Victorian Era is known for the vast developments that took place changing the political and economic structure of England. Christmas was an important celebration in the lives of the Victorian people, same as it is today. It was an occasion to bestow others with gifts.
How was Victorian era Christmas Celebration?
Christmas food was served after the family had attended the church. The dining table during Christmas was decorated with flowers, evergreens, and linens. The Christmas Dinner was the highlight of the day wherein meals would be served in large quantities.
The Christmas food was very lavish and extravagant. It included fowl or a roasted goose, pudding, standing rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding, boars head, ham, turkey, oysters, potatoes, pies like cranberry and mince, plum pudding and many other items. The roasted goose was also served with Sage and Onion dressing.
During Queen Victoria’s reign, in North, during Christmas celebrations, the centerpiece on the table was the roasted beef, while in the South, the goose was kept in the center of the table. Also, in wealthy families, turtle soup was served. There was, however, variation in the kind of food people preferred to have during Christmas. This difference was primarily based on the part of the country or region that people lived in.
The serving of the pudding was regarded very highly in the Victorian times and was an essential ritual. The entire family would actively participate in preparing the Plum pudding made of suet, bread crumbs, raisins, and spices. This pudding required plenty of time to cook so people normally started preparing it a few days in advance.
This pudding was kept to set itself until the Christmas day and was then boiled in beef broth. Christmas cake and Mince Pie were other popular desserts preferred during the Christmas Eve. After dinner, people lit firecrackers and celebrated Christmas. The Victorians also indulged in other activities like singing and playing games.
Authentic Christmas Food Recipes
Note that these food recipes are NOT limited to England, but include USA and Canada.
HOT BRANDY AND RUM PUNCH
1 qt. rum, dark if possible
1 qt. cognac or brandy
1 lb. sugar, cubes if available
3 qts. boiling water
1 tsp. nutmeg
Rub the sugar [if cubed] over the lemons until it has absorbed all the yellow part of the skins, then put the sugar into a punch bowl. Pour in the boiling water, stirring well. Add the rum, brandy and nutmeg, mix again, and the punch will be ready to serve.
From Bon-Vivant’s Companion by Jerry Thomas, 1862
1 square chocolate
1/4 cup sugar
Dash of salt
2 cups boiling water
1 cup milk & cream, mixed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups hot coffee
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler. Add sugar, salt, and boiling water. Stir for about 5 minutes. Pour in milk and cream. Do not let it boil. Add vanilla and hot coffee. For a cold drink, add a pint of vanilla ice cream. Mix in a big bowl with electric mixer. Top with whipped cream and use a candy cane for a stirrer.
Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing
Clean the turkey and lard the breast. Throw fifty large chestnuts into boiling water for a few minutes; then take them up, and rub off the thin, dark skin. Cover them with boiling water and simmer for an hour; take them up, and mash finely. Chop one pound of veal and half a pound of salt pork very fine. Add half of the chestnuts to this, and add, also, half a teaspoonful of pepper, two tablespoonfuls of salt, and one cupful of stock or water. Stuff the turkey with this. Truss and roast. Serve with a chestnut sauce. The remaining half of the chestnuts are for this sauce.
To Cook A Ham
Boil it three or four hours, according to size; then skin the whole and fit it for the table; then set in the oven for half an hour, cover it thickly with pounded rusk or bread-crumbs, and set back for half an hour longer. Boiled ham is always improved by setting it in an oven for nearly an hour, until much of the fat dries out, and it also makes it more tender.
The Practical Housekeeper, a Cyclopedia of Domestic Economy by Elizabeth Fries Ellet, 1857.
Lettice Bryant Ham Stuffing #1
Make a stuffing of equal portions of minced onions, bread crumbs and grated ham season it with butter, salt, pepper, and sage; make it moist with sweet milk, and work it together till it is well incorporated.
[Gravy]: Having boiled the heart and liver, mince them fine, and put them in the drippings, with a large spoonful of brown flour, and a few minced sage leaves; do not pour it round the goose, but serve it in a boat, and have upon the table apple sauce, or stewed peaches, and green peas or mashed potatoes.
Ham Stuffing a la Bryant #2
Prepare a goose as before directed, fill it with white potatoes, which have been boiled tender, mashed fine, and highly seasoned with salt, pepper, butter and cream.
[Gravy]: In the mean time, take some scraps or trimmings of fresh beef, or veal, stew them in a small quantity of water, till the gravy is extracted, strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, add to it two spoonfuls of butter, one of flour, two minced onions, a few minced sage leaves, a teaspoonful of pepper, a grated nutmeg, a glass of port wine, and the giblets, which should be previously boiled and minced fine. When the goose is well done, serve it with applesauce and smoked tongue.
One quart of oysters, one pint of milk, two tablespoonfuls of butter, one teacupful of hot water; pepper, salt. Strain the liquor from the oysters, add the water, and place over a hot fire in a granite kettle. When near the boil, add salt, then the oysters. Cook about five minutes from the time they begin to simmer, until they’ ‘ruffle.” Stir in the butter, let come to a boil and pour into the tureen. Stir in the boiling milk, and send to the table. All water can be used in place of milk if preferred.
When your potatoes are thoroughly boiled, drain them quite dry, pick out every speck, and while hot, rub them through a colander into a clean stew-pan. To a pound of potatoes put about half an ounce of butter, and a tablespoonful of milk: do not make them too moist, mix them well together. After Lady-day [note: March 25, one of the traditional “quarter days” of the English calendar], when the potatoes are getting old and specky, and in frosty weather, this is the best way of dressing them. You may put them into shapes or small tea-cups; egg them with yolk of egg, and brown them very slightly before a slow fire.
Potatoes mashed with Onions
Prepare some boiled onions by putting them through a sieve, and mix them with potatoes. In proportioning the onions to the potatoes, you will be guided by your wish to have more or less of their flavour.
Colcannon (mashed potatoes with spinach)
Boil potatoes and greens, or spinach, separately; mash the potatoes, squeeze the greens dry; chop them quite fine and mix them with the potatoes, with a little butter, pepper and salt; put it into a mould, buttering it well first; let it stand in a hot oven for ten minutes.
Mix mashed potatoes with the yolk of an egg; roll them into balls; flour them, or egg and bread-crumb them; and fry them in clean drippings, or brown them in a Dutch oven.
Potato Balls Ragout
Are made by adding to a pound of potatoes a quarter of a pound of grated ham, or some sweet herbs, or chopped parsley, an onion or eschalot, salt, pepper, and a little grated nutmeg or other spice, with the yelk of a couple of eggs: then are then to be dressed as [Potato Balls, above.]
Sweet Potato Pie
Two pounds of potatoes will make two pies. Boil the potatoes soft; peel and mash fine through a cullender while hot; one tablespoonful of butter to be mashed in with the potato. Take five eggs and beat the yelks and whites separate and add one gill of milk; sweeten to taste; squeeze the juice of one orange, and grate one-half of the peel into the liquid. One half teaspoonful of salt in the potatoes. Have only one crust and that at the bottom of the plate. Bake quickly.
Abby Fisher. What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking. Women’s Co-operative Printing Office:San Francisco, 1881
Sweet Potato Pudding
12 oz. sugar
1/4 lb (1 stick) butter
1 lb. flour
2 oz. ginger
1/4 oz. cinnamon
1/4 oz. cloves
Take twelve ounces of pounded loaf sugar, a quarter of a pound of fresh butter, one pound of dried flour, two ounces of pounded ginger, and of cloves and cinnamon a quarter of an ounce each. Mix the ginger and the spice with the flour, put the sugar and a small tea-cup full of water into a saucepan; when it is dissolved, add the butter, and as soon as it is melted, mix it with the flour and other things; work it up, and form the paste into cakes or nuts, and bake them upon tins.
From The Cook’s Own Book by “A Boston Housekeeper” (Mrs. N. K. M. Lee) Boston 1832
Father Christmas Shortbread
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
Candies or dried currants for garnish
In a large bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat until blended. Gradually beat the dry ingredients into the butter mixture at low speed. Mixing well after each addition and scraping the beaters frequently. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Using a rubber spatula to lift and turn the dough. Gently knead it until it is smooth and forms a ball. Divide the dough in half. Gather each half into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough. 1 ball at a time, to a thickness of ½ inch. Cut with 2 ½- or 3-inch cookie cutters. Put the cookies on unbuttered baking sheets. Garnish them with candies or dried currants. Bake on a low rack for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cookies begin to color lightly. They should not brown. Cool them on a rack. Store them in airtight containers.
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar (for rolling)
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix flour and baking powder into mixture. Chill. Roll and cut out Nativity shapes. Sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 12 minutes.
1/4 lb. butter
1/2 pint milk
1/2 c. brandy
Strip of pie crust
Stew a fine sweet pumpkin till soft and dry; rub it through a sieve, mix with the pulp six eggs [beaten] quite light, a quarter of a pound of butter, half a pint of new milk, some pounded ginger and nutmeg, a wine glass of brandy, and sugar to your taste. Should it be too liquid, stew it a little drier, put a paste [strip of pie dough] round the edge, and in the bottom of a shallow dish or plate–pour in the mixture, cut some thin bits of paste, twist them, and lay them across the top, and bake it nicely.
From The Virginia Housewife or, Methodical Cook, by Mary Randolph, 1841