Holiday Traditions: From Regency England to Present Day

I smile as I type this post today, because it is with great fondness that I look back on some of my childhood memories.

When I was six or seven and we gathered around the table on Christmas Eve to eat lamb and fruitcake and Yorkshire pudding, I hardly realized one day I’d be writing books set near the Regency Period of British history. So there I was, a young child scrunching up my nose at the funny shaped golden blobs that didn’t resemble pudding at all but were called pudding, grumbling that the lamb tasted funny, and complaining that thew fruitcake didn’t look much like cake. But my English grandmother beamed throughout the entire meal, telling us how she used to eat these foods every Christmas when she was growing up.

During Regency days, goose, venison and beef would have been the prevalent meat at Christmas feasts, not lamb. Yorkshire pudding was a common food for the lower classes, and wouldn’t have been served in aristocratic households. But these food were around (along with other familiar Christmas foods like eggnog and gingerbread) and somehow they filtered across the Atlantic with my great grandparents and down through the years onto our dining room table when I was younger. The thought makes me want to whip up a batch of Yorkshire pudding and introduce it to my family this year.

So now I’m curious about you and your holiday traditions. Last week Kristi posted on Christmas carols that we still sing today, and Laurie Alice posted recipes for chocolate drops, confectionery drops, and white soup that many of us probably still enjoy come the holiday season.

What Regency traditions do you and your families take part in come Christmas time?

Christmas Candy Regency Style by Laurie Alice Eakes

Confectioner's Shop

We are so used to those luscious candies we justify eating at Christmas time—fudge, Godiva chocolates, cherry cordials, etc.—that we don’t consider how little chocolate was available during the Regency, and certainly not in cream-filled or even buttery forms. Mostly, chocolate was for drinking.

Here, however, are two recipes for candies that might have been made at Christmas time—confectionary and chocolate drops.

 

 

 

To Make Confectionary Drops

Dutch cocoa

Take double refined sugar, pound and sift it through a hair sieve, not too fine; then sift it through a silk sieve to take out all the fine dust which would destroy the beauty of the drop.  Put the sugar into a clean pan, and moisten it with any favourite aromatic…Colour it with a small quantity of liquid carmine, or any other colour, ground fine. Take a small pan with a lip, fill it three parts with paste, place it on a small stove, the half hole being the size of the pan, and stir the sugar with a little ivory or bone handle, until it becomes liquid.  When it almost boils, take it from the fire and continue to stir it: if it be too moist, take a little of the powdered sugar, and add a spoonful to the paste, and stir it till it is of such a consistence as to run without too much extension.  Have a tin plate, very clean and smooth; take the little pan in the left hand, and hold in the right a bit of iron, copper, or silver wire, four inches long, to take off the drop from the lip of the pan, and let it fall regularly on the tin plate; two hours afterwards, take off the drops with the blade of a knife.

Carl Larsson (1853-1919) - 1904-05 Christmas Eve (National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden)

To Make Chocolate Drops

Scrape the chocolate to powder, and put an ounce to each pound of sugar; moisten the paste with clear water, work it as above, only take care to use all the paste prepared, as if it be put on the fire a second time, it greases, and the drop is not of the proper thickness.

Note: A pound of sugar is about 2 cups by modern measurements. I have no idea how much an ounce of cocoa powder is, but this would be like Hershey’s cocoa powder for baking.

 

And if you want something a little more nutritious to serve before the chocolate, here is a recipe for White Soup that says it is good for all seasons:

WHITE SOUP

1/4 lb. of sweet almonds, 1/4 lb. of cold veal or poultry, a thick slice of stale bread, a piece of fresh lemon-peel, 1 blade of mace, pounded, 3/4 pint of cream, the yolks of 2 hard-boiled eggs, 2 quarts of white stock.

Reduce the almonds in a mortar to a paste, with a spoonful of water, and add to them the meat, which should be previously pounded with the bread.

Beat all together, and add the lemon-peel, very finely chopped, and the mace.

Pour the boiling stock on the whole, and simmer for an hour. Rub the eggs in the cream, put in the soup, bring it to a boil, and serve immediately.

Time – 1-1/2 hour.