Victorian Christmas: 3 recipes to try at home

For many of us, food is at the heart of the modern day Christmas. But what did people in the Victorian period eat during the festive season? Here, archivist Helen Wakely from the Wellcome Library reveals three popular Christmas recipes...

Children at play preparing Christmas dinner c1870 © Amoret Tanner / Alamy

To make Plum Pudding

Take the foot of a kine
And chop very fine
And when ‘tis well ground
Add of currants a pound;
Eight ounces of bread
Through a cullinder shred,
Six ounces of suet-
A nutmeg add to it;
Eight eggs beaten thin
I’d have you put in
To this add some salt
‘Twill be without fault;
With sugar one handfull
‘Twill all make a panfull
Three hours you must boil it
One more wouldn’t spoil it
When dished on the table
You may add if you’re able
Some butter and wine
And you’ll say ‘twill outshine
All the puddings in England
Whenever you dine.
Xtmas 1847

From the receipt Book of Jane Freestone, 1843-57, and printed in the Cambridge Chronicle.

 

To make Lemon Mince-Pies

Take two lemons pare them very thin, and chop the peel, then boil the lemons very tender and pound them then, take a pound of suet, and pound of currants, a pound of sugar, and the juice of the lemons with the peel, mix them all together, make it pretty moist with white wine and brandy, put in some candi[e]d peel and spice to your taste.

Miss Higgons’s receipt. From a collection of cookery receipts kept by Mrs Jones & others, c1775–mid 19th century.

 

To make Stilton Cheese

Take 10 gallons of new milk, and one gallon of cream, a very little juice marigolds or aranata and some warm water, and as much rennet as you think will not make it too hard, mix it all well together, when it comes to curd put it in a sieve with a cloth under it to drain, the curd must not be broken, but as the whey runs out tie the cloth tight round it, and let it stand half an hour, then cut the curd cross and cross which gives it the blue mould, then put it in a clean tub and pour as much clean water on it, as will cover it, let it stand half an hour, then put one half of it into a cheese vat 6 inches deep, break the top a little to make it join, strew a little salt on it then put in the other half, and lay a 50lb weight upon it, let it stand half an hour, then turn it out into a clean wet cloth, every hour of the day and next morning salt it, let it lie a day and a night, keep it swathed tight till it begins to dry and coat, keep it covered with a clean cloth a good while, it is best made in August [ready for eating at Christmas] - A pound of butter rubbed into the curd before it is put into the vat improves the cheese much.

From Sarah Alice Ede’s collection of cookery receipts, c1855.

 
These festive recipes were selected by archivist Helen Wakely from among the extensive collection of historical recipe books held by Wellcome Library, London. The Wellcome Library is one of the world's major resources for the study of medical history.

To find out more about the library, visit wellcomelibrary.org or to explore more Wellcome Library recipe books, click here.

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