No matter how many guests you are having over the next day or two, and how much cooking you are submerged in, the following Christmas dinner menu suggestion will probably give you a little perspective. It is from The English and French Cook, by ‘several approved Cooks of London and Westminster’, 1674.
A Bill of Fare for Christmas Day.
A Coller of Brawn with a large sprig of rosemary, iced.
Stewed broth of mutton and marrow bones.
A Sur-loyn of beef.
A made-dish of Sweet-breads.
A roasted Swan.
A Venison Pasty.
A Steak Pye.
A Turkey stuck with Cloves, and roasted.
Bran Geese, roasted.
A whole Kid, roasted.
Two couple of Rabbets, two larded.
A Pig souc’d, with Tongues.
Three Ducks, one larded.
Half a dozen Teal roasted.
Half a dozen Plovers, some larded and roasted.
Half a dozen Wood-cocks, some larded.
Two dozen of Larks, roasted.
Dryed Neats Tongues.
That is not all: saving the best till last, perhaps, these two courses would have been followed by a separate ‘banquet’ course of sweetmeats, fruit, biscuits and other small sweet treats. Although the number that this is intended to serve is not stated, this is still an awesome amount of food. Of course any household owning a copy of The English and French Cook would certainly have had a large number of kitchen and serving staff – but no appliances, no oven thermometers, and no refrigeration.
Two particular ideas jump out at me from this menu. One is the ‘large sprig of rosemary, iced’ to decorate the collar of brawn. A frosty-looking sprig of rosemary must have looked like a mini snowy Christmas tree, mustn’t it? What a lovely garnish. The second thing is the idea of turkey flavoured with cloves: I would never have thought of that, would you?
The recipe for the day, from the same book, is for turkey (with cloves). I remind you that in the seventeenth century, ‘roasting’ meant cooking meat on a spit in front of an open fire, while ‘baking’ specifically referred to cooking in an oven. The difficulty in those times was the lack of shaped metal baking dishes – which did not become possible until the advances in metal technology during the Industrial Revolution. The solution was to make a baking container out of very thick pastry – in other words, a ‘baked’ dish was a form of pie.
Turkey baked in the French fashion.
Having boned your Turkey, lard it with big Lard, then season it with Pepper, Cloves and Mace, Salt and Nutmeg; put into his belly some interlarded Bacon, some Rosemary, Bays, whole Cloves, whole Pepper and Mace, then let it steep all night in White wine; in the morning close it up in a sheet of course [coarse] paste, and bake it in a Pan with the same liquor it was in, it will require four hours baking; when it is enough, serve it on a Pye-plate stuck with Rosemary and Bays, with Mustard and Sugar in saucers.
Quotation for the Day.
That love weighs more than gold!
Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon.