Tried and Tested: Historic Christmas Recipes

As F Yeah History’s resident baker I’ve been tasked with testing out festive food recipes from across the ages, that you can bring to your next Christmas party.

Because why bring a bottle of wine when you can bring a Tudor cocktail and some Victorian mince pies?

Today we’ll be trying out: 

  • Tudor Butter Beer
  • Stuart Sweet Meats 
  • Victorian Mince Pies
  • 1950s cranberry salad (btw, I am being very kind by calling this a salad) 

So, lets get started!!!!

Tudor Butter Beer – 1588

You read that right – BUTTER BEER  

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Harry potter, history and booze!! THE DREAM

This drink is from 1588s The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchen. It’s essentially a caudle, so is designed to both be warming, boozy and medicinal (by Tudor standards…)

First I took 3 bottles of ale (for those UK based folk, I used Black Sheep, as its nice and dark but is still a blank slate for the upcoming flavours!)

Then I popped it on the hob and put in some ground clove, ginger and nutmeg.

Whilst this was bubbling away I whisked 5 egg yolks with 200g of brown sugar, mixed that with the ale and then let it thicken for a bit.

Thats right…this drink contains actual butter..

Once it was nice and thick, I took it off the hob and mixed in 100g butter.I repeat: this recipe calls for you to drink butter. Healthy, the tudors were not.

After getting some nice artery clogging whisked in there, I bought the mix to the boil for 10 mins and then let cool slightly before pouring into glasses: IMG_0922.jpg

Yep…that is full layer of butter floating on top. If Harry Potter and his pals are having this butter beer with every meal…they’re dead at 15.

How did it taste? 

When you get past the butter (by either scooping it out or making sure the beer is always moving…) it tastes ok.

But not ok enough to take minimum one year off my life with every sip.

Out of 10, I give Tudor Butter Beer:
1/10: Because I want to live.


A Dish of Steakes of Mutton, smoored in a Frying-panne – 1615

A huge thanks to the lovely folks at Hampton Court for giving me this Stuart recipe for booze soaked sweet pan fried lamb.

This dish comes from John Murrell’s ‘New booke of Cookerie’ (1615) and has managed to get all festive food stuffs into one dish.

It’s an impressive (if terrifying) combination of sugary sweetness, alcohol, butter and meat. Lets find out if it works!

Here’s the recipe: 

Take your Legge of Mutton cut into Steakes + put it into a Frying-pan, with a pinte of White—Wine, smoore them somewhat browne: then put them into a Pipkin: Cut a lemmon in slices, and throw it in: then take a good quantity of Butter + hold it over the fire: when it is ready to frie put in a handful of Parsley, and when it is fryed, put it into the Pipkin and boyle all together. This Dish should be garnished with Sinamon, Sugar, and sliced Lemmons.

OK, so for this recipe I bought lamb steaks (because fuck carving up a mutton leg):

In a feat of festive peak I’ve tried to make raw meat festive for you…

I tenderised the steaks a bit and then popped a pan on a high heat. When the pan was piping hot I bunged in the lamb and then poured over a pint of white wine.

Whilst the lamb hung out in it’s booze bath I poured myself a nice hefty glass of the left over wine, because we’re only 2 dishes in and already I want to sit down and have a little cry. Image-1-3.jpg

The recipe said to cook the lamb in its wine bath until it’s browned. Now, you guys:

It turns out lamb cooking in white wine smells disgusting. 

But I am nothing if not dedicated, so I febreezed the shit out of my kitchen and nursed the lamb until it turned brown, like a good little Stuart cook would.

Truly I am that hero and you best believe I have the strength to carry on

FINALLY I got to  take the lamb out of it’s wine bath.

Then I refried it with some butter, popped it on a plate and sprinkled over cinnamon and sugar, before finally placing some decorative lemon slices around my masterpiece: Image-1-2.jpg

So how did it taste? 

Not great…but not awful, it was just a very sad kind of meh.

Considering how artery clogging (and stinky) the final product is, it’s a massive bloody let down. If you’re giving your heart that much of a kicking, you at least want some flavour to write home about.

Oh…it also stank out my house and leaves a really nasty aftertaste that stays for around an hour after eating. Impressive when you factor in how blah the actual taste is.

Out of 10 I give A Dish of Steakes of Mutton, smoored in a Frying-panne:A thoroughly underwhelming (but stanky) 3/10 


Victorian Mince Pies – 1854 

Mince pies have been a part of Christmas for yonks; the only difference to todays mince pies? Well, that would be the meat!

For centuries (since the medieval period) sweet was mixed with savoury when it came to pies. During celebrations in particular, pies that were sweetly spiced and meaty were all the rage.

The Victorians were no different and today I’ll be using an 1854 recipe from Eliza Acton; a cook for a big stately home in the UK called Audley End.

Her recipe uses ox tongue, but suggests beef as a replacement. As I was making a beef stew anyway (and I’m pretty sure my local Tesco Metro doesn’t stock tongue) I went with beef! Image-1-4So I slow cooked my beef, then chopped it up into small chunks and set it aside.

Next was the main part: making the rest of the mincemeat. 

Now (no surprise) I’m a giant fucking nerd! So every year I use Eliza Acton’s mincemeat recipe to make a huge batch of Victorian style mincemeat (sans actual meat…) to go in my mince pies. This meant I had some ready to go.

Here’s what goes in it (btw- it makes enough for many many jars worth)900g Raisins, 900g Minced Apples, 900g Suet (you can use shortening as a substitute), 1.1kg Currants, 1.1kg Caster Sugar, 450g Candied Peel, 2 Lemons, Salt, 2 Grated Nutmegs, 1 tbsp Ginger, 1tsp Pounded Mace, 300ml Sherry (or Madeira), 300ml Brandy.

I took some of my ready made mincemeat and mixed in the beef I prepared earlier

Looking delicious..😷

Then I made some simple short crust pastry as suggested in Eliza’s recipe (using lard instead of butter, salt and no sugar because the Victorians love sadness apparently) rolled it out and made it into little pies:

I was going to make 12…but lets be real…nobody is eating 12 of these!

I put them in the oven at 180 for 25 mins and when they came out they looked like this: Image-1-2 copy 2.jpgThey look good! But…

How did it taste? 

Initially ok…and then you got a big ol’ chewey hunk of beef. I didn’t know if this was just me, so I got my boyfriend to taste test this. He spat some out and then proceeded to look very sad for a while after. Not what you want in a festive treat.

Basically these mince pies are the food equivalent of finding out Father Christmas isn’t real.

At first everything is all lovely and cosy and sweet…and then you bite into some secret beef and it’s all wrong; everything you ever knew and trusted about Christmas is gone.

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Anger, sadness, confusion, these mince pies have it all

Out of 10 I give Victorian mince pies: 4/10 because the mincemeat (sans meat) is great… but many points deducted for being a deceitful desert.  


Jellied Cranberry Salad, 1950s 

Now I know what your thinking. These historic christmas dishes have all been great, but what historic festive goodies do I take to a holiday party full of health nuts?

Don’t worry, I got you! 

In the 50s and 60s, companies regularly advertised their products with handy recipe guides. It’s a festive edition of one of these guides, by cranberry sauce company, Ocean Spray, that this next recipe comes from: IMG_0882
Now, the first thing I did to prepare this salad was making some gelatine (standard salad practice)

Once my gelatine mixture was nice and semi-set, I mixed in some chopped pineapple, oranges and of course a hefty lump of cranberry sauce.

Then I left it to set for several hours.

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Half a day later this monstrosity lovely fruit jelly was waiting for me.

Now, I know what your thinking. This doesn’t look like a salad, it’s not going to fly with my healthy friends.

Well check this out: Image-1-4Yeah, that plate is quite literally dripping with jellied health.

So we have leaves and lovely emulsified fruit things, its all looking great, except for one thing…it just isn’t festive!

But don’t worry, the good folks at Ocean Spray thought about that and suggest that you top off your salad with a wonderful cream cheese christmas bow!

This is the best cheese piping work you will ever see!

The best thing about this is that it doubles up as a both a christmas present shaped salad AND a salad that sort of looks like a really sad elephant. That my friends is multitasking.

So how did it taste?

You know what…it tasted fine. It tasted like cranberry jelly with fruit in, which is good, because thats basically what it was.

Admittedly I did scrape the cream cheese christmas bow off, but bar that, fine.

Out of 10 I give jellied cranberry salad: 7/10: It’s the perfect holiday dish to give to people you hate.

This was great! Where can I find out more? Well, if you’d like to see more of me trying out things from history and then immediately regretting all my life choices, you can check out this post: The time I tried out a load of historic lipsticks and had a mini breakdown. 

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