I have wanted to write about this wonderful recipe book since this summer, when I found it in the much-loved Scottish cottage spouse and I usually spend our holidays: Farmhouse Fare. Recipes from Country Housewives by Farmers Weekly, originally published in 1935, reprinted in 1976.
Before typing these lines, I wondered if, and as I supposed the answer would be yes, how in our difficult economic times housewives (male and female) are trying to make ends meet. But then my computer screen started to scream: ASK JAMIE, STUPID!
Yes, the row has reached the Dutch shores all right. For those not in the know: Jamie Oliver, famous British chef, has made some less sensible remarks about poor people, big tellies and bad eating habits while promoting his new book and TV series Save with Jamie. Shop smart. Cook clever. Waste Less. He has apologized and said that, though he doesn’t always say the right thing, he has the best intentions. Let’s believe him, even if it’s a pity the book is well above the means of those for whom it is intended (£26). (When is the last time you have done something for the poor? Or I, for that matter?)
In the 1930s country housewives made ends meet without much of a fuss. Everything was used: berries, drippings, the pulp left in a jelly bag, a sheep’s head, rooks (breast and legs only, the other parts being way too bitter). Farmhouse Fare provides numerous recipes for meat dishes (see, e.g., the chapter on Pig Curing and By-Products), preserves, cakes and other sweet bits, but no luxury here and no fancy ingredients. Sultanas, nutmeg, and ginger are the main flavourings. Maybe you consider cream a luxury. They sure didn’t. They almost drowned in dairy products. Puddings are always said to be ‘delicious with hot milk poured over it.’ Mind you, they even put milk in their tea.
Before revealing their drinks business, let me share with you one recipe by Miss H. Stuart of Wigtownshire, Scotland: Hatted Kit. Do not despair if you don’t happen to have a cow at hand.
‘Warm slightly over the fire two pints of buttermilk. Pour it into a dish and carry it to the side of a cow. Milk into it about 1 pint of milk, having previously put into the dish sufficient rennet for the whole.
After allowing it to stand for a while, lift the curd, place it on a sieve, and press the whey through until the curd is quite stiff. Season with sugar and nutmeg before serving. Whip some thick cream, season it also with a little grated nutmeg and sugar, and mix gently with the curd. This dish can quite well be made without milking the cow into it, although direct milking puts a better “hat” on the Kit.’
I rest my case. Let’s focus instead on some non-lactose drinks that are more in line with the theme of this blog. As nearby off licences were rare, the country housewives brew the booze themselves. Not from grapes but from, well, what not: agrimony, red clover, crab apple, elderflower, parsnip (‘an excellent imitation of champagne’) and the outside pieces of celery:
‘There is always a waste of the outside pieces of celery: here is a recipe which makes from them an excellent wine, and is also good for those who suffer from rheumatism. (…) leave for a year and bottle off when it will be ready for use.’
For some reason I didn’t pen down Mrs. Scarlett’s instructions but you need not worry. ‘Celery wine’ gives almost 6,000 hits. The tradition is still thriving, so it seems, though I bet whole celery stalks are used nowadays, not just the outside pieces.
Farmhouse Fare is for sale via Amazon, for £2.81 (that is inclusive of £2.80 UK delivery). Hope to receive mine soon.
(Previously posted on my blogspot site, September 2013)