Nineteenth century sweet and sour sauce

The more old recipes I read, the more I begin to think that many of the things we eat today have always been around in one form or another. I was very lucky to grow up in Cambridge – lucky in many ways, but one was that there had been long established and very good restaurants serving food from other countries for many years – many years before such restaurants appeared in other places. I wish I could remember the name of it but there was an excellent Chinese restaurant we used to go to – maybe in Petty Cury from being quite young children.

From an early age we were familiar with the different flavours of Chinese cuisine, and really enjoyed them. The idea of a sweet and sour dish didn’t seem odd or strange to us – only delicious! I was however, surprised to come across a recipe from the 1870’s for what is essentially sweet and sour sauce – not that it existed, but that Europeans liked it and used it:


  • 1 quart of stock
  • ½ gill of vinegar
  • 1 oz of flour
  • 1 oz of butter
  • 1 dozen peppercorns
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 faggot of herbs
  • salt
  1. mince up the onion
  2. put in a pan with half the vinegar and boil until the latter has boiled away
  3. add the butter and all the vegetables
  4. steam for about three minutes
  5. pour over the stock and simmer for half an hour
  6. mix the flour into a smooth paste with the rest of the vinegar
  7. stlr into the sauce, let It boil for 5 minutes
  8. rub through a sieve
  9. if not a good colour add a few drops of caramel
  10. bring to the boil it again, and it is then ready to serve

It is a simple recipe, but essentially it is sweet and sour!



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