Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Larder

Today in the kitchen word series it is the turn of the larder. Who has a larder these days? Nowadays the word ‘larder’ is sometimes used as a synonym for ‘pantry’, especially if the writer is aiming for a nostalgic feel - the original usage was, however, quite different.

As with ‘pantry’, ‘larder’ has a French heritage, and is no doubt another legacy of those pesky Normans who invaded England in 1066. The OED gives the first recorded use in English as being in 1305, but undoubtedly the word was in use long before this. ‘Larder’ is related, quite obviously, to lard – pig fat, in other words. Originally a larder was a room in which meat (originally probably bacon) was stored, and naturally also other foodstuffs prone to rapid spoilage found a home on its shelves.

The modern refrigerator has of course taken the place of the domestic larder. Before refrigeration technology, a great deal of careful planning went into the building of the larder, as the following extract from The English cookery book: uniting a good style with economy ... by John Henry Walsh, (1859)

The Larder, which is the place set apart for keeping fresh provisions is, and also, in most cases, for the salting of pork, beef, &c., should be placed where it has a thorough draught, and where it is sheltered from the sun. A northerly aspect is therefore the most suitable, or, next to that, an easterly one. The thorough draught cannot always be procured directly; but if it cannot in that way, a large air-drain may be carried under the floor to the opposite side of the house, where a grating may be fixed, and thus a free draught may be obtained. Underground larders are seldom efficient for the keeping of meat, because this perfect draught is not attainable except in windy weather, when there is little difficulty in effecting its preservation; but in moist and muggy weather the air is quite stagnant in the basement story of a town house, and consequently, though tolerably cool, the air is not rapidly changed, and putrefaction goes on without let or hindrance. To fit up a larder for a small house merely requires a number of deal shelves and a door, of which the panels are replaced by plates of perforated zinc, of a pattern sufficiently close to prevent the entrance of flies, yet large enough to admit the air freely. Where there is also a window, it should in like manner be guarded by similar sheets of zinc.

I know I promised at the beginning of the week that all recipes would be from the seventeenth century – I have no idea why I promised that, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but instead I give you one from the same source as the above quotation.

Egg and Bacon Pie to Eat Cold.
Steep a few thin slices of bacon all night in water, lay them in a pie dish; beat eight eggs with a pint of cream, add pepper and salt, and pour it on the bacon; cover with a crust, and bake in a moderate oven the day before you require it.

Quotation for the Day.

Next was November, he full gross and fat, As fed with lard, and that right well might seem; For, he had been a fatting hogs of late.
Edmund Spenser


Judith Klinger said...

Wonder why the bacon was steeped in water. Bacon is mostly fat, so the water and the fat won't mingle. Why not steep in wine?
Oh to have a true larder, that would be a breezy luxury.

The Old Foodie said...

I wondered that too, Judith; one of those kitchen habits that people have that have no scientific base, I guess.

Katie Scarlett said...

Maybe the soaking was to make it less salty?

PietB said...

Could it have been to get rid of the smoky taste, as well as any excess salt? This actually sounds like a classic (the original, that is) quiche lorraine and for those you don't really want smoked bacon.