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Archaeology of domestic life in early 20th century Britain

The aim of this blog is to publish data on early 20th century buildings, whilst this is still accessible. Much material of interest to the historian is being destroyed through 'home improvements' and DIY, and objects are increasingly being divorced from their context through dispersal after the death of their owners. By creating an easily accessible contextual record of material culture, it is hoped that those interested in this period of history may have a resource through which the details of domestic life might be studied.

If you have any artefacts of interest, or make discoveries during the process of your own investigations that you would like to share, please contact me!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Christmas run-up in the 1930s house: cooking

Using recipies from the early 1930s volume of 'Everything within', and 1930s issues of 'Good Housekeeping', for the first time in 4 years I've had another go at Christmas cooking (the only time of year that I do really cook).

I've made the mincemeat (from 'Everything within') before, and it was quite tasty:

1/2 lb of apples (weighed after paring and coring)
1/2 lb stoned raisins
1/2 lb currants
1/2 lb shredded suet
1/2 lb brown sugar
1 small lemon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. mixed spice
1/2 lb tsp. grated nutmeg
1/4 pnt. cooking sherry.

"Remove pips from lemon, put it with the raisins and apples throught the mincer, turn into a bowl with the other ingrediants,  and wine, and mix well."

This makes around 1 lb of mincemeat - this is a large (1.5 L) Kilner jar:

 - o -

As I like a good-old Dickensian 'speckled cannon-ball' pudding, I've slightly adapted the 1936 recipe from GH, using muslin rather than a pudding basin - which (due to the size of the pudding - despite my enormous 'Judge' saucepans) had to be boiled and not steamed (the recipe states that either is OK). If using a cloth instead of a basin, ensure it's thick / doubled, tie with cotton string (not 'hairy' string, as here!), and suspend in the water (using a wooden spoon), to ensure the pudding doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn through the cloth (as well as burn the pudding!):

1 lb beef suet
1/4 lb flour
1/4 lb brown sugar
5 eggs
3/4 lb breadcrumbs
1 1/4  lb mixed peel
3/4 lb currants
3/4 lb sultanas
1/2 lb raisins
1/2 lb chopped apple
1 oz mixed spice
zest & juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1/4 lb chopped almonds
1/4 gill (1 gill = 1/4 pnt.) milk
1 gill rum
1 gill sherry
1/2 tsp. salt

"Mix well beef suet, flour, sugar, salt, fruit, almonds, spices, breadcrumbs, and chopped apple. Then add the eggs, ale, sherry, rum and milk. Mix thoroughly, put into buttered basins, and steam or boil for from 6 to 8 hours. When required re-boil and serve.
   Do not turn the pudding out until it is ready to send to table. If possible serve it on a previously heated plated or silver dish. Sprinkle the pudding with castor sugar, place on the table and pour rum or brandy over it, allowing some to run round the dish. Light the match, and baste the pudding with burning spirit."

This makes a large amount - enough for two large or three medium sized puddings.

- o -

I don't have a great deal of faith regarding the success of cake, as I messed up with the ingredients (thinking that I had sufficient measures, but I must have converted from imperial to metric incorrectly). So I had to modify the 'Everything within' recipe that follows:

1/2 lb flour
1/2 lb butter
1/2 lb brown sugar
1/2 lb currants
1/2 lb stoned raisins
1/4 lb mixed candied peel
1/4 lb glace cherries (cut up)
2oz chopped almonds
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. carbonate of soda
1 tsp. vinegar
A little milk if necessary
"Cream butter and sugar together, gradually mix in the flour and prepared fruits and soda; beat in the whisked eggs, a spoonful at a time, continue beating a few minutes ; lastly, add the vinegar and mix it in very thoroughly. Turn the mixture into a tin well lined with buttered papers, and set in a larger one, which place in a thick tin on a bed of salt or sand. Bake the cake in a moderate oven 3 1/2 to 4 hours, protecting the top with buttered papers."

This was my cake, baked at 125 degrees c. for less than 3 hours - a rather sad sight, and possibly inedible!:

As my oven (a modern electric - although I do have a 1930s electric - which may actually have been more reliable!) has two settings: off and incinerate, the cake is rather singed around the edges (despite liberal greaseproof covering):

- o -

I've also recently acquired some rather charming bisque elves to decorate the cake come Christmas (they'll accompany my 'snow babies' and Father Christmas' figures):

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