The Ladies' Tea Guild

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve dinner recipes, turnips, winter-squash, and plum pudding.

image from Grandma's Graphics.
If anyone wants recipes for the smoked tongue or cold-slaw[sic] that were mentioned in the menu from Godey's, please let me know and I'll research them. They were nowhere to be found in my antique recipe books! Here are the other vegetable side dishes:

"Turnips should be pared; put into boiling water, with a little salt; boiled till tender; then squeeze them thoroughly from the water, mash them smooth, add a piece of butter and a little pepper and salt."

"Squash is a rich vegetable, particularly the yellow winter squash. This requires more boiling than the summer kind. Pare it, cut it in pieces, take out the seeds and boil it in a very little water till it is quite soft. Then press out all the water, mash it and add a little butter, pepper and salt."

And plum pudding is not just for Christmas!

"Plum Pudding.-- Chop half a pound of suet very fine; stone half a pound of raisins; half a pound of currants nicely washed and picked; four ounces of bread crumbs; four ounces of flour; four eggs well beaten; a little grated nutmeg; mace and cinnamon pounded very fine; a spoonful of salt; four ounces of sugar; one ounce candied lemon; same of citron.
Beat the eggs and the spices well together: mix the milk with them by degrees, then the rest of the ingredients; dip a fine, close linen cloth into boiling water, and place it in a hair sieve; flour it a little, then pour in the batter and tie it up, allowing a little room to swell; put it into a pot containing six quarts of boiling water; keep a tea-kettle of boiling water and fill up your pot as it wastes; be sure to keep it boiling at least six hours -- seven would not injure it. This pudding should be mixed an hour or two before it is put on to boil; it makes it taste richer."

More New Year's dinner recipes from 1860, boiled turkey and oyster sauce.

Also from Mrs. Hale, ca. 1841:
"To boil a Turkey.-- Clean it as to roast, make a stuffing of bread, green parsley, one lemon peel, a few oysters or an onion -- season it with salt, pepper, a little nutmeg, and mix one egg and a small bit of butter; put this into the crop, fasten up the skin, put the turkey on in cold water enough to cover it, let it boil slowly, and take off all the scum; when this is done, it should only simmer closely covered until it is done. It will take about two hours for a small turkey, longer if large. A little salt may be put in the water, and the turkey dredged with flour before it is boiled. The neck and liver are boiled, chopped and put in the gravy."

"Oyster Sauce.-- Beard and scald the oysters, strain the liquor, and thicken it with a little flour and butter, squeeze in a little lemon juice, and add three-tablespoonfuls of cream. Heat it well, but do not let it boil."

New Year's dinner ca. January 1860, plus roast goose and apple sauce

"NEW YEAR’S DINNER.—A roast goose with apple-sauce, a boiled turkey with oyster-sauce, smoked tongue, turnips, cold-slaw [sic], winter-squash; plum pudding."

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, during the 19th century, seemed to be the favored days for social gatherings, as opposed to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which were generally kept for private family and religious gatherings. Having a New Year's dinner party sounds like a good idea, though! My family usually doesn't do anything special, but it would be really fun to have people over and serve the menu above, from Godey's Lady's Book. Here are a few antique recipes -- from Sarah Josepha Hale, ca. 1841 -- that can help if you decide to serve your friends a real Victorian holiday dinner:

"To Roast a Goose.-- Geese seem to bear the same relation to poultry that pork does to the flesh of other domestic quadrupeds; that is, the flesh of the goose is not suitable for, or agreeable to, the very delicate in constitution. One reason doubtless is, that it is the fashion to bring it to table very rare done; a detestable mode! Take a young goose, pick, singe, and clean well. Make the stuffing with two ounces of onions, (about four common sized,) and one ounce of green sage chopped very fine; then add a large coffee cup of stale bread crumbs and the same of mashed potatoes; a little pepper and salt, a bit of butter as big as a walnut, the yolk of an egg or two; mix these well together, and stuff the goose; do not fill it entirely -- the stuffing requires room to swell. Spit it; tie the spit at both ends, to prevent its swinging round, and to keep the stuffing from coming out. The fire must be brisk. Baste it with salt and water at first -- then with its own dripping. It will take two hours or more to roast it thoroughly."

"Apple Sauce.-- In the country it is thought almost as indispensable to provide the stock of apple sauce for winter use as the pork; and there is no doubt of the healthiness as well as the pleasantness of fruit taken in this way as food. To eat with meat, it is best made of sour apples, not too mellow, but pleasant flavored. Boil down new sweet cider till it is nearly as thick, when cold, as molasses; strain it through a sieve; wash the kettle, (it must be brass, or iron tinned;) put in the syrup, and as soon as it boils, put in the apples, which must have been previously pared, quartered, and cored. Stew over a slow fire of coals till very tender."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Another poem.

image from Grandma's Graphics.
My Gift.
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am;
If I were a shepherd,
I would give Him a lamb.
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part.
But what can I give Him?
I will give my heart.
-- Christina Rossetti

Merry Christmas!

image from

An Old Christmas Greeting. [ an old nursery rhyme]

Sing hey! Sing hey!
For Christmas Day,
Twine mistletoe and holly,
For friendship glows
In winter snows,
And so let's all be jolly.

Christmas Hearth Rhyme. [an old nursery rhyme]
Sing we all merrily,
Christmas is here,
The day we love best
Of all days in the year.

Bring forth the holly,
The box and the bay,
Deck out our cottage
For glad Christmas day.

Sing we all merrily,
Draw near the fire,
Sister and brother,
Grandson and sire.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gluten-free scone recipe!

My aunt and cousin are allergic to wheat, among other things, and they're not really enjoying their new (they were just diagnosed) wheat-free diet. They're going to be visiting us for Christmas, and I know they would be thrilled to be able to have scones with their tea! Here is a recipe posted to the Afternoon Tea Across America list (on Yahoo! groups) that I will probably try to make for them,if I can get to the health food store and gather the ingredients:

Mocha Teff Scones [gluten free recipe]
2 1/2 cups of teff flour
1/2 cup of coffee
1 tbsp. of arrowroot
1 tbsp. of baking powder
1 tbsp. of vanilla
1/3 cup of canola oil
1/3 cup of maple syrup
3/4 cup of dried fruit such as unsulphured apricots
(cut up into small pieces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Shape the dough into round patties, about 1/2" thick. Bake for 20 minutes. Makes 1 dozen scones. *Variation: use jam, instead of using dried fruit. Gently press your thumb into the center of the scone before baking them. Fill each with 1/2 tsp. of jam.
-- adapted from recipe posted to SoFlaVegans list.

I think my relatives can have all of the ingredients! They also can't have dairy or cane sugar, so I'll have to find something other than clotted cream and jam for them to put on the scones, but it's a start!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How the Christmas Wreaths look in California, ca. 1861

image from

"Notes and Queries: How the Christmas Wreaths look in California.— ‘We are in the midst of the holidays,’ writes one of the best California correspondents, ‘the groceries, the markets, the streets are green with the boughs of evergreens; redwood and cedar, pines and myrtles give forth their fragrance. The churches are redolent of an odor that I never whiffed in the Atlantic states – it issues from a shrub which looks very much like your bayberry or candleberry. The peculiar aroma at first is that of the bayberry, but close behind it comes a faint smell of cinnamon – making together a most delicious perfume. With this shrub the pillars of the churches, the gas-pipes and burners, the galleries and pulpits are hung, while roses, geraniums and fuchsias [sic], all grown in the open air, fill up the spaces between the branches, and give a Juny appearance to the room." from Godey's Lady's Book, January 1861, page 90.

Monday, December 15, 2008

San Francisco Ballet presents The Nutcracker on PBS this week

For those in California (I don't know if the program will be aired elsewhere):

The Nutcracker
San Francisco Ballet
Wednesday, December 17, at 9 p.m. Pacific Time
Broadcast on PBS (check your local listings)

This production is set in San Francisco in 1915, with references to the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and the San Francisco area. It has been very highly rated -- including the historical accuracy of the costumes -- by some acquaintences of mine who have seen it. I haven't seen it yet but I'm planning to catch it on television this week!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another vintage recipe for tea on a winter's day!

"Apples a la Caramel.
Partially pare (in alternate rounds) tart, juicy apples. Remove cores and insert a caramel in the center. Sprinkle sugar over the outside and put in a deep pan to bake. Baste with slightly sweetened water to which a tablespoon of lemon juice has been added. When apples are tender, remove to the serving dish and return pan to the oven to allow the juice to become thick and brown as caramel syrup. Pour over the apples. Serve with or without whipped cream." from "Reliable" Cooking, a ca. 1910 recipe booklet advertising the Reliable Gas Stoves and Ranges.

Like with many vintage and antique recipes, the oven temperature and cooking time is not specified. I would probably set the oven to 350 degrees F, let the apples bake for half an hour, and keep an eye on it the whole time.

This is a simple recipe; it only has three basic ingredients! I happen to have some caramels left over from Halloween, some apples and some lemons from the trees in the backyard. Sugar is in the cupboard. I have the last half of this week off from work, so I may be making these baked apples in the near future ... They sound so good, and especially with a nice hot cup of black tea, no milk or sugar. Well, maybe milk, but the apple and caramel would be so sweet that I wouldn't want sugar in my tea!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Make your own Victorian Christmas Tree ornaments! (part 2)

Image from Grandma's graphics.
Over the years, the homemade ornaments became more elaborate, especially including edible items like small cakes, cookies, bags of sweetmeats, and garlands of dried or candied fruit, nuts, and popped corn (which resembled snow). Gilded walnut shells and apples were tied on with ribbon, and probably were the inspiration for later ball-shaped ornaments. Paper chains, tinsel garlands, paper cornucopias, and candles also made an appearance. Store-bought, more permanent decorations including glass balls, lead or other metal crosses and stars, and wax angels, were introduced beginning in 1870 and were largely made in Germany.

Aside from providing simple decoration to the tree and the room, the ornaments were often intended as Christmas gifts for the various members of the family and friends, especially children. Small non-edible gifts such as handkerchiefs, bracelets, brooches, neckties, and other lightweight items could be wrapped in plain paper, or left unwrapped, marked with a name, and tied among the other ornaments with a piece of ribbon, to be opened with the other gifts.

To make your own ornaments for your very own Victorian Christmas tree, you need look no farther than your local craft store, if nothing in your desk drawers and closets inspires you. Tie a ribbon to some old costume jewelry – small brooches and earrings work well – and just hang it from a branch. Cut snowflakes, trees, stars or hearts from white or colored paper, or aluminum foil. Tie twigs or pieces of straw into star or asterisk shapes. Draw, color and cut out small angels, doves or dolls out of paper and hang them from ribbons; use stencils or scrapbooking supplies to form shapes if you don’t draw well. Get small wooden beads or balls from the craft store and cover them with glued-on craft moss, ribbon, glitter, or strips of colorful paper torn from magazines or wrapping paper. Then make tiny loops from baby ribbon, attach them to the ornaments and hang them up!

For more information, search on the Internet or in your local library's reference section, or take a look at these web pages: "A Victorian Christmas" or "The Victorian Christmas Tree", by Joanne Haug,

Make your own Victorian Christmas decorations! (Part 1)

Image from Godey's Lady's Book, 1860,
During the Victorian era, Christmas and New Year’s traditions began to become more standardized across Western Europe, Canada, and the United States of America, influenced by the popularity of Queen Victoria and the economic, political, and social power of English practices. Christmas was generally celebrated with family, and other social entertainments were often saved for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Many traditions originated in Germany and would likely have remained popular only among those of German ancestry, without the influence of the Queen in deference to her German relatives and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

One such tradition was the use of the Christmas tree. The German Christmas tree has origins that reach back to the 15th century, at least: the German theologian and reformer, Martin Luther, is said to have enjoyed a solitary walk in the woods one snowy night, brought home an evergreen tree, and decorated it with tinsel stars and lighted candles, to give the effect of stars and moonlight shining through the forest, for the entertainment of his family. Pre-Christian Germanic and Celtic cultures also venerated certain trees as symbols of fertility and life. From the mid-18th century, with England’s kings being raised in Germany, certain German traditions – like Christmas trees -- had already entered the country, but did not become popular outside the nobility.

When re-introduced to English society, in 1841, by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, the tradition still reflected that simple memory. Engravings of the royal family around their tree, from the 1860s, show a relatively small tree, perhaps 4 feet tall, standing on a round table, its branches rather sparse by modern standards, the spaces being filled in by homemade ornaments and small lighted candles. These engravings, however, were published in the newly-popular magazines and newspapers of the day, and were largely responsible for making the tradition widely-known both inside and outside England.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in California

Queen Victoria with Mr. Fezziwig at at Fezziwig's Warehouse.
After spending a few weeks doing research and a couple of days frantically sewing, trying to "update"/improve my costume, I attended the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild meeting at the Dickens Fair yesterday. There were a lot of people in costume, which is always fun to see; I saw a few shows including some Middle Eastern dancing, Morris dancing, traditional Celtic dancing, and Victorian ballroom dancing, and had tea at Cuthbert's Tea Shoppe with several other ladies from the Guild. Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and some of their court also appeared at Fezziwig's Warehouse and led the ballroom through several dances, which was fun. I also caught the very beginning of the costume contest (then had to hurry off to keep my appointment with the ladies for tea) and there were some really neat costumes, including some really sweet little tiny girls. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get very many clear pictures from the day, so you'll only see a few posted here.

They say that the venue, The Cow Palace in Daly City, CA, is going to be sold and the land developed for housing or something soon. The Dickens Fair would have to find another venue in order to continue to open each year, which is a difficult thing to do for such a large event. I was glad to be there this year since it might be the last year of the Dickens Fair! The website is for more information. The Fair will run two more weekends in 2008, if anyone can visit. It is a really fun experience!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas-time is approaching!

image from Grandma's graphics.

I don't know about you, but I always feel like baking good things to eat when the weather turns colder. Gingerbread is one of my favorite things to bake (and eat!), especially the soft gingerbread that is almost like a cake. I like to have lemon sauce and whipped cream with it! It's especially good with a nice hot cup of black tea. Here is a Victorian recipe for gingerbread, that contains oatmeal and candied citrus peel, which is an interesting combination. I may have to make some this year!

Ormskirk Gingerbread
[Peterson's Magazine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; February, 1859]
Two pounds flour, one pound butter, one-half pound sifted oatmeal, three-quarters of a pound of moist sugar, one ounce ginger, the same of citrus and candied orange peel, all mixed together; then add one pound of treacle. The whole should be mixed the day before it is intended to be baked.
-- from The Olden Times – Free Vintage Recipes

On another note, I have been working on a gingerbread-type spice cookie recipe for about a year. Basically, taking an American/German/English gingerbread recipe and making it Italian; or conversely, taking an Italian pannetone or spice cake with dried fruit and orange peel, and making it into a rolled cookie. And then cutting it into a donkey shape and decorating it to look like an Italian donkey with a red and yellow saddle and blue ribbon on one ear! I'm about ready to start putting a usable recipe together and testing it (I have almost all the ingredients that I want), and finding a donkey cookie cutter, so maybe I'll have it done by the end of the year ...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Jane Austen on Masterpiece Theatre again!

Late last night I caught the new version of Austen's _Northanger Abbey_ on Masterpiece Classics, and the announcer said that_Mansfield Park_ would be playing next in the series. So, if you missed the Jane Austen series when it debuted last spring, or you'd like a chance to record it or see it again, check your TV listings for next Sunday night, around 11 p.m. I don't know how long they've been re-broadcasting the series this time around, because I've often been watching television late at night on Sundays during the last few weeks and I haven't seen anything until last night.

Here is the PBS website for the series:
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)