Tag Archives: Food

Taste the Archive: gingerbread!

Today is World Baking Day – the perfect excuse for making – and eating – our favourite cakes. This week staff at the Hartley Library held a charity bake sale to raise money for Solent Mind, a great cause and one of several charities we will be supporting through 2017 http://www.solentmind.org.uk/

cake-sale-3

We enjoy the tradition of sharing, swopping, and passing on, favourite recipes. Some of these may be older than we think: I recently discovered in the Archives a 19th-century version of a recipe that is a real favourite with my family today: Grantham Gingerbread

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266, mid 19th-century recipe book from the collection of Miss A.M.Trout

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266, mid 19th-century recipe book from the collection of Miss A.M.Trout

This little volume has ‘Ledger’ in red on the spine and contains lined pages – it was intended for recording accounts – but is actually a manuscript recipe book. You can just see the word ‘Receipes’ written in ink on the front. It has a beautiful parchment cover, decorated with blind tooling and embossed to create a raised design, with combed marbled book edges. The brass clasp closure bears the words “improved patent” above the image of a lion:

clasp-crop

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266 Brass clasp closure showing the words ‘Improved Patent’ above an image of a lion

Inside, it has glorious decorative endpapers – perhaps Dutch gilt – showing a printed design of tiny gold stars on a bright pink background. There is even an alphabetical index with finding tabs, each tab printed with two letters. So this is a special book – and it is no surprise that it was treasured and passed on:

index-crop

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266 Interior: printed decorative endpapers in a gold star design; an alphabetical index with printed finding tabs.

The recipe book is undated and we don’t know who originally filled its pages: but it is likely to be mid-19th century and was added to by several owners.  It contains fair copies of recipes in at least two different hands, plus a few printed recipes cut from newspapers.  It was clearly in use long before it came into the collection of Miss Annie Mary Trout, who worked as a lecturer in Mathematics at University College, Southampton, in the 1920s.

It was the recipe for Grantham Gingerbread that caught my eye: seen here on the right-hand page; (on the left-hand page you can see recipes for ‘Cake’, and Hot Cross Buns).

blog copy recipe pp26-7

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266, pp.25-7

It contains some very old-fashioned ingredients – such as ‘½ an ounce of volatile salts’ and ‘1 penny worth of essence of lemon’! It poses more than a few challenges for the modern cook: the quantities of flour and sugar are quite huge; it doesn’t use an egg; there are no details of cooking temperatures, or timings, and only the scantiest method for guidance:

Grantham Gingerbread
1 ½ lbs flour
1 ½ lbs of very fine sugar
¼ lb butter
1 oz of best ground ginger
2 oz of lemon peel
½ oz of volatile salts ground
& mixed in a teacupful of
new milk, 1 penny worth
of essence of lemon, a little
more milk if required to make
it into a stiff paste, melt
the butter & mix together

Another name for the ‘volatile salts’ in the recipe is ‘Baker’s Ammonia’ or ammonium bicarbonate, which was used as a raising agent in the days before baking powder was commonly available. It has a strong and horrible smell – these were the salts that were used to revive fainting ladies in Victorian times! It wasn’t an ideal ingredient, as the smell of the ammonia released during heating might linger after cooking.  By the mid-19th century, when this recipe was copied out, baking powder was already available – so this was an ‘old’ recipe even at that time.  What did it taste like?

Ginger biscuit photo

You can see that Grantham Gingerbread is not the traditional dark, treacle-based cake that we tend to associate with gingerbread, but a large crisp and chewy ginger cookie. It is apt that we have a historic recipe here – because gingerbread is one of the oldest of all cakes – and there are many different regional variations.   Some are deep ginger cakes; others are thin and crisp biscuits or ‘buttons’, fairings or gingerbread men.  This heritage version went down well with friends and family.  Here is my adapted recipe for World Baking Day:

Grantham Gingerbread 2017
12 ozs plain flour
12 ozs soft light brown sugar
2 ozs butter, melted
2 tablespoons ground ginger (or less or more!)
1 oz mixed peel
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ cup of milk
zest of a lemon
Mix ingredients together until a stiff dough is formed. Pat into a ball and knead until smooth. Divide into 24 equal pieces, rolling each into a ball; place onto a greased baking tray, allowing room to spread.
Bake for 25-30 mins until golden and crisp at 160ºC/325ºF/Gas Mark 3
Remove from oven; leave to cool for a few minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool

Once I had worked out some alternative ingredients, and halved the quantities, the 19th-century recipe seemed easier to make than my modern recipe.  Everything was stirred together, which took little effort (no need to cream butter and sugar, or beat in an egg; no sifting; and using melted butter and a little milk makes it easy to work in the large volume of flour!)  Be careful to pour in the milk, a little at a time.  Add ginger to taste, but note that the original recipe calls for ‘best ground ginger’, probably fresh ginger, rather than the dried ground ginger we use today.

For an excellent modern version of Grantham White Gingerbread try the recipe in Julie Duff’s Cakes – Regional and Traditional.

Happy Baking!

Food and feasting at Christmas time

The keen bakers among you will know that we’ve already missed “Stir-up Sunday”.  This is informally marked in the Anglian calendar on the last Sunday before the season of Advent; the Book of Common Prayer’s collect for the day begins with the words, “Stir up, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”.  The day has become associated with making Christmas puddings as most recipes require it to be cooked well in advance of Christmas and then reheated prior to serving.

Avid followers of our blog will know that a Southampton student spotted Mary Berry, a “cook maid” listed in a Broadlands account book from 1760. Great British Bake Off enthusiasts might like to consider whether judges Mary and Paul got some of their recipes for the show’s technical challenges from a manuscript recipe book found within the paper of Miss Annie Trout, formerly a maths lecturer at University College, Southampton.  It includes many seasonal favourites but, like many older recipes, they are little sparse in terms of instructions and often lack cooking times or temperatures.

Bread sauce: Crumble the bread & soak it in milk put a whole onion in & cover it in the oven taking care that it never boils.  Remove the onion beat it lightly with butter, cream, pepper and salt.

Christmas cake: ¾ lb flour; ½ lb butter; ½ lb currants or sultanas; 3 eggs; lemon peel. 2 oz glace cherries; salt; ½ teaspoon b[aking] powder.  Cream the butter, add the sugar add the egg, beat with a wooden spoon, the add flour and b[aking] powder. Mix lightly. Layer of dough and cherries alternately, a few for the top.  Bake in a hot oven for 3 hrs. Let the oven cool for a bit so as to soak well.

Fig pudding: Soak 8 or 9 figs all night. 8 oz breadcrumbs, 2 oz suet, 2 oz brown sugar, 1 egg beaten with a little milk, 1 level tablesp treacle, pinch of carbonate of soda dissolved in warm milk. Mix all dry things – add eggs and steam at least 2 hours.

[MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266 Miss Trout’s recipe book]

Of course, all these festive ingredients need to be purchased.  The Special Collections hold some price lists for the local chain of grocery stores Lankester & Crook dating from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

lankestercrook

Lankester & Crook Christmas price list, 1913

They sold, among other things, dried fruit, candied peel and spices plus readymade mincemeat and Christmas cakes as well as Cadbury’s chocolate, “delicious, nutritious, wholesome and pure”: this would surely be unacceptable under today’s trading standards!

It is customary to share food and drink with family and friends over the festive period.  On 22 December, aged about 11, Henry Temple [later third Viscount Palmerston, Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister] wrote to his mother, Mary Mee, “in her dressing room upstairs”:

Mr Temple will certainly do himself the honour of waiting upon her ladyship on Christmas day to gobble up mince pies or whatever else there is for dinner [BR21/1/5]

Palmerston-1801

Sketch of Palmerston as a young man

Many years later we find a subsequent resident of Romsey’s Broadlands estate, Lord Mountbatten dining with the troops during Christmas 1945 at Raffles College in Singapore during his tenure as Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia.

ms62_mb2_n13_p19

Dinner with other ranks and ratings of headquarters

And finally a more sobering thought for this time of year, sometimes criticised for its excesses when many still have so little.  Contained within the Wellington Pamphlets is A well seasoned Christmas-pie for “the great liar of the north”, prepared, cooked, baked and presented by Richard Oastler.  Printed in 1834, it concerns Oastler’s campaigns for better conditions for factory workers and his letter to the Leeds Mercury on the subject.  The demand was to limit the working day to ten hours – all very Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.

Food and reflection

As we settle into 2016 we reflect on recent activities from the past year…

Over the holiday season many of us have indulged in a range of winter comfort foods and festive treats, from turkey and sprouts to mince pies and puddings. In the lead up to the Christmas break visitors were invited to Special Collections for our third and final Explore Your Archives event of the year, with the focus of the afternoon being (somewhat appropriately) food! The material on display covered areas such as the cultivation of food, food preparation, household management, food supplies, consumption of food (including some fine dining), and food relief.

Lankester & Crook price lists for the Christmas Season on display for the 'Food, Glorious Food' open afternoon

Lankester & Crook price lists for the Christmas Season on display for the ‘Food, Glorious Food’ open afternoon

Beginning with a section on cultivation, one of the first items was a plan and catalogue for trees in the kitchen gardens at Broadlands from 1769 which, incidentally, coincided with work done on the estate by ‘Capability’ Brown whose 300th anniversary will be celebrated later in the year. This was followed by a selection of material relating to the management of crops and livestock.

The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, with the aim being to “promote broad discussion and cooperation at the national, regional and global levels to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by pulse farmers, be they large scale farms or small land holders.” As the planet’s population continues to increase, pulses such as beans, lentils and peas, are recognised as a sustainable crop which provide a low-fat source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

The Perkins Agricultural Library, which primarily supports research on the general practice and improvement of agriculture in the 18th and 19th centuries, also holds a range of material focusing on areas such as household management. On display was William Ellis’ The country housewife’s family companion (London, 1750) which contains the following useful tips for preserving broad beans and peas: “To preserve broad beans and pease dry: take them out of their pods before they are ripe and while their skin is green strip them of their skin and dry them thoroughly in the sun; rub them all over with winter-savory, and barrel them up in straw or chaff, or without either, provided you keep the air from them. In winter or spring, or when they are wanted, soak them six hours in warm water, and then boil them for eating…” [Perkins TX 151]

A highlight from the selection of cook books and recipes was Florence Greenberg’s classic Jewish Cookery Book. First published in 1947, the book proved hugely popular with post war Anglo-Jewish households, bringing a mix of British and continental cooking. She described the Jewish influences as being seen clearly in the fish dishes, sauces and puddings.

There were also many examples of fine dining drawn from the papers of third Viscount Palmerston, Lady Swaythling, Lord Mountbatten, and W.W.Ashley and Cunard cruise ships, including menus, dinner books, and letters reporting on dinner parties and social gatherings. In contrast, somewhat less savoury culinary descriptions were to be found among the journals of William Mogg. Written during his time on Captain Edward Parry’s expeditions to the Arctic in the 1820s, Mogg describes methods used to thaw the crew’s frozen supplies — leaving them in a fire hole for three days — as well as the Christmas festivities enjoyed by the crew.

Chris Woolgar giving his talk on food related resources

Chris Woolgar giving his talk on food related resources

The visit to Special Collections was followed by a talk by Chris Woolgar who provided a highly engaging and comprehensive analysis of a number of the items on display. The evening was then rounded off with some tea and seasonal treats!

As we plan events for the year ahead we would like to thank everyone who attended our open afternoons over the past few months. Details of forthcoming events will be announced on our blog and website in the near future.

We hope to see you in Archives soon!

Food, Glorious Food: culinary resources in the Hartley Library Special Collections

On Wednesday 9 December, the Special Collections, Hartley Library, will hold the next in its series of open afternoons, allowing visitors to explore material from the holdings and to meet the curators.

explore_food

The theme for this open afternoon will be food. Material will range across the cultivation of food, food preparation, household management, food supplies and the consumption of food. Come and find out how what was on the menu for the Patagonians visited by William Mogg during his voyage on the Beagle in the early nineteenth century.

The visit to Special Collections will be followed by a talk given by Professor Chris Woolgar and rounded off by tea.

Programme:

1530-1700: Visit to Special Collections

1730-1830: Talk by Professor Chris Woolgar, Professor of History and Archival Studies, whose latest book The Culture of Food in England 1200-1500 will be published by Yale University Press in the spring of 2016. The talk will be followed by tea.

Visitors exploring material relating to the natural world during our last open afternoon

Visitors exploring material relating to the natural world during our last open afternoon

We would be very pleased to see you at this free event; please book your place using Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/food-glorious-food-culinary-resources-in-the-hartley-library-special-collections-tickets-19186450189?aff=ebrowse