Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

Happy times to everybody!  I have some really retro recipes to make your dinners merry and bright.  Caution:  you might receive compliments like “this is how my grandmother made it!”

Curtis & Lee Family Recipe, c. 1760, from Chester, Virginia
[Collected in THE WILLIAMSBURG ART OF COOKERY, Copyright 1938]

Simmer two Pounds of Beef slowly until tender; cool and chop fine. Mix with it two Pounds of stoned Raisins; two Pounds of seedless Raisins, two Pounds of cleaned Currants; one Pound of finely cut Citron; one and a half Pounds of finely cut candied Lemon-peel; four Pounds of Apples which have been peeled, cored and cut fine; two Pounds of finely chopped Beef-suet; two Pounds of light brown Sugar; one Tablespoon each of Cloves and Mace; two Tablespoons of Cinnamon; two grated Nutmegs and one Teaspoon of Salt. Mix all together well, add one Pint of Brandy. Store in a covered stone Jar in a cool Place.

Mrs. Beeton’s, 1859; Recipe No. 1329

Ingredients.– 1 lb. of suet, 1 lb. of currants, 1 lb. of stoned raisins, 8 eggs, 1/2 grated nutmeg, 2 oz. of sliced candied peel, 1 teaspoonful of ground ginger, 1/2 lb. of bread crumbs, 1/2 lb. of flour, 1/2 pint of milk.

Mode.– Chop the suet finely; mix it with the dry ingredients; stir these well together, and add the well-beaten eggs and milk to moisten with. Beat up the mixture well, and should the above proportion of milk not be found to make it of the proper consistency, a little more should be added. Press the pudding into a mould or tie it in a floured cloth, and boil for 5 hours, or rather longer, and serve with brandy-sauce.

Note.– The above pudding may be baked instead of boiled; it should be put into a buttered mould or tin, and baked for about 2 hours; a smaller one would take 1-1/4 hour.


Modern Cookery for Private Families, Eliza Acton, 1845 facsimile reprint with an introduction by Elizabeth Ray [Southover Press:East Sussex] 1993 (p. 359)

Give a good flavour of lemon-rind and bitter almonds, or of cinnamon, is preferred to a pint of new milk, and when it has simmered a sufficient time for this [10-20 min.], strain and mix it with a quarter of a pint of rich cream; sweeten it with four ounces of sugar in lumps, and stir it while still hot to five well-beaten eggs;
throw in a few grains of salt, and move the mixture briskly with a spoon as a glass of brandy is added to it.  Have ready a thickly-buttered dish three layers of think bread and butter cut from a half-quartern loaf, with four ounces of currants, and one and a half of finely shred candied peel, strewed between and over them; pour the eggs and milk on them by degrees, letting the bread absorb one portion before another is added; it should soak for a couple of hours before the pudding is taken to the oven, which should be a moderate one. Half an hour will bake it.
It is very good when made with new milk only; and some persons use no more than a pint of liquid in all, but part of the whites of the eggs my then be omitted. Cream my be substituted for the entire quantity of milk at pleasure.


New milk, 1 pint;
rind of small lemon and 6 bitter almonds bruised (or 1/2 drachm of cinnamon
– call it a heaping quarter-teaspoon, although I like more)
Cream, 1/4 pint;
sugar, 4 oz.;
eggs, 6;
brandy, 1 wineglassful.
Bread and butter, 3 layers;
currants, 4 oz.;
candied orange or lemon-rind, 1-1/2 oz.

3 responses to “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

  1. ‘two Pounds of stoned Raisins’?? Can you even find those (on purpose) anywhere?

    What sort of bread would you recommend for the last pudding? Joanna’s is a bakery in South Miami that makes a cranberry-pecan artisanal bread that’s to die for, without anything added to it – I suspect that might be a bit much for this. 🙂

  2. Hi Corgi! Stoned, as in pitted, raisins with the stones taken out. Happily, they are all that way these days.

    While plain white bread will work, whole grain is better. Your Joanna’s cranberry-pecan bread sounds loverly and if you happen to have some that has gone a bit dry you should really face that peril. However, I’m the kind of control freak who wants to add my own ingredients. [Please sir, may I have some more?] Other dried fruit and even nuts would be worthy additions, try it out and let us know how it goes. I have a mort of candied ginger and orange peel left over from the holidays.

  3. Oh, I thought it meant stone-left-in, in this case (crunchy!) because the next item is seedless raisins, and that was the only distinction which came to mind. Currants are still seeded, I think, and give that different mouth-feel.

    My father helped me candy peel once when I was young and curious about it. 🙂

    Don’t know when I’ll get a chance to try this – I still have to reformat my kitchen somehow and I’m at a loss how to start.

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