Today, January 11th…
The novelist Thomas Hardy died on this day in 1928, and forty years later a commemorative ale was released in his honour in his home county of Dorset. This is a very special ale. It is matured in sherry casks for nine months, bottle fermented in individually numbered bottles, designed to be laid down for 5-25 years, and - at 12.5% ABV - decidedly not for wimps.
The ale was inspired by a passage in Hardy’s novel “The Trumpet Major”. The action of the novel occurs in the fictional county of Wessex (which is certainly Dorset), and Hardy describes the local beer as:
“……of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without twang; luminous as an autumn sunset; free from streakiness of taste; but, finally, rather heady. The masses worshipped it, the minor gentry loved it more than wine, and by the most illustrious country families, it was not despised."
There were some anxious moments for beer aficionados around the world when the Eldridge-Pope brewery was sold in 1997 and it looked like the beer would not survive. There was no 2000 vintage, but happily common (and commercial, it seems) sense has returned, and the beer is once again available.
A recipe for the ale is clearly out of the question, and a recipe using it as an ingredient would clearly be sacrilege. Luckily, Dorset is also famous for its apples, and a recent competition was held to determine what would be the signature dish of the county. The local Dorset Apple Cake won, and fine recipes for it can be found on the sites belonging to my fellow-bloggers, Andrew at Spittoon Extra, and Anna at Baking for Britain.
My offering to you is a mid-Victorian apple cake from Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery (1845), and leave it to you to decide if it is actually cake, or tart, or pie.
Apple Cake, or German Tart.
Work together with the fingers ten ounces of butter and a pound of flour, until they resemble fine crumbs of bread; throw in a small pinch of salt, and make them into a firm smooth paste with the yolks of two eggs and a spoonful or two of water. Butter thickly a plain cake tin, or pie mould; roll out the paste thin, place the mould upon it, trim a bit to its exact size, cover the bottom of the mould with this, then cut a band the height of the sides, and press it smoothly round them, joining the edge, which must be moistened with egg or water, to the bottom crust, and fasten upon them to prevent their separation, a narrow and thin band of paste, also moistened. Next, fill the mould nearly from the brim with the following marmalade, which must be quite cold when it is put in. Boil together, over a gentle fire at first, but more quickly afterwards, three pounds of good apples with fourteen ounces of pounded sugar, or of the finest Lisbon, the strained juice of a large lemon, three ounces of fresh butter, and a teaspoonful of pounded cinnamon, or the lightly grated rind of a couple of lemons. When the whole is perfectly smooth and dry, turn it into a pan to cool, and let it be quite cold before it is put into the paste. In early autumn, a larger proportion of sugar may be required, but this can be regulated by the taste. When the mould is filled, roll out the cover, lay it carefully over the marmalade that it may not touch it, and when the cake is securely closed, trim off the superfluous paste, add a little pounded sugar to the parings, spread them out very thin, and cut them into leaves to ornament the top of the cake, round which they may be placed as a sort of wreath*. Bake it for an hour in a moderately brisk oven. Take it from the mould, and should the sides be not sufficiently coloured put it back for a few minutes into the oven upon a baking tin. Lay a paper over the top, when it is of a fine light brown, to prevent its being too deeply coloured. This cake should be served hot.
Paste: flour, 1 lb.; butter, 10 oz.; yolks of eggs, 2; little water. Marmalade: apples, 3 lbs.; sugar, 14 oz. (more if needed); juice of lemon, 1; rinds of lemons, 2; butter, 3 oz.: baked, 1 hour.
*Or, instead of these, fasten on it with a little white of egg, after it is taken from the oven, some ready-baked leaves of almond-paste, either plain or coloured.
Tomorrow’s Story …
A Previous Story for this Day …
The story on this day last year featured the explorer David Livingstone.
Quotation for the Day …
I have fed purely upon ale; I have eat my ale, drank my ale, and I always sleep upon ale. George Farquhar, Irish dramatist (1678-1707?)