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  • Writer's pictureKate McGowan

Five 18th Century Recipes You Can Make During Quarantine to Give Yourself a Tiny Bit of Serotonin

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

For those of you who are able to social distance, it might have been a couple of weeks since you last made a grocery run, and you might be getting to the point where you’re running low on supplies. It’s okay, we ate all our emergency snacks in the first two days too. Rather than pb&j again, or ordering in, why not try making some of these simple dishes from the 18th century with the kitchen staples you already have? 


Baked Rice Pudding

Take a quarter of a pound of rice, boil it in a quart of new milk, stir it that it does not burn; when it begins to be thick, take it off, let it stand till it is a little cool, then stir in well a quarter of a pound of butter, and sugar to your palate; grate a small nutmeg, butter your dish, and pour it in, and bake it.
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1743) Hannah Glasse

If this recipe seems pretty bare-bones, it’s because it is. Most 18th century cookbooks were written with the assumption that cooks already had a lot of background info, but we’ve got you covered: you can see this recipe in action here or follow the directions below.

Boil a quarter of a pound of medium-grain white rice in a quart of milk, cream, or milk alternative, stirring often, until the rice has expanded, the milk has reduced and the mixture has become thick. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Once cooled, add 2 tsp ground nutmeg, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and a quarter of a pound of chopped butter, and stir to combine. Butter a 1.5 quart or larger ceramic baking dish or cake pan, spoon in your rice mixture, and bake at 350 Degrees F for at least 35 minutes, until mixture has set and is slightly browned on top.



Mix flour and water, with a little salt, like a paste, roll them in balls, as big as a turkey’s egg, roll them in a little flour, have the water boiling, throw them in the water, and half an hour will boil them. They are best boiled with a good piece of beef. You may add, for a change, a few currants. Have melted butter in a cup.
Primitive Cookery (1767)

Unlike most cookbooks of the time period, the book this recipe comes from, Primitive Cookery, was written for everyday people in mind, not the super-wealthy. You can almost think of it as an 18th-century r/eatcheapandhealthy. Because of this, some of the recipes are pared down versions of recipes from other cookbooks, so feel free to improvise on this one in terms of what seasonings you put in your dumpling dough.

Gradually add cold water to a mixture of two cups of flour and a teaspoon of salt, and stir until a firm dough forms. Using a soup spoon, scoop out large pieces of dough, roll them into balls, and roll in a light coating of flour. These work best boiled in soup recipes.


Baked Apples

Put your apples into an earthen pan, with a few cloves, and a little lemon-peel, some coarse sugar, a glass of red wine; put them into a quick oven, and they will take an hour baking.
Primitive Cookery (1767)
Place 4-5 whole apples in a ceramic baking dish. Add whole cloves, lemon zest, and sugar to taste to the pan, and enough red wine to cover the bottoms of the apples well. Bake at 400 degrees F until apples are tender when poked with a fork, but not mushy. Bake times will vary for different types of apples. 

Any red wine will do here, but for added authenticity, you could try a Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Madeira wine. 


Potato Balls

Mix mashed potatos with the yelk of an egg, roll them into balls, flour them, or cover them with egg and bread crumbs, fry them in clean dripping, or brown them in a Dutch oven. They are an agreeable vegetable relish, and a supper dish.
The Virginia Housewife (1824) Mary Randolph

The Virginia Housewife is considered to be the first regional American cookbook, and though it was published in 1824, Mary Randolph was in her 60s at the time so many of the recipes are similar to those of the late 18th century. For more of a modern take on this recipe, check out this post from April Blake.

Mix mashed potatoes and eggs at a ratio of about 1 cup mashed potatoes to 1 egg yolk, adjusting the ratio as needed until you have a dough with a thick enough consistency to roll into meatball-sized balls. Dip rolled balls into eggwash or beaten eggs, roll in breadcrumbs, and sautee in a skillet with the fat of your choice, turning over periodically so that the balls brown on all sides.


Collops and Eggs

Cut either bacon, pickled beef, or hung mutton, into thin slices; broil them nicely, lay them in a dish before the fire, have ready a stew-pan of water boiling, break as many eggs as you have collops, break them one by one in a cup, and pour them into the stew-pan. When the whites of the eggs begin to harden, and all look of a clear white, take them up one by one in an egg-slice, and lay them on the collops.
Primitive Cookery

“Collops” in this context is any thin slice of meat, but the term is most commonly applied to bacon. You have the option of using dry-aged mutton or corned beef here, but we’ll assume you don’t have dry-aged mutton laying around. Thick-cut bacon would be more period correct, but we won’t tell on you if you use turkey bacon.   

Broil bacon on a foil-lined cookie sheet to your desired level of crispness, turning over once. When finished, turn your oven to its lowest setting and place bacon in a covered dish in the oven to keep it warm. Boil water in a saucepan. Crack eggs one by one into a small bowl, and when the water is boiling, stir the water in a clockwise direction until a “whirlpool” forms. Gently pour one of your eggs into the center of the whirlpool and allow to cook until the white has set, about 3-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat until you have one poached egg for each of your pieces of bacon. Lay the poached eggs on top of bacon pieces and serve.

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