Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day … or as I like to call it, the first Candy Holiday of the year. I’m not a big candy eater, but I do splurge on Candy Holidays: Valentine’s is for Nerds, Easter brings the Cadbury Creme Egg, Halloween calls for candy corn and pumpkins, Thanksgiving means caramel apples, and Christmas is of course reserved for Reese’s Christmas Trees.
Those vulgar Long Regency-ites had a slang term for candy that’s still in use today, although what we know now didn’t make its appearance until 1908, and with a stick. This word called for some era-appropriate recipes for 19th Century candy.
Sweet lozenges purchased by children.
Old Covent Garden Market by George Sharf ‘The Elder’, 1825, British Museum.
Author Laurie Alice Eakes visited Vanessa Riley’s blog several years ago and left two lovely Regency candy recipes. Perhaps children bought these lollies once upon a time.
Take double refined sugar, pound and sift it through a hair sieve, not too fine; then sift it through a silk sieve to take out all the fine dust which would destroy the beauty of the drop. Put the sugar into a clean pan, and moisten it with any favourite aromatic…Colour it with a small quantity of liquid carmine, or any other colour, ground fine. Take a small pan with a lip, fill it three parts with paste, place it on a small stove, the half hole being the size of the pan, and stir the sugar with a little ivory or bone handle, until it becomes liquid. When it almost boils, take it from the fire and continue to stir it: if it be too moist, take a little of the powdered sugar, and add a spoonful to the paste, and stir it till it is of such a consistence as to run without too much extension. Have a tin plate, very clean and smooth; take the little pan in the left hand, and hold in the right a bit of iron, copper, or silver wire, four inches long, to take off the drop from the lip of the pan, and let it fall regularly on the tin plate; two hours afterwards, take off the drops with the blade of a knife.
Scrape the chocolate to powder, and put an ounce to each pound of sugar; moisten the paste with clear water, work it as above, only take care to use all the paste prepared, as if it be put on the fire a second time, it greases, and the drop is not of the proper thickness.
Author’s Note: A pound of sugar is about 2 cups by modern measurements.
Another candy recipe that came about in the late Georgian era can be found at the Westminster City Archives in the fantastically named The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.
Extract from an 18th century recipe for orange chips (candied peel) in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies from the Westminster City Archives at http://www.lostcookbook.com.
Take yr whole oranges & scrape of the outward rind with a knife to make them look clear, then steep in water 4 days, shifting them 2 a day. Then cut them in halves & take out the clear lumps between the partitions as whole as you can with the point of a knife. Boyle yr peel in water, very tender. Then take out all the strings but take out as little of the white as you can. Then cut them in small long thongs as broad & thin as possible. Then take dubble their weight of dubble refind sugar & make it in a rich sirrip, the sugar only dipt in boyling water. Then put in yr chips & clear lumps, the seeds pick’d out with a pin. Boyle them slowly a good while, 3 qrs of an hour. Keep them in a china bason. Dont cover them till quite cold. When you do them for tarts, you may do them with powder sugar & slice some raw appels thin & boyle it in the sirrop with yr chips. Frensh appels or pippins are best.
So where could one purchase sweet treats? From a establishment similar to the one run by gentlemen such as George and Alfred Pill, pastry cooks and confectioners. Baldwin Hamey runs two fascinating blogs: his namesake, and London Street Views, where I found out about the brothers Pill. They learned their trade from their father and were also apprenticed out to other confectioners, George Ponton and John Coombes, before obtaining their freeman status and opening shop. Click here to learn about their “exquisite jellies” and which brother married his housekeeper!
Bow Steeple Cheapside, with the future location of the Pill Confectionary at number 51 marked, from Thomas Malton’s Picturesque Tour of 1792, British Museum (courtesy London Street Views).