Dining with Jane Austen
A Culinary Adventure Through the Author's Life and Works
 
 
 
 


“I always take care to provide such things as please my own appetite, which I consider as the chief merit
in housekeeping…"
                  17, 18 November 1798


 

 





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"It is impossible to do justice 
to the hospitality of his attentions towards me; he made a point of ordering toasted cheese for supper entirely on my account.”
                      27 August 1805

 

Toasted Cheese
Grate the cheese and add to it 
one egg, a teaspoonful of mustard, and a little butter. Send it up on toast, or in paper trays.
       –Martha Lloyd’s Household Book



Iron salamander
used to brown food.


 

 

Join Our Culinary Journey


Over the next three years we'll explore the world of Jane Austen through the foods and dining experiences familiar to her. From Honey Mead to Bath Buns and plain dishes to ragouts, we'll study foods associated with her life, letters and novels. By understanding and recreating these foods, we can enjoy a certain level of intimacy with the author—much like that of sharing a meal with our closest family and friends. By joining us on this journey, we hope that you may indeed feel like you are Dining with Jane Austen.

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Summer Harvest
at Chawton Cottage

The summer months would have been busy for the Austen women overseeing the kitchen duties at Chawton Cottage. Herbs from the midseason harvest would be bundled and hung for drying, fruits would be simmered into jams, and vegetables would be pickled and put up for the long winter months ahead.

Among the mounds of produce coming from Mrs. Austen’s garden would likely be cucumbers—perfect for eating fresh-picked in salads or preserved in spiced vinegar and stored in a heavy earthenware pickle pot. We know that Jane Austen enjoyed the gift of cucumbers sent to Chawton from her brother James at Steventon. “Tell your Father, with Aunt Cass:’s Love & mine, that the Pickled Cucumbers are extremely good.” (16,17 December 1816)

Among the “receipts” Martha Lloyd recorded in her household book at Chawton are instructions “To Pickle Pattigonain” cucumbers. The original recipe requires successive boiling of the pickling liquid over a four-day period before the cucumbers finally rest in the pickle pot.  The initial prep required salting the cucumbers, letting them sit for 24 hours, then wiping them “quite dry.” All tolled, the process took the better part of a week but rewarded the family with the taste of summer well into the winter chill.

Enjoy this modern adaptation of Martha Lloyd’s original receipt using any cucumber variety that’s fresh from the garden or the local farmers’ market. Prepare and refrigerate this dish several hours ahead of serving to allow the cucumbers to fully absorb the complex blend of spices. —JG

Pickled Patagonian Cucumbers
(Adapted from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book)

 

2 large cucumbers
1/2 cup salad vinegar
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. mustard seed
1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Peel cucumbers then cut each in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds then cut sections into 1/2 inch square pieces. Put in a shallow (non-aluminum) bowl.

Place remaining ingredients in a small pot and heat to boiling. Pour hot liquid over cucumber pieces, stir and then cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Serve the cucumbers spooned out of their liquid, removing the bay leaf.       Serves 8.

© Julienne Gehrer 

 


 

 

Summer Brings Thoughts
of Orange Wine

 

A simple phrase from Jane Austen’s summer letter to her sister Cassandra fills my imagination with busy domestic scenes. Jane is writing in June of 1808, so the Austen kitchen must surely have been abuzz with winemaking activity four months earlier, seeding the author’s thought...
                    "The Orange Wine will want our Care soon."

Picture the Georgian kitchen in the “commodious old-fashioned house of Castle Square” in Southampton. It’s January or perhaps February at the home of Jane’s brother and sister-in law, Captain Francis and Mary Austen. The household has grown to include Jane, her widowed mother, her sister Cassandra, and their close friend Martha Lloyd.

In Jane Austen’s time there was a short three-month window when the nubby-skinned Seville Oranges arrived from Spain in bustling cities like London and Bristol. These oranges were known for their tartness, and the 33 called for in the recipe would need to be offset with 36 sweet or “China” oranges. There were 15 lemons that needed to be peeled and juiced along with the oranges…and there were 30 pounds of Lisbon sugar cones to scrape into fine granules using the back of a knife.

We don’t know if the Austen women who once oversaw the making of mead, beer and wine at Steventon were suddenly tempted to grab a paring knife and peel some fruit. We do know that they would have been familiar with the provisions and process required to create Orange Wine.

At the time Jane writes Cassandra, the wine had been fermenting in a cask for four months, presumably in the cellar of the Castle Square house. Jane knew it would soon be time to strain the wine and clean the cask of any scum produced by the fermentation process. Brandy and additional sugar would be added to the wine when it was returned to the clean cask. Bottling would take place later in the year.

Orange wine makes it appearance in another of Jane’s letters—one written just six months before her death. Ironically, she mentions gaining strength through the winter and proclaims herself “not far from well.” Seems like an opportune time to request the recipe for some memorable wine!

So from Chawton cottage in January of 1817, an invigorated Jane writes her friend Alethea Bigg for the receipt for “some excellent orange Wine at Manydown Park, made from Seville oranges.” Her request is made rather coyly as a postscript saying, “The real object of this Letter is to ask you for a Receipt, but I thought it genteel not to let it appear early.”

One source claims the receipt written in Martha Lloyd’s household book is the Manydown recipe. A different source credits the recipe to “Mrs. C. Fowle," an Austen family friend living 45 miles to the north of Southampton in Kintbury. During the Austen’s years at Southampton, Jane writes of several exchanges of food gifts with the Fowles—including a brace of birds, a pair of soles and a hamper of apples. It’s likely recipe exchanges occurred at this time as well. Source material is coming to me from Jane Austen's House Museum, so stay tuned for the answer to this mystery!

Since today’s households do not usually include winemaking equipment and casks, I’ve simplified the following recipe to an unfermented version of the original. Conversations with my local winemakers will hopefully result in a faithful recreation of the original receipt. –JG

Simplified Orange Wine 
(Adapted from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book)

4 oranges
1 lemon
3 cups sugar (21 oz / 600g)
4 cups water (32 oz /  l liter)
1 cup brandy (8 oz / 250 ml)

Wash oranges and lemon thoroughly then cut each in half. Using a citrus reamer or the back of a spoon, press and squeeze out both the juice and pulp into a large bowl or glass jar. Add the reamed fruit halves to the extracted juice and pulp.

Place sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Stir to dissolve sugar. Heat to boiling. Boil one minute then pour over reamed fruit. Cover and place on a sunny bench or other warm spot for two hours.

Strain through a sieve placed over a bowl or large pitcher. Cover and chill several hours.

To serve, measure 2 Tbsp. (1 oz / 25 ml) of brandy into a glass then top with 1/2 cup (4 oz / 125 ml) of the citrus juice. Serves 8


© Julienne Gehrer 
 

 


 

 

Dropping in
For an Austen Family Dinner

Would your typical Friday dinner be suitable to serve an unexpected guest? Certainly Jane Austen felt no shame when Mr. Lyford, the local apothecary, joined the Austen family for dinner on Friday, 30 November 1798.
In writing her sister Cassandra the next day, Jane mentions:

Mr. Lyford was here yesterday, he came while we were at dinner, and partook of our elegant entertainment. I was not ashamed at asking him to sit down at table, for we had some pease-soup, a sparerib, and a pudding.

Jane could take comfort in the caliber of the Austen family dinner in several respects. First, the number of dishes served reflects the traditional middle class meal both in content (meat and pudding) and variety (three dishes).  Unlike meals served at the great houses from which Jane modeled Rosings, Pemberley and Netherfield, the Austen’s meal fits the expectation of a clergyman’s family dining alone. Had the Austens expected company, the Steventon table may have boasted upwards of six dishes, but not the dozens seen in film adaptations portraying the dining habits of landed gentry. In Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife (1615), this family standard was exalted for the practice of moderation and economy—something Miss Bates would have been required to practice and Sir Walter Elliott would have done well to learn.

A second reason to take pride in the family dinner is that the featured sparerib was undoubtedly fresh. Pigs were usually slaughtered in November, indeed a letter written to Cassandra not two weeks earlier declares, “We are to kill a pig soon.”

Finally, puddings were a familiar and welcome sight at 18
th century dinners. The versatile and filling staple could be created in a myriad of sweet or savory versions, all sure to fill a diner’s stomach should the quantities of meat seem inadequate.

Two period cookbooks within the Austen family circle include a variety of pudding “receipts.” Both Martha Lloyd’s Household Book (Jane Austen’s House Museum) and The Knight Family Cookbook (Chawton House Library) include a recipe for New College Pudding or Puddings, the oldest documented pudding in England. Although each manuscript titles the dish differently, both recipes result in small fried puddings similar to today’s fritters. These recipes have been adapted for modern use. Serve the puddings warm and with total confidence if Mr. Lyford stops by.

New College Puddings
(Adapted from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book and The Knight Family Cookbook)

6 oz. stale white bread
1/3 cup sugar
2 oz. currants
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. rose water (vanilla may be substituted for modern tastes)
Vegetable oil for frying

In a heavy frying pan or skillet, slowly heat the oil to 350 degrees as you make the pudding batter.

Using a grater or food processor, grate the bread into fine bread crumbs. Place in a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar, currants, nutmeg and salt.

Add the softened butter and begin to fold in. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the rose water or vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the breadcrumb batter and stir well.

Drop the batter one heaping teaspoonful at a time into the hot oil. Fry in small batches allowing at least an inch of space between puddings. Turn puddings while cooking to brown evenly. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel while the next batch cooks.

If desired, sprinkle puddings with additional sugar. Serve warm. Makes 6 to 8 servings. --JG

© Julienne Gehrer 


 

Jane Austen's Taste
For Toasted Cheese

In August of 1805, Jane had been traveling the seven miles from Canterbury to Goodnestone when her party arrived at half-past four. She felt this arrival time “seemed to bid fair for a punctual dinner at five.” But scenes of “great agitation” awaited her and there was “much to be endured and done before we could sit down to table.” Jane’s sister-in-law Harriot Bridges had received two inquiries about an upcoming ball at Deal—and one letter offered a ticket to the ball. The discussion about conveyances and lodgings plus time spent writing the necessary replies pushed the dinner time to six—a delay Jane noticed and couldn’t help mentioning in her letter to Cassandra the next day. Happily, Harriot’s brother Edward joined the company at dinner and took the trouble of ordering toasted cheese for their supper later. Since Jane claims the dish was selected entirely on her account, we can presume it was a favorite of hers, and that this preference was known throughout the family circle.

This recipe is adapted from a version in Martha Lloyd’s Household Book. It may seem surprising to find so simple a dish recorded, but it would be easy for a novice cook to leave out the mustard that gives it a distinctive tang. 

The original recipe’s final instruction to “Send it up on toast, or in paper trays” attests to the dish being more appropriate for supper rather than dinner, the main meal of the day. Suppers were often simple fare—cold meats, soup, leftovers—sometimes “sent up” to the family on trays set out in the drawing room.

To recreate this dish, we used Barber’s 1833 English Vintage Cheddar from Somerset. It melts uncommonly well under the broiler. To achieve the beautiful brown top, Martha Lloyd would have used a salamander—an iron plate that was thrust into the fire until hot then suspended over the food until it was beautifully brown.

 

Toasted Cheese
(Adapted from Martha Lloyd's Household Book) 

4 slices thickly sliced bread
2 tbsp  / 56g butter, softened
2 eggs
4 oz / 112g grated cheddar cheese
2 tsp  coarse or country style mustard

Place the bread slices on a baking tray and spread the open face with softened butter. In a mixing bowl, scramble the eggs then stir in the grated cheese and mustard.

Divide the cheese mixture evenly over the bread, spreading completely to the edges. Place under a hot broiler for 1-2 minutes, watching closely until it's nicely brown. The addition of a simple salad or soup makes a good lunch or light supper. 
--JG
 
© Julienne Gehrer