Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.
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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History
A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.
By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ December 28, 2020
As my regular readers will know, rather to my own surprise—and ultimate delight—for Thanksgiving I followed the turkey cooking recipe given in the new “Regency Recipes” column in the Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine—even to the extent of larding the bird without aid of a larding needle. (Read it here.)
As I said in that article, in spite of several missteps, the result was tasty enough for a second try. So, for Christmas dinner, I was ready—armed with a proper larding needle and the lessons I had learned on my first attempt.
Again, I learned new lessons. First was that, the given instruction to “cut your lardings pretty large” did not mean as large as a full slice of thick cut bacon. Cutting the bacon into 4 strips brought more success.
Although, if you are in a hurry, or are without a larding needle, simply draping bacon strips over the turkey, called barding, is very effective.
As was roasting the turkey breast up, contrary to recipe instructions.
Even though the results were juicy and delicious, I think I still over-cooked Tom a bit. Next time—probably Thanksgiving 2021—I will use my nifty Famili meat thermometer with a probe that attaches by a wire to the thermometer outside the oven. I think the wire is thin enough not to interfere with the steaming process that produces such tender meat.
Still, the question remains—would Jane Austen have known this method? Or—probably more to the point—would Martha Lloyd, the dear friend who lived with the Austen ladies and supervised most of the cooking done by the Austen's cook?
In my previous blog, I quoted a couple of 18th century sources that indicate a similarly prepared turkey in the Austen household would have been a possibility.
This time I checked Dining with Jane Austen by the charming Julienne Gehrer, one of the leading experts on Regency cooking. Gehrer says that Jane mentions turkeys several times in her letters, including Jane’s first extant letter, where turkey was served at “an exceedingly good ball;” Mrs. Austen’s raising turkeys among her other poultry and sending them as gifts to various family members; and the Austen ladies engaging in “eating Turkies” as a very pleasant “Christmas Duty.”
“Despite all these mentions,” Gehrer says, “there are no specific turkey recipes in either Martha Lloyd’s Household Book or The Knight Family Cookbook.” Gehrer concludes that, “Perhaps simple roasting was the most common way for family cooks to prepare a turkey.”
For more on Regency cooking, watch Julienne Gherer’s delightful interview with Lizzie Dunford, Director of the Chawton House Museum, on Austen Wednesdays at Chawton House.
Read More: Regency World