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Day 359: Roast Duck and Teetotallers’ Christmas Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Christmas Greetings from The Canadian Grocer magazine December 1898.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.


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.


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Filed under Poultry, Pudding Sauces, Puddings, Uncategorized

Day 50: Baked Squash

I had planned to make this recipe in the fall but my kitchen sink still has issues so I’m trying to make things that don’t mean a lot of dishes. Baked Squash suited this requirement and sounds good too. The New Galt Cook Book (1898) has a few of these basic recipes. This one was contributed by Mrs. Hunt of Speedsville.

I cut an acorn squash into quarters. I scooped out the seeds and put the quarters on a baking sheet. I had preheated the oven to my usual temperature 350F.  I decided to let the squash cook for 45 minutes since I imagine that this recipe was intended for a much larger squash than my little acorn variety. However, it seems it needs that hour after all. Once the squash was soft I scooped it out and seasoned the pulp with salt, pepper and some butter. I mixed well and then sampled.

I think Mrs. Hunt is likely Matilda A. Hudson. Her husband James Hunt is listed as resident in Speedsville when he died in 1896. I wrote quite a bit about this couple in my first blog entry on January 1st when I made Mrs. Hunt’s Buckwheat pancakes. The only new piece of information I’ve discovered is that Matilda had an older sister who was named Matilda but she died when she was just a few weeks old.

This is the way my mother always made squash and I’ve continued the tradition. The only difference is we just halve the squash and put butter and a bit of brown sugar in the basin created when the seeds are removed. It’s no surprise that I liked Mrs. Hunt’s Baked Squash. I prefer other varieties of squash but it is harder to find the old types or even a decent sized squash. My grocery store carries very small acorn, butternut, and dumpling squash. I have to search the farmers markets to find the big Hubbard and turban type squash even in the fall.

Mrs. Hunt, Speedsville

Cut a squash into quarters, taking out the seeds (but leaving the skin on), put it in a baking pan and bake in the oven about one hour. Scrape out the squash with a spoon and beat, seasoning with pepper and salt, add a little butter.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Vegetables

Day 1 German Method of Buckwheat Cakes

Today is New Year’s Day. The first day of 2014 and the first day of another self imposed challenge — to cook everyday from an historic cook book. This time we travel a few years further back in time. We have transported ourselves from the 21st century back to the early 20th via the 1906 Berlin Cook Book and now are in the late 19th century when The Galt Cook Book was published. To ease the transition I’ve selected a recipe which has “German” in its title — German Method of Buckwheat Cakes. This recipe was contributed by Mrs. Hunt of Speedsville. I’m not sure what makes this German, why pancakes appear in the Scone section or how someone in Speedsville is connected to Galt.

My father loves buckwheat pancakes and I’ve grown to like them too. I thought this recipe would be a good way to begin the year. At first I thought I had to start making it last night in 2013 but when I read the recipe more closely it looks like I can make it today. First I put a cup of “tepid” water in a bowl. I chose to use water that was much warmer than tepid  in order to help the yeast along. My kitchen was cold and the buttermilk was in my modern fridge so it was cold. I was worried the yeast wouldn’t work if added to a cold liquid. I added a cup of buttermilk. Unless you have a dairy cow to milk, it seems impossible to get real buttermilk. Even if you go to the trouble of turning cream into butter and buttermilk, it still won’t be the real thing. My container of whipping cream lists several other ingredients — not just cream!  I chose to use commercial “cultured” buttermilk.

So far my bowl contains one cup of warm water and one cup of modern buttermilk. Next I added yeast. I was fortunate in 2012 to discover a local store EuroFoods that carries fresh compressed yeast. I’m fortunate to have worked with Fleischman’s compressed yeast cakes years ago as they aren’t available any more. I contacted Fleischman and they explained they no longer distribute them in Canada. Instead they gave the following equivalency: “Active dry yeast is an excellent substitute for fresh yeast. One small (.6-ounce) cake of fresh yeast is equivalent to one envelope dry yeast. One large (2-ounce) cake is equivalent to three envelopes dry yeast. Dissolve active dry yeast in warm water (100° to 110°F) and proceed with the recipe as directed.” Since I’m trying to be as accurate as possible I decided to use the fresh yeast. The next issue was quantity. The recipe doesn’t indicate how much yeast to use. I looked at several other recipes in the cook book to try to get a sense of quantity. I decided to use an amount equivalent to one yeast cake. I stirred a tablespoon of my fresh yeast into the liquid. The yeast was also cold since it also came from my modern fridge. Fresh yeast has a very short shelf life even if it is kept chilled.

Buckwheat pancake batter ready to rise.

Buckwheat pancake batter ready to rise.

I decided to turn on my oven to a very low temperature in order to warm up the batter a little and help the yeast along. The yeast wasn’t well blended in the liquid so I decided to add the flour. This presented another problem. How much flour? The recipe above for Buckwheat Pancakes uses a proportion of one and a half cups of liquid to one cup flour and two cups buckwheat flour. My mixture had another cup of liquid but I decided to use one cup of all purpose flour and two cups of buckwheat flour. This created something a bit like batter bread which I suspected was close to the intended texture. I covered the bowl of batter and left it on top of the stove to keep warm. I plan to check it in an hour and hopefully I’ll be able to make some pancakes.

Buckwheat is not commonly grown in southern Ontario anymore. Although the name makes it sound like it is some version of wheat it is an entirely different plant according to Wikipedia. If you find buckwheat groats in a store you can see that it is a type of seed. When the seed is finely ground you have buckwheat flour which is darker in colour than wheat flour and has a more pronounced taste. Sometimes it is grown near bee hives to produce delicious buckwheat honey. The bees gather the buckwheat pollen and their honey has the flavour of buckwheat. My father’s family had bee hives on their farm and sometimes ended up with buckwheat honey. It is still one of his favourites. Some grocery stores carry buckwheat flour in the specialty flour section and I can often find it in bulk food or natural food stores. Is buckwheat is suitable for people avoiding gluten or wheat?

Thick buckwheat pancakes in the pan.

Thick buckwheat pancakes in the pan.

After an hour and a half I checked on my buckwheat cakes batter. It was bubbly! Success. I put a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass and added at least a tablespoon of warm water. I wanted to dissolve the soda before adding it to the batter. I also sprinkled some salt on top of the batter. I stirred everything together again and watched my bubbly batter go flat. I’ve baked enough bread to know that will happen. I heated some oil in a frying pan and put in two dollops of batter. I don’t like thick pancakes so I also put some batter in a small bowl and added a bit of warm water and buttermilk to it. I stirred and added a dribble of maple syrup. Once the first pancakes were done I used my thinner batter to make some more. This is one of the few times I truly miss having a wood fired cook stove and a cast iron frying pan. I think these pancakes would be even better made with the equipment of 1898.

This edition of the Galt Cook Book was published a few years after most of the recipes were contributed. Does Mrs. Hunt still live in Speedsville in 1898? Was her recipe in the first edition? Speedsville was a small community between Hespeler and Preston and is now part of Cambridge Ontario. It is possible that Mrs. Hunt is Matilda A. Hudson. Matilda was born in England in 1836. The 1851 census shows her future husband 18 year old James Hunt living with his parents in the village of Preston where he works in the family cloth manufacturing business. Matilda was living in Port Hope in 1858 when she married Canadian born James Hunt. By 1861 census, James is listed as a manufacturer and the young couple live in a single family, single story frame house. Mr. and Mrs. Hunt’s religion is Wesleyan Methodist.

The 1891 Canadian census lists Matilda as 53 and John age 55  is a foreman in a woolen mill. The household also includes a 56 year old widow named Emeline Winter. It appears Mrs. Winter might be employed as a nurse or some sort of domestic help for the couple. By 1901, John has died and Matilda lives alone except for her fifteen year old niece Bertha E. H. Hunt. The 1911 census shows Matilda living in the town of Preston as a boarding house keeper with one lodger — a 26 year old public school teacher named Ethel Grimm (or Gimm or Gunn).

But in 1898, Mrs. Hunt’s recipe for German Method of Buckwheat Cakes appears in The New Galt Cook Book. I’m still not sure why this is a German method. Perhaps she learned it from a German neighbour? What she’s creating is a starter – something that be used over and over as the start to another batch of pancakes or perhaps even other baked goods. It must be “fed” after it is used. I’m going to try to keep this going for a little while just to see if it works.

Buckwheat Pancakes -- thick ones with butter and thin ones plain.

Buckwheat Pancakes — thick ones with butter and thin ones plain.

Mrs. Hunt’s pancakes are good. I should have added a bit more salt to the batter and perhaps a little less yeast. The buckwheat flavour is present but not overwhelming. These are not pancake mix pancakes. Although I liked the crispy edge of my thin pancakes I was surprised that I preferred the thicker ones. I think adding maple syrup to the batter was a mistake. Syrup is marvelous on top of both versions. This recipe won’t appeal to everyone since some people find buckwheat an overpowering taste but there is some scope for a modern cook to experiment with flavour and texture. I have plenty of batter left to feed and keep as a starter so I’ll be able to try making buckwheat pancakes again. I suggest you try it too. Although this recipe required some detection it is a good start to the year of cooking with The New Galt Cook Book.

Let me know if you try the recipe and share your memories of starters. How long did you keep it going? Did it ever overflow? Do you have memories of buckwheat pancakes or buckwheat honey?


Mrs. Hunt, Speedsville

Make a batter in the usual way of equal parts of buttermilk and tepid water, add yeast sufficient to raise it; when light add just enough soda to correct the acid in the buttermilk, also a little salt; when through baking put in some buttermilk and water, stir in flour and set in a cool place. They will be light by next morning. The writer has kept batter in this way for three months without renewing. It will renew itself and never sour unless kept too warm. To help brown, add a little syrup or cornmeal.


Filed under Pancakes, Scones