logo - Join me in the 1900s early C20th
Florence Cole as a child

Making Christmas speciality foods
in Victorian and Edwardian times

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When I was a child in the early 1900s, there were few speciality foods in the shops. So ordinary working class families had to make their own. Favourites were special pickles and mincemeat, specially preserved meats, and sweets.


Pickles for Christmas



Some weeks in advance, my mother would cut up red cabbage and put it into jars of vinegar.

She would also pickle green walnuts by putting them into jars of vinegar.

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Salt beef

salt beef

Salt beef - more pink and flaky than ordinary beef

About a week before Christmas my mother would make salt beef ready for supper on Christmas night. This was a way of preserving the meat.

For the salt beef she would buy a piece of beef brisket and put it into brine for a few days, then cook it in water with a few pepper corns added for flavour. When cold she would press it into a tin, put a plate on top and then a weight.

To serve, it was turned out onto a plate and sliced. The slices looked pinker and paler than roast beef slices, but it was tender and pleasant to eat.

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Also about a week before Christmas my mother would make brawn - which was preserved lumps of cold meat set in jelly.


Brawn - lumps of meat preserved in jelly

She would buy half a pig's head and trotters and a leg of beef and boil them all together in a little water. When they were cooked, she would cut them up into pieces and put them into a large basin with some of the water. All this set solid when cold. I don't think gelatine was used. The meat juices themselves produced the jelly.

To serve, the brawn was turned out onto a plate and cut into thick slices or wedges. The portions had to be thick because the lumps of meat came out whole.

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turkish delight sweets

Turkish delight sweets

My father always made coconut Turkish delight for Christmas, but I don't know how he did it or whether it was usual practice for the man of the house to make the sweets.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.