Victorian Food: The Delectable Sausage Roll

This post is a reboot of one published on October 1.  The original disappeared after a website snafu, but thanks to my RSS feed on Goodreads, the sausage roll recipe is not gone forever, and I have received a helpful reminder to back up my blog posts…

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As the weather turns cooler, my poodles race around like maniacs and I start to bake. Yesterday was no exception. After a week of 80-plus degree heat, the temps finally sank to a respectable 63 degrees and I went digging for my cake pans. I made sausage rolls along with mashed potatoes and onion gravy, steamed English peas, and a Victoria sandwich for dessert. Comfort food at its best.

I’ve already posted about the Victoria sandwich here so today we’ll talk about the sausage roll. Although stuffing sausage in a bread-like cover has been a practice for centuries, no recipe for sausage rolls appeared prior to 1842 (at least that I can find). Since that one is reprinted in a 20-year old English cookbook I can’t get my hands on without paying overseas postage, I have no idea where the recipe came from. My beloved Mrs. Beeton, however, published a recipe for sausage rolls in her 1861 Book of Household Management, which looks very much like the recipes in use today:

MEAT OR SAUSAGE ROLLS. 
1373. INGREDIENTS – 1 lb. of puff-paste No. 1206, sausage-meat No. 837, the yolk of 1 egg.
Mode.—Make 1 lb. of puff-paste by recipe No. 1206; roll it out to the thickness of about 1/2 inch, or rather less, and divide it into 8, 10, or 12 squares, according to the size the rolls are intended to be. Place some sausage-meat on one-half of each square, wet the edges of the paste, and fold it over the meat; slightly press the edges together, and trim them neatly with a knife. Brush the rolls over with the yolk of an egg, and bake them in a well-heated oven for about 1/2 hour, or longer should they be very large. The remains of cold chicken and ham, minced and seasoned, as also cold veal or beef, make very good rolls.
Time.—1/2 hour, or longer if the rolls are large.
Average cost, 1s. 6d.
Sufficient.—1 lb. of paste for 10 or 12 rolls.
Seasonable, with sausage-meat, from September to March or April.

Mrs. B’s sausage recipe is also similar to the one I used. Sausage recipes vary immensely from region to region, and Mrs. B points out this one is from Oxford:

TO MAKE SAUSAGES. 
(Author’s Oxford Recipe.)
837. INGREDIENTS – 1 lb. of pork, fat and lean, without skin or gristle; 1 lb. of lean veal, 1 lb. of beef suet, 1/2 lb. of bread crumbs, the rind of 1/2 lemon, 1 small nutmeg, 6 sage-leaves, 1 teaspoonful of pepper, 2 teaspoonfuls of salt, 1/2 teaspoonful of savory, 1/2 teaspoonful of marjoram.
Mode.—Chop the pork, veal, and suet finely together, add the bread crumbs, lemon-peel (which should be well minced), and a small nutmeg grated. Wash and chop the sage-leaves very finely; add these with the remaining ingredients to the sausage-meat, and when thoroughly mixed, either put the meat into skins, or, when wanted for table, form it into little cakes, which should be floured and fried.
Average cost, for this quantity, 2s. 6d.
Sufficient for about 30 moderate-sized sausages.
Seasonable from October to March.

I cheated and used frozen puff pastry (because my fall baking energy only goes so far), but if you want Mrs. B’s puff-paste recipe, there are two versions here, along with a handy tip for how to make butter in summer, should you be so inclined (and have a cow nearby):

VERY GOOD PUFF-PASTE. 
1205. INGREDIENTS – To every lb. of flour allow 1 lb. of butter, and not quite 1/2 pint of water.
Mode.—Carefully weigh the flour and butter, and have the exact proportion; squeeze the butter well, to extract the water from it, and afterwards wring it in a clean cloth, that no moisture may remain. Sift the flour; see that it is perfectly dry, and proceed in the following manner to make the paste, using a very clean paste-board and rolling-pin:—Supposing the quantity to be 1 lb. of flour, work the whole into a smooth paste, with not quite 1/2 pint of water, using a knife to mix it with: the proportion of this latter ingredient must be regulated by the discretion of the cook; if too much be added, the paste, when baked, will be tough. Roll it out until it is of an equal thickness of about an inch; break 4 oz. of the butter into small pieces; place these on the paste, sift over it a little flour, fold it over, roll out again, and put another 4 oz. of butter. Repeat the rolling and buttering until the paste has been rolled out 4 times, or equal quantities of flour and butter have been used. Do not omit, every time the paste is rolled out, to dredge a little flour over that and the rolling-pin, to prevent both from sticking. Handle the paste as lightly as possible, and do not press heavily upon it with the rolling-pin. The next thing to be considered is the oven, as the baking of pastry requires particular attention. Do not put it into the oven until it is sufficiently hot to raise the paste; for the best-prepared paste, if not properly baked, will be good for nothing. Brushing the paste as often as rolled out, and the pieces of butter placed thereon, with the white of an egg, assists it to rise in leaves or flakes. As this is the great beauty of puff-paste, it is as well to try this method.
Average cost, 1s. 4d. per lb.

MEDIUM PUFF-PASTE. 
1206. INGREDIENTS – To every lb. of flour allow 8 oz. of butter, 4 oz. of lard, not quite 1/2 pint of water.
Mode.—This paste may be made by the directions in the preceding recipe, only using less butter and substituting lard for a portion of it. Mix the flour to a smooth paste with not quite 1/2 pint of water; then roll it out 3 times, the first time covering the paste with butter, the second with lard, and the third with butter. Keep the rolling-pin and paste slightly dredged with flour, to prevent them from sticking, and it will be ready for use.
Average cost, 1s. per lb.
BUTTER IN HASTE.—In his “History of Food,” Soyer says that to obtain butter instantly, it is only necessary, in summer, to put new milk into a bottle, some hours after it has been taken from the cow, and shake it briskly. The clots which are thus formed should be thrown into a sieve, washed and pressed together, and they constitute the finest and most delicate butter that can possibly be made.

And should you find Mrs. Beeton entirely too much work, try this recipe from the BBC, which I tweaked a bit:

SAUSAGE ROLLS 

Makes about 14 4(ish)-inch rolls

1 lb frozen puff pastry, thawed
3 tsp dried mixed herbs (I used Italian herbs since that’s what I had on hand)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs ground pork
1-1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dried rubbed sage
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
4 oz breadcrumbs
egg wash (1 large egg, lightly beaten)

Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Combine the dried herbs, salt and pepper, pork, Worcestershire sauce, sage and thyme. Stir, then add breadcrumbs. Mix well with your hands and set aside.

Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 20 inches long and 12 inches wide (I didn’t measure, so I have no idea if this is right–just make a big rectangle). Cut in half length-wise with a knife or pizza cutter.

Roll the meat into a long, thin sausage, approximately the same length as the pastry. (Don’t make it too thick or the sausage will not cook.)

Place the sausage on the edge of one of your rectangles and roll it up in the pastry. Brush some egg wash on to seal the edge of the pastry. If you want it to look neat, trim any excess pastry from the end and discard.

Cut the sausage roll into four (relatively) equal parts, or more if you want appetizer sized rolls. Brush the top of each roll with egg wash.

Repeat with remaining sausage and pastry. You will have extra sausage meat when you’re done (if you don’t, you made your sausages too thick), so save that for breakfast patties another day, or freeze to use in more sausage rolls later.

Place the rolls on the lined baking tray. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed and golden-brown.

The original BBC recipe, which includes homemade puff, is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/homemade_puff_pastry_72461.

Sausage rolls may be eaten hot or cold, although I prefer them hot, with a bit of mustard. They freeze well, but reheat them in the oven, wrapped in foil, not the microwave.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am rather hungry.

 

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Published on October 01, 2017 07:01

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The Victorian Diet

Last October I turned 50. My sixth decade began with shingles on my face and in my eye, which took about 6 months to vanquish. I gained ten pounds and was diagnosed with high blood pressure, started a new law firm, and finished a book, so it’s safe to say there have been ups and downs. A couple of months ago I decided to get serious about making myself healthier, so I joined a gym, am working with a trainer, and last week I put myself on a diet.

If you have read this blog, or know me at all, you know I love food. Restricting myself to 1350 calories of it is tortuous, especially when I have an active, underweight teenager who needs to have high calorie foods in the house or he’ll blow away in a strong wind. So to occupy my brain while I digest my measly caloric intake, I thought I’d do a little research on the Victorian diet. I know from research for previous blog posts what the Victorians cooked, but I suspected that it was really only the upper and middle classes who ate well, and the poor, working classes ate scraps of bad meat and potatoes. I was, as so often happens, wrong.

One of the Family. Frederick George Cotman, 1880.

One of the Family. Frederick George Cotman, 1880.

Recent studies have demonstrated that the Victorian working classes in the UK were healthier than we are today. For the most part, the Victorians ate nutritious foods (and a LOT of them–the average male consumed 5,000 calories, the average female 3,000), exercised more (which actually means their work was highly physical), ate less sugar and salt, and drank and smoked less.  Their average life expectancy (about 75 for men, 73 for women) was comparable to ours, taking into account the higher infant mortality rate in the mid-19th century.  But infants died due to disease, not malnutrition–one child in five died in its first year, one in three before the age of 5.  Today’s UK working and lower-middle class men live to about 72, and women to about 76.

The working class diet involved stone-ground wholemeal breads made daily, fresh meats and fish, and 8-10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. They ate what was in season, usually grown themselves–apples in the fall and winter and lettuces, peas, beans, and cherries and other fruits in the summer–and because it was fresh it had more nutrients. Daily vegetables included what we consider superfoods today–onions, watercress, cabbages, and beets. Portions were smaller. They arguably had stronger immune systems due to more natural yeasts in their diet–from the bread (including the moldy bits) and the large amounts of beer they drank. And no, this is not incompatible with the statement I made earlier about drinking less. Their beer had less alcohol in it to begin with, and was often watered down.  They ate cheaper cuts of meat on the bone–often boiled with vegetables, resulting in greater nutrition and flavor. Their work involved long hours in the fields or in the house, and often required them to walk long distances to and from home in order to get to their jobs. Most people, unless they were carried off by disease, enjoyed robust health into their 70s.

Starting in the late 19th century, the same industrial factors that led to an increased quality of life–easy travel, cheaper goods–also led to a decrease in overall health. Work became less physically demanding, so people began to expend fewer calories every day. That coupled with the advent of processed wheat flour, cheap sugar, and mass production of inexpensive, high salt, high sugar foods led to a decrease in nutrition and a rise in obesity which only gets worse with each passing year.

 

 

 

 

So don’t think Dickens, poverty, and squalor when you think of the Victorians. Think of fresh fruits and veggies, tasty bread and meat, and lots of walking, and then consider eating more like they did.

 

 

 

 

Sources for more reading:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3317096/Forget-Paleo-try-VICTORIAN-diet-Eating-onions-cabbage-beetroot-cherries-meant-19th-century-people-healthier-today.html
https://chriskresser.com/what-mid-victorians-can-teach-us-about-nutrition-and-health/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2672390/
http://health.spectator.co.uk/forget-paleo-go-mid-victorian-its-the-healthiest-diet-youve-never-heard-of/
http://www.saga.co.uk/magazine/health-wellbeing/diet-nutrition/nutrition/healthy-eating-victorian-style.aspx#

New Blog Series! Victorian Food

So lately I have been watching the early seasons of The Great British Bake-Off.  Of the five seasons aired so far, only the last three made it to network TV in the US, but the first two are available on YouTube, and they are so worth the watch. Each episode contains historical snippets about particular foods. Several of the classic items featured on the show have Victorian roots, and it gave me an idea.

I am a reasonably competent cook, but my baking efforts have been hit or miss at best. Baking is far less forgiving of the “oh, just throw in some extra [insert food item here–usually garlic]” method I typically employ in my cooking. Nevertheless, the show has inspired me to learn to be a better baker, and since Victorian food plays a part in every one of my books, I thought I might share that journey with you. So once a month (give or take), I’ll feature a Victorian era recipe and my efforts to recreate it. My husband thinks I’m a lunatic for even trying this (probably because he’s been forced to sample a hockey puck biscuit or two), but what the hell.

So I am off to gather recipes from various sources–primarily websites and Victorian era cookbooks–and to wait for the summer heat to die down so I can fire up the oven.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this picture of the glorious Victoria Sandwich I made for the launch party for my first book.  IMG_2374The recipe appeared in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management in 1861, and was reportedly named after Queen Victoria because it was one of her favorite cakes.

Queen Victoria, 1856

VICTORIA SANDWICHES.
INGREDIENTS.– 4 eggs; their weight in pounded sugar, butter, and flour; ¼ saltspoonful of salt, a layer of any kind of jam or marmalade.
Mode.– Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour and pounded sugar; stir these ingredients well together, and add the eggs, which should be previously thoroughly whisked. When the mixture has been well beaten for about 10 minutes, butter a Yorkshire-pudding tin, pour in the batter, and bake it in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. Let it cool, spread one half of the cake with a layer of nice preserve, place over it the other half of the cake, press the pieces slightly together, and then cut it into long finger-pieces; pile them in crossbars on a glass dish, and serve.
Time.– 20 minutes.
Average cost, 1s. 3d.
Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Seasonable at any time.

You can find a more modern recipe, which is the one I used, here.

I’ll delve more into other recipes, as well as terms that make an American baker scratch her head (what is a moderate oven anyway?) in later posts. If you have a recipe you’d like to share in a guest post, or you have a burning curiosity about a particular topic, email me at marin@marinmcginnis.com.

Sources:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/8753182/The-great-Victoria-sandwich.html
http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2011/08/queen-victoria-womans-institute-famous.html
http://teainengland.com/2012/12/the-victoria-sponge-its-history-and-a-recipe/
http://www.picturebritain.com/2012/05/cake-fit-for-queen-victoria-sponge.html

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