Tastes in food have changed over the centuries, I know, but many of Eliza Acton’s recipes sound and do taste delicious! her book, ‘Modern Cookery’ was published in 1845, a decade or so before the more famous Mrs Beeton’s collection (many of which were Eliza’s!) However, sometimes the old recipes just seem too strange for our modern way of thinking – but who knows, they could be the next great food fashion!

Most people know that Christmas mincemeat is called that because originally it did contain meat, the last remnant is the suet among the ingredients. Here is Eliza’s recipe, her very own receipt not one given by someone else:

To one pound of unsalted ox-tongue, boiled tender and cut free from the rind, add two pounds of fine stoned raisins, two of beef kidney suet, two pounds and a half of currants well cleaned and dried, two and a half of fine Lisbon sugar, from half a pound of candied peel according to taste, the grated rinds of two large lemons, and two more boiled quite tender, and chopped up entirely, with the exception of the pips, two small nutmegs, half an ounce of salt, a large teaspoonful of pounded mace, rather more of ginger in powder, half a pint of brandy, and as much good Madeira. Mince these ingredients separately, and mix the others all well before the brandy and wine are added; press the whole into a jar or jars, and keep it closely covered. It should be stored for a few days before it is used, and will remain good for many weeks.Some persons like a slight flavouring of cloves in addition to other spices; others add juice of two or three lemons, and a larger quantity of brandy. The inside of a tender and well roasted sirloin of beef will answer quite as well as the tongue.

I know it’s late for Christmas, but if you do fancy having a go – here is the recipe in a more convenient form:

  •  1 lb unsalted ox-tongue, boiled tender and cut free from the rind (or 1 lb tender, well-roasted sirloin – just the inside meat) minced
  • 2 lbs fine stoned raisins
  • 2 lbs suet
  • 2½ lbs currants
  • 2½ lbs fine Lisbon sugar
  • ½ lb candied peel or more according to taste
  • zest of 2 large lemons
  • juice of 2 large lemons (optional)
  • 2 whole lemons (pips removed) boiled quite tender, and chopped up entirely
  • 5 tsp ground nutmeg or 2 whole nutmegs ground
  • ½ tsp ground cloves (optional)
  • ½ oz salt
  • 1 heaped tsp ground mace
  • 2 heaped tsp ground ginger
  • at least ½ pint brandy, and as much good Madeira.
  1. chop or mince or lightly blitz the dried fruit so it is still in recognisable pieces not a mash (I might leave the currants whole)
  2. mix all the meat, fruit and spices really well together
  3. add the liquids and mix well again
  4. put into jars – Eliza says seal well, I would pour melted butter over the top to make a seal before closing the jars in the normal way

One day I might have a go, reducing the quantities by a quarter just to see what it tastes like… I’m sure no-one but me and my son would even try it!

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