Sunday 20 May 2012

Recipes from an old farmhouse by Alison Uttley

This battered and well used book brought back so many memories - making toffee and coconut cream with my mum and sister, eating rhubarb straight from the garden and scrumping apples from the orchard.  

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.

Treacle toffee
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.

Coconut cream
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! 

Cowslip wine

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?


  1. Another nice rhubarb recipe to try - I've been looking out for those. I think I'll give the cowslip wine a miss - lovely extract but it seem like way too much hard work! What I love about old recipes is how straightforward they are and use basic ingredients that I usually have. Somewhere along the line we became a bit 'precious' and I think collectively turned our backs on the old farmhouse style of cooking and baking. I'm always glad to see it making a comeback or becoming fashionable again - it reminds me of my childhood and the way my granny used to make things.

  2. What fun recipes. I love the simplicity of them.

  3. barbaraannefisher20 May 2012 at 17:33

    Mum used to make delicious rhubarb and apple crumble, but I don’t think she ever considered putting rhubarb and figs together. I look forward to hearing how it tastes. My back hurts just thinking about cowslip wine – all that picking and preparing – drinking the brandy without the cowslips makes more sense to me! I can remember my granny making pastry and rolling it out with a lovely wooden rolling pin – everything she made tasted wonderful.

  4. I have just hopped over from Darlene Foster's blog. What a wonderful page. I love these illustrations too. I hope we shall stay in touch.

  5. The coconut cream recipe sounds very much like coconut ice, but I've never made it taht way... Though I may have to give it a go now you've shared the recipe!

    Mum has loads of recipe books and a big folder of recipe clippings. Nan has quite a few too... She sent me home the other day with a recipe she's been sent from relatives in canada a few decades earlier!

  6. barbaraannefisher21 May 2012 at 06:07

    Hello Niamh, great to meet you! Plum Tree Books looks like a very interesting place and one I will be visiting often.

  7. barbaraannefisher21 May 2012 at 06:11

    Hi Donna, they are fun but some of them (like the Cowslip wine) sound like hard work.

  8. barbaraannefisher21 May 2012 at 06:18

    I was trying to think of the name mum used for her ‘coconut confection', and you just supplied the answer – coconut ice. I knew it was like coconut cream but not quite the same – thanks for replying to my unasked question!
    I hope you get to try the Canadian recipe. It will be interesting to see if the ingredients are still available.

  9. I LOVE looking through old cookbooks. Thanks so much for sharing this treasure. My Grandma, my Mom, and I all have a copy of the same cookbook, so when I'm looking for a particular recipe I just have to call one of them for the page number. It's great!

  10. Darlene Foster21 May 2012 at 18:04

    I too love old recipe books and have a few of Mom's. The one I use most is The Five Roses Cookbook I won for entering a recipe contest when I was fourteen. It is so worn and the pages are stained with ingredients.

  11. Darlene Foster21 May 2012 at 18:04

    So very pleased the two of you have connected.

  12. barbaraannefisher22 May 2012 at 07:15

    Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

  13. barbaraannefisher22 May 2012 at 07:23

    Hello Angela, that’s just lovely! I envy you being able to do that and wish my mum, and grandma were still around.

  14. barbaraannefisher22 May 2012 at 07:33

    I don’t know the five roses cookbook, but it sounds lovely. I love that you mention the wear and splattering on some pages, all my cookbooks are like that! My favourite recipes are on the grubbiest pages. It must be the same for everyone.

  15. barbaraannefisher22 May 2012 at 07:35

    Thank you Darlene

  16. The Desert Rocks23 May 2012 at 17:33

    Yummy recipes and btw you can't find treacle anywhere in the U.S. (We call it caramel-lol)

  17. barbaraannefisher24 May 2012 at 06:49

    Treacle tastes a bit like burnt caramel so maybe they are one and the same? As I was thinking about that I found myself humming the tune to - You like potato and I like potahto, You like tomato and I like tomahto, Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto! Let's call the whole thing off! I can’t remember who sang it but the tune just presented itself to me!

  18. One of my favourite cook books. The chocolate pudding is a favourite with my family.

    1. It is a lovely book but I have to admit I've not tried the chocolate pudding - I must make sure to do so. Barbara


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Barbara xx