Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Carls and Hot Pints.

The Scots, as we all know, are the experts on how to celebrate New Year. I wonder, however, if their attention to the traditions of the eve and the day have fallen off somewhat, over the last couple of centuries?  My question comes as a result of reading a short piece in Traditions of Perth: containing sketches of the manners and customs of the inhabitants, and notices of public occurrences, during the last century (1836) by George Penny.

‘New Year has always been held in Scotland as a day of special hilarity. The festivities commenced on the evening of the last night of the old year. In addition to a sufficient supply of stimulants, each family provided a quantity of carls. These were oatmeal cakes of a triangular shape, prepared with treacle or other condiments. The whole circle of acquaintances visited for carls; and each individual had to sing for his supper, or at least for his cake. This practice has greatly fallen off; none but a rabble of children, called “Guisards,” now maintain the custom. New Year’s morning was ushered in by a dram from the gudwife’s bottle.   introduced the custom of hot pints. On going to the houses of a their friends, as first foot, they took with them a tea kettle full of a warm mixture of ale, whisky, and sugar ... ’

Any Scots out there still eating carls and drinking hot pints? Please let us know.

Now, I am tempted to go into the story of carls, but that must wait awhile as the topic will require some considerable research. My understanding up to now has been that carls or carlings are ‘are gray peas steeped in water and fried the next day in butter or fat. They are eaten on the second Sunday before Easter, formerly called ‘Care Sunday’ (OED.)  This definition of carls is a long way from oatcakes, with or without treacle, as I am sure you will agree.

Instead, I give you a recipe for your morning draught of Hot Pint, so you may start the day in true old Scots style.

Scotch Hot Pint.
Grate a nutmeg into two quarts of mild ale, and bring it to the boiling point. Mix a little cold ale with sugar necessary to sweeten this, and, gradually, two eggs well beaten. Gradually ladle out and mix the hot ale with the eggs, taking care that they do not curdle. Put in a half-pint of whisky or rum, and, returning the whole to the saucepan, stir till it reach the boiling point, stirring during the whole process, and then briskly pour it from one vessel into another till it becomes smooth and bright.
Obs. – This beverage, carried round in a bright copper tea-kettle, is the celebrated new-year’s-morning “Het Pint” of Edinburgh and Glasgow. In Aberdeen, half-boiled sowens is used on the same festive occasion. The above is the national beverage now. A more refined composition is made by substituting white wine for ale, and brandy for whisky.
The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1828) by Mistress Margaret Dods (Christian Isobel Johnstone.)


Piet B said...

Regarding the origins of carls, do you suspect as I do that the clue may lie with the term for the children, "Guisards"? That would point to Mary of Guise, and perhaps give you a cultural and epochal starting point. I don't know the New Year customs in Mediaeval/Renaissance France, but it makes sense to me to start hunting around there. I'll be very interested in what you discover!

Joel said...

Dear Ms. Clarkson, I've very much enjoyed following your blog for some time now. We are going to try cooking up a hot pint later today and enjoy it while catching up on your blog entries. All the best in the new year.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any packages to look at, but I think I recall Walker's Shortbread to describe the triangular version as "carls."

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Joel, sorry for the late response, I got a bit sidetracked with the Christmas season then the backlog of work. I do hope your hot pint was good!
Hi Sandra - you have given me something to think about and explore so thankyou!