Victorian Rituals

The Victorian Christmas Dinner Menu

"He has more to do than the ovens in England at Christmas", goes the old Italian saying. The Yuletide season in the 18th century abounded with larger-than-life pageantry: there are records of 800 pound puddings and pies filled with all the fowl in the barnyard.
--Christmas Feasts From History

Roast Goose
Individual Oyster Loaves
Mince Pies Royal
Christmas Pudding

Under most recipe you will find excerpts from the original recipe.

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Roast Goose with Sage & Onion Dressing

Serves 8

To have a proper Victorian Christmas feast, you must have roast goose with the classic sage and onion dressing. The onions are parboiled first, so the stuffing will be pleasantly mild, and with the addition of apples, it is milder still.

9 pound goose and 2 teaspoons coarse salt

For The Stuffing:
3 medium onions, peeled
4 large apples, peeled, cored & chopped (use tart apples, Granny Smith are best)
2 tablespoons loosely packed dried sage leaves, crumbled
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter, cut into tiny bits
Garnishes: sliced apples, parsley or watercress

For the Brown Gravy:
Gizzard, neck, heart, liver and wing tips of the goose, chopped
1 onion
1 carrot, sliced
1-2 tablespoons rendered goose fat or cooking oil
3 cups stock or beef bouillon
bay leaf
3 sprigs parsley
Salt & pepper to taste

For The Port Wine Sauce
cup port
1 teaspoon mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Oven: 450

Rub inside of goose with salt and set aside.

Parboil onion in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and, when cool enough to handle, chop them finely.

In large bowl, combine onions, chopped apples, sage, pepper and butter. Stuff cavity of goose and Sew or skewer the openings and truss in the usual way.

Roast goose at 450 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and turn the goose onto its side. After 1 hour, turn goose onto its other side. For the final 15 minutes, roast goose on its back. Baste every 20 minutes during entire roasting time. (Allow approximately 15 minutes per pound for the total weight of the stuffed goose, or 2 hours for a 9 pound stuffed goose. The internal temperature should register 180 degrees when done, the legs should move up and down freely, and the juices should run a pale yellow.)

Prepare the gravy while goose is roasting. In a large saucepan, brown the goose parts, onion and carrot in the fat. When they are nicely browned, add the stock and seasonings. Simmer, partially covered, for about 1 hour, skimming occasionally. Strain, degrease and pour into a warmed sauce-boat for serving.

For the optional port wine sauce, combine the ingredients in a small saucepan. Just before serving the goose, slit open the breast and pour the sauce on top.

After it has been picked and singed with care, put into the body of the goose two parboiled onions of moderate size, finely chopped, and mixed with half an ounce of minced sage-leaves, a saltspoonful of salt, and half as much black pepper, or a proportionate quantity of cayenne; to these add a small slice of fresh butter. Truss the goose, and after it is on the spit, tie it firmly at both ends that it may turn steadily, and that the seasoning may not escape; roast it at a brisk fire, and keep it constantly basted. Serve it with brown gravy, and apple or tomata sauce.

--Eliza Acton
Modern cookery in All its Branches, 1848

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Individual Oyster Loaves

Serves 8

Oysters were so popular during the Victorian times that the oyster population was dwindling fast.
8 dinner rolls (about 4 inches in diameter)
2 dozen large (or more if small) shucked oysters in their own juice
2 tablespoons sweet butter
2 teaspoons flour
6 tablespoons heavy cream
Freshly grated white pepper & nutmeg to taste
Pinch of salt

Oven: 350

Slice off top quarter of each roll and scoop out most of the inside with a fork, being careful not to cut through the bottome or sides. Replace the top and put the hollow rolls into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes to warm.

Meanwhile, remove the oysters from their liquid and pass this liquid through a strainer to remove any odd bits of shell and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until well blended. Over low heat, whisk in heavy cream, cup of the oyster liquor, and seasonings to taste.

Add the oyster and bring the sauce just to a boil. With a slotted spoon, immediately remove the oysters and dice them, if desired. Immediately fill each roll shell with the oysters and some of the cream sauce. Replace the top crust and serve at once.

Open them, and save the liquor; wash them in it; then strain it through a sieve, and put a little of it into a tosser with a bit of butter and flour, white pepper, a scrape of nutmeg, and a little cream. Stew them, and cut in dice; put them into rolls sold for the purpose.

--Mrs. Rundell
A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1865

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Makes 1 quarts or 2 pounds

It is a good idea to prepare this mincemeat at least a few days in advance to give the flavors a chance to mingle.
2 large lemons
2 small tart apples, pared, cored & grated
2 cups raisins
2 cups dried currants
Generous cup coarsely chopped citron
Generous cup coarsely chopped candied orange peel
2 cups ( pound) loosely packed grated beef kidney suet
1 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg
teaspoon mace
teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
cup brandy
pound lean round beef, ground (optional; see note)

In a small saucepan, cover the lemons with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove lemons and cut them in half and remove pits. Chop lemons finely.

In a bowl, combine the remaining ingreadients and mix very well.

Press the mincemeat into large sterile jars with tight fitting lids and store them in a cool place until needed. Should the mincemeat at any time seem dry and crumbly, perk it up by stirring in more brandy.

Note: This recipe makes enough for 2 8-inch covered pies or about 3 dozen Mince Pies Royal (see recipe). If you plan to bake the mincemeat in pies or tarts, you will find that adding the meat at the last minute enriches the flavor. If you do this, do not plan on storing the mincemeat for more than a few days in the refrigerator.

Take four large lemons, with their weight of golden pippins pared and cored, of jar-raisins, currants, candied citron and orange rind, and the finest suet, and a fourth part more of pounded sugar. Boil the lemons tender, chop them small, but be careful first to extract all the pips; add them to the other ingredients, after all have been prepared with great nicety, and mix the whole well with from three to four glasses of good brandy.

--Eliza Acton
Modern Cookery in All its Branches, 1848

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Mince Pies Royal

Makes 12-3 inch tartlets

These lovely tartlets, crowned with their golden meringues, are indeed fit for royalty.

1 pound Mincemeat (see preceding recipe)
10 tablespoons sugar
cup lemon juice
Grated rind of 2 lemons
cup clarified butter
8 egg yolks
3 egg whites

For The Short Crust:
2 tablespoon sugar
Scant 2 cups flour
1 sticks (6 ounces) chilled butter, cut into bits
2 tablespoons ice water

Oven: 350

In a bowl, combine Mincemeat with 6 tablespoons of sugar, lemon juice and rind, butter and egg yolks. Blend well and set aside.

Prepare the crust by combining flour with the sugar in a bowl or food processor. Cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles oatmeal. Rapidly blend the ice water into the flour and knead briefly.

Lightly grease 12 tartlet shells. On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough a few times, envelope fashion, as for puff pastry. Cut out circles and press them into the tartlet shells, and patching any holes.

Spoon some mincemeat into each shell and back for 20 minutes. When the filling is set, beat the egg whites with the remaining 4 tablespoons sugar until stiff. Spread this meringue over each tartlet and back for 25 minutes longer. Remove tartlets from oven and cool them on a rack for 10 minutes. To remove them from the tins, run a knife along the edges and gently pry them out.

Add to half a pound of good mincemeat an ounce and a half of pounded sugar, the grated rind and the strained juice of a large lemon, one ounce of clarified butter, and the yolks of four eggs; beat these well together, and half fill, or rather more, with the mixture, some pattypans lined with fine paste; put them into a moderate oven, and when the insides are just set, ice them thickly with the whites of the eggs beaten to snow... For the very rich short crust break lightly, with the least possible handling, six ounces of butter into eight of flour; add a dessertspoonful of pounded sugar, and two or three of water; roll the paste for several minutes, to blend the ingredients well, folding it together like puff-crust, and touch it as little as possible.

--Eliza Acton
Modern Cookery in All its Branches, 1848

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Christmas Pudding with Punch Sauce *Find the Punch Sauce below

Makes a 3-pound round pudding (8 small servings)

During a time in the 18th century it was custom to serve this as a first course. Some puddings were so large that they were boiled in the same huge copper pot used to heat the water for the weekly wash. The pudding was usually cooked five weeks before Christmas on Stir-up Sunday. It was considered luck for each member of the family to "stir up" the pudding mixture before the cooking began. It is delicious right out of the pot after its first 3 hour boiling. But you might prefer to make it a few months (or a year?) in advance and store it in a cool place so that the flavors have a chance to settle down together. If you choose the latter approach, then tie the pudding back in the cloth and boil it an additional 2 hours before serving.

15" square cotton cloth
cup flour
2 cups ( pound loosely packed grated beef kidney suet
1 cup (tightly packed) raisins
1 cup currants
1 cup peeled, minced apples
1/3 cup coarsely chopped candied orange peel
cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Scant teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon mace
cup brandy
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Punch Sauce (see recipe below)

In a very large bowl, combine all the ingredients and blend them well.

Wet the pudding cloth thoroughly and sprinkle it generously with flour. Spread out the flour to form a thin layer on the cloth. Set the pudding cloth into a medium bowl, pressing it into the shape of the bowl. Set the mixture into the cloth and tie it tightly about an inch above the bulge of the mixture (allowing the pudding room to swell).

Bring a very large pot of water to a boil. Gently set the pudding into the water and bring the water back to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium so that the water boild\s gently for 3 hours, replenishing the water as needed so that the pudding is always totally submerged. Occasionally lift the pudding so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.

When the pudding is done, lift it up and place it in a large colander to drain. When it is cool enough to handle, gently remove the string and cloth. If you are not planning on serving the pudding immediately, let it cool and wrap it in a few layers of aluminum foil and store in a cool place.

To serve: set on a platter and spoon some warm brandy on top (if desired) and hold a match nearby until it catches. You may, of course, set a sprig of holly in the center for good luck. Serve warm with a sauceboat of punch sauce on the side.

Christmas Pudding

(serves 8-10)

This is another variation for Christmas Pudding sent in by Zenna. If you can't find barley wine, any wine on hand will do. In today's modern world, we can reheat the pudding in the microwave, if you would like. The recipe didn't mention the rum, so you can either mix it in before steaming or pour it over the finished pudding. Hope you'll enjoy this. Thank you Zeena!

4 oz. shredded suet
2 large eggs
2 oz. self-rising flour, sifted
4 oz. white bread crumbs
1 teasp. mixed spice
1/4 teasp. freshly grated nutmeg
A large pinch of cinnamon
8 oz. dark brown sugar
4 oz. sultanas
4 oz. raisins
10 oz. currants
1 oz. mixed candied peel finely chopped
1 oz. blanched almonds, chopped
1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
The grated zest of 1/2 a large orange
The grated zest of 1/2 a large lemon
2 1/2 oz. barley wine
2 1/2 oz. Guineness stout
2 Tablespoons rum

You will need a 2 pint pudding mold lightly buttered.

Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding. Take your largest, roomiest mixing bowl and start by putting in the suet, sifted flour, bread crumbs, spices and sugar. Mix these ingredients very thoroughly together, then gradually mix in all the dried fruit, mixed peel and nuts, followed by the apple and the grated zests.

In a smaller basin, measure out the barley wine, stout and eggs. Beat thoroughly together. Next pour this over all the other ingredients and mix all together very thoroughly. Cover the bowl and set aside overnight.

Next day pack the mixture in the lightly greased basin, cover with a double sheet of grease proof paper (waxed paper) and a sheet of foil. Tie securely with string. Some people also tie a piece of string over the top for a handle. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam for 8 hours. Check the amount of water from time to time. When the pudding is steamed, let it get quite cold then remove the steam papers and foil and replace with fresh ones. Keep the pudding in a cool place away from light until required.

Before serving, the pudding will be required to be re-steamed for about an hour.

Punch Sauce

Makes 1 cups

This is a favorite sauce with custard, plain bread and plum puddings. It may be prepared a few hours in advance, refrigerated and then reheated just before serving.
Scant 1/3 cup sugar
cup water
small lemon
1/3 juice orange
3 tablespoons butter, cut into bits
1 teaspoon flour
cup brandy
cup white wine
1/3 cup rum

In a small heavy pot, dissolve the sugar in the water.

Meanwhile, squeeze the lemon and orange and reserve the juices. Chop the peels into 3 or 4 pieces and place them in the sugar syrup. Boil gently for 20 minutes. Press them against the side of the pot to squeeze out all the flavor, and remove the peels with a slotted spoon. (You may reserve them for use as candied peel.)

Place butter in small bowl and sprinkle with flour. Mash together until the flour is completely absorbed.

Whisk the butter mixture into the sugar syrup over medium heat. Add the reserved fruit juices, brandy, wine and rum and heat just to the boiling point, but do not boil once the spirits have been added.

Serve very hot, or store (once it has cooled) in the refrigerator, covered with a piece of waxed paper unitl needed. Then reheat and serve in a sauceboat.

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Serves 6

This was a popular drink among the ladies as it is dangerously pleasant to drink. The original recipe suggest preparing the drink at least five days in advance. But you will find that it is quite a tasty punch almost immediately after it is mixed. It is likely that oranges were less sweet in those days, and you may wish to reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe.

5-6 juice oranges
2 cups (or less) sugar
1 quart rum or brandy

Squeeze the oranges until you have 2 cups of juice. Reserve half of the skins. Strain the juice to remove the pith and pits.

Combine the juice, sugar and liquor in a large bottle. Coarsely chop the orange peels and add them. Cover and shake the mixture.

About 8 hours later, strain out the peels. Cover and shake the mixture about 4 times daily for the next 4 days. Reserve for use.

To serve, pour into a small punch bowl and chill with ice either in the bowl or in individual glasses.

To 1 quart of strained orange juice, put 2 lbs. loaf sugar, and 9 pints of rum or brandy; also the peels of half the oranges. Let it stand one night, then strain, pour into a cask, and shake it four times a day for four days. Let it stand till fine, then bottle it.

--Anne Cobbett
The English Housekeeper, 1851