Buying Bread and Milk in 18th and 19th Century London

"Milk Below Maid" by Francis Wheatley from 1790s

“The cry of ‘Milk’ or the rattle of the milk-pail, will never cease to be heard in our streets. There can be no reservoirs of milk, no pipes through which it flows into the houses. The more extensive the great capital becomes, the more active must be the individual exertion to carry about this article of food. The old cry was ‘Any milk here !’ and it was sometimes mingled with the sound of ‘Fresh cheese and cream;’ and it then passed into ‘Milk, maids below;’ and it was then shortened into ‘Milk below;’ and was finally corrupted into ‘Mio’ which some wag interpreted into mieau—demi-eau—half water. But it must still be cried, whatever be the cry. The supply of milk to the metropolis is perhaps one of the most beautiful combinations of industry we have. The days are long since passed when Finsbury had its pleasant groves, and Clerkenwell was a village, and there were green pastures in Holborn, and St. Pancras boasted only a little church standing in meadows, and St. Martin’s was literally in the fields. Slowly but surely does the baked clay of Mr. Stucco, ‘the speculative builder’ stride over the clover and the buttercup; and yet every family in London may be supplied with milk by eight o’clock every morning at their own doors. Where do the cows abide? They are congregated in wondrous masses in the suburbs; and though in spring-time they go out to pasture in the fields which lie under the Hampstead and Highgate hills, or in the vales of Dulwich and Sydenham, and there crop the tender blade,

‘When proud pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Has put a spirit of youth in everything.’

yet for the rest of the year the coarse grass is carted to their stalls, or they devour what the breweries and distilleries cannot extract from the grain harvest. Long before ‘the unfolding star wakes up the shepherd’ are the London cows milked; and the great wholesale vendors of the commodity who have it consigned to them daily from more distant parts to the various Metropolitan Railway Stations bear it in carts to every part of the town, and distribute to the hundreds of shopkeepers and itinerants, who are anxiously waiting to receive it for re-distribution amongst their own customers. It is evident that a perishable commodity which every one requires at a given hour must be so distributed. The distribution has lost its romance. Misson, in his ‘Travels’ published at the beginning of the last century, tells of Maygames of ‘the pretty young country girls that serve the town with milk.’ Alas! the May-games and pretty young country girls have both departed, and a milk-woman has become a very unpoetical personage. There are few indeed of milkwomen who remain.”  — from A History of the Cries of London, Ancient and Modern, by Charles Hindley

My blog has been silent for almost a week. I was a single mom while my husband was in Europe for over ten days. He came home last night to find his kids alive and healthy and his wife on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But he brought presents and chocolate, so we are all happy again.

I thought I would make a short excerpt from the sections on bread and milk in 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. The technicalities of buying bread and milk in London called into my mind The Cries of London, (or London Cries) a book that featured the songs and calls of the urban street vendors. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an online version of the book, but I found many other resources and got a little carried away, as you can see. So, for this post, I’m excerpting information on bread and milk sellers from sources published in mid 1700s to late 1800s , including many images of milk maids (Surprisingly, there isn’t a great deal of art featuring bakers.)

Let’s dive into The London Adviser and Guide, published in 1786:

Continue reading “Buying Bread and Milk in 18th and 19th Century London”

Regency Menu for Four

I struggled writing this post.  I wanted to simply list some menus and recipes from The French Cook, or, The Art of Cookery, by Louis Eustache Ude from 1815.  Unfortunately, the recipes in the original book are difficult to locate because the dish names on the menus don’t match the recipes. After spending  more time on this little project than I intended, I  found a second addition of the book from 1822. Everyone must have complained to Ude, so he made an easy to read version. However, he used the same images for the courses as he did in the original edition, despite switching to English for the dish names, as well as changing some of the dishes. So, I doubt there is a direct correspondence from the French to the English in this post, but I have tried to blend the two editions together to match the illustrations.

I shall endeavor to include more menus in the coming days. If you want to look up the actual recipes, I suggest the 2nd edition of The French Cook on Google Books. Also, Nancy Mayer has a great explanation of table Settings and removes on her site. Bill of fare for a dinner of four entries in summer time.

First course

  • Le Potage printannier,  or spring soup.
  • Les tranches de cabilleau, sauce aux huitres,  or crimp cod and oyster sauce.

 Two removes

  • La poularde à la Montmorencie,  or fowl la Mcntmorenci, garnished with a ragout a I’Allcmande. 
  • Le jambon de Westphalie, à l’essence,  or ham glazed with Espagnole.

Four entrées

  • La fricassée de poulets aux champignons, or fricassee of chicken and mushrooms.
  • Les côtelettes d’Agneau sautés, sauce à la Macédoine, or lamb chops saute, with asparagus, peas, &c. 
  • Le sauté de filets de poulets gras, au suprême, or fillets of fat chicken, saute au supreme. 
  • Les tendrons de veau glacés aux laitues, à l’essence or petits pdtes of fillet of fowl a la bechamelle.

Second course

  • Le chapon, or fowls roasted, garnished with water cresses.
  • Les cailles, or six quails

Four entrées

  • Les pois à la Françoise.
  • La gelée de fraises.
  • Les asperges en bâtonets, or asparagus with plain butter.
  • Les puits d’amour garnis de marmalade, or orange jellies in mosaiques. 
* Later edition includes Cauliflower with veloute sauce and Petit gateaux d’ la Manon.

Two removes of the roast.

  • La tart de groseilles rouges.
  • Le soufflé au citron, or souffle with lemon.
* Later edition includes Ramequin d la Sefton.
First Course

Second Course

Ude writes, “From the above statement it will be easy to make a bill of fare of four, six, eight, twelve, or sixteen entrees, and the other courses in proportion”

Stilton Cheese (for Abigail)

From “Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions,” by Rudolph Ackermann and Frederic Shoberl, 1816

Process of Making Stilton Cheese

The Stilton cheese, which maybe called the Parmesan of England, is not confined to Stilton and its vicinity, for many farmers in Huntingdonshire, and also in Rutland and Northamptonshire, make a similar sort, sell them for the same price, and give them the name of Stilton cheeses; and there is no doubt that the inhabitants of other counties might make as good cheese as that of Stilton, if they would adhere to the right plan, which is this:

Take the night’s cream and put it to the morning’s new milk, with the rennet; when the curd is separated, let it not be broken, as is done with other cheese, but take it out, disturbing it as little as possible, and suffer it to dry very gradually in  a sieve; and as the whey separates, compress it gradually till it has acquired a firm consistence; then place it in a wooden hoop, and suffer it to dry very gradually on a board; taking care, at the same time, to turn it daily with close benders round it, and which must be lightened as the cheese acquires more solidity.

The celebrated cream-cheese of  Lincolnshire is made by adding the cream of one meal’s milk, to milk which comes immediately from the cow; these are pressed gently two or three times, turned for a few days, and disposed for sale, to be eaten while new, with radishes, salad, &c.

From The Book of the Farm Vol I, by Henry Stephens, 1851

It is improbable that any farmer, not a dairy one, will try to make a Cheddar or a Cheshire cheese, but many dairy-maids may be tempted to make a Stilton cheese for family use. The following is a good recipe for making one. The cheese-vat is a tin-plate cylinder, 10 inches high, 25 round on the outside, without top or bottom, having the side pierced with holes, to let out the whey. The rennet is made in the usual way, only the stomach of the lamb is used; and in addition to the ordinary quantity of salt used in it, a lemon stuck full of cloves is put into the jar amongst it, the lemon adding to the efficacy of the rennet. About 9 gallons of new milk, and the cream from 2 or 3 gallons of milk, warmed before being put in the milk, are used for one cheese.  If sufficient new milk cannot be obtained, the night’s milk and cream are used with the morning’s milk, as well as the extra cream. The rennet is put in warm when the milk is new; and when it has become curd, it is not broken, but a strainer of coarse linen is laid in a cheese basket, and the curd put into it, breaking it as little as possible; the cross corners of which are drawn together, and it remains in this way some hours, until sufficiently firm to slice. The curd is put in the vat in slices, a layer of curd and a sprinkling of salt alternately: this is continued until the vat is full; then a flat square piece of board is placed at the top of the vat, one having been previously laid at the bottom, placing one hand at the top, and the other underneath. The cheese is then to be turned over very quickly; its own weight is a sufficient pressure; keep turning it every two or three hours the first day and two or three times next day. It is to be kept in the vat three or four days, according to the firmness of the curd. When taken out, a thin piece of calico is dipped in boiling water and wrung out, and then pinned tightly round the cheese. This cloth remains on it until it is thoroughly dry. The cheese should be turned twice a-day; it does not require any more salt than that which was put in with the curd. It should be a twelvemonth old before it is used, when it may be expected to have a little blue mould, and be rich in taste and mild in flavour. Stilton cheese sells at ls. 4d. per lb., or £7, 9s. 4d. the cwt. in retail.