddock may be known from small cod, by two black spots, one on each shoulder. Small cod is a bad fish, but the haddock is a good one.

Half a kit of pickled salmon, neat weight about 161b. may be purchased at the dry fish-mongers, in Thame-street, in summer time, May, June, July, &c. for 9s. and in September, &cwhen it is equally good, for 5 s. In winter-time it will keep a long while.

Billingsgate 1837

From London Labour and the London Poor: a cyclopaedia of the condition and earnings of those that will work, those that cannot work, and those that will not work.

Billingsgate. To see this market in its busiest costermonger time, the visitor should be there about Seven o’clock on a Friday morning. The market opens at four, but for the first two or three hours, it is attended solely by the regular fishmongers and ” bumniarees” who have the pick of the best there. As soon as these are gone, the costers’ sale begins.

Many of the costers that usually deal in vegetables, buy a little fish on the Friday. It is the fast day of the Irish, and the mechanics’ wives run short of money at the end of the week, and so make up their dinners with fish; for this reason the attendance of costers’ barrows at Billingsgate on a Friday morning is always very great. As soon as you reach the Monument you see a line of them, with one or two tall fishmonger’s carts breaking the uniformity, and the din of the cries and commotion of the distant market, begins to break on the ear like the buzzing of a hornet’s nest. The whole neighbourhood is covered with the hand-barrows, some laden with baskets, others with sacks. Yet as you walk along, a fresh line of costers’ barrows are creeping in or being backed into almost impossible openings; until at every turning nothing but donkeys and rails are to be seen. The morning air is filled with a kind of seaweedy odour, reminding one of the sea-shore ; and on entering the market, the smell of fish, of whelks, red herrings, sprats, and a hundred others, is almost overpowering.

Billingsgate 1876

The wooden barn-looking square where the fish is sold, is soon after six o’clock crowded with shiny cord jackets and greasy caps. Everybody comes to Billingsgate in his worst clothes, and no one knows the length of time a coat can be worn until they have been to a fish sale. Through the bright opening at the end arc seen the tangled rigging of the oysler-boats and the red worsted caps of the sailors. Over the hum of voices is heard the shouts of the salesmen, who, with their white aprons, peering above the heads of the mob, stand on their tables, roaring out their prices.

All are bawling together—salesmen and hucksters of provisions, capes, hardware, and newspapers—till the place is a perfect Babel of competition. “Ha-a-ansome cod! best in the market! All alive! alive! alive O!” “Ye-o-o! Ye-o-o! here’s your fine Yarmouth bloaters! Who’s the buyer?” “Here you are, governor, splendid whiting! some of the right sort!” “Turbot! turbot! all alive! turbot!” “Glass of nice peppermint! this cold morning a ha’penny a glass!” “Here you are at your own price!  Fine soles, O!” “Oy! oy! oy! Now’s your time! fine grizzling sprats! all large and no small!” “Hullo! hullo here beautiful lobsters! good and cheap! fine cock crabs all alive O!” “five brill and one turbot—have that lot for a pound! Come and look at ’em, governor; you wont see a better sample in the market.” “Here, this way! this way for splendid skate! skate O! skate O!” “Had– had —had—had—haddick! all fresh and good!” “Currant and meat puddings ! a ha’penny each!” “Now, you mussel – buyers, come along! come along! come along! now’s your time for fine fat mussels!” “Here’s food for the belly, and clothes for the back, but I sell food for the mind” (shouts the newsvender). “Here’s smelt O!” “Here ye are, fine Finney haddick!” “Hot soup! nice peas-soup! a-all hot! hot!” “Ahoy! ahoy here! live plaice! all alive O!” “Now or never! whelk! whelk! whelk!” “Who’ll buy brill O! brill O!” “Capes! water-proof capes! sure to keep the wet out! a shilling a piece!” “Eels O! eels O! Alive! alive O!” “Fine flounders, a shilling a lot! Who’ll have this prime lot of flounders?” “Shrimps! shrimps! fine shrimps!” “Wink! wink! wink!” “Hi! hi-i! here you are, just eight eels left, only eight!” “O ho I O ho! this way—this way—this way! Fish alive! alive! alive O!”

Billingsgate 1876

In the darkness of the shed, the white bellies of the turbots, strung up bow-fashion, shine like mother-of-pearl, while, the lobsters, lying upon them, look intensely scarlet, from the contrast. Brown baskets piled up on one another, and with the herring-scales glittering like spangles all over them, block up the narrow paths. Men in coarse canvas jackets, and bending under huge hampers, push past, shouting “Move on! more on, there!” and women, with the long limp tails of cod-fish dangling from their aprons, elbow their way through the crowd. Round the auction-tables stand groups of men turning over the piles of soles, and throwing them down till they slide about in their slime; some are smelling them, while others are counting the lots. “There, that lot of soles are worth your money,” cries the salesman to one of the crowd as he moves on leisurely; “none better in the market. You shall have ’em for a pound and half-a crown.” “Oh!” shouts another salesman, “it’s no use to bother him—he’s no go.”

Billingsgate 1876

Presently a tall porter, with a black oyster-bag, staggers past, trembling under the weight of his load, his bade uid shoulders wet with the drippings from the sack. “Shove on one side !” he mutters from between his clenched teeth, as he forces his way through the mob. Here is a tray of reddish-brown shrimps piled up high, and the owner busy sifting his little fish into another stand, while a doubtful customer stands in front, tasting the flavour of the stock and consulting with his companion in speculation. Little girls carrying matting-bags, that they have brought from Spitalfields, come up, and ask you in a begging voice to buy their baskets; and women with bundles of twigs for stringing herrings, cry out, ” Half-penny a bunch !” from all sides. Then there are blue-black piles of small live lobsters, moving about their bound-up claws and long “feelers,” one of them occasionally being taken up by a looker-on, and dashed down again, like a stone. Everywhere every one is asking, “What’s the price, master?” while shouts of laughter from round the stalls of the salesmen, bantering each other, burst out, occasionally, over the murmuring noise of the crowd. The transparent smelts on the marble-slabs, and the bright herrings, with the lump of transparent ice magnifying their eyes like a lens, are seldom looked at until the market is over, though the hampers and piles of huge maids, dropping slime from the counter, are eagerly examined and bartered for.


OF THE EXPERIENCE OF A FRIED FISHSELLER, AND OF THE CLASS OF CUSTOMERS. The man who gave me the following information was well-looking, and might be about 45 or 50. He was poorly dressed, but his old brown surtout fitted him close and well, was jauntily buttoned up to his black satin stock, worn, but of good quality; and, altogether, he had what is understood among a class as “a betterly appearance about him.” His statement, as well as those of the other vendors of provisions, is curious in its details of public-house vagaries.

“I’ve been in the trade,” he said, ” seventeen years. Before that, I was a gentleman’s servant, and I married a servant-maid, and we had a family, and, on that account, couldn’t, either of us, get a situation, though we’d good characters. I was out of employ for seven or eight months, and things was beginning to go to the pawn for a living; but at last, when I gave up any hope of getting into a gentleman’s service, I raised 10s., and determined to try something else, I was persuaded, by a friend who kept a beer-shop, to sell oysters at his door. I took his advice, and went to Billingsgate for the first time in my life, and bought a peck of oysters for 2s.  6d. I was dressed respectable then—nothing like the mess and dirt I’m in now” (I may observe, that there was no dirt about him) ; “and so the salesman laid it on, but I gave him all he asked. I know a deal better now. I’d never been used to open oysters, and I couldn’t do it I cut my fingers with the knife slipping all over them, and had to hire a man to open for me, or the blood from my cut fingers would have run upon the oysters. For all that, I cleared 2s. 8d. on that peck, and I soon got up to the trade, and did well; till, in two or three months, the season got over, and I was advised, by the same friend, to try fried fish. That suited me. I’ve lived in good families, where there was first-rate men-cooks, and I know what good cooking means, I bought a dozen plaice; I forget what I gave for them, but they were dearer then than now. For all that, I took between 11s. and 12s. the first night—it was Saturday—that I started; and I stuck to it, and took from 7s. to 10s. every night, with more, of course, on Saturday, and it was half of it profit then. I cleared a good mechanic’s earnings at that time —30s. a week and more. Soon after, I was told that, if agreeable, my wife could have a stall with fried fish, opposite a wine-vaults just opened, and she made nearly half as much as I did on my rounds.

London: A Pilgrimage published in 1872

I served the public-houses, and soon got known. With some landlords I had the privilege of the parlour, and tap-room, and bar, when other tradesmen have been kept out. The landlords will say to me still: ‘You can go in, Fishy.’ Somehow, I got the name of ‘Fishy’ then, and I’ve kept it ever since. There was hospitality in those days. I’ve gone into a room in a public-house, used by mechanics, and one of them has said: ‘I’ll stand fish round, gentlemen;’ and I’ve supplied fifteen penn’orths. Perhaps he was a stranger, such a sort of customer, that wanted to be agreeable. Now, it’s more likely I hear: ‘Jack, lend us a penny to buy a bit of fried;’ and then Jack says: ‘You be d—d! here, lass, let’s have another pint.’ The insults and difficulties I’ve had in the public-house trade is dreadful. I once sold 16d.worth to three rough-looking fellows I’d never seen before, and they seemed hearty, and asked me to drink with them, so I took a pull; but they wouldn’t pay me when I asked, and I waited a goodish bit before I did ask. I thought, at first, it was their fun, but I waited from four to seven, and I found it was no fun. I felt upset, and ran out and told the policeman, but he said it was only a debt, and he couldn’t interfere. So I ran to the station, but the head man there said the same, and told me I should hand over the fish with one hand, and hold out the other hand for my money. So I went back to the public-house, and asked for my money—and there was some mechanics that knew me there, then—but I got nothing but ‘—– you’s!’ and one of ’em used most dreadful language. At last, one of the mechanics said: ‘Muzzle him, Fishy, if he won’t pay.’ He was far bigger than me, him that was one in debt; but my spirit was up, and I let go at him and gave him a bloody nose, and the next hit I knocked him backwards, I’m sure I don’t know how, on to a table; but I fell on him, and he clutched me by the coatcollar—I was respectable dressed then—and half smothered me. He tore the back of my coat, too, and I went home like Jim Crow. The potman and the others parted us, and they made the man give me 1s., and the “waiter paid me the other 4d., and said he’d take his chance to get it— but he never got it. Another time I went into a bar, and there was a ball in the house, and one of the ball gents came down and gave my basket a kick without ever a word, and started the fish ; and in a souffle—he was a little fellow, but my master—I had this finger put out of joint—you can see that, sir, still—and was in the hospital a week from an injury to my leg; the tiblin bone was hurt, the doctors said” [the tibia.] “I’ve had my tray kicked over for a lark in a public-house, and a scramble for my fish, and all gone, and no help and no money for me. The landlords always prevent such things, when they can, and interfere for a poor man; but then it’s done sudden, and over in an instant. That sort of thing wasn’ t the worst. I once had some powdery stuff flung sudden over me at a parlour door. My fish fell off, for I jumped, because I felt blinded, and what became of them I don’t know; but I aimed at once for home— it was very late—and had to feel my way almost like a blind man. I can’t tell what I suffered. I found it was something black, for I kept rubbing my face with my apron, and could just tell it came away black. I let myself in with my latch, and my wife was in bed, and I told her to get up and look at my face and get some water, and she thought I was joking, as she was half asleep; but when she got up and got a light, and a glass, she screamed, and said I looked such a shiny image; and so I did, as well as I could see, for it was black lead—such as they use for grates—that was flung on me. I washed it off, but it wasn’t easy, and my face was sore days after. I had a respectable coat on then, too, which was greatly spoiled, and no remedy at all, I don’t know who did it to me. I heard some one say: ‘You’re served out beautiful’ Its men that calls themselves gentlemen that does such things. I know the style of them then— it was eight or ten years ago; they’d heard of Lord , and his goings on. That way it’s better now, but worse, far, in the way of getting a living. I dare say, if I had dressed in rough corderoys, I shouldn’t have been larked at so much, because they might have thought I was a regular coster, and a fighter; but I don’t like that sort of thing—I like to be decent and respectable, if I can.