Recipes and anecdotes from the author's childhood, published in 1968 by The Cookery Book Club and originally sold only to its members. Based on the recipes Alison enjoyed as a child, including Mrs. Lowe's Parkins, named after the neighbour who baked them and different natural remedies, including cough mixture and tinctures. The author recalls incidents of childhood, including picking cowslips for cowslip wine and the importance of the seasons for produce in the days before most foodstuffs were available year-round.
Boil half a pound of treacle with half a pound of Demerara sugar and two ounces of butter. Boil for half an hour. Then test in a cup of cold water, and if it hardens it is done. Pour out on a well-buttered flat dish and cut in squares.
Take a coconut and break it open. Keep the milk ready. Grate the fresh coconut ready for the toffee. Put a pound of loaf sugar with half a cup of coconut-milk in a saucepan and add an ounce of butter. Boil and add the grated coconut, slowly. Boil for ten minutes, stirring all the time. Pour into a basin and beat with fork till nearly cold. Then turn into a dish. Colour half of the mixture pink. Press one half over the other and cut into strips.
Rhubarb and fig pudding
Make a syrup of half a pound of sugar and half a pint of water and stew in it two pounds of rhubarb and a pound of figs. Make the stewed fruit a nice colour with cochineal. Put alternate layers of bread and fruit in a pie-dish. Let it stand until cold. Turn out and decorate the top with custard or whipped cream.
If you happen to have your own private meadow full of flowers, why not try making some cowslip wine? But please don’t pick them or uproot them from the countryside!
Measure the peeps of the flowers. To each peck allow three gallons of spring water. To each gallon add three pounds of sugar. Boil the water and sugar one hour and skim. Add a few whites of egg whilst boiling. Strain, cool, and when just warm add a little brewer's yeast. Let it stand. Pour in the peeps and the peel of two lemons to every gallon of liquid. Stir now and then for nine days. Then pour it into a wooden barrel. Let it be a fortnight before fastening the bung hole with a cork, wired on. In two months you may bottle. At the last put in a pint of best brandy to each three gallons of liquid.
Gathering enough cowslips to make the wine is quite a task. This is how Alison Uttley describes it; one morning in April my mother would announce that we would pick cowslips for cowslip wine. We would set off after breakfast, the servant girl, my brother, my mother and I, with a clothes-basket, and several smaller baskets. It was exciting to run down the first big field, deep down to the gate that led to the cowslip field. By the gate we left the clothes-basket, and each took another basket and began to gather the flowers. The air was scented, sweet, aromatic, and the birds sang joyously. We stooped low and picked the flowers, leaving the small ones and gathering those with long stalks and a multitude of bells. We emptied our baskets into the clothes-basket, one after another, but we got tired, our heads were dazed with stooping to the ground.
At last, we children were sent off to swing. After a time, my mother and the maid came up the hill with the basket nearly full between them. Their work continued after a hasty meal, and all afternoon they picked the flowers. When the men went milking they stopped and brought the flowers to the house. At night, we sat in the kitchen pulling the peeps from the flowers. The stalks and calyces like pale green lace were thrown on a sheet spread on the floor. The 'peeping' continued all evening, until bedtime, when it was finished. Then the real making of the wine began.
From the preface; nowadays some old farmhouse recipes, with their lavish, often hit-or-miss quantities and quaint instructions, are valued as curiosities rather than for practical purposes; others can be followed quite easily or will invite experiment. All are especially interesting when seen against their true background. Mrs. Uttley's collection will give a great deal of pleasure to all lovers of country life and tradition.
Recipes from an old farmhouse by Alison Uttley is now sold, thank you for your interest.
I still use the cookery books that once belonged to my mum. How about you do you use recipes handed down through the family?