Christmas Greetings from The Canadian Grocer magazine December 1898.
Today is Christmas Day and I’m staying in my childhood home with my family. After mentioning a few weeks ago that I could get a farm fresh duck, it was decided that duck would be the fowl for Christmas dinner this year. So today I used the Roast Duck recipe in The New Galt Cook Book (1898) that Mrs. A. Taylor contributed. I also planned to serve Teetotallers’ Christmas Pudding with Caramel Sauce for dessert.
I picked up the duck from Amy a couple of days ago. It had led a happy life roaming around the farm before meeting its destiny. I didn’t need to singe or draw the bird but I did pick a few more pin feathers from it before removing the giblets (heart, lungs, and liver) and the neck and washing and drying the bird. I put the giblets and neck in a pot of water to boil. As soon as the giblets were cooked I removed them and left the neck to continue cooking.
Stuffing the duck before roasting
Time to make the dressing. I chopped the giblets and also an onion into very small pieces. I put them in a frying pan with a bit of butter to fry. Meanwhile I had two slices of stale bread soaking in some milk. Once the onion and giblets were fried until the onions were slightly golden I squeezed the bread and poured off the milk. You might be wondering why I chose to soak the bread in milk. The recipe doesn’t mention what liquid to use so I decided milk might work well. I mixed the fried giblets and onions with the bread and then started wondering whether the bread was supposed to have been fried with the other things. I ended up putting it all back in the frying pan to see what would happen to the bread. I let it fry a tiny bit and decided that the bread wasn’t to be fried. I seasoned the dressing with salt, pepper and ground sage before putting it in the duck. I placed the bird (breast side up) on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and rubbed some salt and pepper into it. I’d held back a bit of the onions and giblets and put them in the bottom of the roasting pan since I wasn’t sure if that was what was intended in the instructions. It is hard to get salt pork here so I decided to put pieces of bacon on top of the duck’s breast. I poured a cup of water in the bottom of the pan before I put it in the preheated oven. I decided to try roasting it at 375 F. since the instructions said a moderately hot oven.
Carving the Roast Duck
My duck weighed 5.5 lbs so I thought roasting for 1 1/2 hours might not be long enough so I planned the rest of the meal to be ready no earlier than two hours from the moment the duck went into the oven. I checked it every half hour or so and attempted to baste it. I discovered their was an instant read thermometer in the house so I used that modern invention to confirm that the duck was cooked. It was in the oven for two hours before I removed it and set it aside to rest while I made the gravy.
Gravy made from the Roast Duck
To make the gravy I scraped some of the drippings from the roasting pan avoiding as much grease as possible and added it to the water used for boiling the neck and giblets. I made a paste of flour and water and then added some of the hot liquid duck juices to it. then I added the flour mixture to the juices in the pot, stirred and turned up the heat. I kept stirring to avoid lumps and seasoned this gravy with salt and pepper. It was time to bring to the table the Roast Duck on a platter ready to carve along with the gravy in a sauce-boat to enjoy with the rest of the meal (mashed potatoes, baked squash, stuffing, cranberry orange sauce, and salad). I’d also made the Potato Rolls from day 64. I cut the first slice from the duck and started serving everyone as they helped themselves to the rest of the food. We sat down to enjoy our Christmas dinner together and eventually report on the taste of the roast duck.
Once the duck was in the oven roasting I started preparing Teetotallers’ Christmas Pudding. I was stymied by the lack of currants and peel but decided to go ahead and make this recipe using two kinds of raisins and substituting crystallized ginger for the peel. Ginger appears in some other pudding recipes so it is appropriate if not completely accurate for this recipe. Again my lack of a kitchen scale meant I had to rely on conversions from the internet. It was soon obvious that I didn’t have enough ingredients to make the full recipe so I cut it in half. I put 1 pound (4 cups of sultana raisins in a bowl along with 1/2 pound (1 1/2 cups) of golden raisins instead of currants. One advantage of modern life is the availability of prepared suet. I didn’t have to do any chopping. I measured out 1 pound (3 3//4 cups) of suet and added it to the bowl. I stirred and then started preparing the rest of the ingredients. I added 1/4 pound (3/4 cup) brown sugar and then chopped 3 ounces (3/4 cup) of crystallized ginger before stirring it into the rest. I beat 3 eggs with 1/2 quart (2 cups) of milk and then poured it into the bowl. Once it was mixed I added 1/2 ounce of spice. I decided to use 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and 1/2 tablespoon of nutmeg. I stirred well as I added the last ingredient 1 1/4 pound (about 4 cups) flour. It was time to get this pudding steaming or boiling.
I thought I’d remembered my pudding mold but had to substitute a glass bowl with a good edge to tie down a cloth. I filled the bowl 3/4 full with some of the heavy pudding batter and then put cheesecloth over the top of the bowl. I held it in place by tying string around the edge of the bowl’s lip. I put the prepared bowl in a pot of water making sure the water came up to the level of the pudding but not over the top of the bowl. I put the lid on the pot and turned up the heat. I left it to boil for three hours topping up the water twice. I really wasn’t sure how long this pudding was to boil but guessed that three hours might be enough. After we’d eaten the main part of the meal and done some dishes I started to prepare the pudding sauce before removing the pudding from the pot of boiling water.
Teetotallers’ Christmas Pudding and Caramel Sauce
I decided to try Mrs. A. Taylor’s recipe for Caramel Sauce thinking it might go well with this rather plain pudding. I put 1 cup of sugar in a heavy sauce pan and turned up the heat quite high. The cup of water was nearby so that I wouldn’t have to stop stirring. I kept stirring as the sugar quickly started to melt and turn colour. I kept stirring until it was completely liquid and a nice amber colour. I poured in the water and the sugar seized up but I kept stirring and soon it melted back to a brown liquid. I set the timer for two minutes and left it to boil while I started getting the pudding ready to serve. I carefully removed the bowl from the water and then cut the string to remove the cloth. I poured off a bit of liquid that was sitting on top. It seemed to be a bit of water and melted suet. I slid a knife around the edge of the bowl to loosen the pudding before unmolding it onto a plate that is a family heirloom. I poured the completed Caramel Sauce into a sauce-boat and gathered the family for dessert. My parents don’t drink alcohol so the Teetotallers’ Christmas Pudding was very suitable for our family Christmas dinner. I cut slices for everyone and poured on some sauce. It was time to taste.
Mrs. A. Taylor contributed quite a number of recipes including today’s roast duck and the caramel sauce recipe for the pudding. She is Scottish born Margaret “Maggie” Fisher wife of another Scottish immigrant Alfred Taylor. Her recipes cover a broad spectrum of the range available in the many chapters of The New Galt Cook Book. I’ve tried making fifteen of her contributions to the chapters on eggs, puddings, sauces, candy, soups, and cheese as well as other poultry recipes.
Mrs. Hunt of Speedsville shared her recipe for Teetotallers’ Christmas Pudding. Ironically I made her baked squash recipe on Day 50. Matilda Ann Hudson was born in England in 1836 and married James Hunt in 1858 when she was 21 years old. James and Matilda lived in Preston when they married but later lived in nearby Galt and Speedsville. Their only child a daughter named Violet V. Hunt was born in 1867. James was involved in the woolen industry but suddenly died of a heart attack in Speedsville in 1896. He was 61. Matilda died in 1913 of pneumonia.
Slices of Roast Duck with dressing and baked squash.
So how did everything turn out? I’m sitting writing and digesting a good meal. Everyone tried the roast duck except my brother who’d once had a pet duck (something I’d completely forgotten). Those of us who prefer white meat when eating chicken or turkey weren’t as keen on the all dark duck meat but the other tasters really liked it. It wasn’t greasy as I’d feared. The skin was crispy and the meat very tender. The dressing was very moist and not nearly as fatty as I’d expected. It tasted good. The big surprise was the gravy. It was a success and popular! I normally make horrible gravy but this tasted like a wonderful mushroom gravy despite not containing any mushrooms. The giblets must have been the mystery element that gave it a mushroom flavour. I’d added some chopped orange when I made the typical cranberry sauce and it went very well with the duck. The potato rolls were also a big hit.
Teetotallers’ Christmas Pudding
The Teetotallers’ Christmas Pudding was okay. Everyone ate their serving and the substitution of ginger worked very well — better than peel. The pudding is a bit stodgy. It isn’t very sweet – a plus when there are so many sweets available at this time of year. The Caramel Sauce tasted great with this pudding (and so did the preserved pears with ginger I made two days ago). I might try frying a slice tomorrow for breakfast. I hear it is a good way to enjoy steamed puddings in the days to come… and considering how much pudding is left we are going to have to get creative to use it up.
Mrs. A. Taylor
Singe, draw, wash thoroughly, wipe dry and fill with the following dressing: Two slices stale bread soaked and squeezed dry, a small onion chopped fine, season with salt, pepper and sage, boil the giblets, strain, chop fine, mix all and fry a light brown, place in pan with some slices salt pork on the breast, put a small cup of water in pan, baste frequently, have a moderately hot oven, roast an hour and half, thicken the gravy with a spoonful of flour stirred smooth together.
TEETOTALLERS’ CHRISTMAS PUDDING
Mrs. Hunt, Speedsville
Pick and stone two pounds good raisins, pick, wash and dry one pound currants, chop two pounds beef suet. Have ready half pound brown sugar, six ounces candied peel — them, two and a half pounds flour, six eggs, one quart or more milk, one ounce mixed spice and one tablespoonful salt. Mix rather stiff. Use with or without sauce.
Mrs. A. Taylor
One cupful granulated sugar, one cupful water. Put the sugar into an iron saucepan; stir with a wooden spoon, over a quick fire, until the sugar melts and turns an amber color, then add the water, let boil two minutes and turn out to cool.