By Juliana Adelman
You may or may not have heard Catherine Cleary and I talking about 18th and 19th C Irish recipes on Myles Dungan’s History Show on Sunday night. Being food fans and also curious, we decided to cook up some recipes found in the National Library of Ireland’s vast collection of manuscript recipe books. It gave me a great excuse to look at these books, which have a kind of peripheral interest to my research on animal-human relationships (if you can call being slaughtered and eaten a kind of relationship…). Anyway, much to our surprise the recipes were quite easy to follow and they all worked. We did modify them using our judgment, but overall it wasn’t too difficult. And most of them were actually delicious and well worth a try. So I thought I’d share all the recipes below. They are transcribed nearly as they appeared with some corrections of spelling to make them easier to understand. If anyone is keen to try one, send an email and I can advise on how we modified it. If you are interested in Irish food history, see Leslie A. Clarkson and E. Margaret Crawford, Feast and famine: a history of food in Ireland 1500-1920.
NLI MS 9563: Mrs Jane Bury’s Receipt Booke (c. 1700)
‘To make the best minse pye’
Take a neat’s tongue [that's ox tongue] and boil and blanch it. Cut it into thin slices and when it is cold mince it very small with 3 [epsilon symbol with line through it, some kind of measurement] of suet if tongue be very large if not 2 [epsilon] of suet, two pounds of currants one pound of raisins, stoned, and each of mace, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon in all the same, half a pound of sugar a spoonful of salt half a pint of sack [sweet sherry] some rose water some candied orange or citron mix all those well together & put into your coffin [a pie crust] being made thin and let them stand about an hour in the oven.
[These were actually the best mince pies. We used butter instead of suet. Tongue is delicious! Really! A generous hand with the spices is good. Also, we used rose syrup instead of rose water. Tongue must be boiled for a good couple of hours (even up to 4), we did it for only about 1.5 hours and it was still a bit chewy.] Read more