This recipe for a Victorian fruit cake skips the poor-quality candied fruit that gives some pre-made modern fruitcakes a bad reputation (especially in the US). Instead, fresh coconut, citron and almonds fill this cake to bursting with natural flavors and textures.
Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.
This holiday season, Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman is helping us celebrate all things Victorian, especially recipes! Keep reading to find links to the Victorian holiday recipes we’ve shared recently.
In this post: a fruit cake that lives up to its history as a rich, flavorful dessert that’s worthy of the season.
Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.
Victorian Fruit Cake Recipe
Sarah Chrisman shared this recipe for a white fruit cake with us, along with this picture of her cracking a coconut in preparation for making this dish:
“Stir to a cream one pound of butter and one pound of powdered sugar.
Add the beaten yolks of twelve eggs, one pound of flour and two teaspoons of baking powder.
Grate one coconut, blanch and chop one-half pound of almonds, and slice one-half pound of citron and stir into the stiffly beaten white of the eggs and add to the batter.
Put in pan lined with buttered paper, and bake slowly two hours.”
-By Mrs. W.S. Standish, Plymouth Union Cook Book, 1894. pp. 56-57.
Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to blanch almonds:
What is Citron?
It’s a citrus fruit that is something like a lemon. According to this blog post on using citron in fruitcakes, it’s not always easy to find fresh citrons, but you can ask at your best local markets for a supplier near you or look for high-quality prepared citron that can be shipped to you.
Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman will join host Lisa Louise Cooke in the December Genealogy Gems and Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts to talk about her everyday Victorian lifestyle.
Victorian lifestyle expert and author Sarah Chrisman shares favorite–and authentic–recipes for tangy homemade cranberry sauce (served hot or cold) and a hearty vegetable hash.
Sarah Chrisman, who lives every day like it’s Victorian times and writes about it in several books, is the current featured author for the Genealogy Gems Book Club. She’ll join both the Genealogy Gems podcast and the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December to talk about Victorian-style holidays and her books, including This Victorian Life.
In the coming weeks, Sarah will share her favorite mouth-watering, made-from-scratch Victorian recipes here on the Genealogy Gems blog. Some of her recipes come straight from cookbooks of the time period, and others she has adapted for modern kitchens and tastes.
Below, she shares a simple recipe for tangy cranberry sauce, simmered from whole, fresh cranberries, and a hot, hearty vegetable hash side dish, which Sarah calls “a good way to use up leftovers after the holiday!”
“Pick over and wash two cupfuls of fine cranberries. Put them in an earthen dish, pour over a cup of sugar, add a cupful of boiling water, cover, and cook gently nearly an hour. Serve hot or cold.”
-From Catering for Two, by Alice L. James. G.P. Putnam’s Sons: New York and London. (n.d.) p. 178.
Note: the above edition of Catering for Two isn’t dated, but a first edition found online is dated 1898.
Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.
Chop rather coarsely the remains of vegetables left from a boiled dinner, such as cabbage, parsnips, potatoes, etc.
Sprinkle over them a little pepper.
Place in a saucepan or frying-pan over the fire.
Put in a piece of butter the size of a hickory nut.
When it begins to melt, tip the dish so as to oil the bottom, and around the sides.
Then put in the chopped vegetables.
Pour in a spoonful or two of hot water from the tea-kettle.
Cover quickly so as to keep in the steam.
When heated thoroughly take off the cover and stir occasionally until well cooked.
“Persons fond of vegetables will relish this dish very much.”
–The Capitol Cook Book, 1896, p. 188
More Recipes for a Very Victorian Holiday Season
Click here to see last week’s Victorian-era recipe for a rich roasted turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy. (We even included a quick how-to video tutorial for trussing the turkey!)
This Victorian pumpkin pie recipe calls for milk instead of cream, an economical choice that results in a lighter, more delicate pie than we often taste today.
This holiday season, Victorian expert Sarah Chrisman is sharing her favorite holiday recipes with us. This week: a Victorian take on the classic pumpkin pie. Reformatted in modern recipe style, here is the original recipe for 3 pies, followed by Sarah’s version, adapted for modern cooks making a single pie.
Victorian Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman
1 qt rich milk (a little cream is a great improvement)
3 cups boiled and strained pumpkin
2 cups sugar
little piece of butter
1 Tbsp ginger and cinnamon (scant)
1. Mix milk, pumpkin, sugar, butter, ginger and cinnamon.
2. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks thoroughly and stir into above mixture.
3. Beat the whites to a froth and add to mixture just before putting the pie in the oven.
4. Have a rich crust and bake in a quick oven.
Should you desire to use squash instead, you can make equally as good a pie as with the pumpkin. Makes 3 pies.
– From The Women’s Exchange Cookbook. 1890s, p. 250.
Sarah’s version of Victorian Pumpkin Pie: Ingredients
Pie crust for 10″ pie
1 cup pumpkin, cooked and mashed
1 tsp. butter
1 cup milk + 1/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1. Bake the pie crust unfilled, with pie weights holding down the middle, for about 7 minutes. (If the filling is added to a raw pie crust then baked, it makes the crust a bit soggy.)
2. Cook and mash the pumpkin.
3. Stir in the butter while the pumpkin is still warm. Let this mixture cool thoroughly (preferably overnight).
4. Mix in the ginger, cinnamon, milk, cream, and egg yolk.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the pumpkin mixture and pour it into the pie shell.
6. Bake 40 minutes (or until edges are set) at 375 degrees. Cool overnight before cutting.
Here’s what Sarah has to say about this recipe: “This pumpkin pie is made primarily with milk instead of cream for economy’s sake—milk being much cheaper than cream, then as now. The result is a much lighter and more delicate pumpkin pie than most. With very little cream it doesn’t have the heavy, custard texture of most pumpkin pie, but instead gets its body from the egg whites.”
“This recipe comes from an 1890s Woman’s Exchange cookbook. (My copy is in pretty bad shape and is unfortunately missing an exact date to document its publication.)
Women’s Exchanges were organized by middle- and upper-class Victorian women as a way to help poorer women earn money and improve their situations. The organizers would suggest which products were able to be made at home and most marketable in their particular community; then they provided a venue for the sale of those products.
Foods of all sorts were particularly popular products for sale at Women’s Exchanges. Recipes in Women’s Exchange cookbooks were designed especially with economy in mind, so that the financially challenged women making them could a.) afford the ingredients and b.) realize the biggest possible profit when they sold the finished product.”
Victorian bicycles like the “Ordinary” high-wheel and the woman’s racing tricycle were anything but ordinary! Check out this video footage of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman and her husband Gabriel on their high-wheels–and Gabriel’s demonstrations of how to ride a high-wheel Victorian bicycle.
Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman live like it’s Victorian times. Their dress, home life, household appliances, daily technology use (except for communicating with the rest of the world as needed) and even their daily transportation choices are all driven by what would have been done in the 1880s and 1890s.
Victorian Bicycles About Town
Check out this footage (below) of the couple “about town” on their Victorian bicycles. Gabriel launches himself onto a high-wheel “Ordinary” style bicycle. He rides a modern replica of an 1885 Victor with a 52″ wheel (the bicycle is sized to his leg length, like a man’s trousers) and an 1887 Singer Challenge. Sarah trails along on a modern re-creation inspired by a Coventry Rudge Rotary tricycle from the 1880s. They talk about what they do and why–and the message they hope others will take away from their unusual lifestyle.
Victorian Bicycles vs. Present Day Cycling
Gabriel has over 20-years’ experience working in a bike shop (a modern one), and enjoys comparing past and present cycling models. In an interview at Bicycling.com, he explains: “I’m a long-time cyclist with lower back issues—I can sit on this bike and be perfectly vertical and upright, which is wonderful for comfort, and you get a better view. One of the things I always used road riding for is meditation, and riding a high-wheel bike is an excellent bike for that—it’s just a magical experience gliding along and feeling the rhythm of everything.”
Below, Gabriel demonstrates how to mount his 1887 Singer Challenge high-wheel bicycle:
And here he shows off just a little, riding with one leg (we’re impressed):
Victorian Bicylces for the Ladies
Victorian Bicycles: A couple seated on an 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two. Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain; click to view.
Sarah’s tricycle was originally made to accommodate ladies’ fashions of the day: long, full skirts that would have gotten caught in the spokes of an Ordinary and pantalet drawers with open crotches that would have revealed more than a lady would prefer if she were seated on a taller Ordinary. A “bicycle built for two” quadracycle version was also made, shown here.
“There were a number of different styles of tricycles in the nineteenth-century,” Sarah explains on the couple’s website. “On many models the rider sat between two large wheels and a third, smaller wheel was seen out front or behind the rider. However finely they were made though, all the metal and solid rubber on those large wheels adds up to a lot of weight, so an asymmetrical model was developed. The Rudge Rotary (which inspired mine) was known for its lightness and speed and gained a reputation as a racing trike. The right-hand grip turns the two smaller wheels in tandem with each other: They steer it. The big wheel drives the machine: It gets turned when the treadles go ’round.”
This Victorian Life at Genealogy Gems
Learn more about Sarah and Gabriel’s unusual lifestyle in Sarah’s memoir, This Victorian Life. She will discuss that book and Victorian life in general in an upcoming Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with host Lisa Louise Cooke. You can catch highlights from that conversation in our free December epiosde of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, and the exclusive full length interview on the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast (episode 142). Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more about Premium membership benefits–not least of which is access to unique conversations such as this one!
Bonus Genealogy Gems Book Club recommendations: Sarah has also written other books about Victorian life, including a “Cycling Club Romance” series inspired by their own experience with the Victorian-era cycling craze. Click on the book covers below to learn more about them. (And if you choose to purchase, thanks for doing so using these links, which support more free content like this.)