Food Timeline>Christmas food history.....Have questions? Ask!
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Buche de Noel
Buche de Noel is one of many traditional cakes baked at Christmas. As the name suggests, it is of French origin. The name of this recipe literally translates as "Christmas log," referring to the traditional Yule log burned centuries past. The ingedients suggest the cake is most likely a 19th century creation. That's when thinly rolled sponge cakes filled with jam or cream and covered with buttercream icing begin to show up in European cook books. Marzipan and meringue, typically employed for decorative purposes, date to the Medieval Ages and the 17th century respectively. We find no person/place/company credited for having invented this particular confection.
"[In France] where the buche de Noel, a roll of light sponge cake, is covered in chocolate or coffee buttercream textured to resemble bark. The conceit is carried further by mounding the cream over small pieces of cake stuck to the main roll, to represent trimmed branches. The ends of the roll and the cut faces of the branches are finished with vanilla cream, imitating pale newly cut wood, and the whole is decorated with leaves made from icing, or meringue mushrooms."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson, [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 184)
Buche de Noel recipe sampler
"Buche de Noel.--Gateau symbolique qu l'on prepare chez tous les patissieres de France, a l'occasion de la fete de Noel. Cette buche se fait generalement avec des abaisses de genoise fine, qu l'on fourre avec des cremes diverses (le plus souvent, une dreme au beurre), qu l'on faconne en forme de buche, et que l'on decore a la poches munie d'une couille cannellee, avec une creme au beurre aux chocolate ou au moka qui cimule l'enorce de al buche. Nota: Pour le Noel, on fait aussi un autre gateau symbolique auquel on donne l'aspect d'un sabot. Ce gateau, qu l'on fait ordinarement en nougat, se garnit de petits fours divers."
---Larousse Gastronomique, Prospere Montagne [Librarie Larousse:Paris] 1938 (p. 528)
"Buche de Noel
Cuire des marrons, trois minutes; extraire leur chair de leur cosse. Bien les nettoyer. Les faire cuire, vingt minutes, a l'eau bouillant. Les ecraser et les melanges a chaud avec: 125 grammes de beurre fondu, 125 gr. de sucre en poudre, 125 gr. de chocolate. Rouler le tout dans un papier beurre, en forme de cylindre. Laisser refroidir, six heures. Oter le papier. Tracer les stries de la buche avec une fourchette."
--- Le Livre de La Patisserie: Recettes Practiques, editions du cep [E. Pigelet, Paris Depot:Paris] 1941 (p. 141-2)
"Yule Log (Buche de Noel)
The yule log cake is served at the midnight feast that follows Mass on Christmas Eve. Although it does not take the place of our flaming Christmas pudding, it makes a nice dessert to serve at any time during the Christmas season.
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 egg whites
Chocolate Butter Cream 1
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon hot water
2 or 3 blanched almonds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Rinse the mixing bowl with hot water and wrap a hot wet towel around the base. Combine the egg yolks and sugar and beat for 5 minutes or until the mixture has doubled in volume. Fold in the flour and then the butter, which should be cooled. Fold in the beaten egg whites gently but thoroughly.
Butter a small, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan (10X14) and dust it with flour. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth it evenly with a knife. Bake 10 minutes. Spread a damp towel on a marble slab or table. Run a knife around the edge of the baked cake and turn the pan upside down on the towel, leaving the pan on top of the cake until it is cool. Make the butter cream, using 5 egg yolks, and add to it the dissolved instant coffee. Spread the cake with the butter cream and roll it up lenghthwise like a jelly roll. Place seam side down on a long serving tray and cut off both ends diagonally. Put the remaining butter cream in a pastry bag fitted with a flat cannellated tip. Force the cream lengthwise over the surface of the cake to give the appearance of bark. Place a 'knot' here and there. Decorate the cake with almonds and a sprig of holly made with strips of angelica and little rounds of candied cherries. Sprinkle very lightly with green sugar."
---The Complete Tante Marie's French Kitchen, Translated and adapted by Charlotte Turgeon [Oxford University Press:New York] 1962 (p. 127-8)
Why are some candies associated with Christmas? Hundreds of years ago sugar was very expensive. It was a food of the wealthy. For other people, it was a special treat saved for holidays (Christmas, Easter) and other special occasions (weddings, christenings). Many of these traditions remain today. About candy.
Food historians tell us that hard candies (sticks, losenges, etc.) were originally manufactured for medicinal purposes. This idea survives today in the form of cough drops. Confectioners were quick to recognize the popularity of hard candy, in its various forms. Before long, hard candies of all sorts of shapes, sizes, and flavors were produced for "recreational" purposes.
"The concept of sugar as medicine probably came from the tradition of Moslem physicians. They came from a culture which knew and used sugar...That sugar was an expensive and exotic luxury, used medicinally by the subtle and learned Arabs, probably helped reinforce medieval European ideas of its intrinsic goodness. There were plenty of ailments in northern Europe for which sugar was considered suitable treatment--coughs, colds, chest infections, agues. The Christ allowed that sugar was medicinal (St. Thomas Aquinas himself apparently considered and pronounced on the subject), which meant it could be legitimately nibbled during Lent, probably adding to its appeal. It is no coincidence that our earliest information about pulled-sugar sweets in Britian, using the very word penides that travelled all the way from the Orient, comes from compilations of medicinal formulae, not elegant books on fine confectionery. A description of pulling sugar was written down about 1500 in the York manuscript, under the title To make penydes...The art of pulling sugar was evidently well understood 500 years ago..."
---Sugar-Plums and Sherbet: The Prehistory of Sweets, Laura mason [Prospect Books:Devon] 2004 (p. 84-5)
"When sugar first became known in Europe it was a rare and costly commodity, valued mainly for its supposed medicinal qualities and finding its place in the pharmacopoeia of the medieval apothecary...Sugar gradually became more widely available in Europe during the Middle Ages. In Britain it was considered to be an excellent remedy for winter colds. It might be eaten in the form of candy crystals...or it might be made into little twisted sticks which were called in Latin penida, later Anglicized to pennets. The tradition of penida survives most clearly in American stick candy which is similarly twisted and flavoured with essences supposed to be effective against colds, such as oil of wintergreen."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 210)
WHAT ABOUT THE CANDY CANE?
The origin of the candy cane is an interesting study of food lore and legend. It is easy to find information on this topic in books and on the Internet. The most popular story is the one about the German choirmaster who handed these out to his young singers in 1670 to keep them quite during a long church service. There is also controversy as to the origin of the shape. Does it represent a shepherd's crook? Or the letter "J" for Jesus? Bear in mind, most of these stories are undocumented.
How to make candy canes? This is from a professional text:
"Candy canes for Christmas
Run out a batch of any flavor stick candy, usually peppermint and lemon are the best sellers, spin these sticks any size you wish and in cutting these cut off at angles. Now have your helper roll them so as to keep them round an when they begin to get cold crook the angle, then set them to one side to harden. Your helper's rolling them until they become cold keeps them from getting flat on one side which affects the sale of them greatly. It is best when spinning these out to make one end of the stick smaller than the other, then place the crook on the large end and have the small end ofr the end of the cane. Candy canes can be made in any flavor or color, or any size desired."
---Rigby's Reliable Candy Teacher, W.O. Rigby, Nineteenth edition [1919?] (p. 213)
Cakes of all shapes and sizes (including smaller items such as cookies) have been part of festive holiday rituals long before Christmas. Ancient cooks prepared sweet baked goods to mark significant occasions. Many of these recipes and ingredients (cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds, dried fruits etc.) were introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages. They were highly prized and quickly incorporated into European baked goods. Christmas cookies, as we know them today, trace their roots to these Medieval European recipes. Dutch and German settlers introduced cookie cutters, decorative molds, and festive holiday decorations to America. Dutch New Year's cookies were also sometimes molded into fancy shapes. German lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas. Sugar cookie type recipes descended from English traditions. Did you know Animal crackers began as edible ornaments?
"By the 1500s, Christmas cookies had caught on all over Europe. German families baked up pans of Lebkuchen and buttery Spritz cookies. Papparkakor (spicy ginger and black-pepper delights) were favorites in Sweden; the Norwegians made krumkake (thin lemon and cardamom-scented wafers). The earliest Christmas cookies in America came ashore with the Dutch in the early 1600s."
---"America's Best Holiday Cookies," McCall's [magazine], December 1994 (p. 85)
The flood of cheap imported wares form Germany between 1871 and 1906 when the import laws were changed, inundated our Christmas markets with cooking utensils like...cookie cutters...Unlike homemade counterparts, or local tinsmith's wares, these tools depicted highly stylized images, often frawn from secular themes or...with subjects designed specifically to hang on the Christmas tree. Likewise, recipes appeared in popular cookbooks to better match the demands of such utensils...In a sense, with the advent of inexpensive tin cutters, new emphasis was placed on shape, where in the past, many homemade cookies simply had been square or round. Bells, Christmas trees, camels, crimped wares (cutters with zigzag edges), lilies, Sant Clauses, turkeys, all of these elaborate shapes tended to deemphasize texture and flavor."
---The Christmas Cook: Three Centuries of American Yuletide Sweets, William Woys Weaver [Harper Perennial:New York] 1990 (p. 106)
Christmas cookies around the world
- The International Cookie Jar Cookbook/Anita Borghese
- The Cookie Jar: Cookies From Around the World/Culinary Arts Institute
- Traditional Christmas cookies by country (recipes only)
A sampler of Christmas cookie recipes from American cookbooks
To three pound of flour, sprinkle a tea cup of fine powdered coriander seed, rub in one pound of butter, and one and a half pound sugar, dissolve one tea spoonful of pearlash [a rising agent] in a tea cup of milk, kneed all together well, roll three quarters of an inch thick, and cut or stamp into shape and slice you please, bake slowly fifteen or twenty minutes; tho' hard and dry at first, if put in an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old."
---American Cookery, Amelia Simmons, 2nd edition [Albany:1796] (p. 46)
[NOTE: this book is considered by most food historians to be the first American cook book.]
Take one pound and a half of flour, three quarters of a pound of sugar, half a pound of butter, half a cup of milk, and two spoonfuls of caraway seeds; melt the butter before you put it in. It is rather difficult to knead, but it can be done. Roll it out and cut it in hearts and diamonds, and bake it on buttered tins."
---New England Economical Housekeeper and Family Receipt Book, Mrs. E. A. Howland [E.P. Walton:Montpelier] 1845 (p. 29)
"Bohemian Christmas Cookies
Yolks of 2 hard-cooked eggs, 1/3 cup butter or butter substitutes, 1/3 cup sugar, yolk of 1 egg, 1 tablespoon milk, flour to stiffen for rolling, 3 tablespoons finely chopped blanched almonds.
Put the hard-cooked yolks of eggs through a ricer or sieve and cream with the butter or butter substitute. Add the sugar, cream, again, then stir in the uncooked egg-yolk, the milk, and sifted flour. The dough should be stiff enough to roll. Cut into small round shapes with cooky-cutters, brush these with beatn egg-white and sprinkle with finely chopped almonds. Bake in a slow oven (300 degrees F.)."
---New Butterick Cook Book, Flora Rose [Butterick:New York] 1924
"Merry Christmas Cookies
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup hone
1 tsp. lemon flavoring
2 3/4 cups Gold Medal Flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
Mix shortening, sugar, egg, honey, and flavoring thoroughly. Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting. Stir together flour, soda, salt; blen in. Chill dough. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. (quick mod.). Roll dough out 1/4" thick. Cut into desired shapes (right). Place 1" apart on lightly greased baking sheet. bake 8 to 10 min., or until no imprint remains when touched lightly. When cool, ice and decorate if desired. makes about 5 doz. 2 1/2" cookies."
---Betty Crodker's Cooky Book, General Mills, facsimile 1963 edition [Hungry Minds:New York] 2002 (p. 30)
Other Christmas cookies listed in this source are: Merry Christmas Molasses Cookies, Pointsettia and Holly Cookies, Christmas Bells, Christmas Balls, Wonderland Cookies, Magic Rings, Christmas Tree Balls, Mobile Stars, Merry Maker Cookies, Candy Cane Cookies, Christmas Holli-Doodles (Snickerdoodle variation), Cream Filbert Candy Cookies, Cooky-Candies, Toffee Squares, Butterscotch Toffee Squares, Snowflakes, Christmas Stockings, Cranberry Drops, Cream Wafers, Sation-Galzed Date Drops, Frozen Fruit Cookies, White Fruit Bars, Christmas Jewels, Cherry-Coconut Bars, Zimtstern, Nurnberger, Honey-Filled Biscuits, Cinnamon Stars, Sandbakelser, Greek Sesame Seed Cookies, Light Pfeffernusse, Dark Pfeffernusse, Berlinerkranser, Zucker Hutchen, Fattigmands Bakkels, Drumkake, Marzipan Cookies, Rosettes, Buttery Nut Rounds, Lebkuchen, Springlerle, Kringla, & German Spice Cakes. Tips for planning holiday baking, decorating, and gift containers are all still very useful today. This book was recently reprinted and easy to get. Your local public librarian will be happy to help you obtain a copy. See above for citation information.]
What about the Christmas cookie exchange?
The Wellesley Cookie Exchange made this practice of swapping home made cookies among participants famous, but they didn't "invent" the idea. Our survey of historic USA newspapers confirms cookie exchanges (cookie swaps, cookie trades, cooky exhanges) first surface during WWI. They were not necessarily connected with Christmas. Some early print references suggest they might have been fund raising bake sales rather than cookie-for-cookie exchanges. This is an excellent example of how some words & phrases mean different things in different times. Newspapers confirm cookie swaps, as we know them today, were recognized as a "rising trend" in the early 1960s.
"The Tri Kappas will have a bread, pie and cookie exchange at Montgomery Market Saturday at eleven o'clock."
---Fowler Benton Review [IN], October 11, 1917
The cookie exchange which was held by the Golden Bay Sunday School Class...netted the class something over .00."
---Burlington Hawk Eye [IA], April 25, 1920 (p. 12)
"Cookie Exchange will be feature of Erwin Group."
---Syracuse Herald [NY], January 20, 1936 (p. 4)
Farm Bureau to Meet...Christmas holiday. A pot luck luncheon will be served and there will be a cookie swap party.."
---Naugatuck Daily News [CT], December 8, 1952 (p. 6)
"The Southwest Suburban Zeta Tau Alpha alumnae group will hold its annual Christmas party at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the home of MRs. W.J. Storm, Tinley Park. The program will include a cookie exchange and grab bag. Members will bring gifts of patients of Oak Forest."
---"Zeta Tau Alpha Unit Plans Christmas Party," Chicago Daily Tribune, December 19, 1954 (p. SW8)
"Our Food Editor spots a rising trend. From coast to coast, cooks are trading cookies and recipes to make gift boxes for Christmas. Here's a sample from a 'swap party.' Put salt on the tail of a new idea; plan a Christmas cookie swap. A round of applause to the woman who gave the first 'swap party.' It provides a glamorous array of cookies for gifting, plus a hatful of leisure hours to enjoy in the last mad holiday rush. This year club groups, neighbors, or again, just a few friends are trading cookies and recipes and gift-pack ideas. Mrs. Robert Blanch of Minneapolis has held a cookie trade party for her bridge club three years in a row. 'The November meeting,' she writes, 'is given to the planning. Swap day is held late in December. Each member bakes one kind of cookie, one dozen for each of the eight members participating...That's one way to do it. Each group has its own plan...[A] swap meeting started six years ago, Mrs. Scharer's idea. Ten friends were invited to her house and the plan discussed. it was decided then to make the Christmas Cookie Swap and annual event..."Los Angeles Times, November 27, 1960 (p. TW22)
"A Party Idea.
A popular once-a-year party is the Christmas cooky swap party. Friends and neighbors gather, each bringing one dozen of her holiday specialty for each woman at the party. Cookies are set out to sample and admire and coffee is served. Afterward each one takes home a wonderful variety of festive cookies."
---Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, facsimile reprint of 1963 edition [Hungry Minds:New York] 2002 (p. 37)
The Wellesley Cookie Exchange, arguably the most famous of American exchanges, began in 1971. According to this article, it was inspired by an ariticle in a "women's" magazine:
"Snowflake Cheese Tarts. Butter Horns. Pecan Tartlets. Melting Moments. Lemon Snowballs. These are some of the cookies that document the history of the Wellesley Cookie Exchange. Each has been presented at least once in the 25 years the group has met to trade home-baked holiday goodies. This year's exchange, scheduled to take place today, will once again bring an assortment of sugar-dusted confections to Mary Bevilacqua's living room. This tradition, started by Bevilacqua and her friend, Laurel Gabel (who has since moved away), has become a beloved part of the holiday season for the 25 women who participate. Though many churches and informal groups hold cookie exchanges each year, the Wellesley group is one of the few that has inspired a cookbook. Susan Mahnke Peery of Yankee magazine collected 200 of their recipes and added her own to "The Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook" (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1986). Readers from around the country still write to Bevilacqua about the book and one of the "Wellesley Cookie Exchange" recipes was published in Family Circle in December 1995. Much of the group's longevity comes from the old-fashioned fun of swapping holiday treats. But the cookie exchange also anchors the holiday season for participants who like the continuity of this once-a-year event.
"We look forward to it," said Leah Rourke, who has been participating for almost 20 years. "Today, people don't bother with things a lot. Everyone's in a hurry. It's nice to keep a tradition." Bevilacqua helps set the festive tone by decorating her home with Christmas table runners, placemats and china. She also serves a buffet lunch or dinner before the official exchanging begins. Each member arrives with three dozen cookies to share and an empty container. Bevilacqua calls the crowd to order by ringing a bell. Then each person passes her cookies around for all to sample. By the end of the exchange, each participant has assembled a container full of assorted cookies - and heard plenty of humorous stories. "Everyone gets a chance to tell about her cookies. We hear who left out what, or how the name of the cookies was changed because they were supposed to be fingers and they looked like blobs," said Bevilacqua. She always bakes an extra batch in case someone has a disaster that prevents her from bringing cookies. Though some people make the same cookies each year - traditional favorites such as gingerbread men or candy-cane twists always turn up - others try a different recipe each year. "I'll be on the beach reading recipes in the summer and start thinking about what to make for the exchange," said Lynne Casale, who has been participating for 16 years. Laughing, she remembered the year her husband and stepchildren ate up all the cookies she had baked for the group, leaving her scrambling for a replacement. Though many women go all out and try recipes that would challenge a professional pastry chef, the atmosphere is more friendly than competitive. Bevilacqua said, "Brownies are fine. Not everybody makes fancy things."
Kathleen Miller, who has known Bevilacqua since both were in college, said, "You get a wonderful assortment to take home. I always go home and sample one, and then another " Starting a longstanding tradition was the furthest thing from Bevilacqua's mind when she and Gabel began the exchange in 1971. "I had read a magazine article about a cookie exchange as a way to de-stress the holidays," she said. As a mother of four young children, she thought it was a good idea. Since the cookbook was published, Bevilacqua has compiled enough recipes for another book. The cookie exchange tradition has also come full circle in her family. Her two daughters participate each year, and one has started her own exchange."
---"Food Folk: Cookie Exchange shares the wealth - for 25 years," Clara Silverstein Boston Herald, December 15, 1996 (p. 57)
Holiday cheese logs & balls
Food historians confirm the practice of giving/sharing food with loved ones on special occasions is as old as human-kind. Food means life. Giving food symbolizes the sharing of life. Ancient cultures typically shared cakes, meat, sweets, bread, and wine during feast times. Some of these foods also became symbolic in religious ceremonies. Hard cheeses have long been valued and shared. In pre-industrial times, any food able to withstand the tests of temperature and time was indeed precious. Softer cheeses did not stand this test, and were therefore valued even more (especially when encrusted with expensive nuts) for their cost and care.
Our survey of "cheese ball" recipes in USA cookbooks and newspapers returned a wide variety of recipes and applications. Much to our surprise, cheese ball can be deep fried, baked, or refrigerated. They can be served hot or cold. They can accompany salads, be served as appetizers or pop up as desserts. Festive holiday nut-encrusted cheese presentations are also proffered commercially. If you are looking for specific recipes from particular cookbooks/chefs let us know. Happy to help you track them down!
USA holiday cheese logs (& balls) recipe sampler
"Cheese balls served hot with salads, are made of a cup of grated cheese, half a cup of fine bread crumbs, five drops of Worcestershire sauce, and one egg well beaten. Mix together, roll into balls, and place in a wire frying basket and just before time to serve plunge the basket into boiling fat and allow them to remain until a delicate brown."
---"For the Housekeeper," New York Times, June 18 1899 (p. 20)
"Cheese Balls, No. 1
Take one cake of cream cheese, one-quarter of a pound of chopped figs, one-quarter of a pound of chopped walnuts, roll into balls and serve on lettuce leaves. Cheese Balls, No. 2 Mix one cake Neufchatel cheese, a piece of butter the size of the cheese, one tablespoon of cream, one-quarter teaspoon of salt and six dashes of Tabasco Sauce and form one large ball or several small ones and roll in chopped pecan nuts."
---Jewish Cook Book, Florence Kreisler Greenbaum [Bloch Publishing:New York] 1918 (p. 202)
"Cheese Balls...are made by taking one square of cream cheese, mashing it into a paste, and adding enough cream to make it of a consistency to roll into small balls, chopped pecans are a nice addition to this and they are served as a garnish for the salad."
---"Page for Food Shoppers," Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1930 (p. A7)
"Cheese balls are a delightful appetizer with most drinks. Mix the ingredients and make the balls with a pair of butter paddles which have been soaking in ice water for several hours before you use them. After balls are made and garnished, give them an hour or two to harden in the refrigerator. Serve them on a bed of parsley or lettuce leaves and refill the plates often, not only from popular demand, but to keep the balls cold and firm as long as possible....Roquefort Cheese Balls. Mix together equal quanties of Roquefort cheese and butter; I should say four ounces of each would be a satisfactory amount. Add to this one-half teaspoonful of dry mustard and blend it well. Form into balss the size of a marble and roll them in a mixture of finely chopped parsley and chives. I suggest a mixture of two parts chives to one part parsley."
---Hors D'Oeuvre and Canapes, James Beard [M. Barrows and Company:New York] 1940 (p. 42-44)
[NOTE: This book also offers recipes for Chive Balls, Olive Cheese Balls, Curried Cheese Balls, Swiss Cheese Balls and Mexican Cheese Balls.]
Mrs. Rockwell showed us the cheese balls chiling in the refrigerator for last-minute baking. The recipe calls for one-eighth pound of butter or margarine brought to room temperature, blended with a six-ounce crock of neutral sharp Cheddar spread, or you could use the bacon-Cheddar spread which is around in the markets. Into the cheeese add butter, work in three-fourths cup of all-purpose flour, form the mixture into balls to refrigerate several hours. Just before serving, into a hot oven for 10 minutes' baking. Serve piping hot. Crusty on the outside, melting soft within."
---"Come Over for Bridge," Clementine Paddleford, Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1950 (p. C35)
"Cheese Puff Balls
Fat for deep frying
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 cusp grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground
pepper (preferably white)
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Fine, dry bread crumbs.
1. Heat the fat to 365 degrees.
2. Combine the crumbs, cheese, egg yolks and seasonings to taste. Gently fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.
3. Form the mixture into small balls and roll thoroughly in dry bread crumbs.
4. Place, about five at a time, in a wire basket and cook in the hot fat until a deep golden brown, about two minutes. Serve immediately. Yield: About twenty balls."
---"Food News: Cheese That Whets the Appetite, Nan Ickeringill, New York Times, January 31, 1962 (p. 34)
"...popular among nibblers who approach pure cheese gingerly are items adorned with nuts--ball-shaped, cylindrical, or shapes so ornate that they are difficult to distinguish from ckaes made by a patissier. There is, for instance, a long-established Lorraine cheese to which pistachios are added. But this should not be confused with the prevailing enthusiasm for decorating wheels of flavored processed cheese with walnut halves or stuccoing fist-sized spheres with crushed nut meats--merchandising measures that are still gathering momentum. It is interesting that Herkimer County in New York, once famous as the home of one of the New World's best Cheddars, is now better known for neatly packaged ball that is a melange of Blue Cheese, Cheddar, nuts, and whey. Perhaps even more eyebrow-raising are the 'chocolate cheese creams' made in Mayville, Wisconsin; they look like candies by have centers in which Wisconsin Edam is a principal ingredient. Black peppercorns provide an even more common means for embellishing cheese. Pepato is a traditional Roman variety produced in Sicily, southern Italy, and now in northern Michigan that has pepper arranged in layers and sometieme mixed into the curd."
---The World of Cheese, Evan Jones [Alfred A. Knopf:New York] 1976 (p. 89-90) [NOTE: No recipes in this book.]
"Party Cheese Ball
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons almond flavored liqueur
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Dash of salt
1 cup granola cereal, coarsley crushed
Beat together cream cheese, Swiss cheese, liqueur, ginger and salt, mixing until well blended. Chill until firm. Shape to form ball. Chill. Just before serving roll ball in cereal, coating well. Serve with unsalted crackers or fresh fruit slices. Makes 12 to 16 servings."
---"A Buffet Appetizer: Having a Ball, Cheesewise," Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1980 (p. L36) [NOTE: this article also offers recipes for Giant Cheese Ball, Party Mold, Red Devil Balls, Claro's Cheddar Cheese Ball, Claro's Blue Cheese Ball, Pecan Cheese Balls, & Crunchy Cheese Ball.]
Christmas birds: peacocks, swans, geese & turkeys
Food historians tell us the practice of serving large, stuffed fowl for Christmas, like many other Christian holiday food traditions, was borrowed from earlier cultural practices. Peacocks, swans, geese and turkeys all fit this bill. The larger the bird, the more festive the presence. "New World" turkeys were introduced to Europe in the 16th century. For many years, these "exotic" turkey birds only graced the tables of the wealthy. Working-class English Victorian families, like the Cratchits in Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol, belonged to Goose Clubs. In America, turkey (wild and plentiful) was a natural choice for the Christmas feast. Our survey of historic newspapers reveals the goose still commanded a traditional place on the Christmas table through the 19th century. Some traditions have serious staying power.
Peacocks & swans
"Apart from the wild and tame fowl for everyday consumption, there were a few which were outstanding as celebratory birds for feasts and festivals. These were swans and peacocks among the rich, and herons and bustards for those less well off. The pacock made a fine show on a festive occassion...More usual than peacocks at feasts of the nobiltiy were swans. The Percy Family [Medieval England] at them on the principal festivals of the church at the rate of five for Christmas Day, four for Twelfth Night, three for New Year's Day...The family consumed an enormous range of both moor and waterfowl during the year, but the swans were appointed for those special days. Swan was roasted like goose, and served with chawdron sauce...Those who were not in the swan-eating class had goose or chicken."
---Food & Drink in Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago] 1991 (p. 124-125)
"The goose which the Celts had kept for pleasure were probably of the grey leg variety which has remained the principal domestic goose of Britian." (p. 114)..."Goose was in season twice in its life, a young goose in early summer, and the fattened bird at Michaelmas. (p. 121)
---Food in Britain: From the Stone Age to the Nineteenth Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago] 1991
"The Christmas bird provided by the familiar "goose club" may be compared with the German Martinmas goose. The more luxurious turkey must be relatively an innovation, for that bird seems not to have been introduced into England until the sixteenth century."
---Christmas: Customs and Traditions, Their History and Significance, Clement A. Miles [Dover Publications:New York] 1976 (p. 284)
"The Martinmas or Michaelmas roast goose is actually the perpetuation of the ceremonies of Celtic Samhain or Hallowe'en and Germanic Yule, originally the first day of the New Year, now our 1st November. Van Gennep, writing on French folklore, reminds us that it was a good occasion for feasting on tender geese that had must been fattened. Originally roast goose was a thank-offering for the harvest that had been gathered in, the Erntedankfest or harvest home, a sacrifice first to the spirit of vegetation, the to the gods of Odin and Thor. The goose, ritually eaten, magically ensured the regeneration in the months to come of nature as she went underground for the winter, precisely parallel to the Greek myth of the abduction of Persephone by the lord of the underworld...The great feasts of Samhain-All Saints' and St. Martin's Day on 11th November were thus rituals uniting the assembled company of the living with the spirits of the dead...During the Renaissance the tradition of eating goose on All Saints' Day was still widely observed..."
---History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, translated by Anthea Bell [Barnes and Noble Books: New York] 1992 (p. 352-3)
"Feasting on geese has long been a tradition in the Old World, as is clear from ancient mythology. The prevalence of goose gods in numerous cultures attests to the ritual importance of geese and to the fact that these rituals date back to antiquity...The goose feast that came to characterize holiday celebrations in later times arise as a modern-day derivative of these ancient rites and sacrifices. People in Europe, Central Asia, North America, and North Africa customarily sacrified geese, particularly at the turn of the seasons. Like other migratory fowl, geese appeared and diappeared at crucial times in the yearly cycle, so eating them customairly accompanied ceremonial events in the solar and agricultural year. People have linked geese to the changing seasons for so long that originally the goose served as a sacrifice to the spirit of vegetation, in thanks for the harvest. After the goose was ceremonially killed, participants in the sacrifice feasted on its flesh in a ritual that they believed would ensure the regeneration of the Earth...Goose was served at the Celtic Samhain, or Halloween; the Germanic Yule, originally the first day of the new year; and Michaelmas, the ritual feast of the winter solstice. The Michaelmas feast is probably the most famous goose feast, apart from that at Christmas dinner...Turkeys, native to the New World, were more plentiful than geese during the period of early settlement. American settlers served turkey at Thanksgiving, making it the seasonal feast bird. In much of the Western world today, turkeys have replaced geese also at the Christmas feast; but for all practical purposes, these two birds share the same symbolism. Just as the people of the Old World connected geese to the sun, some of the North American tribes connected turkeys to the sun."
---Nectar and Ambrosia: An Encyclopedia of Food in World Mythology, Tamra Andrews [ABC-CLIO:Santa Barbara CA] 2000 (p. 105-6)
"Martinmas had once all the customary accompaniments of Christmas, ..but gradually, from the time of the Roman occupation of Europe and its later solistial New Year, the majority of those celebrations were moved forward to the later December date. All Souls' Day and Hallowe'en--a time of falling leaves and fire festivals to help the sun's struggle with darkness--have in most countries similarly moved forward much of their old ritual to the Christmas period...In Germany and elsewhere the goose was the recognized Martinmas dish. And in England, as a large and succulent bird, it took its place for a long time as the most popular Christmas dish...The turkey was a gift from the New World. Spanish ships first brought it back from the Aztecs of Mexico to Spain: thence it would have arrived in the Spanish Netherlands and finally it came to prosper in England's Holland of East Anglia where the great turkey farms were started. It arrived in Spain in 1519; and it is said to have been eaten in England in the third decade of that century, though possibly the bird was then confused with the guinea-fowl. When the guinea-fowl, well known to the ancient Romans and Greeks, was rediscovered by the Portuguese in Africa at the beginning of the sixteenth century, it came to England dubbed as the Turkie-Henne'."
---A Book of Christmas, William Sansom [Mcgraw-Hill:New York] 1968 (p. 144-5)
The reason you won't find 16th century recipes for "egg nog" is the term didn't appear in print until the next century. Food historians/period recipes confirm English recipes for posset (esp. sack posset) and Syllabub were similar to later egg nog. References to 16th century Jamestown egg nog were published after the from 18th century forwards, it is most likely the author was using a newer/more popular & accepted American term to denote an old traditional English holiday beverage.
How old is egg nog?(name in print, not the recipe)
"By the mid-1760s patrons were drinking eggnog, juleps, sling and sanger in addition to the punch and toddy already available."
---"Taverns and Tavern Culture in the Southern Colonial Frontier: Rowan County, North Carolina, 1753-1776," Daniel B. Thorpe, Journal of Southern History, Vol 4, no. 2, November 1996 (p. 686)
"Rich and creamy dessert drinks, such as eggnog and syllabub, reflect the English heritage in America, especially in the South. In England posset was a hot drink in which the white and yolk of eggs were whipped with ale, cider, or wine. Americans adapted English recipes to produce a variety of milk-based drinks that combined rum, brandy, or whiskey with cream. The first written reference to eggnog was an account of a February 1796 breakfast at the City Tavern in Philadelphia. Beginning in 1839 American cookbooks included recipes for cold eggnogs of cream, sugar, and eggs combined with brandy, rum, bourbon, or sherry, sprinkled with nutmeg. Southerners enjoyed a mix of peach brandy, rum, and whiskey."
---Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith [Oxford University Press:New York] 2004, volume 2 (p. 423)
The earliest reference to eggnog cited in the Oxford English Dictionary [2nd edition, London] is from 1825. The beverage is defined as "A drink in which the white and yolk of eggs are stirred up with hot beer, wine, or spirits."
Break six eggs, separating the whites from the yolks; beat the whites to a stiff froth, put the yolks in a bowl and beat them light. Stir into it slowly, that the spirits may cook the egg, half a pint of rum, or three gills of common brandy; add a quart of rich sweet milk and half a pound of powdered sugar; then stir in the egg froth, and finish by grating nutmeg on the top."
---The Kentucky Housewife, Lettice Bryan, facsimile 1839 edition [Image Graphics:Paducah KY] (p. 408)
"New Year's Egg Nogg.
Breat the yolks of five eggs and five table-spoonfuls of fine sugar together; grate into this one nutmeg; add half a pint of brandy, stirring constantly; beat the white of the eggs to a strong froth, and mix them nicely with the above; then sir in one quart of good milk; grate a little nutmeg over the top."
---Mrs. Putnam's Receipt Book and Young Housekeeper's Assistant [Blakeman & Mason:New York] new and enlarged edition, 1862 (p. 196)
"Egg Nogg for a Party
Take 20 fresh eggs.
2 1/2 quarts fine old brandy.
1 pint of Santa Cruz Rum.
2 1/2 gallons of rich milk.
2 pounds of white sugar.
Separate the whites of the eggs from the yolks, beat each separately with an egg-beater until the yolks are well cut up, and the whites assume a light fleecy appearance. Mix all the ingredients (except the milk and the whites of the eggs) in a large punch bowl. The pour in the milk gradually, continually stirring, in order to prevent the milk from curdling with the eggs. Grate sufficient nutmeg on the mixture, and lastly, let the whites float on top, and ornament with colored sugars. Cool in a tub of ice, and serve."
---Bar-Tender's Guide, Jerry Thomas, facsimile 1887 editon (p. 44-45)
[NOTE: this book also offers recipes for Sherry Egg Nog, Hot Egg Nogg, General Harrison's Egg Nog, and Baltimore Egg Nog.]
Beat the whites of 10 eggs till stiff then beat the yolks and 10 teaspoonfuls powdered sugar together to a cream; mix in well 2/3 of a nutmeg, grated and add 1/2 ping brandy (or Jamaica rum) and 2 wineglassfuls of madeira wine. Now, into this mixture beat the already beaten white of egg, and stir in gradually (while constantly beating) 6 pints of rich milk. Stand it in a tub of ice till cooled. This recipe makes enough for ten people."
---Consolidated Library of Modern Cooking and Household Recipes, Christine Terhune Herrick and Marion Harland [R.J. Bodmer Company:New York] 1905, volume V (p. 75)
"Eggnog. Twelve eggs beaten separately, Twelve tablespoons powdered sugar, Eighteen tablespoons French brandy or whisky, Twelve teaspoons Jamaica rum, One tablespoon vanilla extract, One quart whipped cream. Beat yolks of eggs with the sugar till very light; stir in whisky or brandy and rum and set on ice to cool. Just before serving add the vanilla, the beaten whites and all the cream which has been beaten to stiff froth. Serve from cups and eat with spoon."
---Economy Administration Cook Book, Susie Root Rhodes and Grace Porter Hopkins editors [W.B. Conkey Company:Hammond IN] 1913 (p. 157)
"An Egg Nog. This is only to be imbibed on holiday occasions: Thoroughly beat an egg with one-half of a teaspoonful of sugar; add 1 jigger of brandy or whiskey; shake in a shaker and add milk to taste; pour into a glass and twist a lemon peel over it."
---Here' How!, Judge Jr. [Judge Publishing Co:New York] 1927 (p. 58)
"Egg Nogs and Milk Punches
The word egg nog brings to mind two different and wholly separate pictures. One either thinks of big bowls of the stuff for holiday season, or a vista of hospitals, white iron beds, and individual egg nogs spring into view. Seriously, there comes a time in every man's life when he feels the need of raw eggs, and an egg nog is the most agreeable way I know of to get them down. Milk punches lend aid to that convalescent period known as the morning after and are as good a way as any for drinking the prescribed pint of milk a day.
Baltimore Egg Nog--1
1 1/2 oz Madeira
2 tsp. sugar syrup
1/2 oz rum
1 whole egg
4 oz. fresh milk
Shake vigorously with cracked ice; strain into 12-oz. glass, adding cold milk to fill glass; stir gently and dust with nutmeg."
---Bartender's Guide, Trader Vic [Victor Bergeron] [Garden City Books:Garden City NY] 1947 (p. 295)
[NOTE: Trader Vic also offers recipes for Boston Egg Nog and Brandy Egg Nog.]
Compare with: Egg creams.
What is Posset?
"Possets were all the rage in the later Middle Ages, and survived unto the nineteenth century, but are no longer heard of. They were a warming concoction of hot milk mixed with hot beer, sherry, etc., sugar, and various spices, excellent for keeping the cold at bay in the days before central heating, and no doubt effective as a nightcap too..The source of the word is is not known, although some have suggested a link with Latin posca, a term for a drink made from vinegar and water."
---A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 266)
"Posset in its earliest medieval form was a drink made from milk lightly curdled by adding an acid liquid such as wine, ale, citrus juice to it. It was sweetened and often spiced. Sometimes curds and whey were separated and the curds mixed with conventional junket curds, breadcrumbs, and honey to make an 'eating posset' that was thick enough to slice. In the 17th century sack (like sweet sherry), claret, or orange juice were used in the eating possets. There were rich versions containing cream and eggs. Later additions the 18th century included almonds and crumbled Naples biscuits...Sack posset, long the most popular type..."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2006, 2nd edition edited by Tom Jaine (p. 627)
"A Sack Posset.
Take three pints of Cream; boil in it a Little Cinnamon, a Nutmeg quartered, and two spoonfuls of grated bread; then beat the yolks of twelve eggs very well with a little cold Cream, and a spoonful of Sack. When your Cream hath boiled about a quarter of an hour, thicken it up with the Eggs, and sweeten it with Sugar; and take half a pint of Sack and six spoonfuls of Ale, and put into the basin or dish, you intend to make it in, with a little Ambergreece, if you please. Then pour your Cream and Eggs into it, holding your hand as high as conveniently you can, gently stirring in the basin with the spoon as you pour it; so serve it up. If you please you may strew Sugar upon it. You may strew Amberedsugar upon it, as you eat it; or Sugar-beaten with Cinnamon, if you like it."
"My Lord of Carlisle's Sack-posset
Take a Pottle of Cream, and boil in it a little whole Cinnamon, and three or four flakes of Mace. To this proportion of Cream put in eighteen yolks of Eggs, and eight of the whites; a point of Sack; beat your Eggs very well, and then mingle them with your Sack. Put in three quarters of a pound of Sugar into the Wine and Eggs with a Nutmeg grated, and a little beaten Cinnamon; set the basin on the fire with the wine and Eggs, and let it be hot. Then put in the Cream boyling from the fire, pour it on high but stir it not; cover it with a dish, and when it is settled, strew on the top a little fine Sugar mingled with three grains of Ambergreece, and one grain of Musk, and serve it up."
---The Closet of Sir Kenelme Digbie Opened, facsimile 1996 London edition [Mallinckrodt Chemical Works reproduction] 1967 (p. 131-132, 134)
Boil ale or beer, scum it, and put to it two or three blades of large mace, some sliced manchet and sugar; then dissolve four or five yolks of eggs with some sack, claret or white-wine, and put into the rest with a little grated nutmeg; five to a warm and serve it."
"To make a Compound Posset of Sack, Claret, White-Wine, Ale, Beer, or Juyce of Oranges &c. Take twenty yolks of eggs with a little cream, strain them, and set them by; then have a clean scowred skillet, and put into it a pobble of good sweet cream, and a good quantity of whole cinamon, set it in a boiling on a soft charcoal fire, and stir it continually; the cream having a good taste of the cinnamon, put in the strained eggs and cream into your skillet, stir them together, and give them a warm them have some sack in a deep bason or posset-pot, good store of fine sugar, and some sliced nutmeg; the sack and sugar being warm, take out the cinamon, and pour your eggs and cream very high in to the bason, that it may spatter in it, the strow on loaf sugar."
---The Accomplisht Cook, Robert May, facsimile 1685 edition [Prospect Books:Devon] 2000 (p. 424-425)
"166. To Make a Posset.
Take a Quart of White-wine and a quart of Water, boil whole Spice in them, then take twelve Eggs and put away half the Whites, beat them very well, and take the Wine from the fire, then put in your Eggs and stir them very well, then set it on a slow fire, and stir it till it be thick, sweeten it with Sugar, and strew beaten Spice theron, and serve it in.
"167. To Make a Sack Posset.
Take two quarts of Cream and boil it with Whole Spice, then take twelve Eggs well beaten and drained, take the Cream from the fire, and stir in the Eggs, and as much Sugar as will sweeten it, then put in so much Sack as will make it taste well, and set it on the fire again, and let it stand a while, then take a Ladle and raise it up gently from the bottom of the Skillet you make it in, and break it as little as you can, and so do till you see it be thick enough; they put it into a Bason with the Ladle gently; if you do it too much it will whey, and that is not good.
"168. Another way for a Posset.
Boil a Quart of Cream as for the other, then take the Yolks of fourteen Eggs and four Whites, beat them and strain them, take the Cream from the fire, and stir in you Eggs, and have your Sack warmed in a Bason, and when the Cream and Eggs are well mixed, put it to the Sack, and sweeten it to your taste with fine Sugar, and let it stand over a Skillet of seething water for a while."
---The Queen-like Closet, Hannah Wooley, facsimile 1686 reprint [BiblioBazaar] ISBN 9780554342559(p. 70-71)
Related beverages? Egg creams & syllabub.
Syllabub belongs to the English family of creamy dessert beverages combining dairy products and sweet wine. Think: egg nog, caudle & posset. Originally a holiday beverage, syllabub invited many interesting variations based on viscosity and application. Dessert syllabubs, akin to trifle, flourished in the early 20th century.
What was Syllabub?
"The syllabub is a Tudor invention. Its defining characteristic is the mixing of white wine (or cider or fruit juice) with sweetened cream, so curdling the cream, but from earliest times it has diverged into two basic types: a stiff version eaten as a dessert, and a thinner one for drinking. The former was made with thicker cream, often reinforced by beaten egg whites, the latter with single cream or even milk, sometimes introduced directly from the cow's udder into a bowl containing the wine and other ingredients. Both sorts remained very popular until the mid-nineteenth century...but then they went out of fashion; the late twentieth century has seen a revival of the firmer sort, as a sort of historical curiosity, but not of the drink. As for the name syllabub, that remains a complete mystery. Early spellings include solybubbe, sullabub, selybube, and even sillibouk, and probably it was originally just a fanciful meaningless coinage. Syllbub became the main form around 1700, probably due to the influence of the word syllable."
---An A to Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p.332)
"Syllabub.--Traditional recipes cll for agitating sweetened cream and milk, well laced with white wine or cherry (or ale or cider), until a great froth is obtained. The agitating is accomplished by methods varying from milking directly from the cow into a bowl of rich cream and wine to the use of a charming 'syllabub churn,' and ingenious device that produces a fine long-lasting froth. In addition to its other virtues, wine serves to lightly curdle the milk and 'set' the fluffy mixture. This fortifying dessert drink was known by Tudor times and became enormously popular in colonial America. As ice cream became more available, the cool creamy syllabub came to be considered increasingly old-fashioned, although it did linger in the South...Mrs. Randolph's recipe is not at all traditional and is quite quite beside the point."
---The Virginia Housewife, Mary Randolph, facsimile 1824 edition with historical notes and commentaries by Karen Hess [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia SC] 1984 (p. 293-294)
Syllabub from the economic perspective:
"The eighteenth-century fascination with creamy drinks can perhaps ony be explained by reference to the ingredients themselves. They are not rare or exotic, but are often either colonial or betray some important British trade connection. In other words, they seem to embody the growing power of the British Empire, especially now that ordinanary housewives can purchase sugar from the West Indies, nutmeg from the Spice Islands, lemons and sherry from Spain. The British housewife is apparently no longer aware that these were once rare and costly ingredients available only to the wealthiest consumers. This syllabub recipe, one of dozens, is something like a cross between an eggnog and a creamy dessert floating on wine."
---Food in Early Modern Europe, Ken Albala [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2003 (p. 181)
"An Excellent Syllabub. Fill your Sillabub pot half full with cider, and good store of sugar, and a little nutmeg, stir it well together, and put in a s much cream by two or three spoonfuls at a time, as hard as you can, as though you milkt it in; then stir it together very softly once about, and let it stand two hours before you eat it, for the standing makes it curd."
---The Accomplisht Cook, Robert May, facsimile 1685 edition, with forward, introductions and glossary supplied by Alan Davidson, Marcus Bell and Tom Jaine [Prospect Books:Devon] 1994, 2000 (p. 295)
"To Make Everlasing Syllabubs. Take five half Pints of thick Cream, half Pint of Rhenish, and half a Pint of Sack, the Juice of two large Seville Oranges; grate in just the yellow Rind of three Lemons, and a Pound of double-refined Sugar well beat, and sifted. Mix all together witha Spponful of Orange-flower Water, beat it well together with a Whisk half an Hour, then with a Spoon fill your Glasses. These will keep above a Week, and is better made the Day before. The best Way to whip Syllabubs is, have a fine large Chocolate-mill, wich you msut keep on purpose, and a large deep Bowl to mill them in; it is both quicker done, and the Froth stronger. The thin that is left at Bottom, have ready some Calf's Food Jelly boiled and clarified, there must be nothing but the Calf's food boiled to a hard Jelly; when cold, take out of the Fat, and clear it with the White of Eggs, run it through a Flannel Bag, and mix it with the clear, which you saved of the Syllibubs; sweeten it to your Palate, and give it a boil; then pour it into Basons, or what you please. When cold, turn it out, and it is a fine Flummery."
---The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy, Hannah Glasse, facsimile 1747 edition, with introductory essays by Jennifer Stead and Priscilla Bain, a glossary by Alan Davidson [Prospect Books:Devon] 1995 (p. 144-145)
[NOTE: Mrs. Glasse also offers a recipe titled "To make Whipped Syllabubs."]
"Whipt Syllabubs. Take a quart of good sweet cream, put it into a broad earthen pan, with a jill of sack, the juice of a lemon or Seville orange, and the rind of a lemon cut thin; make it pretty sweet with fine powder sugar, whip it with a whisk, and as the froth rifes take it off, and put it on a sieve to drain for half an hour; then half-fill your glasses with some red, and some white wine, and with a spoon put on your syllabub as high as you can: or you may half-fill your glasses with different coloured jelly. Never make it long before you want to send it to table." (p. 410)
"Syllabub under the Cow. Put a bottle of either red or white wine, ale or cyder, into a China bowl, sweeten it with sugar, and grate in some nutmeg, then hold it under the cow, and milk into it till it has fine froth at the top; strew over it a handful of currants, clean washed and picked, and plumped before the fire. You may make this syllabub at home, only have new milk. Make it as hot as milk from the cow, and out of a tea-pot, or any such thing, pour it in, holding you hand very high."(p. 411)
---The New Art of Cookery According to Present Practice, Richard Briggs [W. Spotswood, R. Campbell, and B. Johnson:Philadelphia] 1792
[NOTE: This book also offers recipes for Lemon Syllabubs, Solid Solid Syllabubs and Everlasting Syllabubs.]
"Syllabub. Season with milk and sugar and white wine, but not enough to curdle it; fill the glasses nearly full, and crown them with whipt cream seasoned."
---The Virginia Housewife, Mary Randolph, facsimile 1824 edition with historical notes and commentaries by Karen Hess [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia SC] 1984 (p. 181)
"Very superior Whipped Syllabubs. Weigh seven ounces of fine sugar and rasp on it the rinds of two fresh sound lemons of good size, then pound or roll it to powder, and put it into a bowl with the strained juice of the lemons, two large glasses of sherry, and two of brandy; when the sugar is dissolved add a pint of very fresh cream, and whisk or mill the mixture well; take off the froth as it rises, and put it into glasses. These syllabubs will remain good for several days, and should always be made if possible, four-and-twenty hours before they are wanted for table. The full flavour of the lemon rind is obtained with less trouble than in rasping, by pairing it very thin indeed, and infusing it for some hours in the juice of the fruit. Sugar, 7 oz.; rind and juice of lemons, 2; sherry, 2 large wineglasesful; brandy, 2 wineglassesful; cream, 1 pint. Obs.--These proportions are sufficient for two dozen or more syllabubs; they are often made with almost equal quantities of wine and cream, but are considered less wholesome without a portion of brandy."
---Modern Cookery for Private Families, Eliza Acton, 1845 facsimile edition with an introduction by Elizabeth Ray [Southover Press:East Sussex] 1994, 2002 (p. 397)
"Syllabub, or Whipt Cream. Pare off very thin the yellow rind of four large lemons, and lay it in the bottom of a deep dish. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a large bowl conatining a pint of white wine, and sweetene it with half a pound of powdered loaf-sugar. Then, by degrees, mix in a quart of cream. Pour the whole into the dish in which you havd laid the lemon-peel, and let the mixture stand untouched for three hours. Then beat it with rods to a stiff froth, (first taking out the lemon-peel,) and having put into each of your blasses a table-spponful or more of fruit jelly, heap the syllabub upon it so as to stand up high at the top. This syllabub, if it can be kept in a cold place, may be made the day before you want to use it.
"Country Syllabub.--Mix half a pound of white sugar to a pint of fine sweet cider, or of white wine; and grate in nutmeg. Prepare them in a large bowl, just befor milking time. Then let it be taken to the cow, and have about three pints milked into it; stirring it occasionally with a spoon. Let it be eaten before the froth subsides. If you use cider, a little brandy will improve it."
---Directions for Cookery in it Various Branches, Miss [Eliza] Leslie, forthy-seventh edition, thoroughly revised with additions [Henry Carey Baird:Philadelphia PA] 1852 (p. 318-319)
"Syllabubs.--Soak the thin rind of a fresh lemon in a pint of sherry or madeira, and let it remain all night. Sweeten it well,and add three tablespoonfuls of brandy, a pint and a half of rich cream beaten up wtih a white of an egg, and the juice of the lemon. Beat the mixture to froth. As it rises place it in the glasses, pile it as high as possible, and place it in a cool place. In a little time the sylllabubs will get firm, and settle into a highly-flavoured preparation covered with snowy froth. If liked, melted red-currant or black-currant jelly may be mixed with half the cream beafore it is whipped, and this will make the syllabubs contrast in colour. Syllabubs should be made the day before they are wanted."
---Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery with Numerous Illustrations [Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.:London] 1875 (p. 952)
[NOTE: This books also offers recipes for Birthday Syllabubs, Common Syllabubs, Devonshire Syllabubs, Everlasting Syllabubs, Syllabubs in Glasses, Large Syllabubs, Lemon Syllabubs, London Syllabubs, Simple Syllabubs, Solid Syllabubs, Syllabubs that will keep a week or ten days, Syllbubs under the Cow, and Whipped Syllabubs.]
"Sylabub. Ingredients.--1/2 pint of sherry or Madeira wine, 2 tablespoonfuls of brandy. 3/4 pint of cream, 1 white of egg, 1 lemon, castor sugar. Method.--Remove the rind of the lemon as thinly as possible, put it into the sherry, and let it soak for 12 hours. When ready strain and add the cream, brandy, lemon juice, and sugar to taste. BBeat or whisk the mixture briskly, ad as the froth forms skim it off, and place it at once in glasses or a hair sieve with a basin under it to receive the drippings. Let it me made several hours before required. Time.-- Altogether, 18 hours. Average Cost, 2s. 3d. Sufficient for 10 to 12 persons."
---Mrs. Beeton's Every-Day Cookery, New Edition [Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd.:London] 1909 (p. 662)
"Syllabub. Whites of four eggs, four tablespoonfuls sughar, one cup cream, one teaspoonful vanilla, one-half glass (or large wine glass) of sherry wine. Beat whites of eggs and cream separately, beating the sugar into the cream. Fold together and when both are stiff, add vanilla and sherry, and put on ice for several hours. Serve in tall glasses with, if you like, a cherry on top of each."
---Old Southern Receipts, Mary D. Pretlow [Robert M. McBride & Company:New York] 1930 (p. 130)
Syllabub: a trifle-like dessert
The lesser-known "definition" of syllabub is a creamy dessert inspired by English trifle. The alcohol component is traditional but not required.
"Syllabub. Have ready 10 macaroons, 1 pint of cream, 4 oz. of castor sugar, the juice of 1 lemon, the finely-grated rind of 1/2 a lemon, 1 small wineglassful of sherry or Madeira, a pinch of ground cinnamon and essense of ratafia. Sufficent for 7 or 8 persons. Mix the sugar, lemon-juice and rind, cinnamon and wine together in a large basin, add a few drops of essence of ratafia, stir until the sugar is dissolved, the add the cream and whip to a froth. Arrange the macaroons compactly on the bottom of a deep dish, and as the froth is formed on the syllabub skim it off and place it on the biscuits. When the whole of the preparation has been reduced to a froth, standthe dish in a cold place, and let it reamin for at least 12 hours before serving."
---Mrs. Beeton's Cold Sweets: 350 recipes fully illustrated [Ward, Loc & Co. Ltd.:London] (p. 46)
"Fruit Syllabub. Whip two cups cream very stiff, fold into it the dry-whipped whites of four eggs, one-half cup blanched almonds chopped fine, one-half cup candied cherries cut very fine, and pulverized sugar to taste. Flavor with one-half teaspoonful fresh lemon juice and one-half cup orange juice. Toss up lightly and serve in tall glasses. Angel cake is very good with syllabub."
---Old Southern Receipts, Mary D. Pretlow [Robert M. McBride & Company:New York] 1930 (p. 130)
While the practice of making cakes with dried fruits, honey and nuts may be traced back to ancient times, food historians generally agree that fruitcake (as we know it today) began in the Middle ages. In those days, imported, dried fruits and nuts were very expensive and generally saved for holiday fare. Variations take their name cues from product color: white, golden & black. Japanese Fruit Cake, a favorite of the Southern regional USA, incorporates "exotic" ingredients: coconut and pineapple. Bishops bread (aka Stained Glass or Jewel Cake) are quick breads surfacing in the early 20th century.
What sets fruit cakes apart from their confectionery cousins is being prepared long before they are meant to be enjoyed. Historically, alcohol provided both flavor and natural preservative. Today, that ingredient is no longer necessary and often omitted.
If you are looking for a particular fruit cake recipe (from a specific book, magazine, place or period) let us know. Americans celebrated space missions by making Astronaut fruitcake. Happy to help you track it down! NOTE: Commerical cake recipes are not generally available.
"Fruit cake...a British specialty...The fruit cake as known today cannot date back much beyond the Middle Ages. It was only in the 13th century that dried fruits began to arrive in Britain, from Portugal and the east Mediterranean. Lightly fruited breads were probably more common than anything resembling the modern fruit cake during the Middle Ages. Early versions of the rich fruit cake, such as Scottish Black Bun dating from the Middle Ages, were luxuries for special occasions. Fruit cakes have been used for celebrations since at least the early 18th century when bride cakes and plumb cakes, descended from enriched bread recipes, became cookery standards. The relationship between fruit breads and fruit cakes is obvious in early recipes, such as those given by Eliza Smith  which include yeast...
Making a rich fruit cake in the 18th century was a major undertaking. The ingredients had to be carefully prepared. Fruit was washed, dried, and stoned [taking the pits out] if necessary; sugar, cut from loaves, had to be pounded and sieved; butter washed in water and rinsed in rosewater. Eggs were beaten for a long time, half an hour being commonly directed. Yeast, or barm from fermenting beer, had to be coaxed to life. Finally, the cook had to cope with the temperamental wood-fired baking ovens of that time. No wonder these cakes acquired such mystique..."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 321-322)
Caribbean Black Cake?
Our Caribbean cookery sources offer several recipes for fruitcakes, but only one titled [Jamaican] Black Cake." The recipe's headnote states:
"This is a spin on fruitcake...The name comes from the cake's dark color, due mostly to the burnt-sugar coloring found in Caribbean kitchens. The coloring can be made easily...or purchased at a West Indian grocery. Molasses can be substituted with no loss of flavor, although it will make the cake dark brown, not black. The cake usually is served 2 to 3 days after it has been baked....To make the burnt sugar coloring, caralmelize 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a heavy saucepan. Add 1/4 cup boiling water and remove from the heat. Combine thoroughly. The coloring will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator."
---A Taste of the Tropics: Traditional and Innovative Cooking From the Pacific & Caribbean, Jay Solomon [Crossing Press:Freedom CA] 1991 (p. 120) [NOTE: If you want the entire recipe from this book let us know, happy to send.]
This recipe presumably descends from European culinary traditions introduced to the region in the 18th century. The ingredients and method are almost identical to English Christmas fruit cake.
What about the oldest fruit cake?
This question falls into the realm of "urban legends." The 2002 edition of the Guinness World Book of Records does not include this category. We scoured the Web and several article databases and found plenty of stories touting fruitcake longevity claims. They are all anecdotal, not documented in a scholarly fashion. One of the classic phrases regarding the longevity of this particular food was coined in 1983 by Russell Baker: "Fruitcake is forever."
"Thirty-four years ago, I inherited the family fruitcake. Fruitcake is the only food durable enough to become a family heirloom. It had been in my grandmother's possession since 1880, and she passed it to a niece in 1933. Surprisingly, the niece, who had always seemed to detest me, left it to me in her will....I would have renounced my inheritance except for the sentiment of the thing, for the family fruitcake was the symbol of our family's roots. When my grandmother inherited it, it was already 86 years old, having been baked by her great-grandfather in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. Washington, with his high-flown view of ethical standards for Government workers, sent it back with thanks, explaining that he thought it unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter...There is no doubt...about the fruitcake's great age. Sawing into it six Christmasses ago, I came across a fragment of a 1794 newspaper with an account of the lynching of a real-estate speculator in New York City."
---"Fruitcake is Forever," Russell Baker, New York Times, December 25, 1983, Section 6 (p. 10)
The oldest fruitcake company in the United States is the Collin Street Bakery, Corsicana Texas 
Bishops Bread (Bischofsbrot) is a quick holiday fruit cake possibly descending from northern and central Europe. Bishops Bread, as we Americans know it today, is all over the culinary map. We find several fuzzy, undocumented "old fashioned" recipes for Bishop's cake (aka Bishop's Bread) which are sometimes also referred to as "Broken Glass," "Stained Glass," or "Crown Jewel" cake. The Bishop's version is basically a densely packed fruitcake which, when thinly sliced, reveals many colors. Therein lies the "jewel" or "stained glass" connection. The chocolate ingredient was introduced in the 1950s and proliferated in the 1960s.
What is "Bishop's bread?"
"A few weeks ago, Georgetown reader requested the recipe for bishop's cake (or bishop's bread), which is basically a fruitcake with candied pineapple and cherries, but no citron or lemon peel. That's how we ended up in Slovakia/British Columbia. Melissa Bowen, a research librarian at Johnson & Wales University, found a bishop's cake recipe at the Web site of the Slovak Heritage and Cultural Society of British Columbia. We published that recipe Nov. 14. Since then, Melissa has found a reference to the cake in a book called "Patisserie" by Aaron Maree. It mentions something called "tiffany cake" that also goes by the names "American fruitcake, stained-glass Christmas cake and bishop's cake." The book states: "This cake contains so much crystallized fruit and is so rich that it is only served in thin slices. If held to the light, a slice should look like a stained glass picture."...Evelyn Ford of Edisto Beach shared this story with a movie-star angle: "In reading the recipes for bishop's cake, I was reminded of a recipe a friend gave me about 45 years ago ... for bishop's bread."
---"Fruitcakes and tales from here, there, everywhere," Ann Burger, The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), November 28, 1999 (p. 10)
Why the name?
We have no clue. This appellation does not seem to refer to a specific person. In the 1930s Crisco circulated a story about an unknown circuit bishop making housecalls in the American midwest. This was rebroadcast in the 1970s. Today? Some people take it for granted the story is true. We have serious doubts.
Recipe sampler & history notes
1 lb dates
1/4 lb walnut meats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large cup flour
Pinch of salt
Grated rind 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
Cut dates and nuts into small pieces, beat eggs till very light, then add sugar and other ingredients. Spread into a large pan, about one-half inch thick, and bake in moderate oven. Cut into pieces while cake is warm, and remove from pan.---Miss M. L., Chicago Ill."
---"Food Department: fruits and their uses," Phoebe Burbank, Chicago Daily Tribune, January 9, 1916 (p. 612)
If your grandmother ever entertained a circuit-riding preacher, she probably celebrated his presence at breakfast with Bishop's Bread, which in those days required twelve hours, or more, to prepare. Made of potato sponge, it was set to rise in an earthen crock, jealously guarded from drafts with a homespun blanket and baked in a brick oven. Now you can make this same bread half an hour before breakfast by following this modernized recipe from Ohio. And from Ohio, by the way, comes Crisco--the sweetest flavored shortening I have ever used. 2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Crisco
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 cup sour milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon.
Mix flour, sugar, salt and Crisco. Save 1/4 cup of mixture for top crumbs. To reaminder, add baking powder, egg, soda, sour milk and cinnamon. Beat briskly until batter is smooth. Pour into two Criscoed cake pans and scatter crumbs of original mixture over top. Bake for about 25 minutes in hot oven (400 degrees F. If you want a richer bread, add chopped nuts and raiisn to the batter, and sprinkle extra cinnamon on top before baking. The Crisco will keep it fresh. Reheating restores the original flavor."
---display ad (Crisco brand shortening), Washington Post, February 11, 1930 (p. 10)
[NOTE: The Crisco brand "origination" story was retold by Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cook Book (1975, p. 195) and echoed in John Mariani's Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink (1999, p. 29). We find no print evidence supporting this story.]
(Awarded Book Prize.)
Mix well 3 eggs, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup flour. Chop 9 figs very fine, add 1/2 cup chopped raisins, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 cup Frazier's almonds (blanched and ground), 1/2 cup Frazier's English or black walnuts, ground or cut fine. Add a small bit of finely chopped citron. Mix all lightly and place in greased pan. Bake about three-quarters of an hour. Cut into small squares or slices.--Mrs. F.M. Philips."
---"New Awards Made in Recipe Contest," Washington Post, January 20, 1931 (p. 13)
'To what nation does Bishop's bread' belong and how does one make it?' This question begins our Cookery Clinic today. It comes from Mrs. J.E.F., and because this name Bishop's bread is a Yuletide treat, with its origin in Austria, how would you like me to pass it on for the delectation of everybody? The recipe is simple, thorugh you will have to use your own judgement, somewhat, in the amount of flour your own batch requires to give that 'stiff dough.'
(Austrian Bishop's Bread)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup raisins
Candied citron, pine nuts, and pistachios if desired Flour enough to make a stiff dough. First beat together the eggs and sugar until quite light and fluffy. Add the almonds, raisins and flour. Add the citron and other nuts if they are to be used. Now turn into an oiled pan and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F.) until well done. When thorougly baked cut the loaf in long, narrow strips and toast them on both sides under a broiler fire until light brown."
---"Bishop's Bread Is Novel Treat This Season," Mary Meade, Chicago Daily Tribune, December 30, 1933 (p. 11)
"Bishop's Bread (Bischofsbrot) I
6 egg whites, stiffly beaten
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup almonds, peeled and slivered
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup Malaga grapes
3/4 cup citron, cut into tiny strips
1 cup four (scant)
Into the egg whites fold egg yolks, sugar, almonds, raisins, grapes, citron and flour. Grease and flour loaf form. Pour mixture in. Bake in 275 degrees F. oven 45-55 minutes. Note: These measurements fill a very big form or 2 small ones. Instead of Malaga grapes, use peeled and halved pistachiops and 20] halved cherries (stewed or canned).
II. Simpler Mixture (einfachere Masse)
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten
3 egg yolks
1 cup flour
1 cup almonds or hazelnuts, peeled and slivered
2 tbls. raisins
2 tbls. chocolate, diced
2-3 tbls. figs or candied orange peel, cut up small
Proceed as in I, above."
---Viennese Cooking, O. and A. Hess [Crown Publishers:New York] 1950 (p. 218-219)
"Bishop's bread hails from the shores of Lake Chatauaqua in the western extremity of New York States. But I discovered recently when cookbook reading that a similar hot bread is made in Austria and it has the same name. It's a bread sweet and rich enough to use as a pudding when served with a sauce...
2 cups brownsugar
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 cup sour milk 1 cup chopped dates
Sugar and cinnamon for topping
Blend sugar and butter. Add egg and beat until smooth. Sift flour with dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Fold in dates. Pour into greased 9 X 9-inch pan. Bake at 375 F. for 35 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Serve hot as a dinner bread. Yield: 12 squares."
---"Bishop's Bread, Clemetine Paddleford, Lost Angeles Times, July 10, 1955 (p. H20)
"Bishgop's Bread (Bischofsbrot)
Beat 6 egg yolks light and creamy with 2/3 cup sugar. Stir in 1 cup sifted flour and add 3/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered, 1/2 cup each of white and dark raisin, 1/4 cup chopped candied citorn, 1/4 cup mixed chopped candied lemon and orange rind, and 6 ounces sweet cooking chocolate, cut into small cubes. Fold in 6 egg whites, beaten stiff. Pour the batter into a buttered and floured loaf pan andbake the cake in a slow oven (300 degrees F.) for 1 hour. Let the cake stand for at least 24 hours and serve in very thin slices."
---Gourmet's Old Vienna Cookbook, Lillian Langseth-Christensen [Gourmet:New York] 1959 (p. 447)
[NOTE: Color photo of Bisho's Bread appears on p. 373).]
"'Have you ever heard of bishop's bread?' asks a reader. 'My husband says his grandmother made it, and he'd like to have me try...' Yes, we have heard of bishop's bread, a Viennese classic fruit bread that is first cousin to fruit cake. And yes, we do have a recipe for it. Unusual ingredient in this kind of bread is finely-chopped chocolate, tho in this modernized bersion of 'bishopfsbrot' semio-sweet chocolate bits are used.
1/2 cup soft-type margarine containing safflower oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/3 cup finely chopped nuts
1/3 cup chopped candied cherries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/3 cup raisins
Blend together margarine, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs, oen at a time. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually blend into first mixture alternately with milk. Stir in nuts, cherries, chocolate, and raisins. Turn into greased loaf pan, 9 by 5 by 3 inches. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 5 to 10 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan; cool. Spread top with simple confectoiners' sugar icing or serve with lemon spread. To make, blend together 1/2 cup soft-type margarine, 1/2 cup confectoiners' sugar, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice."
---"Chocolate Bits Star in Bishop's Bread Recipe," Mary Meade, Chicago Tribune, March 4, 1967 (p. 14)
"Dear SOS: I make Bishop's Bread for Christmas every year but when I looked for my recipe it was gone...Search no more.
2 cups sifted flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped maraschino cherries, well drained
1/2 cup chopped candied citron
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Combine nuts, fuits and chocolate. Coat with 1/2 cup of the flour mixture. Beat egg yolks until light, then gradually beat in sugar. Stir in fruit mixture and mix well. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter. Gently mix in remaining flour mixture and turn batter into a well-greased and paper-lined 9 C=X 5-in. loaf pan. Bake at 325 deg. 1 hr. 20 min. Remove from pan and cool completely. Cut into thin slices. Note: If wanted, subsitute 1 1/2 cups chopped candied fruit for the cherries and citron."
---"Culinary SOS: Bishop's Bread to Save Her Yule," >Los Angeles Times, December 16, 1971 (p. J24)
Ruth Wickney of Northwood, N.D. is on the board of directors of the Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. She says this recipe is "elegant for the holidays and especially for those who do not like fruitcake. It freezes well. This was Mrs. J.A. Aasgard's recipe. Dr. Aasgard was the presiding bishop of the Norwegian Lutheran Church before the days of current mergers."
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup whole walnuts
1 cup whole Brazil nuts
1 cup whole maraschino cherries
1 cup whole pitted dates
1 8-oz. bar semi-sweet or sweet chocolate, cut in large chunks.
Mix sugar and eggs well. Add flour and baking powder. Mix well. Add whole nuts, cherries, dates and chocolate. Hand mix. Prepare loaf pan by lining with heavy waxed paper. Pour batter into lined pan. Cover pan loosely with excess waxed paper. Bake at 325 degrees F. 1 hour and 25 minutes. Fold back the waxed paper when batter has risen (about 50 to 60 minutes after it has been in the oven."
---Notably Norwegian, Louise Roalson [Julin Printing Co:Monticello IA] 1982 (p. 64)
"If you know how Bishop's Cake gets it name, bless you. I've been unable to find out for sure either the origin of the name or a definitive description of what's in the cake. A Georgetown reader recently requested help locating a Bishop's Cake recipe she remembered seeing in this newspaper in the early 1970s. She described it as a fruitcake with candied pineapple, candied cherries and lots of pecans, but no citron or lemon peel. It was flavored with a touch of bourbon. I consulted several books to try to learn more about the cake, but I didn't find any mentions of it at all. So I turned to the pros at the Charleston campus of the culinary university Johnson & Wales. Melissa Bowen, a research librarian, did some digging in the school's vast resources and found that there is a traditional Slovakian Christmas cake - a loaf cake - called Bishop's Bread. It has fruit, nuts and - surprise - sometimes chocolate. That wasn't one of the ingredients our Georgetown reader remembered. Melissa found a recipe for the bread/cake at a Web site operated by the Slovak Heritage and Cultural Society of British Columbia. "No Christmas is complete without Bishop's Bread on the table," it says. She also found another Web site that mentions a story about the bread getting its name because it was a special-occasion treat to serve to one's bishop on his occasional visits. That ties in with another story she found that mentioned some date bars that were "chewy and rich, flavored much like the Bishop's Bread served to circuit-riding preachers in the days of early America." Those stories shed a little light on the name, but there still seems to be some confusion about whether the bread/cake contains chocolate. In the spirit of giving equal time...I've included both versions here, and the traditional Slovakian recipe as well. First, here's the recipe for Biskupsky Chlebicek from the Slovak Society Web site. I had heard of "Icing sugar," which is what the British call powdered sugar - but I hadn't heard the expression "beat up a snow." Thanks to my British-born colleague Matt Owen for verifying the logical guess - that it means beating the egg whites into peaks.
(Makes 1 loaf)
cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)
4 eggs, separated
cup all-purpose flour
2 ounces chocolate chips
2 ounces almonds
2 ounces chopped figs
1 ounce raisins
2 ounces candied chopped fruit
1 tablespoon baking powder
Mix butter, half of the sugar and the egg yolks. "Beat up a snow" (make a meringue) from the egg whites. Add the other half of the powdered sugar, and finish the snow (meringue). Combine flour, chips, nuts, fruit and baking powder. Fold together the egg yolk mixture, half the dry ingredients and half the snow (meringue). Finish adding the rest of the dry ingredients together with the other half of the snow. Bake in a buttered and floured loaf pan in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing. Cake can be sprinkled with powdered sugar before serving.
Two readers - retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Harry Huggins of Charleston and Linda Williamson of North Charleston - shared similar versions of the next recipe, and it certainly fits the description our Georgetown reader gave. Cmdr. Huggins' undated clipping of the recipe, from this newspaper, attributed the recipe to Kathy Daniel of Mount Pleasant. Linda's recipe included some interesting instructions for adding the alcohol flavor to the cake. Simply store the cake in a tin with a shot glass of bourbon or rum in the center hole of the cake. Over the course of a few weeks, the alcohol evaporates, and the cake absorbs the flavor.
cup all-purpose flour
pound each: red and green cherries and pineapple (crystallized)
4 cups pecan pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon extract
teaspoon baking powder
Mix flour well with cut-up fruit and chopped nuts. Set aside. Cream sugar and butter. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add lemon extract. Combine fruit-nut mixture with egg mixture in buttered tube pan (or spray pan with nonstick spray). Fold in baking powder. Bake 30 minutes at 300 degrees, then bake 2 hours more at 250 degrees. This cake can be made 3 to 4 weeks before Christmas and put in a covered cake tin with a shot glass of bourbon or rum in the center hole of the cake. The alcohol will evaporate during this time and flavor your cake. It also does not hurt if you pour about an ounce over the cake itself. Will keep well for several weeks in a cool spot. Jeani Jessen of Ladson sent a recipe that her mother found in a ladies magazine at Christmastime in 1939. "Our family has made it yearly ever since. It's wonderful for folks who don't like fruitcake - but love chocolate! Our friends start requesting it about Thanksgiving." Jeani says the recipe originally called for chopped chocolate rather than chips. That got me wondering when chocolate chips were first sold. It turns out that the Nestle Co. first produced them in 1939 - the very year Jeani's mother found the recipe in the magazine.
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, beaten well
1 cups flour, sifted (sift after measuring)
1 teaspoons baking powder
12 ounces chocolate semisweet chips
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (about the size of the chocolate chips) 1 cup coarsely chopped dates (about the size of the chocolate chips) 1 cup candied cherries, coarsely chopped (about the size of the chocolate chips) Line tube pan (or 2 loaf pans) with several layers of brown paper, heavily oiled. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine sugar, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl, beating well. Sift together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt). Add chocolate, nuts, and fruit to dry ingredients; mix well. Fold dry ingredients into egg mixture. Pour into prepared pans - batter will be thick. Bake at 325 degrees for 90 minutes - cake will not rise much. Do not overcook! Keeps wrapped tightly in foil. Can be soaked in rum, brandy, etc., before wrapping."
---"Heaven knows exactly what's in a Bishop's Cake," Ann Burger, The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), November 14, 1999 Section I, p. 1)
Is there is a connection between the early American alcoholic beverage "Bishop" and this cake? Both call for oranges and sugar. May be worth investigating. Sample recipe from Eliza Leslie's Directions for Cookery [c. 1840] here:
"BISHOP. --The day before you want to use the liquor roast four large oranges till they are of a pale brown. You may do them either before a clear fire or in the oven of a stove. Dissolve half a pound of loaf-sugar in half a pint of claret. When the oranges are roasted, quarter them without peeling, lay them in the bottom of a bowl or a tureen, add two beaten nutmegs and some cinnamon, and pour on them the wine and sugar. Cover it, and let it stand till next day. Then having heated the remainder of the bottle of claret till it nearly boils, pour it into a pitcher, and having first pressed and mashed the pieces of orange with a spoon to bring out the juice, put them with the sugar, &c. into a cloth, and strain the liquid into the hot claret. Serve it warm in large glasses."
2 cups cranberries
1/4 cup seeded raisins
5 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 package (14 oz.) Gingerbread mix
heavy cream, whipped
Put cranberries and orange through food chopper, using finest knife; mix and raisins. Pour melted butter into a 9-inch square pan and sprinkle evenly with sugar; spread fruit mixture over top and cover with gingerbread mix, prepared according to the directions on package. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) For 40 to 50 minutes. Loosen cake from sides and bottom with spatula and turn out on cake plate. Serve with whipped cream. Yield: 9 (3-inch) squares."
---America's Cook Book, Compiled by the Home Institute of The New York Herald Tribune [Charles Scribners' Sons:New York] 1937 (p. 575)
[NOTE: We wonder if this recipe's original title was Jule Cake (julecaka, yule cake via Scandinavia).
"STAINED GLASS CAKE
1/2 lb. figs
1 lb. each candied pineapple and cherries
2 lbs. pecan halves
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine fruit and nuts. Sift together flour and salt. Combine eggs, syrup, sugar and oil. Beat into flour mixture. Pour over fruit and stir until well blended, being careful not to break fruit or nuts. Pack firmly into two loaf pans that have been greased, lined with parchment or waxed paper and greased again. Bake at 275 F for 2 to 2-1/4 hours or until tester comes out clean. Wrap in brandy-soaked cheesecloth then in several layers of foil. Sprinkle on more brandy every few days."
---"Gettin' figgy with it," Special to The Telegram, Cynthia Stone," St. John's Telegram (Newfoundland), November 12, 2002 (p. B1)
Related fare? Christmas pudding & rum balls.
Food historians confirm ginger has been flavoring foods and beverages from ancient times forward. Gingerbread, as we know it today, descends from Medieval European culinary trditions. Ginger cookies feature prominently on Northern European Christmas tables.
Why do we call it gingerbread?
"The cakelike consistency of gingerbread bears little resemblance to bread, so it comes as no surprise that gingerbread has no etymological connection with bread. It was originally, in the thirteenth century, gingerbras, a word borrowed from Old French which meant 'preserved ginger'. But by the mid-fourteenth century,...-bread had begun to replace -bras, and it was only a matter of time before sense followed form. One of the earliest known recipes for it, in the early fifteenth-century cookery book Good Cookery, directs that it be made with breadcrumbs boiled in honey with ginger and other spices. This is the lineal ancestor of the modern cakelike gingerbread in which treacle has replaced honey."
---An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 142)
About gingerbread in America
"...most early American cookies were referred to as "cakes," and gingerbread was assumed to be a form of cookie, as in Lebkuchen, a gingerbread cookie made with honey...Of all the Christmas pastries, the gingerbread cookie was one the one most loved by early American children. I suspect that a large part of this popularity hinged on the fact that gingerbread was cheap, easy to make, a small batch would yield many cookies, and that gingerbread dough stood up fairly well under the vagaries of both brick-oven and cook-stove baking. It was pretty hard to ruin it...In American cookery, there are two distinct families of gingerbread cookies, the honey-based gingerbreads of Middle European origin--mostly Germany--and the molasses shortbreads that developed in England or Scotland, depending upon which historan you wish to believe. The other developed in the late seventeenth century, using molasses as a substitute for honey...The Germans in this coutnry were the best honey cake bakers--they called the cookies Lebkuchen."
---The Christmas Cook, William Woys Weaver [Harper Perennial:New York] 1990(p. 102-4)
About gingerbread shapes
"Gingerbread was ...ornamented by impressing designs within wooden moulds. The moulds were sometimes very large and elaborate and beautifully carved. In England, such confections were bought at fairs and, together with other sweet treats, were known under the collective name of 'fairings'. The habit of shaping gingerbread figures of men and pigs, especially for Bonfire Night (5 November) survives in Britain."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2nd edition, 2006 (p. 339)
According to the some researchers, the first gingerbread houses may have appeared as a result of the popular Grimm's fairy tales. Other food historians postulate that the brothers Grimm were writing about something that already existed. We cannot confirm either claim. Summary here:
"The tradition of baking the sweetly decorated houses began in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their collection of German fairy tales in the early 1800s. Among the tales was the story of Hansel and Gretel, children left to starve in the forest, who came upon a house made of bread and sugar decorations. The hungry children feasted on its sweet shingles. After the fairy tale was published, German bakers began baking houses of lebkuchen --spicy cakes often containing ginger -- and employed artists and craftsmen to decorate them. The houses became particularly popular during Christmas, a tradition that crossed the ocean with German immigrants. Pennsylvania, where many settled, remains a stronghold for the tradition. It is believed gingerbread was first baked in Europe at the end of the 11th century, when returning crusaders brought the bread and the spicy root back from the Middle East. Ginger wasn't merely flavorful, it had properties that helped preserve the bread. Not long after it arrived, bakers began to cut the bread into shapes and decorate them with sugar. Gingerbread baking became recognized as a profession. In the 17th century, only professional gingerbread bakers were allowed to bake the spicy treat in Germany and France. Rules relaxed during Christmas and Easter, when anyone was permitted to bake it. Nuremberg, Germany, became known as the "Gingerbread Capital of the World" in the 1600s when the guild employed master bakers and artisans to create intricate works of art from gingerbread, sometimes using gold leaf to decorate the houses."
---"Holiday Tradition with Spicy History," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 9, 2001 (p. N-9)
Medieval gingerbread was more like a candy than a cake. It was composed of honey, breadcrumbs, and spices. Sample recipes here. 19th century USA gingerbread (search recipe title)
Cut up in a deep pan half a ound of the best fresh butter, with a half pound of excellent brown sugar; and stir it to a cream with a spaddle. Add a point of West India molasses, mixed with half a pint of warm milk; four table-spponfuls of ginger; a heaped table-spoonful of mixed powdered cinnamon and powdered mace and nutmeg; and a glass of brandy. Sift in a pound and a half of fine flour. Beat six eggs till very light and thick, and mix them, alternately, into the pan of butter, sugar, molasses &c. At the last, mix in the yellow rind (grated fine) of two large oranges and the juice. Stir the whole very hard. Melt in one cup a very small level tea-spoonful of soda, and in another a small level salt-spoon of tartaric acid. Dissolve them both in lukewarm water, and see that both are quite melted. First stir the soda into the mixture, and then put in th tartaric acid. On no account exceed the quantity of the two alkalis, as if too much is used, they will destroy entirely the flavoring, and communicate a very disagreeable taste instead. Few cakes are the better for any of the alkaline powders, and many sorts are entirely spoiled by them. Even in gingerbread they should be used very sparingly, rather less than more of the prescribed quantity. Having buttered, (with the same butter) a large round or oblong pan, put in the mixture, and bake it in a moderate oven till thoroughly done, keeping up a steady heat, but watching that it does not burn. There is no gingerbread superior to this, if well made. Instead of lemon or orange, cut in half a pound of seedless raisins, dredge them well with flour, and stir them, gradually, into the mixture. This is also called Franklin gingerbread."
---Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book, [T.B. Peterson:Philadelphia PA] 1857 (p. 538-539)
What is a "race" of ginger?
Ginger featured prominently on the holiday tables of northern European tables from the Middle ages forward. Traditional Ginger bread inspired delicious cookies of various shapes, textures, sizes, and flavors. Scandinavian recipes featured cardamom.
"Ginger biscuits, including 'ginger snaps' and gingernuts, are the British representatives of a much wider group of European spiced biscuits, and are closely related to, indeed sometimes overlap with, gingerbread. Most recipes rely on the old method of melting treacle, golden syrup and brown sugar with quantities of butter, before adding flour. Originally the biscuits would have been based on melted honey...The German name for a biscuit of the same general nature is Pfeffernusse; while in Scandinavia, ginger or similarly spiced biscuits, often cut into heart or star shapes and decorated with icing, have names lie pepparkaka or peppernott....Although a literal translation in 'pepper cake', the names do not refer directly to pepper, but rather to the 'Pfefferlander', the eastern countries from which spices came. The selection of spices used in continental Europe is much wider than in Britain, and includes cinnamon, cloves, aniseed, nutmeg, and, in Scandinavia, cardamom, as well as ginger."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 338)
[NOTE: Some early recipes call for white pepper as an ingredient. It is quite possible there is a connection between this ingredient and traditional European recipe names.]
"Ginber nut. In the eighteenth century, sweet ginger-flavored biscutis were known as gingerbread nuts...Around the middle of the nineteenth century...gingerbread nut was superseded by ginger nut. The element nut presumably refers to the biscuits' smallness and roundness...It also appears in spice nut, a now obsolete synonym for ginger net... The nearest American equivalent is called ginger snap."
---An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 142)
"For Christmas over a hundred years ago, Pennsylvania German children in Lancaster County helped cut out and decorate foot-high cookies to stand in the front of windows of their stone or brick houses. These cookie people--often gingerbread men and women iced with rows of buttons and big smiles--were a cheerful sight to snow-cold passersby. Figural cookie-making was practiced in Europe at least as far back as the sixteenth century--most of them were made using intaglio molds rather than with cutters."
---300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles, Linda Campbell Franklin, 4th edition [Books Americana:New York] 1998 (p. 183)
Note: this book is an excellent resource for the history of cutters, collector's catalogs & price guides, drawings and descriptions. Good for learning about which shapes were popular in specific time periods.
"118. White Rifle Nuts (pfeffernuesse). 1 pound of flour, 1 pound of sugar, both sifted, 4 large eggs, 3 ounces of citron, the peel of a lemon, 1 nutmeg, 1 tablespoonful of cinnamon, 1 teaspoonful of ground cloves, baking powder and white pepper. Eggs, sugar and spices are stirred well together, mix the baking pwoder witgh the flour, mix all together, form into little balls and bake slowly."
---Gernam National Cookery for American Kitchens, Henriete Davidis, facsimile 1904 edition with an introduction by Louis A. Pitschmann [Max Kade Institute:Madison WI] 2003(p. 406)
[NOTE: Recipe for Brunswick Rifle Nuts follows. Ingredients: flour, honey, baking powder, cinnamon, grlound cloves.]
"2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup light cream
Blanched almond halves.
Sift together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Cream butter until soft. Gradually add sugar and continue to cream until light. Add molasses and mix well. Stir in the flour alternately with the cream and mix thoroughly. Wrap dough in waxed paper and chill in refrigerator overnight, or for several hours. Roll dough paper thin on lightly floured board and cut out with diamond-shaped cookie cutter. Press blanched almond half in center of each cookie, if desired. Bake in moderately hot oven (375 degrees F.) for 10 minutes, or until done. Yield: approximately 4 dozen cookies."
---Feast-Day Cakes from Many Lands, Dorothy Gladys Spicer [Holt, Rinehart and Winston:New York] 1960 (p. 130)
[UK 1747: Ginger-Bread Cakes]
"To make Ginger-Bread Cakes. Take three Pounds of Flour, one Pound of Sugar, one Pound of Butter, rubbed in very fine, two Ounces of Ginger beat fine, a large Nutmeg grated; then take a Pound of Treakle, a quarter of a Pint of Cream, make them warm together, and make up the Bread stuff, roll it out, and make it up into thin Cakes, cut them out with a Tea-Cup, or a small Glass, or roll them round like Nuts, bake them on Tin Plates in a slack Oven."
---The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse, facsimile 1747 edition with introductory essays by Jennifer Stead and Priscilla Bain, a Glossary by Alan Davidson [Prospect Books:Devon] 1995 (p. 139)
[UK 1861: Sunderland Gingerbread Nuts]
"Ingredients.--1 3/4 lb. treacle, 1 lb. of moist sugar, 1 lb. of butter, 2 3/4 lbs. of flour, 1 1/2 oz. of ground ginger, 1 1/2 oz. of allspice, 1 1/2 oz. of coriander seeds.
Mode.--Let the allspice, coriander seeds, and ginger be freshly ground; put them into a basin, with the flour and sugar, and mix these ingredients well together; warm the treacle and butter together; then with a spoon work it into th flour, &c., until the whole forms a nice smooth plaste. Drop the mixture form the spoon on to a piece of buttered paper, and bake in rather a slow oven from 20 minutes to 1/2 hour. A little candied lemon-peel mixed with the above is an improvmeent, and a great authority in culinary matters suggests the addition of a little cayenne pepper in gingerbread. Whether it be advisable to use this latter ingredient or not, we leave our readers to decide.
Seasonable at any time."
---Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, Isabella Beeton, abridged 1861 edition edited and with an introduction and notes by Nicola Humble [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2000 (p. 341)
[USA 1828: Gingerbread nuts]
"Two pounds of flour, sifted.
One pound of fresh butter.
Half a pound of brown sugar.
One quart of sugar-house molasses.
Two ounces of ginger, or more, if it not very strong.
Twelve dozen grains of allspice, Six dozen cloves, Half an ounce of cinnamon, powdered and sifted.
Cut up the butter in flour. Spread the sugar on your paste-board, and crust it very fine with the rolling pin. Put it to the flour and butter, and then add the ginger and other spice. Wet the whole with the molasses, and stir all well together with a knife. Throw some flour on your paste-board, take the dough (a large handful at a time) and knead it in separate cakes. Then put all together, and knead it very hard for a long time, in one large lump. Cut the lump in half, roll it out in two even sheets, about half an inch thick, and cut it out in little cakes, with a very small tin, about the size of a cent. Lay them in buttered pans, and bake them in a moderate oven, taking care they do not scorch, as gingerbread is more liable to burn than any other cake. You may, if you choose, shape the gingerbread nuts, bu putting flour in your hand, taking a very small piece of the dough, and rolling it into a little round ball."
---Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Swseetmeats, by a Lady of Philadelphia [Miss Eliza Leslie]. facsimile 1828 editon [Applewood Books: Chester CT] undated (p. 65)
[USA 1976: Gingersnaps]
"Cream 3/4 cup shortening, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup molasses, and 1 egg till fluffy. Sift together 2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 2 teeaspoons soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves; stir into molasses mixture. Form in small balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees F.) 12 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen."
---Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, Better Homes and Gardens [Meredith Co.:Des Moines IA] 1976 (p. 118)
Lussekater (aka Lussikator, Lucia's cats) is an enriched sweet bread bread is served in Sweden on Saint Lucia's Day:
"In Sweden, Christmas starts on December 13, Luciadagen, of Saint Lucia's Day, with a charming ceremony that originated in an ancient legend of hospitality and goodness. Everyone rich and poor in ever corner of the country, a daughter of the household...rises before dawn and dresses in a white robe with crimson girdle, red stockings, and a crown of green leaves in which nine lighted white candles are placed. The girl, who impersonated Saint Lucia, announces the opening of Yuletide by visiting the bedside of each member of the family with a tray of coffee, buns and cakes...Often the Lucia group is accompanied by baker boys who have trays of Pepparkakor, or ginger cookies, and the traditional Lussekatter, or Lucia Cats. These are rich sweet buns, shaped like the letter X, and flavored with cardamom. They bear no resemblance to cats, save for their raisin eyes, but suggest, rather, some kind of ancient ceremonial bread. Their X-shape might be interpreted as the Greek letter chi which looks like X and stands for the name of Christ."
---Feast-Day Cakes from Many Lands, Dorothy Gladys Spicer [Holt, Rinehart and Winston:New York] 1960 (p. 127-9)
"Lussekatter (Lucia Cats)
1 cup milk, scalded
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 cardamom seed, crushed
1 envelope dry active yeast
Scald milk, add butter, sugar and salt, and stir until dissolved. Cool to lukewarm and add the yeast. Stir well, then add the beaten egg. Gradually stir in the flour and the crushed cardamom and beat thoroughly. Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in warm place until double in bulk. Knead on floured board for a few minutes. Roll a small portion at a time and cut into strips about 5 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Place two strips together to form the letter X, and curl the ends slightly outward. Decorate each end with a raisin and place one raisin at the intersection. Place on a greased baking sheet and brush over with mixture of 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water. Cover and let rise for 1 hour. Bake in moderately hot oven (400 degrees F.) for 12 minutes. Yield: 24-30 buns, according to size."
---ibid (p. 129-130)
Mincemeat and mince pies
People have been mincing (chopping into tiny pieces) meat and other foods since ancient times. Hash is a related food. Minced meats accomplished many things. It
- Utilized leftover meat
- Stretched the protein supply
- Permitted meat to be incorporated into other dishes, as in mincemeat pie.
According to the food historians, mincemeat pie dates back to Medieval times. At that time, this recipe did, indeed, include meat. It also often contained dried fruits, sugar, and spices, as was the tradition of the day. The distinction between mincemeat and mince was drawn in the mid-nineteenth century when meat began disappearing from the recipe, leaving the fruit, nut, sugar, spice, and suet product we know today. Late 19th century cookbooks contain several recipes for both mincemeat and mince, some containing meat, others not. Some notes on the history of pie. As one might expect, there are several variations on this culinary theme. Yorkshire Stand Pie and Cape Breton Pork Pies are two prime examples.
This is what the food historians have to say:
"Mincemeat. The modern distinction between mince, minced meat and mincemeat, dried fruit mixed with spices, suet, and often some sort of alcohol arose only gradually. Mincemeat originally meant simply minced meat...and we do not have any unequivocable evidence of its being used in its current sense until the mid-nineteenth century. But in the Middle Ages and into Renaissance times and beyond it was commonplace to spice up or eke out meat with dried fruit, and it seems likely that the earliest mincepies contained a generous measure of such raisins, currants, etc. The reduction in meat content was a slow but steady process (still not complete, of course, for the inculsion of beef suet is a remnant of it). The growing need to draw a lexical distinction between the plain minced meat and mincemeat was signalled around 1850 by the introduction of the term mince for the former."
---An A-Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 214)
"Mince pie in Britain, is a miniature round pie, filled with mincemeat: typically a mixture of dried fruits, chopped nuts and apples, suet, spices, and lemon juice, vinegar, or brandy. Although the filling is called mincemeat, it rarely contains meat nowadays. In North America the pie may be larger, to serve several people. The large size is an innovation, for the original forms were almost always small. The earliest type was a small medieval pastry called a chewette, which contained chopped meat of liver, or fish on fast days, mixed with chopped hard-boiled egg and ginger. This might be baked or fried. It became usual to enrich the filling with dried fruit and other sweet ingredients. Already by the 16th century minced or shred pies, as they were then known, had become a Christmas specialty, which they still are. The beef was sometimes partly or wholly replaced by suet from the mid-17th century onwards, and meat had effectively disappeared from mincemeat' on both sides of the Atlantic in the 19th century."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 507)
[NOTE: here is a recipe for medieval chawettys (chewettes)]
"Mincemeat. Also Mince. A mixture of chopped fruits, spices, suet, and, sometimes meat that is usually baked in a pie crust. The word comes from mincem to chop finely, whose own origins are in the Latin minuere, "to diminish," and once mincemeat referred specifically to a meat that had been minced up, a meaning it has had since the sixteenth century. By the nineteenth century, however, the word referred to a pie of fruit, spices, and suet, only occasionally containing any meat at all. In Colonial America these pies were made in the fall and sometimes frozen throughout winter."
---The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 206)
Culinary evidence supports this information. Compare these recipes:
"To make Mince-Pies the best Way
Take three Pounds of Suet shread very fine, and chopped as small as possible, two Pounds of Raisins stoned, and chopped as fine as possible, two Pounds of Currans, nicely picked, washed, rubbed, and dried at the Fire, half a hundred of fine Pippins, pared, cored, and chopped small, half a Pound of fine Sugar pounded fine, a quarter of an Ounce of Mace, a quarter of an Ounce of Cloves, a Pint of Brandy, and half a pint of Sack; put it down close in a Stone-pot, and it will keep good four Months. When you make your Pies, take a little Dish, something bigger than a Soop-plate, lay a very thin Crust all over it, lay a thin Layer of Meat, and then a thin Layer of Cittron cut very thin, then a Layer of Mince meat, and a thin Layer of Orange-peel cut think over that a little Meat; squeeze half the Juice of a fine Sevile Orange, or Lemon, and pour in three Spoonfuls of Red Wine; lay on your Crust, and bake it nicely. These Pies eat finely cold. If you make them in little Patties, mix your Meat and Sweet-meats accordingly: if you chuse Meat in your Pies, parboil a Neat's Tongue, peel it, and chop the Meat as finely as possible, and mix with the rest; or two Pounds of the Inside of a Surloin or Beef Boiled."
---The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse, facsimile 1747 edition [Prospect Books:Devon] 1995 (p. 74)
[NOTE: Pippins are apples, Sack is an alcoholic drink, Neat is a type of ox.]
"Minced Pie of Beef.
Four pound boil'd beef, chpped fine and salted; six pound of raw apple chopped, also, one pound beef suet, one quart of wine or rich sweet cyder, mace and cinnamon, of each one ounce, two pounds sugar, a nutmeg, two pounds raisins, bake in paste No. 3, three fourths of an hour."
---American Cookery, Amelia Simmons, facsimile 2nd edition 1796, introduced by Karen Hess [Applewood Books:Bedford MA] 1996 (p. 26)
Boil a tender, nice piece of beef--any piece that is clear from sinews and gristle; boil it till it is perfectly tender. When it is cold, chop it very fine, and be very careful to get out every particle of bone and gristle. The sweeter and better to boil half an hour or more in this. Pare, core, and chop the apples fine. If you use raisins, stone them. If you use currants, wash and dry them at the fire. Two pounds of beef, after it is chopped; three quarters of a pound of suet; one pound and a quarter of sugar; three pounds of apples; two pounds of currants, or raisins. Put in a gill of brandy; lemon-brandy is better, if you have any prepared. Make it quite moist with new cider. I should not think a quart would be too much; the more moist the better, if it does not spill out into the oven. A very little pepper. If you use corn meat, or tongue, for pies, it should be well soaked, and boiled very tender. If you use fresh beef, salt is necessary in the seasoning. One ounce of cinnamon, one ounce of cloves. Two nutmegs add to the pleasantness of the flavor; and a bit of sweet butter put upon the top of each pie, makes them rich; but these are not necessary. Bake three quarters of an hour. If your apples are rather sweet, grate in a whole lemon."
---The American Frugal Housewife, Mrs. Child, facsimile 12th edition 1833 [Applewood Books:Boston] (p. 66) [NOTES: (1) This dish is the first recipe under the heading "Common Pies." (2) Modernized recipe (oven and hearth instructions) is in the Old Sturbridge Village Cookbook, Caroline Sloat [Globe Pequot Press:Old Saybrook CT] 2nd edition 1995 (p. 156-157). Happy to send if you want! ]
"Mincemeat, Old fashioned.
--Take a pound of beef, a pound of apples, two pounds of suet, two pounds of sugar, two pounds of currants, one pound of candied lemon or orange peel, a quarter of a pound of citron, and an ounce of fine spices; mix all these together, with half an ounce of salt, and the rinds of six lemons shred fine. See that the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, and add brandy or wine according to taste." (p. 424)
--To an ounce of clarified butter add the yolks of four eggs, and beat in two table-spoonfuls of pounded sugar, with the grated rind and strained juice of a large lemon. Mix these ingredients with half a large lemon. Mix these ingredients with half a pound of rich mincemeat, without beef, and nearly fill the patty-pans with the mixture. Put them into a moderately quick oven to set. Ice them with the whites of the eggs, previously beaten to snow, with a quarter of a pound of pounded loaf sugar, and place them in the oven again until they are of a nice rich brown." (p. 424)
"Mincemeat and Mince Pies.
--Take four pounds of raisins stoned, and four pounds of currants, washed lean, four pounds of apples, six pounds of suet, and half a fresh ox-tongue boiled, half a pound of candied orange-peel, ditto lemon, and a quarter of a pound of citron, all chopped; the juice of three oranges and three lemons, with the peel of two grated; half a pound of moist sugar, two glasses of brandy, two of sherry, one nutmeg grated, a spoonful of pounded cinnamon, and half an ounce of salt. Mix all these well together, put the whole into jars, and keep them tied over the bladder. A little of this mixture baked in tart-pans with puff-paste forms mince pies.
Or peel, core, and chop finely a pound of sound russet apples, wash and pick a pound of raisins, and let both these be chopped small. Then take away the skin and gristle from a pound of roast beef, and carefully pick a pound of beef-suet; chop these well together. Cut into small pieces three quarters of a pound of mixed candied orange, citron, and lemon-peel; let all these be well stirred together in a large pan. Beat or grind into powder a nutmeg, half an ounce of ginger, and a quarter of an ounce of cloves, the same of allspice and coriander-seeds; add half an ounce of salt, and put these into the pan, mixing them thoroughly. Grate the rinds of three lemons, and squeeze the juice over half a pound of fine Lisbon sugar, mixed with the lemon-peel; pour over this two gills of brandy and half a pint of sherry. Let these ingredients be well stirred, then cover the pan with a slate; and when about to use the mincemeat take it from the bottom of the pan.
Or, to make mince pies without meat, carefully prepare, as before directed, a pound an a half of fresh beef-suet, and chop it as small as possible; stone and chop a pound and a half of Smyrna raisins; well wash and dry on a coarse with two pounds of currants; peel, core, and cut small three pounds of russet apples; add a quarter of an ounce of mixed cinnamon and mace in powder, four cloves powdered, a pound an a half of powdered sugar, a tea-spoonful of salt, the juice of a lemon and its peel finely grated, and a table-spoonful of mixed candied fruit cut very small. Let all the above be well mixed together, and remain in the pan a few days. When you are about to make mince pies, throw a gill of brandy and the same of port wine into the pan, and stir together the mince. Line the required number of patty-pans with properly-made paste; fill from the bottom of the pan; cover, and bake quickly." (p. 423-4)
Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery [Cassell, Petter, Galpin:London] 1875? (p. 423-425)
One of three kinds of mincemeat may be used for mince pie--mincemeat containing meat, in which case thae pie must act as a part of the muscle-making protien of the meat, mincemeat made without meat but containing considerable suet, in which case it should act as one of the fats; or green tomato mincemeat, in which case the pie acts as a sweet and also a bulky food. To put mince pie together, line a plate with pie crust, fill with the mincemeat, which should be cold, and top with a crust or criss-cross strips. If desired, cheese pastry may be used for this purpose. Bake as directed. Various commerical mincemeats make excellent pies. In most cases, they may be extended and bettered by the addition of one-third their bulk of chopped tart apples. Both the dried and canned mincemeat my be used, care being taken to avoid any that contains benzoate of soda."
---Ida Bailey Allen's New Modern Cook Book, Ida Bailey Allen [Garden City Publishing Co:New York] 1924, 1939 (p. 648)
[NOTE: This book offers recipes for Green Tomato Mincemeat (no meat or suet), Mincemeat (with meat)and Uncooked Engish Mincemeat (with suet). Happy to send if you want to compare/contrast.]
"Mincemeat I (Made of Meat)
1 lb chuck beef, cut up
2 lbs. pared, cored, tart apples
2 2/3 c. seeded raisins
2 1/2 c. currants
1/4 lb. citron
1/4 lb. ground suet
2 teasp. salt
1 tablesp. nutmeg
2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. strong coffee beverage or cider
1 tablesp. powdered cloves
1 tablesp. cinnamon
1 c. meat liquor
Cook meat in boiling water to cover, in a covered kettle, until tender; cool in the meat liquor. Then put meat through a food chopper, reserving 1 c. of the liquor. Put apples, raisins, currants, and citron thorugh the food chopper. Add ground meat, ground suet, and remaining ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, slowly for about 1 hour, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Pour at once to overflowing into clean to jars. Adjust covers as directed by manufacturer. Set on wire rack in deep covered kettle with boiling water to cover tops of jars at least 1". Process 30 min., counting time from moment active boiling resumes. Remove and immediately adjust seal accoring to manufacturers directions. Makes aobut 5 pts. NOTE: Many of the packaged mincemeats on the market are excellent."
Mincemeat II (Made of Green Tomatoes)
3 qts. chopped unpeeled green tomatoes (6 lbs.)
2 qts. chopped, pared, apples
1 lb. seeded raisins
4 tablesp. grated lemon rind
5 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
2 c. cider vinegar
2 c. cold water
1 tablesp. cinnamon
1/4 teasp. ground allspice
1/4 teasp. powdered cloves
Combine all ingredients in a large kettle. Simmer, uncovered, about 2 1/2 hours, or until very thick, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Pour at once to overflowing into clean hot jars. Adjust covers and process as in Mincemeat I...Makes 5-6 pts."
---Good Housekeeping Coook Book, completely revised 7th edition [Farrar & Rinehart:New York] 1944 (782-783)
Homemade Mincemeat Pie
Oven 400 degrees F.
Simmer 1 pound beef neck, covered, in water to cover till tender, about 3 hours. Cool and drain; put meat through coarse blade of food chopper with 1/2 pound suet and 2 pounds tart red apples, which have been pared, cored, and cubed. In large kettle, blend 2 1/2 cups sugar, 2 1/2 cups dried currants, 4 1/2 cups raisins, 1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruits and peels, 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peels, 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 cup orange juice, 2 1/2 cups water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon ground mace. Cover; simmer 1 hour. makes 12 cups of mincemeat filling. Use 2 cups for 8-inch pie, 3 cups for 9-inch pie. Freeze remaining mincemeat in pie-sized portions. Fill pastry-lined pie plate; adjust top crust; cut slits on top. Seal. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 35 to 40 minutes."
---Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, Better Homes and Gardens:Des Moines IA] 1976 (p. 272)
Yorkshire Stand Pie
"Stand pies," or "Standing pies" descend from Medieval tradition of great pies where the crust is employed as the cooking receptical. These extra-thick crusts "stand" by themselves in the oven. They are not eaten. Traditional ingredients feature Christmas birds. Not unlike modern turducken, these complicated, oversized holiday dishes combined stuffed, boned birds. The difference? Yorkshire's dish is baked in pastry.
"A Yorkshire Christmas-Pye.
First make a good Standing Crust, let the Wall and Bottom be very thick, bone a Turkey, a Goose, a Fowl, a Partridge, and a Pigeon, season them all very well, take half an Ounce of Mace, half an Ounce of Nutmegs, a quarter of an Ounce of Cloves, half and Ounce of black Pepper, all beat fine together, two large Spoonfuls of Salt, mix them together. Open the Fowls, then then Goose, and then the Turkey, which must be large; season them all well first, and lay them in the Crust, so as it will look only like a whole Turkey; then have a hare ready cased, and wiped with a clean Cloth. Cut it to Pieces, that is jointed; season it, and lay it as close as you can on one Side; on the other Side Woodcock, more Game, and what Sort of wild Fowl you can get. Season them well, and lay them close; put at least four Pounds of Butter into the Pye, then lay on your Lid, which must be very a very thick one, and let it be well baked. It must have a very hot Oven, and will take at least four Hours. This Pye will take a Bushel of Flour; in this Chapter you will see how to make it. These Pies are ofent sent to London in a Box as Presents; therefore the Walls must be will built."
---The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse c. 1747, facisimile first edition followed by additional recipes from the fifth edition [Prospect Books:Devon] 1995 (p. 73)
"A Standing Crust for Great Pies.
To a Peck of Flour the Yolk of three Eggs, then boil some Water, and put in half a Pound of try'd Suet, and a pound and half of Butter. Skim off the Butter and Suet, and as much of the Liquor as will bake it a light good Crust; work it up well, and roll it out."
---ibid (p. 75)
"A Yorkshire Goose Pie
Take a large fat goose, split it down the back and take all the bones out. Bone a turkey and two ducks the same way, season them very well with pepper and salt, with six woodcocks. lay the goose down on a clean dish, with the skin side down, and lay the turkey into the goose with the skin down. Have ready a large hare cleaned well, cut in pieces, and stewed in the oven with a pound of butter, a qwuasrter of an ounce of mace beat fine, the same of white pepper and salt to your taste, till the meat will leave the bones. Scum the butter off the gravy, pick the meat clean off and beat it in a marble mortar very fine with the butter you took off, and lay it in the turkey. Take twenty-four pounds of the finest flour, six pounds of butter, half a bound of fresh rendered suet, make the paste pretty stiff and raise the pie oval. Roll out a lump of paste and cut it in vine leaves, or what form you please, rub the pie with the yolks of eggs and put on your ornaments on the walls. Then turn the hare, turkey, goose upside down and lay them in your pie, with the ducks at each end and the woodcocks on the sides, make your lid pretty thick and put it on. You may lay flowers or the shape of the fowls in paste on the lid, and make a hole in the middle of your lid. The walls of the pie are to be one inch and a half higher than the lid. Then rub it all over with the yolks of eggs, and bind it round with three-fold paper, and lay the same over the top. It will take four hours baking in a brown bread oven. When it comes out melt two pounds of butter in the gravy that comes from the hare and pour it hot in the pie through a tun-dish, close it up well, and let it be eight or ten days before you cut it. If you send it any distance make up the hole in the middle with cold butter to prevent air from getting in."
---Experienced English Housekeeper, Elizabeth Raffald, 1769 facsimile reprint with introduction by Roy Shipperbottom [Southover Press:East Sussex] 1997 (p. 73)
 "A Christmas Pie.
make the walls of thick standing crust, to any size you lie, and ornamented as fancy directs. Lay at the bottom of the pie a beef steak. Bone a turkey, goose, fowl, duck, partridge, and place one over the other, so that, when cut, the white and brown meat may appear alternately. Put a large tongue by its side, and fill the vacancies with forcemeat balls and hard eggs, and add savory jelly. This last is better for being kept in a mould, and only taken out as required. Bacon, chopped or beat up with the forecemeat, is preferable to suet, as it is nicer when cold, and keeps better."
---The Carolina Housewife, Sarah Rutledge, facsimile 1847 editio [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1979 (p. 85)
A True Yorkshire pie, such as constitutes a standing dish during the Christmas festivities at the hospitable board of a Yorkshire squire, is simply a raised pie filled with poultry and game of different kinds, put one inside the other and side by side. These pies are sometimes made of a large size; and it is recorded that one of them, which was sent from Sheffield in 1832 as a present to the then Lord Chancellor Brougham, broke down on account of its weight. Yorkshire pies require both skill and patience for their manufacture. They are not common, and are becoming less and less so; nevertheless, when successfully made they form a most excellent dish, and one sure to be hightly appreciated. Turkey, pheasants, ducks, fowls, grouse, snipes, and tongue; any or all of these may enter into their composition. Whatever birds are used should be boned and partially stewed before being put into the pie: the smallest of them should be filled with good, highly-seasoned veal forcemeat; a layer of forcemeat should be placed at the botton of the pie, and all the vacant places filled with the same. A recipe here given for making a moderate-sized pie. Bone a fowl and a goose; fill the fowl with good veal forcemeat, truss it, and sew it up. Truss the goose, and put the two side by side in a stewpan which will just hold them. Pour over them as much stock as will cover them, and let them simmer the fowl inside the goose, truss the latter, and sew it up. Line a pie-mould with some pastry, such as is used for making raised pies, rolled out to a good thickness. Cover the bottom with a layer of forcemeat, lay the goose upon it, pour a little of the liquor in which it was stewed over it, and place round it slices of pigeons, boned hare, tongue, &c. Fill the vacant places with forcemeat, and when the meat is closely packed in the crust put over it a layer of clarified butter. Place the pastry-cover on the top, brush over with egg, ornament it, bind several folds of buttered paper round it, and bake in a well-heated oven. Make a little strong jelly by boiling the bones and trimming with seasoning and spices, and pour this into the pie after it is baked. When the pie is to be served, place it on a dish covered with a napkin, remove the cover whole, and cut the meat in thin slices. The pastry of a pie like this is not made to be eaten but is simply intended as a case in which to preserve and serve the meat. When a skewer will pierce easily to the bottom of the pie in the centre it is done enough. Time to bake the pie, four hours or more."
---Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery with Numerous Illustrations, [Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.:London] 1875 (p. 1156)
Panettone is an Italian egg-enriched bread traditionally presented at Christmas. This recipe, like others employing raisins, far east spices, and candied peel, dates to the Middle Ages. Origination stories and culinary traditions add festive notes to this holiday bread. Our survey of historic USA/UK sources confirm Panettone first surfaced in English print in the late 19th century. Americans quickly drew the "obvious" conclusion that this was the traditional Christmas bread of Italy. Italians appreciate the fine distinction between culinary regions. General concensus affirms Milan as the epicenter of Panettone. Other regions offer variations based on local taste. Modern commercial panettone was "invented" in the 1920s, thanks to Angelo Motta.
"Panettone, or 'great big bread loaf,' is a large domed yeasted dough, with a density of aroma that belies its light but firm texture, with a golden yellow interior and a brown outer surface, the top sprinkled with candied sugar, and the inside studded with dried fruit and candied peels. The mixture is rich with sugar, honey, butter, and eggs, perfumed with vanilla and sometimes liqueurs, and has a softness and lightness that makes it an ideal cake to have around at Christmas time. It keeps well, so in many Milanese households a quarter of this festive bread would be hidden away until 3 February, the feast of San Biagio, a saint who intercedes for those with earache and sore throats, when as a potent relic of the Christmas rites it would be eaten for breakfast to ward off winter colds...This survival from ancient Christmas rites was once connected with family rituals around the ceppo, a tree trunk or log, decked with evergreen fronds, upon which gifts for the household and family were placed, and which, after their distribution, was ceremoniously burnt on the fire, libated with wine by each participant, and poked to send up glittering sparks to delight the children. The ashes were carefully preserved to protect crops from hailstorms...The industrial production of panettone orginated in Milan in the 1920s, when Angelo Motta and Giacchino Allemagna started producing them, and now they are made all over Italy. But before then, Artusi had annoyed some of his readers by printing a version perfected by his cook Marietta Sabatini using bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar (baking powder) instead of fresh yeast, so one can deduce that the Milanese version was already known, loved, and passionately defended in the early years of the 20th century."
---Oxford Companion to Italian Food, Gillian Riley [Oxford University Press:New York] 2007 (p. 357-358)
[NOTE: Artusi's recipe is the only one we find using chemical leaveners instead of traditional yeast.]
"Bakers made many...ritual Christmas breads, pane di Natale, by enriching the bread of everyday with lard, oil, or butter, adding eggs, and kneading in nuts, raisins, dried fruits, and clean sweet-tasting candied fruits. Scholars trace the ancestors of pannetone to the end of the fourteenth century, when Florentines folded walnuts, pine nuts, dried figs, dates, and honey into Tuscan bread dough, making pan co'santi. By the seventeenth century, the historian Vincenzo Tanara wrote that the citizens of Emilia-Romagna made pan di Natale by rolling raisins, black pepper, and hone-candied pumpkin right into ordinary bread dough. These low, dense Christmas breads, bursting with nuts and fruits, were nothing like the delicate, high-domed panettone that has become the famous Christmas bread of Milan. The more recent versions were invented in the 1920s, when Angelo Motta founded a company that used natural yeast and tall cyclindrical forms to turn out a rich, porous, high-sided panettone. Studded with raisins and bits of candied orange and citron, the new panettone was such a popular success that Motta's friend, Gioacchino Allemagna opened a competing business the next year, and in the decades that followed panettone grandually became the Christmas bread of Italy. Nowadays panettone weichs one, two, or three pounds, while reustic panettone was traditionally made in enormous six- to ten-pound rounds. It was once a real status symbol for immigrants who came to Milan and felt that they had arrived when they could set a panettone on their Christmas table."
---Celebrating Italy: The Tastes and Traditions of Italy as Revealed Through its Feasts, Festivals, and Sumptuous Foods, Carol Field [Harper Perennial:New York] 1990, 1997 (p. 257)
[NOTE: Ms. Field offers a recipe for Panettone Piemontese and several additional Italian Christmas breads.]
"Panettone lends itself to fabulation. The simplest fable connected with it states that its bulbous top is meant to honor the domes of Lombardy churches. One might as well maintain that Lombardy churches were given domes in honor of panettone...A more complicated fable is put forward to explain its name. Panettone, it alleges, was originally called pan de Tonio, Tony's bread. The Tony in question was supposed to be a poor 15th-century baker. A wealthy young man interested in marrying his daughter staked Tony at the Christmas season with enough money to buy the finest flour, the freshest eggs, and, as an added value, sultana raisins and candied citron peel; as a result, pan de Tonio sold like hot cakes, and has been doing so every since (Tony's backer, of course, married Tony's daughter). Unfortunately for the story, panettone is simply the word for bread plus an Italian suffix which denotes bigness (like torteloni from tortelli); it means simply 'big bread,' bigness in this case referring to quality rather than quantity--'enriched bread,' if you want. Indeed the old name for panettone was pan grande--big bread, using a word for 'big' with a definite connotation of quality. The Tony's bread story connects panettone with Christmas, and on this count is in step with tradition. Panettone is involved in a very old Christmas ceremony. At this season, the head of each family used to cut three large slices from one of these cakes, and each member of the family ate a bit of each to insure good luck. The Duke of Milan himself used to perform this rite, in the Sala dei Fabioli (Bean Hall) on the third floor of the Castello Sforzesco. Panettone is eaten all year round now, but it is still associated especially with Christmas..."
---The Food of Italy, Waverly Root [Vintage Books:New York] 1971, 1977 (p. 273-274)
"The panettone alla Milanese, with a delicate cream, are just one or thwo of the good things at the table."
---"Under Foreign Mahogany...Hotel Life in Milan," Fin Bec, The Gentlemen's Magazine [London] August 1876 (p. 209)
"Plum pudding, as we English know the rich, indigestible morsel, is a comparative stranger to the table. Its place is take by a kind of very light bread-cake with raisins in it known as 'Panettone.' This special piece from the bakery is as universal right through Italy as the steaming brown ball of currants and raisins and spice and peel is with us."
---"Christmas in Rome," The Westminster Budget [London], December 15, 1899 (p. 50)
"604. Panettone Marietta (Marietta's Panettone)
My Marietta is a good cook, and such a good-hearted, honest woman that she deserves to have this cake named after her, especially since she taught me how to make it.
300 grams (about 10 1/2 oucnes) of extra-fine flour
100 grams (about 3 1/2 ounces) of butter
80 grams (about 2 2/3 ounces) of sugar
80 grams (about 2 2/3 ounces) of sultanas
one whole egg and two yolks
a pinch of salt
10 grams (about 1/2 of an ounce) of cream of tartar
a teaspoon or 5 scant grams (about 1/5 of an ounce) of baking soda
20 grams (about 2/3 of an ounce) of candied fruit, in tiny pieces
about 2 deciliters (about 4/5 of a cup) of milk
In wintertime, soften the butter in bain-marie and then blend it with the eggs. Add the flour and milk a little at a time, then the rest of the ingredients except the sultanas, cream of tartar, and baking soda, which you should keep for the last. But before adding them, work the mixture for at least half an hour and dilute it with the nilk unitl it's the right consistency--not too liquid, not too firm Pour into a mold twice as large as the amount of batter, deeper than it is wide, so that when it rises it doesn't overflow, and it will come out in the shap of a round loaf. Grease the sides of the mold with butter, dust with powdered sugar mixed with flour, and bake in the oven. If it turns out ridht, it should rise a great deal,and have a puffed-up, dome-shaped top with cracks in it. This panettone is worth trying, because it's much better than the Milanese-style panettone that's sold commercially, and isn't much trouble to make."
---Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, Pellegrino Artusi, 1891 edition translated by Murtha Baca and Stephen Saratelli [Marsilio Publishers:New York] 1997 (p. 422-423) [NOTES: (1) This source notes Marietta Sabatini was Artusi's cook. (2) This book was first published in 1891. There were several subsequent editions. This particular translation does not specifically mention which edition was used.]
"'Panettone' and 'Panetto' or 'Panattone'--Paenettone means big bread--in the sense of fine or glorified bread. The sweetened dough is made very light and spongy, with a few plums. It is the distinctive cake of Milan, and may be seen in dozens at the buffet of the station."
---"Academy Questions & Answers," The Academy and Literature [UK], February 13, 1904 (p. 182)
"Italian Christmas Cake (Panettone di Natale)
Crumble one-half compressed yeast cake with one teaspoon sugar and dissolve in one-fourth cup lukewarm milk. Let rise unti light and bubbly. Cream one cup butter with eleven teaspoons sugar. Break four eggs into a measuring cup, fill with milk and beat slightly. Sift together two cups cake flour and one-half teaspoon salt. Mix flour with two tablespoons chopped candied citron,one-fourth cup seedless raisins and two tablespoons chopped candied orange peel. Stir into creamed mixture alternately with egg mixture. Add yeast and beat to smooth batter. Add one teaspoon vanilla. Sprinkle buttered tube pan with two tablespoons shredded almonds and fill thre-fourths full with batter. Cover closely and let rise overnight. Bake fifty to sixty mnutes in 375 dr. F. oven."
---"Foreign Dainties Add to Christmas Menu," Lona Gilbert, Los Angeles Times, December 9, 1937 (p. A8)
"In the heart of Manhattan lives a baker who still remembers how to make Italian 'panettone,' and incomparable Christmas cake, round and fat and yellow with butter and eggs and fairly bursting wtih all manner of fruits. The loaf is sliced very thin and served with dry white wine--or perhaps a mulled red wine--on Christmas Eve. Or the cake may be toasted and eaten on Christmas morning, rich and delicious with the butter melting on the golden bread. The baker has not been back to his natie village in many decades (and he has a son in the American Army) but his currant cakes are still a blissful sight to any one who has ever basked in the warmth of the Italian sun."
---"Victuals and Vitaminbs: Sweets for the Holidays," Jane Holt, New York Times, December 21, 1941 (p. SM16)
"A special Christmas loaf called panettone, a cross between bread and cake, always finds its way at this season into Italian homes, where it provides a between meal refreshment served with wine or coffee. Made with a yeast dough, it contains raisins, citron, aorange peel and nuts, and its flvored with anise. Zampieri Brothers, 17 Cornelia Street, sells the loaf for 50 cents a pound, and it can be found in most Italian neighborhood bakeries as well for about the same price."
---"News of Food: Christmas Eve Feasts for Europeans Often Include Some Variety of Fish," New York Times, December 24, 1945 (p. 12)
"Two new imports, made especially for the holiday season by the Motta firm in Milan, and amaretti, Italian macaroons, and panettone, a sweet bread with raisins, citron and orange peel...the panettone .49 for one pound eleven ounces...Macy's...has these products..."
---"News of Food: Ready-Made Solution to Gift Problem is offered by the City's Delicacy Stores," New York Times, December 10, 1949 (p.9)
"Panettone di Natale, Italian Christmas Bread
1 cake of package yeast
1/4 cup milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
3/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks, beaten
3 whole eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teapsoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup shredded candied peel
1//2 cup shredded citron
1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
Dissolve the yeast in the milk, add 1/2 cup of the flour, and allow to stand in a warm place until bubbly. Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the beaten eggs and then the yeast-milk mixture. Add the vanilla, salt, and enough flour to make a dough that is soft but not sticky. Turn out on floured board and knead in the fruit and nuts. Place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down and knead again for 3 minutes. Shape into a round loaf, place in a greased baking pan, and allow to rise again until doubled in bulk. This will take longer than usual, because of the fruit. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes, Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. and bake for 50 minutes longe. This may be baked in a kugelhoff pan, the bottom of which is covered with whole almonds and sprinkled with almonds."
---The Complete Book of Home Baking, Ann Seranne [Doubleday & Company:Garden City NY] 1950 (p. 58)
"Panetone Bread (Italian)
2 cups milk
1 tbsp. sugar
1 cake compressed yeast
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
5 tbsps. shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten well
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup citron, chopped small
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. mace
Scald milk, and then allow to cool to a lukewarm temperature. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and the compressed yeast. Stir and blend thoroughly with the milk. Add 2 cups of flour, and beat until blended. In a mixing bowl, cream the shortening with 1 cup of sugar. Add eggs, and whip until blended. Add this to the milk-and-flour mixture. Then add 4 cups more of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Allow to stand covered in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours to rise. Add raisins, citron, chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, nutmeg and mace. Knead lightly, adding sufficient flour if necessary, as it most probably will be, to make a smooth, fairly firm dough. Roll into one large ball, and place in a large well-buttered bowl. Cover, set in a warm place, and allow to rise until about double in bulk. Break off pieces of the dough, and shape into small round loaves. Paint the top of each with a mixture of 1 beaten egg and 1 teaspoon of water. Place the loaves on a cookie sheet. Again allow to rise in a warm place until about double in bulk. Place the cookie sheet in a pre-heated 350 degree oven, and bake for 45 to 5- minutes. NOTE: This is not as hard to make as it may sound. Follow directions."
---The Dorn Cookbook, Frank Dorn [Henry Regnery Company:Chicago IL] 1953 (p. 233-234)
"Panettone Di Milano
5 cups pastry flour
1 envelope yeast
2 teaspoons lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
4 egg yolks, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2/3 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup candied citron peel, cut in small pieces
This cake should be started the day before the actual baking. Sift and measure flour. Blend yeast with water and let stand 5 minutes. Add yeast to 1/2 cup flour and mix well. Make a little ball of the dough and place it in a bowl in warm place 2 hours. When ball of dough has doubled in size, put 2 cups flour on pastry board, place yeast dough in middle, add enough lukewarm water to make a soft pliable ball and knead carefully. Cover well and let stand in warm place 3 yours. Place 1 cup four on pastry board, add yeast dough and enough lukewarm water to make a soft pliable ball of dough and knead well. Let stand in war place 2 hours. When dough has risen again, place 1 1/2 cups flour on pastry board, add dough, salt and melted butter and knead together well. Beat together egg yolks, whole eggs, sugar and 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Beat until frothy. Add to dough a little at a time, kneading constantly until everything is well absorbed. Add raisins and citron and knead well to distribute fruit evenly. You may make one large panettone, or loaf, or two small ones. If you wiss to make two, divide dough into 2 parts. Let rise in warm place 4 to 6 hours, depending upon heat. The loaf or loaves should be double the original size with dough soft to the touch. Make a cross mark with a knife on each loaf and place on buttered paper on baking sheet and place in hot oven (400 degrees F.) 5 minutes. remove quickly and place 1/2 tablespoon butter in center of cross mark. Return to oven and bake at 400 degrees F. 15 minutes. Lower heat to 375 degrees F. and continue baking 45 minutes, or longer, according to size of loaf. This cake stays fresh a long time and is ideal served with coffee or wine."
---The Talisman Italian Cook Book, Ada Boni [Crown Publishers:New York] 1950, 1955 (p. 229-230)
Who was Angelo Motta?
"Angelo Motta, a leading confectionery industrialist, died today after a heart attack at his home here [Milan]. He was 67 years old. Signor Motta was the classic slef-made man. After running errands for a baker at his native Treviglio for three years, he walked, penniless, to Milan thirty miles away and became in half a century the Italian 'King of the Christmas Cake.' When he opened his own bakery after World War I, the Italian pannetone (Christmas cake) was the dish of the rich. By first changing the recipe slightly, then applying mass production methods to its baking, Signor Motta brough the panettone within everyone's means. He had factories all over Italy and in South America. Childless and generous, Signor Motta, a millionaire, founded a 'Christmas night present' of 200,000 lire (5) checks, which he distributed every year to scores who, during the year, had done something particularly altruistic."
---"Angelo Motta Dead," New York Times, December 27, 1957 (p. 19)
Related holiday enriched bread-cakes: Panforte (Siena, Christmas), Colomba (Italy/Easter), stollen (Germany/Christmas), King Cake (UK & France/Twelfth night), Vasilopita (Greece/New Year)
Food historians generally attribute the origins of panforte, one of several traditional Italian enriched holiday breads, to Siena [Tuscany region]. Most ingredients descend from Medieval traditions. The final product is somewhat similar to pannetone. The addition of cocoa and confectioners' (powedered) sugar suggests panforte is really a modernized variation on an old culinary theme. Presumably? Dating no earlier than the late 18th or early 19th century. Legends abound, notwithstanding. In cases like these, culinary lore generally trumps fact. No matter. The result is delicious!
"Panforte is a specialty of the Italian city of Siena. It is a rich cake filled with nuts, candied peel, honey, cocoa and spcies. Its characteristic feature is that it is baked hard--hence its name: Italian pane, 'bread', forte, 'hard'."
---An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 238)
"Panforte is a flat, solid, heavily spiced cake, stiff with nuts and candied fruit, and although now associated with Sienna, it is unlikely that it was invented there. Ofiignally made with honey for sweetening and breadcrumbs to bind the mixture, it is now made with sugar as well as perfumed with vanilla, alongside the traditional spices--cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, cloves, and some peppercorns, to which might be added cardamom and anise or fennel. The honey and sugar are melted, and the toasted and chopped nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, and diced candied peel of citron and orange, lemon zest, and spices, are stirred in wtih a little butter or oil...The mixture is poured into a shallow tin lined with wafers or rice paper and cooked slowly in a low oven...Spice cakes or bread were described by Costanzo Felici in the 1560s. There were a great many of them, with a multitude of shapes and names, most heavily spiced and containing dried fruit, figs, and nuts, sweetened with hone or sapa, hense the name pan melato or panpepato."
---The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, Gillian Riley [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2007 (p. 358)
"It is curious that Siena has so little to offer of its own, apart from general Tscan dishes. On historical grounds, one would expect much more independence from the city-state which was the last to yield to Florence, in 1557...'Siena meant nothing except the place from which one got, at Christmas time, a special kind of cake called panforte.' Panforte (which means strong bread) is a rich fruitcake, whose ingredeints are flour, butter, eggs, almonds, walnuts, candied fruits...and honey, their contributions dominated by one or another of various natural fruit flavors, such as orange or lemon. It is a direct descendant of a medieval spiced sweetened bread, embodying honey and bits of dried fruit and figs."
---The Food of Italy, Waverly Root [Vintage Books:New York] 1971, 1977 (p. 47)
"Panfote Siena Style
1/4 pound shelled, blanced almonds
1/4 pound hazelnuts, lightly toasted
1/3 cup powdered cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup pastry flour
3/4 cup candied orange peel, cut fine
3/4 cup candied citron peel, cut fine
3/4 cup candied lemon peel, cut fine
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup sugar
2. tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teablspoon cinnamon
Mix together well the almonds, hazelnuts, cocoa, cinnamon, allspice, flour, eorange peel, citron peel and lemon peel. Place honey and sugar in large saucepan and cook over very low flame, stirring constantly, until a little of mixture dropped into cold water forms a ball. Add first mixture to honey and sugar and combine well. Line a 9-inch cheese cake spring pan with well buttered paper and pour in mixture, evening it up with knife blade. Bake in very slow oven (300 degrees F. 30 minutes. Remove bottom part of pan, cool and remove sides. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and cinnamon."
---The Talisman Italian Cook Book, Ada Boni, translated and augmented by Matilde Pei [Crown Publishers:New York] 1955 (p. 230-1)
Related enriched Christmas bread? Panettone.
Christmas pudding (aka plum pudding)
Christmas pudding dates back to Medieval times. Traditionally made on Stir up Sunday, this special dessert contains charms symbolizing good luck for the New Year. Hard sauce was introduced in the 19th century.
How old is the tradition?
"Christmas pudding, the rich culimation of a long process of development of 'plum puddings' which can be traced back to the early 15th century. The first types were not specifically associated with Christmas. Like early mince pies, they contained meat, of which a token remains in the use of suet. The original form, plum pottage, were made from chopped beef or mutton, onions and perhaps other root vegetables, and dried fruit. As the name suggests, it was a fairly liquid preparation: this was before the invention of the pudding cloth made large puddings feasible. As was usual with such dishes, it was served at the beginning of the meal. When new kinds of dried fruit became available in Britain, first raisins, then prunes in the 16th century, they were added. The name 'plum' refers to a prune; but it soon came to mean any dried fruit. In the 16th century variants were made with white meat...and gradually the meat came to be omitted, to be replaced by suet. The root vegetables disappeared, although even now Christmas pudding often still includes a token carrot...By the 1670s, it was particularly associated with Christmas and called 'Christmas pottage'. The old plum pottage continued to be made into the 18th century, and both versions were still served as a filing first course rather than as a dessert...What currently counts as the traditional Christmas pudding recipe has been more or less established since the 19th century."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2000 (p. 184-5)
"...the name Christmas pudding appears to be a comparatively recent coinage, first recorded in Anthony Trollope's Doctore Thorne (1858). The association of dishes containing mixed dried fruit and spices...with Christmas is a longstanding one, though. Most of them originally contained dried plums, or prunes, but long after these had been replaced by raisins the term plum lingrered on... Nowadays served only at Christmas...this was formerly a common year-round pudding."
---An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 76)
"The plum pudding's association with Christmas takes us back to medieval England and the Roman Catholic Chruch's decree that the 'pudding should be made on the twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, that it be prepared with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles, and that that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honor the Magi and their supposed journey in that direction.'... Banned by the Puritans in the 1660s for its rich ingredients, the pudding and its customs came back into popularity during the reign of George I. Known sometimes as the Pudding King, George I requested that plum pudding be served as part of his royal feast when he celebrated his first Christmas in England after arriving from Hanover to take the throne in 1714. By 1740, a recipe for 'plum porridge' appeared in Christmas Entertainments. In the Victorian era, Christmas annuals, magazines, and cookbooks celebrated the sanctity of family as much as the sanctity of Jesus' birth, and the tradition of all family members stirring the pudding was often referenced...Poorer families made the riches version of plum pudding that they could afford...Even workhouse inmates anticipated a plum pudding on Christmas Day."
---Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History, Andrea Broomfield [Praeger:Westport CT] 2007 (p. 150-151)
What is the classic recipe?
There are as many recipes for Christmas pudding as there are cooks. These notes, circa 1875, sum it up best:
Christmas Plum Pudding.-- The plum pudding is a national dish, and is despised by foreign nations because they never can make it fit to eat. In almost every family there is a recipe for it, which has been handed down from mother to daughter through two or three generations, and which never has been and never will be equalled, much less surpassed, by any other...It is usualy, before sending it to table, to make a little hole in the top and fill it with brandy, then light it, and serve it in a blaze. In olden time a sprig of arbutus, with a red berry on it, was stuck in the middle, and a twig of variegated holly, with berries, placed on each side. This was done to keep away witches...If well made, Christmas plum pudding will be good for twelve months."
---Cassell's Dictonary of Cookery with Numerous Illustrations [Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.: London] 1875 (p. 137)
Are there really plums in plum pudding? Find out!
Christmas pudding, Alice Ross
Plum pudding recipes, Godey's Ladies Book, 1860.
When to make the Christmas pudding?
Stir-Up Day is the name traditionally given to the day on which Christmas puddings are made in England. This day moves according to the Christian calendar.
"Stir-Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent, is considered the final day on which one can make the Christmas fruit cakes and puddings that require time to be aged before being served. United Kingdom...The Collect of the Church of England for this Sunday begins, "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of they faithful people, what they plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works..." This prayer was parodied by the choirboys: "Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot. And when we do get nome tonight, we'll eat it up hot." The Christmas pudding is traditionally "stirred up" on this day. All family members must take a hand in the stirring, and a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ's crib) is used. The stirring must be in a clockwise direction, with eyes shut, while making a secret wish. Source: The Customs and Ceremonies of Britain by Charles Knightly. London:Thames and Hudson, 1986, p. 211."
---The Folklore of World Holidays, Robert H. Griffen and Ann H. Shurgin editors, Second Edition [Gale:Detroit] 1998 (p. 679)
"In England some people still refer to the Sunday before the beginning of Advent as "Stir-Up Sunday"...In past times the words "stir up"...reminded people to begin preparing their Christmas puddings...Children chanted a rhymed verse on that day that mixed the words of the collect with requests for special Christmas fare...Thus, the preparation of the Christmas pudding eventually became associated with this day. Folk beliefs advised each member to take a turn stirring the pudding, and ace that was believed to confer good luck. Another custom encouraged stirrers to move the spoon in clockwise motion, close their eyes, and make a wish."
---Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations, Tanya Gulevich, 2nd edition [Omnigraphics:Detroit] 2003 (p. 741)
When is Advent?
How was the pudding stored until Christmas in the "old days?"
Excellent question! Interesting to report that none of our UK/USA cookbooks (16th-19th century) address this thorny issue. Based on instructions for preparing pre-industrial alcohol-based items (most notably fruits), we presume after the puddings were they were baked/boiled/steamed, they were wrapped in alcohol-soaked (cheese?) cloth in and stored earthenware/crockery and placed somewhere cool for the duration. It is possible more alcohol was added during this period. It is also possible the puddings were sealed against air (suet, wax) to prevent bacteria growth. Pure alcohol has long been recognized for its preserving qualities.
Christmas pudding charms
The tradition of inserting inedible trinkets into holiday foods is ancient. It descends from pagan rituals for good luck and fortune. The bean inserted into Twelfth Night/King Cake cake and coin baked in the Greek New Year Vasilopita are similar in function.
It is difficult to pinpoint the genesis of inserting charms (coins, thimbles, rings) into Christmas pudding. Some sources say it developed in Victorian England; others date the practice to the Stuart period. Like their ancient counterparts, pudding charms were meant to bring luck to their finders. Today, the practice is generally skipped for health and safety reasons. Our survey of 19th century English cookbooks reveals primary sources do not provide instructions for the insertion of coins (Christmas pudding) or beans (Twelfth Night Cake).
"As with the Christmas Clootie pudding in Scotland, the English Christmas pudding usually includced small trinkets that told one's fortune. After the family had all participated in stirring the batter, the mother would secretly drop in a thimble (for spinsterhood), a ring (for marriage), a coin (for wealth), a miniature horeshoe (for good luck), and various other items to be found by the diners during the Christmas feast itself."
---Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History, Andrea Broomfield [Praeger:Westport CT] 2007 (p. 150)
"Another important addition to the mixture is an old coin, which is cooked in the pudding. It will supposedly bring wealth to whoever finds it on their plate on Christmas Day. An old silver sixpence or threepenny bit is the traditional coin, but a thoroughly washed 10p piece will do. Just make sure everyone knows it's there and warn them to look out for it when tucking into the pud. Other traditional additions to the pudding include a ring, supposed to foretell a marriage, and a thimble for a lucky life. If you're worried your guests may swallow them by mistake you could wrap all these lucky charms in little packages of greaseproof paper before stirring them in. (It's probably best to leave them out altogether if small children will be eating the pudding, or just sit them on the side of their plates so they're easy to spot.)"
---BBC News [No longer connecting November 15, 2009]
Australian traditions: Cold Plum Pudding c. 1956
"When inserting silver coins or other articles in Christmas Pudding for pleasure of children, they must be first boiled thoroughly, dried, and then wrapped tightly in small pieces of grease-proof paper before mixing in, to cleanse and to prevent swallowing."
---The Schauer Australian Cookery Book, eleventh edition [W.R. Smith & Patterson:Brisbane Queensland] 1956 (p. 397)
"Though it might be hot on Christmas day, and some Australians have been known to have Christmas dinner on the beach, there are few who would allow Christmas to pass without hot Christmas pudding. All Christmas puddings are variations of what the English call Plum Pudding, although there are no plums in the mixture. Christmas pudding is a special favorite of both old and young...The kids can hardly contain themselves, because Christmas pudding is always served with small coins hidden inside! (Only silver coins are used, which in Australia are 5, 10, and 20 cent pieces, though the 20 cent pieces are a bit large for this.) Yes, it can be dangerous, and we have known kids who have swallowed the 5 cent pieces (the smallest coin) and had to be rushed to the doctor. But nothing ever happens, not even a tummy ache. However, if you decide to try you hand at this fun tradition, we suggest that you issue several warnings to your excited guests, adults as well as kids. Also, in the olden days when coins were pure silver (or close to it) the coins were cooked right in the pudding. This is no longer a good idea because the alloys in the coins will leave a nasty taste! Boil the coins separately, then just before serving the pudding, order everyone out of the kitchen, and wedge the coins into the pudding. With a little care, one can hide the coins to they cannot be seen too easily--although the kids are pretty hard to fool. There are a lot of different traditions in families in regard to what to hide in the pudding. We know of one strange family that hid a bone button in the pudding. The person who got it was said to have a poor year next year! So much for good will to all men!"
---Good Food from Australia, Betsy Newman and Graeme Newman [Hippocrene Books:New York] 1997 (p. 200)
Feast of the Seven Fishes
Why do Italian's eat seven different kinds of fish on Christmas Eve? According to the food historians, the number seven represents the number of sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. Fish is generally connected with fasting. Traditionally, the period before a Christian celebration is observed with simple, lean foods. Lent & Easter are the most renown of examples.
"Dishes served on the eve of a religious festival are meant to purify the body in observance of the Church's injunction to eat lean foods...while the actual holiday is a gastronomic extravaganza with rich meats and fatty foods...Christmas is a two-day feast of massive quantites and opulent dishes. Most dishes are stricly tied to local tradition, but a few have become national symbols...Eel, is the traditional fish of Christmas Eve in the south...Religious festivals have always had a special menu and none more so that Christmas Eve, La Vifilia, ostensibly a penitential meal, is often composed of a ritual number of course: 7 for the seven sacraments, 9 for the Trinity multiplied by itslef, 12 for the disciples, 13 adds Jesus, and 21 multiplies the Trinity by the seven sacraments. Southern Italians celebrate Christmas Even with Il Cenone, a big dinner serving a sequence of fish courses, which always include eel, capitone, served grilled, spit roasted, roasted, fried, stewed in umido, or pickled. Almost as likely to be present on the Christams Eve table is baccala, the quintessential fasting food, served in tomato suace in Naples, with potatoes and onions in Basilicata, and stewed in brodetto in the Marche. In Apulia, the meal is composed of seven or nine fish, each cooked in a different matter, while in Abruzzo, the seven or nine courses include roasted eel and fried baccala along with fish and shellfish roasted, fried, marinated, or served in broth."
---Oxford Companion to Italian Food, Gillian Riley [Oxford University Press:New York] 2007 (p. 193)
"All over Italy, eel is the traditional centerpiece of the Roman cenone, as the big Christmas Eve dinner is known. The banquet seems to have originated in the fifth or sixth century when the pope said three masses on Christmas Eve; wherever he went for mass, they set out a banquet. Romans have an enormous fondness for eel...The eel certainly comes form a pre-Christian cult, a water snake that was known and consumed during the time of the Etruscans; now it is a ritual food in which the sacred and profane meet...In Abruzzo, where tradition prevails, people prepare Christmas Eve meals with the required seven or nine dishes--seven for the seven virtues or the seven sacrament...Courses included fedelini with a sauce of anchovies or sardines, roasted eel, and various fish that are fried, roasted, marinated, or served in broth. (Baccala, the quintessential fasting food, appears as well.)"
---Celebrating Italy, Carol Field [Harper Perennial:New York] 1997 (p.250-255)
"Stargazy Pie. This is a fish pie of Cornish origin. It is made with the fishes' heads sticking out of the crust all round the rim, and presumably takes its name from their appearance of gazing skywards. In her Observer Guide to British Cookery (1984) Jane Grigson notes that 'it is a specialty of Mousehole where they make it on 23 December every year, Tom Bawcock's Eve, in memory of the fisherman who saved the town from a hungry Christmas one stormy winter'."
---An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 323)
"Star gazey pie, a traditional Cornish pie made from filleted pilchards with the heads left on. The fish are stuffed with a mixture of sliced onion, lemon peel, parsley, bacon, and breadcrumbs, and are then arranged in a circle on a flat pie dish, with the heads at the edge so that they will protrude from the pastry. The fish are covered with slices of hard-boiled egg, a little cider is poured over to moisten them, and the whole is covered with short crust pastry (sometimes a thin layer is also put underneath), brushed with milk, and baked in a moderate oven for about 1 hour. Springs of parsley are often put into the fishes' mouths as a garnish after cooking. (It is not unusual for a thick layer of breadcrumbs to be used instead of the bottom layer of pastry, and for the top crust to be made of mashed potato.)
---Food of the Western World: An Encyclopedia of Food from North America and Europe, Theodora Fitzgibbon [Quadrangle New York Times Book Company:New York] 1976 (p. 451)
"Star-Gazy Pie's history is a cousin to Hevva Cake. One Christmas about 200 years ago, the fishing village of Mousehole, near Penzance, was threatened with starvation. Crops were poor and the weather so stormy that ships had not been able to leave harbor. Tom Bawcock--desperate, brave, and determined--rounded up a crew willing to brave the storms. Against th odds, they returned safely and loaded down with seven kinds of fish. The date was December 23. Ever since then, the village of Mousehole has celebrated Christmas Eve's eve as Tom Bawcock's Eve. The traditional meal is this fish pie made with seven kinds of fish and a sturdy crust, constructed with fish heads emerging from the crust to gaze at the stars."
---Saffron & Currants: A Cornish Heritage Cookbook, Susan Pellowe [Renard Productions:North Arora IL] revised edition, 1998 (p. 38)
[NOTE: recipe for Hevva Cake is included in this booklet. It has no fish. Happy to share.]
 "Star-Gazy Pie (a favourite Cornish dish). This pie is thus named because the heads of the fish are usually placed mouth uppermost in the centre of the lid of the crust, as pigeon's legs are in a pigeon pie, and therefore the fish are supposed to be gazing at the sky or the stars. Takes as many fresh herrings or mackerel as will fill a moderate-sized dish. Scale, empty and open them, and remove the bones. Lay them flat on the table, season the inside of each with salt, cayenne, and chopped parsley and roll it up neatly. Butter the pie dish, and sprinkle upon it a thick layer of finely-grated bread-crumbs, lay in some of the fish, and fill the dish with alternate layers of the pie with a few slices of fat bacon or the fat of a ready-dressed ham, and pour over all six eggs beaten up with two tables-spoonfuls of tarragon vinegar, or, if preferred, half a quarter of a pint of cream. Cover the dish with a good crust, and bake the pie in a well-heated oven. Arrange the heads of the fish in the centre of the pastry; when the pie is baked put a piece of parsley into the mouth of each fish, and serve. Time, one hour to an hour and half."
---Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery with Numerous Illustrations [Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.:London] 1875 (p. 923)
Stollen's culinary lineage derives from a long history of festive holiday foods. Related foods are fruitcake, panettone, Dreikonigsbrot, three kings cake/king cake and babka. What do these sweet breads have in common? They were developed in Europe during Medieval times and were traditionally saved for holiday times because they were expensive. Cook of all times and places save their very best ingredients for special occasions. These special holiday yeast cakes were made with the cook's finest wheat flour, white sugar, butter, eggs, and dried fruit; some included rich filling, such as marzipan [almond paste]. Three kings cakes (related to New Orleans' King Cake) required similar ingredients and were/are connected with Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras.
The spices used in...holiday breads...and their symbolic shapes and meaning vary. However, they are all based on the same type coffee-cake dough, and each is an integral part of some festivity in its native country...The Dresdener Stollen recipes...is the most famous of many regional variations of Germany's Christmas bread."
---The Horizon Cookbook, William Harlan Hale [American Heritage:New York] 1968 (p. 648)
a rich fruit bread/cake from central Germany, especially the city of Dresden...the name is derived from an Old High German word, stollo, meaning a support or post. The characteristic shape of Stollen--oblong, tapered at each end with a ridge down the centre--is said to repersent the Christ Child in swaddling clothes, whence the name Christollen sometimes given to it. The Dresden Stollen, now known internationally as a Christmas specialty, is made from a rich, sweet yeast dough, mixed with milk, eggs, sugar, and butter, sometimes flavoured with lemon. Raisins, sultanas, currants, rum or brandy, candied peel, and almonds are worked into the dough. After baking, the Stollen is painted with melted butter and dusted with sugar. It may then be further decorated with candied fruits..."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 755)
Stollen, Aunt Babette's Cookbook: Foreign and Domestic Reciepts for the Household, [Block:Cincinnati] 1889
[NOTE: this is a Jewish cookbook]
Related enriched holiday breads: Panettone & King cake.
Sugarplums belong to the comfit family, a confection traditionally composed of tiny sugar-coated seeds. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word sugarplum thusly: "A small round or oval sweetmeat, made of boiled sugared and variously flavoured and coloured; a comfit." The earliest mention of this particular food is 1668. The term also has another meaning "Something very pleasing or agreeable; esp. when given as a sop or bribe," which dates to 1608.
"Sugarplums were an early form of boiled sweet. Not acutally made from plums...they were nevertheless roughly the size and shape of plums, and often had little wire stalks' for suspending them from. They came in an assortment of colours and flavours, and frequently, like comfits, had an aniseed, caraway seed, etc. at their centre. The term was in vogue from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, but is now remembered largely thanks to the Sugarplum Fairy, a character in Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet (1892.)"
---An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 329)
Visions of sugarplums/Sharon Cohen...history and instructions for making them.
What are comfits?
"Comfit, an archaic English word for an item of confectionery consisting of a seed, or nut coated in several layers of sugar...In England these small, hard sugar sweets were often made with caraway seeds, known for sweetening the breath (hence kissing confits). Up to a dozen coats of syrup were needed before the seeds were satisfactorily encrusted. Comfits were eaten a sweets, and also used in other sweet dishes; for example seed cake was made with caraway comfits rather than loose caraway seeds as in the 19th century. Confectioners as early as the 17th century recognized by varying the proportions of sugar in the syrup they could change the final texture, making pearled comfits or crisp and ragged comfits. The word comfit remained in use in English up until the 20th century: Alice, of Alice in Wonderland, has a box of comfits in her pocket."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 208)
Why call them comfits?
"The latin word conficere was used to describe the act of puttng together, making up or compounding their potions. From that were derived the English terms to confect and confection. Another one, comfit, came from the Latin in a more roundabout fashion, for its immediate root was the French confit. Used at first for fruits preserved in sugar, comfit soon defined sugar-covered spices (pills in other words)...By the end of the fifteenth century, confection had acquired the meaning of a sweetmeat. In the early seventeeth century, the terms comfit-maker and confectioner both described people who made sweets."
---Sugarplums and Sherbet: The prehistory of sweets, Laura Mason [Prospect Books:Devon] 2004 (p. 25)
[NOTE: The word confit, decending from the same root, applies to a savory potted fowl.]
Early manufacturing processs
"Comfit making demanded both leisure and special equipment; a ladle, a slice, a basin to heat the sugar suspended from cords over another bowl containing hot coals, and yet another basin in which the seeds, fruits or spices were treated. Molten sugar was ladled over them, and after each application they had to be dried and cooled. Several coats of sugar were needed. Caraways will be fair at twelve coats; and even crisp and ragged comfits, for which the sugar was boiled to a greater height, required eight to ten coats. Fortunately there were professional confectioners in the larger towns. So the gentle woman unequaled to the task of creating her own banqueting fare could purchase it herself, or commission kinsfolk or friends to bring back sweetmeats when they travelled on business."
---Food and Drink in Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago] 1991(p. 312)
"Confetti (comfits in English) are nuts or seeds or spices with a coating of hard sugar. The best known in Italy today are probably the sugared almonds which are sent to relatives to celebrate weddings and similar joyful life events. The little circles of coloured paper tossed over the bride at weddings are a substitute for the ancient custom of scattering seeds and ritual breads, symbols of fertility and renewal, which predate Christian ceremonies. The combination of seeds and sugar was quite potent, and apart from their symbolic value, confetti were made and used by apothecaries as both medicine and gtreats; they were offered at the end of lavish banquets, as exquisite morels and soothing digestives, and brought in to offer visitors coming to pay the ritual congratulatory visit to women after childbirth. In Florence in 1471, Ser Girolamo di Ser Diovanni di Ser Taddeo de Colle, a comfortably off notary, paid a large sum of money for confetti (also known as treggea or manuscristi) as his wife Catereina went into labour...The sweetmeats brought by guests would have included confetti... The making of confetti was slow and laborous, the seeds or nuts to be coated were put into a sugar syrup at the manuscristi stage...and swirled and tossed in a concave metal tray suspended over a low heat...confetti went through this treatment over and over again, eacy layer of sugar had to dry out completely before the next coating, and many coatings were needed."
---Oxford Comnpanion to Italia Food, Gillian Riley [Oxford University Press:New YOrk] 2007 (p. 138)
"The production of comfits and confections in Sicily probably kept pace with the production of sugar itself. This was greatly diminished during the turbulent decades following the extinction of the Norman dynasty, reduced perhaps to small plantations scaled to local consumption. Nonetheless, knowledge and techniques survived, ready to accompany the extroadinar expansion in sugar production that began at the end of the fourteenth century, and to satisfy the requirements of the newly established royal court. Comfits always appeared among the gifts that the city of Palermo presejted to royal amassadors and other VIPs. In 1417 the wife of a viceroy received a tribute of almond, anise, and coriander comfits...."
---Pomp and Sustenance: Twenty-Five Centuries of Sicilian Food, Mary Taylor Simeti [Ecco Press:Hopewell NJ] 1989 (p. 224)
"Konpeito. comfit. A sugar candy introduced by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, on kind of higashi. It is a small toffee sphrere (5 mm in diameter) with a pimply surface, made from sugar, water, and flour, in a variety of colors. Originally there was a sesame seed in the middle, later a poppy seed, but nowadays no seed at all. The word comfit derives from the Portuguese confeito, meaning confection."
---A Dictionary of Japanese Food: Ingredients and Culture, Richard Hosking [Charles E. Tuttle Company:Rutland VT] 1996 (p. 84)
[NOTES: (1) "higashi" is defined in this book as "dry confectionery." p.52 (2) What are comfits?]
Related confection: Sweetmeats & Dragees & candy coated Jordan almonds.
Twelfth Night Cake
Twelfth Night Cake (aka Rosca de Reyes, Gateau des Rois, King Cake) honors the Three Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus on the 12th day after his birth. This Christian holiday is called Epiphany, Twelfth Night, and Three Kings Day. These festive enriched goods are consumed through Mardi Gras, ending on Ash Wednesday, the commencement of Lent.
The cake is a basic yeast-based brioche filled with dried fruits and nuts. The recipe descends from Ancient Arab recipes. The practice of serving this particular cake, often with a prize or bean inside, around Christmas time predates Christian times. Ancient Romans served a similar item. The traditional King Cake, as we know it today, was made by Christians throughout most of Europe by the Middle Ages. King cakes were introduced to America by European settlers. In places settled by Spanish missionaires (Mexico, South America, Florida, California), rosca de reyes was served. In the United States, the King Cakes of New Orleans are probably the most well known. German/Bavarian Dreikonigskeuchen (recipe here) is encased in a gold paper crown.
"Twelfth-Night Cake. In many countries it was customary to celebrate Ephiphany with a feast on its eve, or Twelfth Night. A central feature of these festivities was a cake in which a bean or token was hidden. He who found it in his piece of cake was named lord of the evening's entertainments and could command guests to do his bidding. In France the cake was known as gateau des rois, or king's cake, in honour of the Wise Men, whose feast Epiphany is; in Louisiana it is "king cake"; in Germany it is Dreikongskuchen; it is the Black Bun in Scotland; in Portugal it is bola-rei; and in Spain it is rosca de reyes."
---The World of Christmas, Gerry Bowler [McClelland & Stewart:Toronto] 2000 (p. 230)
"A long succession of mock kings have ruled over winter holiday merrymaking in Europe. In ancient times they presided over feasts held in honor of the Roman festival of Saturnalia...In the Middle Ages the boy bishop and the Lord of Misrule directed certain Christmas festivities...Twelfth Night celebrations, however, came under the special supervision of another mock ruler: the King of the Bean. In past centuries, the English, French, Spanish, German and Dutch celebrated Twelfth Night, or Epiphany Eve, with a feast. The Twelfth Night cake not only provided dessert, but also helped to facilitate an old custom...While preparing the cake the cook dropped a bean, coin or other small object in to the batter. The man who found the object in his slice of cake was declared "King of the Bean." If a woman received the bean, she became queen and appointed a man as king...The king presided over the rest of the evening's activities...Christmas season mock kings sprouted up regularly in mediveal Europe. Records indicate that in late medieval France thse kings were selected by a kind of edible lottery...In the sixteenth century, ordinary Dutch and German households celebrated Twelfth Night by baking a coin into a cake and acknowledging whoever received the coin in their slice of cake as king of the feast. In the next century, this Twelfth Night custom spread to England, France, and Spain..."
---Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations, Tanya Gulevich [Omnigraphics:Detroit] 2nd edition, 2003 (p. 404-5)
"King cake. A brioche-style cake made during the Louisiana carnival season, beginning in January and ending at Mardi Gras...By tradition the cake contains a red bean (sometimes covered in gold or silver lear) or a figurine of the baby Jesus. It is sold widely throughout Louisiana...the person who finds the bean or figurine is prmosed good luck. There are various stories as the the origins of ther cake, though most in some way derive from the legend of the Three Kings visiting the infant Jesus in Bethlehem, as described in the New Testament. In the first half of the sixteenth century France commemorated Kings' Day--the twelfth day after Christmas--with a "Twelfth Night cake." A century later King Louis XIV took part in such a feast at which gateau des Rois ("Kings' cake") contained a hidden bean or creamic figure, as it does to this day. Before the Civil War American King cakes often contained gold, diamonds, or valuable instead of beans; after the war, with the end of gala Creole balls in Louisiana, peas, beans, pecans, and coins were used, and in 1871 the tradition of choosing the queen of the Mardi Gras was determined by who drew the prize in the cake...The colors of purple (for justice), green (for faith). And gold (for power) that traditionally tint the cake's icing first appeared in 1872 after the Rex Krewe, a Mardi Gras parade organization, chose those colors to celebrate that year's festival."
---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 175)
Mardi Gras traditions/New Orleans Public Library & Zulu King Cakes/Rao's Bakery
Cake, Twelfth. Two pounds of sifted flour, two pounds of sifted loaf sugar, two pounds of butter, eighteen eggs, four pounds of currants, one half pound of almonds blanched and chopped, one hlaf pound of citron, one pound of candied orange and lemon peel cut into thin slices, a large nutmeg grated, half an opunce of ground allspice; ground cinnamon, mace, ginger, and corianders, a quarter of an ounce of each, and a gill of brandy. Put the butter into a stewpan, ina warm place, and work it into a smooth cream with the hand, and mix it with the sugar and spice in a pan, (or on your paste board) for soimetine; then break in the eggs by detrees, and beat it at least twenty minutes; stir in the brandy, and then the flour, and work it a little; add the fruit, sweetmeats, and almonds, and mix all together lightly; have ready a hoop cased with paper, on a baking-plate; put in the mixture, smooth it ont he top with our had, dipped inmilk; put the plat on another, with saw dust between, to prevent the bottom from coloring too much; bake it in a slow oven four hours or more, and when nearly cold, ice it with icing. This mixture would make a handsome cake, full twelve or fourteen inches over."
---The Cook's Own Book, MRs, N.K.M. Lee, 1832 facsimile reprint [Arno Press:New York] 1972 (p. 40)
Twelfth Cake:--A twelfth cake, or any important cake, if made at home, will require care, attention, and good materials. If these are given, and the following recipe attended to, the result can scarcely fail to be satisfactory, and a considerable saving may be effected, compared considerable saving may be effected, compared with what the same cake would have cost if bought at a confectioner's. Before beginning to mix the cake all the ingredients would be prepared, the flour dried and sifted, the currants washed. Dried, and picked, the nutmegs grated, the spices pounded, the candied fruit cut into thin slices, the almonds bruised with orange-flour or rose water, but not to a paste, the sugar sifted, and the eggs thoroughly whisked, yolks and whites separately. Care should be taken to make the cake and to keep the furit in a warm place, and, unless the weather is very warm, to whisk the eggs in a pan set in another containing hot water. To make the cake, pug two pounds of fresh butter into a large bowl, then add two pounds of powdered sugar, a large nutmeg grated, and a quarter of an ounce each of powdered sinnamon, powdered mace, powdered ginger, and powdered allspice. Beat the mixture for ten minutes, add gradually twenty eggs, and beat the cake for twenty minutes. Work in two pounds of flour, four pounds of currants, half a pound of bruised almonds, half a pound each of candied citron, and, last of all, a claret-glassful of brandy, and beat the cake lightly with doubled paper well buttered, pour in the mixture, and be careful that it does no more than three-parts fill it, that there may be room for the cake to rise. Cover the top with paper, set the tin on an inverted plate in the oven to keep it from burning at the bottom, and bake in a slow but well-heated oven. When it is nearly cold, cover it as smoothly as possible with sugar-icing three quarters of an inch thick...Ornament with fancy articles of any kind, with a high ornament in the centre; these may frequently be hired of the the confectioner. In order to ascertain whether the cake is done enough, plunge a bright knife into the centre of it, and if it comes out bright and clear the cake is done. A cake of this description will, if properly made, and kept in a cool dry place, keep for twelve months. If cut too soon it will crumble and fall into pieces. It will be at it its best when it has been kept four months."
---Cassell's Dictonary of Cookery with Numerous Illustrations, [Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.:London] 1874? (p. 1023)
[NOTE: This book also contains recipe for "Twelfth Cake (another way) and Twelfth Cake, Lady Caroline Lamb's. Neither of these make reference to a bean, charm or other trinket being baked into the cake.]
"Twelfth Night or King's Cake [complete recipe & notes]
Gateau de Roi.
2 Pounds of the Best Flour.
1 cup of Sugar.
1 Pound of the Best Butter.
1/2 Ounce of Salt.
Candies to Decorate.
This is a Creole Cake whose history is the history of the famous New Orleans carnivals celebrated in song and stories. The "King's Cake," or "Gateaux de Roi," is inseparably connected with the origin of our now world-famous carnival balls. In fact, they owe their origin to the old Creole custom of choosing a king and queen on King's Day, or Twelfth Night. In old Creole New Orleans, after the inauguration of the Spanish domination and the amalgamation of the French settlers and the Spanish into that peculiarly chivalrous and romantic race, the Lousiana Creole, the French prettily adapted many of the customs of their Spanish relatives and vice versa. Among these was the traditional Spanish celebration of King's Day, "Le Jour des Rois," as the Creoles always term the day. King's Day falls on January 6, or the twelfth day after Christmas, and commemorates the visit of the three Wise Men of the East to the lowly Bethlehem manger. This day is even in our time still the Spanish Christmas, when gifts are presented in commemoration of the King's gifts. With the Creoles it became "Le Petit Noel," or Little Christmas, and, adopting the Spanish custom, there were always grand balls on Twelfth Night: a king and a queen were chosen, and there were constant rounds of festivities, night after night, till the dawn of Ash Wednesday. From January 6, or King's Day, to Mardi Gras Day became the accepted carnival season. Each week a new king and queen were chosen, and no royal rulers ever reigned more happily than did these kings and queens of a week.
"The method of first choosing the king was by cutting the "King's Cake." This famous "Gateau de Roi" was made of Brioche Batter...It was an inmense cake, shaped round like a great ring, and decorated with bonbons, dragees, caramels, etc. When Twelfth Night arrived there was always a flutter in old Creole New Orelans. Generally some grand mansion was chosen for the first ball, an das the evening progressed, wehn the clock struck twelve, the guests were all invited to be seated around the spacious dining-room, where the "King's Cake" was brought in. Now, hidden away or often as not a magnificent jeweled ring. The cake was cut into as many slices as there were guests, the smiling cavaliers and the lovely Creole maidens ranged around, each of the latter cherishing the wistful hope that she might find the bean, each of the former hoping likewise that he might have the pleasure of choosing as his queen some lovely girl who held his heart. The cake, after being cut, was covered with a large linen napkin, so that no one might have the opportunity of seeing if the dainty morsel had been cut near the ring or bean, for often the knife went very, very near, and the dexterious maniuplator, with a smile, had to remove it an inch further from the mark. But it was generally so imbedded in the cake that it was impossible to detect the least trace. Champage was passed with the King's Cake, for was it not a royal dish? Suddenly there would be a little flutter. Some one had found the ring or bean, and all gathered around to congratulate the fortunate finder. If a man, he was hailed as the first king of the season, and so, if it were a lady, she was saluted as the queen. If the finder of the bean were a lady, she simply chose her king by presenting him with a bouquet of violets, which was always provided wiih the cake. If a gentleman found the ring or bean, the crowned king would hold it up, and announce that the lady with whom he would make the round of the parlor or "le tour du salon" would be his queen. Then he would take his stand near the mantel, the music would strike up, and the beautiful promenade around the room would begin, the gentlemen offering their arms to the ladies, the latter laughingly complying with the old custom of passing before the king while he chose his queen. No doubt there was much secret vexation among those bonny girls as they passed on and on, the king seemingly unable to make a choice. Suddenly he advanced, and, taking the flower form the lapel of his coat, he presented it to the lady, and, if it happened to be a ring in the cake, often as not it was a magnificent diamond, to, that he presented to her. Then offering his arm, he led the promenade, making as he said, "le tour du salon" with her, and then pausing beneath the chandeliers, he would raise his hand, the music would cease, and the king would proclaim: "Mes sujets, voice votre reine! Receves ses commandments!" Then followed and ovation of smiles, congratulations and homage, as though she were indeed a queen succeding to her born rights. And the honors of that night clung to her ever after, amid sunshine and clouds in the old French Quarter.
"The prettiest old-time courtesies were connects with the round of balls that followed. These balls were always given at the home of the queen. The king, whether he found the bean or was simply whose by the lady who had found it, was expected to bear the entire expense of the ball of which he was the king, and to provide the next King's Cake. He as also expected, before the end of the week, to make his queen some beautiful jewels form the king were the only ones that the Creole mother ever allowed her daughters to accept from any gentleman. In this custom of presenting the queen of the week with jewels may be distinctly traced the present custom of our Carnival kings in presenting the queens with jewels.
"And so, week after week, the festivities continued: a King's Cake was cut, a new king and queen was chosen, and this continued till ther grand culminating ball of Mardi Gras night.
"A pretty superstition was also connected the King's Cake. The lucky finder of the pecan, or bean, or ring, which was hidden within was henceforth to be favored by fortune. The queen cut the bean in two, and gave half of it to her king, and or, if a gentleman found it. The lucky bean was faithfully preserved as a talisman, and in many an old Creole family a little shriveled amulet which was found in the Gateau de Roi on Twelfth Night.
"To make the cake, take a pound and a half of the above-mentioned quality of flour, and put it in a woodedn bread trough. Make a hole in the center of the flour, and put in a slf ounce of yeast, dissolved in a little warm water. Add milk or tepid water to make the dough, usuing milk if oyu want it to be very rich and delicate, and water if you have not the milk. Knead and mix the flour with one hand, while adding the milk or water with the other. Make a dough that is neither too stiff nor too soft, and when perfectly smooth set the dough to rise in a moderately warm place, covering with a cloth. Remember that if you use milk to make the dough it must be scalded, that is, must be heated to the boiling point, and then allowed to grow tepid. Let the dough rise for five or six hours, and, when increased to twice its bulk, take it and add the reserved half pound of flour, into which you have sifted the salt. Add six eggs, beaten very light with the sugar and butter, and mix all well together, kneading lightly with your hands, and adding more eggs if the dough is a little stiff. The knead the dough by turning it over on itself three times, and set to rise again for an hour or three-quarters of an hour. Cover with a cloth. At the end of this time take it up and work again lightly, and then form into a great ring, leaving of course, a hole in the center. Pat gently and flatten a little. Have ready a baking pan, with a buttered sheet of paper in it, and set the central roll in the middle. Cover the pan with a clean, stiff cloth, and set the cake to rise for an hour longer. When well risen, set in an oven a few degrees cooler than used for baking bread; let bake for an hour and a half; if medium, one hour, and if very small, a half hour. Glace the Brioche lightly with a beaten egg, spread lightly over the top before placing in the oven. Decorate with daragees, caramels, etc."
---The Picayune's Creole Cook Book, Second edition, facsimile 1901 reprint [Dover Publications:New York] 1971 (p. 313-5)
Related enriched holiday breads: Italian Panettone, German Stollen & Greek Vasilopita.
Christmas foods around the world
We are still looking for the ultimate book and/or Web site that lists complete information (including history) about all of the Christmas foods enjoyed around the world. To date, we find several books and Web sites that summarize Christmas foods, usually listing typical fare. Three of the best books on the general history of Christmas foods are:
Christmas Customs and Traditions: Their History and Significance, Clement A, Miles [Dover:New York] 1976
...chapter VII:Christmas Feasting and Sacrificial Survivals...pps.283-293)
A Book of Christmas, William Sansom [McGraw-Hill:New York] 1968
...chapters 7 "The Groaning Board," and 8 "The Feast Far Flung,"...pps. 143-175).
America's Christmas Heritage, Ruth Cole Kainen [Funk & Wagnalls:New York] 1969
...customs introduced to the New World by settlers and immigrants; regional holiday favorites
If you need brief descriptions of Christmas foods by country start here:
The origin of Wassail likely descends from ancient rituals celebrating human connections with drink. Early recipes confirm ingredients were imported and expensive, and connected with the winter Christian holidays of Christmas (Eve & Day), New Year's and Twelfth Night. Similar to Plum Pudding. English settlers (not the Puritans!) brought this recipe & its traditions to the New World. What's the "original" recipe? Mrs. Glasse, Eliza Acton and other popular 18th century English cook book authors do not include Wassail in their works. They do, however, grace us with recipes featuring the ingredients. Wassail recipes vary according to place, time and pocketbook. Forgiving and creative, Wassail toasts good health.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the first definition of Wassail is "A salutation used when presenting a up of wine to a guest, or drinking the health of a person, the reply being drink-hail." This dates in print to the late 13th century. The second OED definition is "The liquid in which healths were drunk; esp. the spiced also used in Twelfth-night and Christmas-eve celetrations." The Henry VII (see 1494) print evidence is offered.
"Another tradition associated with Christmas was that of wassailing. The was the remains of old fertility rites, when a toast would be drunk to fruit trees in hope of making them produce a good crop in the following year. Whatever its origins, it was certainly an opportunity for plenty of drinking. There was no one traditional wassail up for the whose country as every region had its own particular tradition. The wassail cup might of cider, ale, or some spiced ale such as lambswool, a kind of spiced beer which was served warm. Wassailing was a part of Christmas for everyone, from highest to the lowest. Even at Court the tradition was maintained. Here is the description of Henry VII's wassail, from the Household Ordinances of 1494: 'Item as for the voide on twelfth day at night, the King and Queene ought to take it in the halle, and as for the wassel, the Steward and the treasurer shall come forward with their staves in their hands...when the Steward cometh into the hall doore with the wasssel he must crie three times, wassell, wassell, wassell aand then the chappell to answere with a good songe.' This strick etiquette must have made Henry VII's wassail a vastly more formal occasion than the one his subjects enjoyed."
--Food & Feast in Tudor England, Alison Sim [Sutton Publishing: UK] 1997 (p. 115-116)
"Wassail bowl varies with every household. The following is the recipe of 1722 of Sir Watkin Williams Wynne. Take one lb. of brown sugar, 1 pint of hot beer a grated nutmeg, and a large lump of preserved ginger root cut up. Add 4 glasses of sherry, and stir well. When cold, dilute with 5 pints of cold beer, spred suspicion of yeast on to hot slices of toasted brown bread, and let it stand covered for several hours. Bottle off and seal down, and in a few days it shoud be bursting the corks, when it should be poured out into the wassail bowl, and served with hot, roasted apples floated in it. Note. A 'wassail bowl' is not a 'punch bowl]."
---Food in England, Dorothy Hartley [Macdonald: London] 1954, 2009 (p. 549)
"936. Wassail-bowl, a cente supper-dish.--Crumble down as for trifle a nice fresh cake (or use macroons or other small biscuit into a china punch-bowl or deep glass dish. Over this pour some sweet rich wine, as Malmsey Madeira, if wanted very rich, but raisin-wine will do. Sweeten this, and pour a well-seasoned rich custard over it.Strew nutmeg and grated sugar over it, and stick it over with sliced blanched almonds.--Obs[ervation]. This is, in fact, just a rich eating posset. A very good wassail-bowl may be made of mild ale well spiced and sweetened, and a plain rice-custard made with a few eggs. The wassail-bowl was anciently crowned with garlands and ribbons."
---Cook and Housewife's Manual, Mistress Margaret Dods (aka Isobel Christian Johnston) facsimile 4th edition, revised & enlarged [Rosters:London] 1829, 1988 (p. 425)
"Wassail Bowl A kind of Loving Cup which is referred to in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In many parts of England it was--and it may still be - partaken of on Christmas Eve. 'Put into one quart warm beer 1 lb, of raw sugar, on which grate a nutmeg and some ginger; then add four glasses of sherry and two quarts more of beer, with three slices of lemon; add more sugar, if required and serve it with three slices of bread floating in it.'--C.T.C."
---A Concise Encyclopaedia of Gastronomy, Andre L. Simon [Harcourt, Brace & co.: New York] 1952 (p. 781)
[NOTE: CTC is the book Cups and Customs, John van Voorst, London 1863.]
"Wassail Bowl.--The wassail used in ancient days used to be served specially on Christmas Eve. It was brought into the banqueting hall this songs and carols, and crowned with garlands. To make it, grate half a nutmeg, and put it into a saucepan with one clove, a quarter of an ounce of grated ginger, half a small blade of mace, an inch of thick cinnammon, and two or three coriander and cardamom seeds. Pour upon these ingredients a teacupful of cold water, and let them boil. Then add two bottles of white wine, not sweet, and three-quarters of a pound of refined sugar. Pour the mixture into a large saucepan, and set it on the fire. Break the yolks of six and the whites of three eggs into the wassail bowl. When the wine is warm, mix a tea-cupful of it in a bowl with the eggs; when it is a little warmer, add another tea-cupful, and repeat until five tea-cupfuls have been used. Let the wine boil, and our it upon the eggs, stirring brisk all the time to froth it. Core, but do not pare, six apples fill the cavity with sugar, roast them, and throw them into the bowl. Serve very hot. Though sherry or madeira will make an excellent wassail, especialy if a tumblerful of brandy be added to it."
---Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery with Numerous Illustrations [Cassell, Petter Galpin:London] (p. 1101)
[NOTES: (1) There are two shorter recipes for Wassail Bowl in this book "another way." (2) Wassail Custard (according to this source) is a type of Tipsy Pudding.]
"Wassail, or wassail bowl, is regarded as of such antiquity that it is said to have been known to the ancient Britons. For many centuries it has been a favorite beverage during Christmas festivities...Here is how they make it in Oxford: Put into a bowl half a pint of Lisbon sugar; pour on it one pint of warm beer; grate a nutmeg and some ginger into it; add four glasses of sherry and five additional pints of beer; stir it well; sweeten it to your taste; let it stand covered up to two or three hours; then put three or four slices of bread cut thin and toasted brown into it and it is fit for use."
---"How Famous Old Chirstmas Customs Originated," New York Times, December 17, 1911 (SM11)
"The Wassail bowl was an ancient ritual started on Christmas day. It was called Waeshal--meaning 'Be whole' and at every Christmas gathering the toasting or Wassail bowl of spiced wine was present. During the time of Henry VII on Christmas day a steward would enter and say, 'Wassail,' three times and then a large golden bowl filled with special beverage would be brought in with much singing, and the guests were then served from it. Today we do not have the ritual but we do have the punch bowl at festive occasions. In most of America it has been the custom for neighbors and friends to pay Christmas calls. Each house generally has a bowl or container of Christmas eggnog, punch &c. Times and cellars change a great many of the concoctions of the Christmas Bowl."
---"Wassail Bowl Popular Rite At Christmas," Washington Post, December 12, 1933 (p. 14)
[NOTE: This article offers recipes for Eggnog & Christmas Meade; no Wassail.]
"In ancient times the wassail bowl presented at all holiday festivities. Wassail [pronounced wa'sel] meant literally 'health to you'. Drinking the hot spiced wine and alw was a tiast to the health of one's friends. Even today the wassial bow is brought out at Christmas.. The beverage may be the hot spiced wine and ale of tradition, or something milder, say, cider, with baked apples in it. The apples are an old English tradition. Perhaps you'd rather float lemon or orange slices in your Christmas wassail. That's all right too. Get out the punch bowl and cups. In any event. Have your friends in on Christmas eve, Christmas afternoon or any convenient time until after New Year's and serve then something warm, spicy, and fragrant. The old wassail was heated with a red hot poker from the fireplace, over an open fire. Here's a modern version, with sliced, baked apples.
Wine and Cider Wassail
[Serves 10 to 12]
6 cups California port, muscatel, tokay or angelica wine
1 quart sweet cider
1 cup water
2 dozen whole cloves 2 inch sticks of cinnamon
2 lemons, cut in slices
4 apples, sliced and baked with some of the wine
Boil spices and lemon slices in the water for 9 minutes. Add cider and wine and heat thoroly, but do not boil. Serve in preheated punch bowl or large earthenware bowl. Float lemon slices and baked apples in the beverage. If you can't obtain whole cloves and cinnamon use powdered spices in this beverage. And if you do use whole spices, retrieve them for later use in something else. They're scarce, these days, and the wassail won't take all of their pungency, but any means."
---"Wassail Bowl Considerate of Food Supplies," Mary Meade, Chicago Daily Tribune, December 12, 1942 (p. 21)
1 gallon apple cider
1 1/2 cups lemon juice
10 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
2 cups vodka
1/4 cup brandy
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Insert cloves, 1/4 inch aparat, in oranges. Bake, uncovered in shallow pan, 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat cider in large kettle until bubbles form around edge.
4. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice, cinnamon sticks, and oranges. Heat, covered, over very low heat, 30 minutes.
5. Add vodka, and brandy, mixing well.
Makes 36 (4-oz) servings."
---McCall's Book of Merry Eating, Food editors of McCall's [Advance Publishers:Orlando FL] 1965 (p. 47)
7 bottles (12 ounces each) light beer
1/2 pint sweet sherry
1/2 pound bar sugar
1 whole nutmeg, grated
6 apples baked with sugar and spices (no butter)
Heat one bottle of beer and sherry (do not boil). Pour over sugar and nutmeg, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add remaining beer. Cover, and let stand at room temperature for 3 hours. Garnish with baked apples and lemon slices. Serve in punch cups. Serves 12."
---Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide [Doubleday:Garden City NY] revised edition, 1972 (p. 383)
[NOTE: This recipe does not appear in the original Bartender's Guide c. 1948)
"So often did Ango-Saxons toast one another 'Be of good health'or Wassial.' that the word itself came to mean the drink itself. The Wassail bowl was a Christmas mainstay in English homes throughout the twelve nights of the holiday...
1 medium orange, halved
10 whole cloves
2 4/3- quart bottles claret
1/2 cup sugar
4 inhes stick cinnamon
Stud orange halves with whole clover. In a saucepan combine orange halves, caret, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover; simmer about 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon and orange halves. Serve hot in small punch bowl. If desired, float whole orange studded with whole cloves atop. Makes 14 (4-ounce) servings."
---Better Homes and Gardens Christmas-Time Cook Book [Meredith Corp.:Des Moiness IA] 1974 (p. 136)
There are many excellent sources for learning about Bible-era foods (including modernized recipes & suggested menus). Your local public librarian will be happy to help you obtain them. If your church/Sunday school conducts historic meals on a regular basis, these books might make an excellent donation to the church library.
Of the books we own, only Loaves & Fishes: Foods from Bible Times/Kinard & Crisler, provides suggested menus (with easy modern recipes) for first Christmas dinners:
Bethlehem Shepherds (p. 117):
Eggs in Sour Cream
Shepherd's Pie (with old world vegetables...no potato!)
Fresh Green Salad
Pine Nut Wafers
Wise Men of the East (p. 123)
Persian Cream Ring
MEDIEVAL EUROPEAN CHRISTMAS
What people ate for Christmas in Medieval times depended greatly upon who they were (peasants, merchants, nuns, lords, kings) and where they lived (England? France? Germany? Spain?). One must also consider the fact that some Christian holidays were celebrated in much longer periods than a single day. The Christmas season officially extends until Twelfth Night. This was another grand meal with its own unique traditions. Today some cultures still celebrate Twelfth night by serving a King Cake.
MEDIEVAL ENGLISH CHRISTMAS FOODS & CUSTOMS
"At Christmas it was frequently the custom for each [peasant] tenant to give to the lord a hen (partly as payment for being allowed to keep poultry), or sometimes grain which was brewed into ale...At Christmas also the lord was expected to give his tenants a meal, for example, bread, cheese, pottage and two dishes of meat. The tenant might be directed to bring his own plate, mug and napkin if he wished there to be a cloth on the table, and a faggot of brushwood to cook his food, unless he wished to have it raw. Sometimes the custom said explicitly that the lord had to give a Christmas meal because the tenant had given him the food. In at least one instance the value of the food to be provided by the lord was to be the same value as that given by the tenant. The role of the lord in this case appears to have been merely to organize the village Christmas dinner. The value of the dinner was not always so finely balanced as this however: sometimes the lord gained, sometimes the tenant. These customs were maintained for several centuries, lasting in some cases after the end of the manorial system when compulsory work had been commuted into the paying of rent."
---Food and Feast in Medieval England, P.W. Hammond [Wren's Park:Gloucestershire] 1993 (p. 36)
"Almonds and raisins were also bought at Christmas, perhaps for a Christmas pudding. Apart from this there is no sign that they [the gentry] celebrated Christmas by eating anything very different from their normal diet. This is presumably not due to their religious status, since this did not inhibit other ecclesiastical establishments. For example, in 1289 Richard de Swinfield, the Bishop of Hereford, spent Christmas at his manor of Prestbury, near Gloucester. The day before Christmas was kept as a fast, but a considerable amount of fish, herrings, conger eels and codlings were eaten, together with a salmon costing 5s. 8d. (28p, quite a high price). A dozen cups, 300 dishes, 150 large plates and 200 small plates were obtained for the occasion. There were a number of guests--at least fifteen judging by the number of extra horses in the stable for the next two days. On the following day (Christmas Day) even more food was consumed. Over three days they ate no less than 1 boar, 2 complete carcasses and 3 quarters of beef, 2 calves, 4 does, 4 pigs, about 60 fowls (hens or possibly capons), 8 partridges and 2 geese, as well as bread and cheese. The amount of ale served was not recorded, but ten sextaries (about 40 gallons) of red wine and one of white were consumed. This is a fairly modest amount for about 70 people. On such occasions the wine was sometimes only served to the bishop and the most important guests. The amount of food was also considerable and (as the editor of the account suggests), probably a large amount was give to the poor, or perhaps to the manor tenants. Spices, such as ginger, cloves and cinnamon, saffron and mustard were also purchased. They did not need to buy very much pepper since 1/2 lb of pepper cloves formed part of their original endowment. Spices always formed part of the diet of the gentry and magnate households, presumably because they liked the flavour these gave to food."
---ibid (p. 65)
"The Christmas holiday lasted only a few half-days for most people, because the usual daily farm and other labourers' work and household chores went on, and not all employers gave much time off. But the courtly folk had ample leisure to display their new headgear at one party after another over nearly a fortnight of intermittent feasting, and to enjoy the colourful, scented delights of top-class cuisine; even if their lowly rank entitled the on full-scale royal occasions to only two or three of the courses, and to a limited choice of dishes (squires, pages, local burgesses and so on were allowed only one course.) There were sometimes entertainments to watch while waiting, and the entremets or subtleties to admire, especially if their labels were read aloud. The boar's head brought in by carol singers at the Twelfth Night feast was a popular etremet, and so was the peacock, proudly displayed regnant and bedecked on its platters...Entertainment was the main part of any feast, especially a great one; and at the end, when the alms baskets were carried out to the poor and the last Tweflth Night toast was drunk, it was to be hoped that one and all couls day, 'That wqas a good feast. The year ahead will go well!"
---The Medieval Cookbook, Maggie Black [Thames and Hudson:London] 1992 (p. 112)
[NOTE: This book offers the following modernized recipes in for Christmas: Broiled Venison, Pepper Sauce for Veal or Venison, Pork Roast with Spiced Wine, A Grete Pye (savory beef, eggs, dates etc.), Piment (alcoholic beverage, Pine Nut Candy, and Lombard Slices (hard-cooked eggs, honey & spices).
"Arthurian Christmas feasts swell the pages of medieval literature. One medieval romance begins in the midst of Christmas revelry at Camelot, where King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table and their ladies are celebrating for 15 days, "with all the food and mirth that men knew how to devise." Merriment notwithstanding, the medieval feast was often an occasion for great pomp and ceremony. At 10 A.M. on Christmas Day, to the sound of clarion trumpets, the marshal would usher guests into the castle's great hall, seating them at long tables according to the established order of precedence. A bowl of spiced, scented water was circulated for the hand-washing ceremony, and a Latin grace chanted in unison. Then the trumpets blared again, this time to announce the arrival of servers as they entered the hall balancing steaming platters of spit-roasted haunches, gilded fowl and enourmous crusty pies. Medieval feasts were traditionally served in three courses. Each course included a soup, followed by a wide range of baked, roasted and boiled dishes, and finally an elaborate sotelty, a lifelike (often edible) scene sculpted in colored marzipan or dough. One 15th-century English menu suggests bringing each of the three courses to a close with a sotelty depicting a successive phase of the Christmas story...The bounty of medieval feasts is legendary. One early historian noted that in 1398, King Richard II "kept his Christmas at Liechfield, where he spent [used] in the Christmas time 200 tunns of wine, and 2000 oxen with their appurtenances."
---Christmas Feasts from History, Lorna J. Sass [Irena Chalmers Cookbooks:New York] 1981 (p. 23-4)
[NOTE: This book contains this suggested menu (& modernized recipes): Oysters in Grauey, Brede, Chawettys, Pigge Ffarced and/or Goose in Sawse Madame, Caboches in Potage, Crustade Lombard, Hippocras.]
Additional notes & recipes (historic & modernized) here.
"Christmas, then as now, had a variety of dishes associated with it. The first was the boar's head, which formed the centrepiece of the Christmas Day meal. It was garnished with rosemary and bay and evidently was presented to the diners with some style, as told by the many boar's head carols which still exist...Thomas Tusser in Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry suggests a number of dishes, that, lower down society, the housewife should provide for her guests at Christmas. He mentions mutton, pork, veal souse (pickled pig's feet and ears), brawn, cheese and apples, although none of these items was connected especially with Christmas; they were all associated with feasting generally. He also talks of serving turkey, but only as a part of a list of other luxurious items that the housewife should provide. It does not seem to be the centrepiece in the way that the boar's head was in grander circles."
---Food and Feast in Tudor England, Alison Sim [Sutton Publishing:Phoenix Mill] 1997 (p. 113-115) [NOTE: Another period holiday recipe featuring boar's head was brawn.]
MEDIEVAL ITALIAN CHRISTMAS FOOD AND CUSTOMS
"The distinction between normal days and feast day can be noted in every kitchen...feast days were observed in different ways and with varying degrees of frequency. For certain religions holidays, the menu was ritualized. Lasagne at Christmas...when Messire Sozzo Bandinelli assembed a brilliant court at Siena to celebrate his son Francesco's accession to knighthood on Christmas Day 1326, the festivities were to last the whole preceding week, with tournaments, exchanges of gifts, and banquets. The record contains the menus of three meat banquets (...with 600 on Christmas Day), and one for a day of abstinence (120 guests on Wednesday, Christmas Eve). Days of penitence did not require forswearing banquets; it was enough to replace meat with fish. Morever, as in othe literary texts, the chronicler mentions only the dishes reflecting festivity, abundance, and knightly courtesy--in a word, the meat and fish dishes--from among all the foods appearing on the banquet tables. At Siena in that December of 1326, the number of courses, as they appear in the chronicler's simplified version, varied from three to five (on the great day itself). At all the the meat banquets, boiled veal, roast capon, and game meats were served; for the Christmas feast the vast quantity and variety of game are described in detail. Each day's menu is distinguished by a particular dish: ravioli and ambrogino di polli...for the Tuesday, blancmange for Christmas Day; pastelli on the Thursday. The banquets always ended with candied pears served with treggea (sugared almonds), and were always preceded and followed by confetti: sugarcoated whole spices. The meatless Christmas Eve menu was no less gala, with four courses. First, following the confetti, came marinated tench and plates of chickpeas to the table, then roast eels, and finally a compote with treggea, followed by the unvarying candied pears and confetti."
---The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy, Odile Redon et al [Univeristy of Chicago Press:Chicago] 1998 (p. 6-7)
TRADITIONAL MEDIEVAL GERMAN CHRISTMAS FOODS: gingerbread & lebkuchen
Recommended web sites
"Food and drink played important roles in Christmas celebrations during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Christmas festivities often ended with a Twelfth Night banquet on the sixth of January, and the Christmas season was the time when the yeomanry and apprentices demanded finer quality bread and ale than they ordinarily received. This tradition, called "wassailing," provided an important opportunity for the gentry to demonstrate their hospitality. As Thomas Tusser counseled his readers, "At Christmas be merye, & thankful withall/& feast thy poore neighbors ye gret with ye small." Religious aspects of keeping Christmas changed during the seventeenth century, although many social customs like wassailing remained intact. Josiah King's book mocks those who would suppress Christmas. The Puritan jury members are all mean, among them Mr. Eat-alone, Mr. Hoord-corne, and Mr. Cold-kitchin, and they are replaced by Mr. Warm-gut, Mr. Neighbour-hood, and Mr. Open-house, who acquit Father Christmas. Brawn, made from force-fed boar meat and served with mustard sauce, is traditionally associated with Christmas in England. The plot of A Christmas messe involves a battle between the forces of King Brawn and King Beef for the place of first setting at the Christmas meal. The cook resolves the debate, and Brawn, assisted by Mustard, is sent in first, followed by Queen Mincepie. This play may well have been performed at a Cambridge college as an after-dinner lesson in debating. December's good cheer for Thomas Tusser's family included brawn pudding along with freshly killed beef, mutton, pork, veal, goose, capon, and turkey. Apples, cheese, and nuts with jolly carols end the "christmas husbandly fare." Tusser's plea for year-round hospitality makes sense in a world where fresh food was available only seasonally and enough to eat depended on a good harvest." SOURCE: Folger Library
"The greatest of the feasts celebrated was Christmas. This, of course, covered twelve days, but unlike the modern Christmas the celebrations did not begin until Christmas Day itself. Advent was mostly a time of fasting, and as Advent only ended after mass on Christmas Day, the festivities could not begin before then. The two most celebrated days of Christmas were New Year and the final day of celebration, Twelfth Night...There was...a definate purpose to the Tudor Christmas. At a time when society was very strictly organized, Christmas acted as a kind of pressure-release valve, a time when everyhthing was turned on its head. There were different days when certain sections of society were allowed an unusual degree of freedom. Children, for example, had their day on 6 December, St. Nicholas Day...Christmas, then as now, had a variety of dishes associated with it. The first was the boar's head, which formed the centrepiece of the Christmas Day meal. It was garnished with rosemary and bay and evidently was presented to the diners with some style, as told by the many boar's head caorls which still exist...Thomas Tusser in Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry suggests a number of dishes, that, lower down society, the housewife should provide for her guests at Christmas. He mentions mutton, pork, veal souse (pickled pig's feet and ears), brawn, cheese and apples, although none of these items was connected especially with Christmas; they were all associated with feasting generally. He also talks of serving turkey, but only as a part of oa list of other luxurious items that the housewife should provide. It does not seem to be the centrepiece in the way that the boar's head was in grander circles. One important item associated with Twelfth Night was the Twelfth cake. This was a fruitcake into which an object or objects might be baked, These might be a coin, or coins, or a dried bean and pea, The idea was that whoever found the item in their piece of cake became the King of the Bean or Queen of the Pea. They would then become host and hostess for the evening's entertainments...Another tradition associated with Christmas was that of wassailing. This was the remains of old fertility rites, when a toast would be drunk to fruit trees in the hope of making them produce a good crop in the following year. Whatever its origins, it was certainly an opportunity for plenty of drinking...The wassail cup might be of cider, ale, or some spiced ale such as lambswool, a kind of spiced beer whcih was served warm. Wassailing was a part of Christmas for everyone, from the highest to the lowest."
---Food and Feast in Tudor England, Alison Sim [Sutton Publishing:Phoenix Mill] 1997 (p. 113-115)
"A Christmas-day dinner menu at Ingatestone included: "six boiled and 3 roast pieces of beef, a neck of mutton, a loin and breast of pork, a goose, 4 coneys [rabbits] and 8 warden pies [pear pies colored with saffrom]." For supper "5 joints of mutton, a neck of pork, 2 coneys, a woodcock and a venison pasty" were served. This was a modest menu..."
---Dining with William Shakespeare, Madge Lorwin [Atheneum:New York] 1076 (p. 157)
Gervase Markham's English Housewife, originally published in 1615 , contains extensive details on the "Ordering of great fasts and proportion of expense." . These passages are often quoted in late Elizabethan/17th century books when it comes to Christmas feasts. Too much to paraphrase, and not yet online. This book is readily available in paperback. Our copy is edited by Michael R. Best, Mcgill-Queen's University Press ISBN 0773511032. Your librarian will be happy to help you obtain a copy or you can purchase online.
Baroque German Christmas
We are finding plenty of information regarding traditional German Christmas foods (including references to 17th century holiday customs) but no solid print/online leads with regards to authentic period cuisine. Many of German's traditional Christmas foods date to the Medieval ages. Certainly, Baroque-era celebrants would have eaten these foods. Notes here:
Victorian English Christmas
When we think of this period, we often fondly recall the Christmas feast described in Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol The Cratchit family lovingly shared plump roast goose, oyster stuffing, mincemeat, Christmas (aka plum) pudding and Wassail. Is this what everyone ate? Likely not. England's Industrial Revolution created great social divisions based on economic station. As was traditional, people celebrated Christmas with the very best meal they could afford. This does not mean they all ate the same foods. Tables set in wealthy houses differed greatly from those enjoyed by the middle class professionals, laboring folk, or workhouse poor. Have you ever wondered why the centerpiece of Bob Cratchit's holiday meal was a Christmas goose? How could they afford oyster stuffing?
Most of the "classic" Victorian menus and recipes printed in Victorian Christmas books, magazines, and Web sites are dated 1860-1900. If you want to recreate and 1840s meal, as was served in the Cratchit household in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the hard part will be finding authentic menus from that decade. Two of the best primary sources for this project are Alexis Soyer's Shilling Cookery for the People, published in London in 1854 and Charles Elme Francatelli's A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, . These books were written for the working and middle classes, not the wealthy people with servants. The recipes are economical and fairly plain, which means these foods were probably the similar to those eaten by the Cratchits. Soyer's book contains a chapter titled "Soyer's New Christmas Receipts." Unfortunately, there are no suggested menus in these sources. Facsimile editions of these cookbooks were recently reissued by Pryor Publications [Kent, England]. Your librarian can help you find a copies.
For most K-12 projects, simple Victorian-era menus and recipes are probably good enough to give your class a taste of the Dickens' era. You will have to make other adjustments anyhow...like omitting brandy from your Christmas pudding and Madeira from your Wassail. Some popular Victorian items may present new experiences to your students...oysters, for example. Does your budget permit such extravagance? A goose perfect, but turkey is okay too. Skip the pheasant. We suggest hot chocolate as your beverage. It was relatively new and very chic. Cider works well too.
If you need recipes we recommend these books:
The Charles Dickens Cookbook, Brenda Marshall [Personal Library:Toronto] 1980
---no menus, but plenty of recipes adapted for modern kitchens. All foods in this book are cited to by Mr. Dickens in his works, exerpts provided.
Christmas Feasts from History, Lorna Sass [Metropolitan Museum of Art:New York] 1981 (p. 69-81)
---very simple menu suggests: oyster loaves, roast stuffed goose [and vegetables of your choosine, suplerlative mincemeat, mince pies royal, Christmas pudding with punch sauce, & shrub.
- Victorian Christmas Book, Antony and Peter Miall [Pantheon:New York] 1978
Recommended reading (food history & holiday customs)
- American Christmas Heritage/Ruth Cole Kainen
- A Book of Christmas/William Sansom
- The Christmas Cook: Three Centuries of American Yuletide Sweets/William Woys Weaver
- Christmas Customs and Traditions: Their History and Significance/Clement A. Miles
- Christmas Feasts From History/Lorna J. Sass
- Elizabeth David's Christmas/Elizabeth David
- Food and Cooking in Victorian England/Andrea Broomfield (chapter 8: "The Holidays")
- Victorian Christmas Book/Antony and Peter Miall
Do you have a traditional family food that needs research?
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We are happy to track down food origins, historic recipes and anything else you might need.
FoodTimeline library owns 2300+ books, hundreds of 20th century USA food company brochures, & dozens of vintage magazines (Good Housekeeping, American Cookery, Ladies Home Journal &c.) We also have ready access to historic magazine, newspaper & academic databases. Service is free and welcomes everyone. Have questions? Ask!
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Research conducted by Lynne Olver, editor The Food Timeline. About this site.
© Lynne Olver 2002
5 January 2015
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