The Country Housewife, by Richard Bradley


This Month is a noted Month for brewing of Malt Liquors especially. Brown, or high-dried Malt is to be used, as I have mentioned at large in the Month of March, under the Article of Brewing; to which I refer my Reader, to be fully satisfied of such Particulars relating to it, as seem to be the least consider’d, altho’ they are the most contributing to the Perfection of Malt Liquors.

At this Season, Cyders, Mussels, Cockles, and such kind of Shell–Fish are good and in Season; as for the Oyster, it is not only to be eaten raw, but makes an agreeable Dish stew’d, or in Scallop–Shells; and besides, being useful in many Sauces, are extremely good when they are well pickled. Altho’ the Oyster may seem foreign to a Farm, or some part of the Country, yet considering that we live in a part of the World surounded with a Sea that produces the best Oysters, and that they are a sort of Shell–Fish which we can keep a long time, and feed them, I think it necessary to take notice of them. About Colchester the Oyster–Pits are only small Holes about twelve foot square, by the side of the River, where the salt Water comes up, and has a passage into them at the height of the Tides; in these places the Oysters are laid, and there grow fat, and become green, by a sort of Weed which is called Crow–Silk: and this may be done any where, if there is a River with salt Water, as well as by Colchester, and be kept two or three Months; so that I wonder ’tis not practised in other places. But if we have not this conveniency, yet if we lay them in Salt and Water after the Shells are well wash’d, just when they come from the Sea, they will keep a Fortnight in pretty good order, if the Weather be cool, and they can have the open Air; but then the Salt and Water should be changed every four and twenty hours. The following Receipts are very good for preparing them for the Table.

To stew Oysters. From Exeter.

Take large Oysters, open them, and save their Liquor; then when the Liquor is settled, pour off the Clear, and put it in a Stew–Pan, with some Blades of Mace, a little grated Nutmeg, and some whole Pepper, to boil gently, till it is strong enough of the Spices: then take out the Spices, and put in the Oysters to stew gently, that they be not hard; and when they are near enough, add a piece of Butter, and as much grated Bread as will thicken the Liquor of the Oysters; and just before you take them from the Fire, stir in a Glass of White-wine.

Roasted Oysters in Scallop Shells. From Exeter.

Provide some large scallop Shells, such as are the deepest and hollowest you can get, which Shells are sold at the Fishmongers at London; then open such a Number of Oysters as will near fill the Shells you design, and save the Liquor to settle; then pour a moderate quantity of the Liquor into each Shell, and put a Blade of Mace, and some whole Pepper with it; after which, put into your Shells a small piece of Butter, and cover the whole with grated Bread: then let these on a Grid–Iron over the Fire, and when they are enough, give the grated Bread at the tops of the Shells a browning with a red-hot Iron, and serve them.

The same Person who sent the foregoing Receipts, concerning Oysters, advises another way of roasting Oysters, which I think is a very good one, and not much known. It is, to take large Oysters, open them, and hang them by the finny part on a small Spit, after having first dipt them in the Yolk of an Egg, and roll’d them in Crumbs of Bread; turn them three or four times before the Fire, and baste them gently with Butter, till the Crumbs of Bread are crisp upon them, and serve them hot. As for their use in Sauces, they are proper with Fish, and are sometimes used with Fowls; their own Liquor is always put in such Sauces where they are used. For pickling of Oysters, the following is an excellent Receipt.

To pickle Oysters.

Open a quantity of large Oysters, saving their Liquor, and letting it settle; then pour the Liquor clear off into a Stew-pan, and wash the Oysters in Water and Salt: after which, boil them gently in their own Liquor, so that they are not too hard. When they are enough, take them out, and add to the Liquor some Mace, a few Cloves, some whole Pepper, a little Ginger, and a Bay–Leaf or two, and let the Liquor boil, putting to it about a fourth part of White-wine Vinegar, letting it continue to boil a little more; then take it off, and let it stand to be quite cold. When the Oysters are cold, put them into Jars or Gally-pots, and pour the Liquor with the Spice cold upon them; then tie them down with Leather.

The Mussel and Cockle may be pickled after the same manner, only allowing this difference; i.e. that Cockles and Mussels are taken out of their Shells by setting them over the Fire, and opening them by the Heat; but before-hand the Shells must be wash’d very clean, and then must be put in the Sauce-pan without Water, they of themselves will soon produce Liquor enough: then as the Shells open, take out the Fish, and wash every one well in Salt and Water; but as for the Mussels, they must every one be carefully look’d into, and discharg’d from that part which is call’d the Beard, and also particular care must be taken to examine whether there are any Crabs in them, for they are very poisonous, and as they lie in the Mouth of the Mussel, may easily be discover’d; they are commonly as large as a Pea, and of the shape of a Sea–Crab, but are properly Sea–Spiders: the Mussels however where you find them, are not unwholesome, and it is only the eating of this little Animal, which has been the occasion of People’s swelling after they had eaten Mussels, but the goodness of the Fish is well enough worth the Care of looking after that. When your Mussels or Cockles are all clean pick’d and wash’d, lay them to cool; and when their Liquor is well fettled, pour off the Clear, and boil it up with the same sort of Spices mentioned above for the pickled Oysters, with the same proportion of Vinegar; and letting it stand till it is quite cold, put your Fish into proper Pots, or little Barrels, and pour the Liquor upon them till they are cover’d with it, and stop them up close: they will keep good two or three Months, if the Liquor is now and then boiled up, but it must be always cold before it be put upon the Fish.

In the Management of Cockles for pickling, or for eating any other way, let the Shells be very well wash’d, and then lay the Cockles in a Pan of Salt and Water for two or three days, to scour themselves from the Sand that is in them at their first taking; but observe to shift the Salt and Water every day. The largest Cockles that I have observ’d on the English Coasts are those found about Torbay, which are sometimes brought to Exeter Market; the Fish is as large as a good Oyster, and the Shells of some are above two Inches and a half Diameter. Mussels and Cockles may likewise be stew’d and grill’d in Scallop Shells, as directed for Oysters. The Mussels after they are well pick’d are flower’d and fryed in some places, and eaten with Butter and Mustard, and the French make rich Soups of them.

As this is a Season when we have plenty of Quinces, I shall insert the following Receipt for making Wine of them, which is very pleasant.

To make Quince Wine. From Mrs. E. B.

Gather your Quinces when they are dry, and wipe them very clean with a coarse Cloth, then grate them with a coarse Grater or a Rasp, as near the Core as you can; but grate in none of the Core, nor the hard part about it: then strain your grated Quinces into an earthen Pot, and to each Gallon of Liquor put two Pounds of fine Loaf–Sugar, and stir it till your Sugar is dissolved; then cover it close, and let it stand twenty four hours, by which time it will be fit enough to bottle, taking care in the bottling of it that none of the Settlement go into the Bottles. This will keep good about a Year; observe that your Quinces must be very ripe when you gather them for this use.

Rabbits still continue in Season this Month, and besides the common way of dressing them, they may be larded, and drest in the following manner; which I had from a Gentleman in Suffolk. Make a Farce for them, like that mentioned for the Belly of a Hare in the preceding Month, and order its Management and Sauce as for a Hare. A young Rabbit, or Hare, is known by the tenderness of the Jaw–Bones, which will easily break by pressing with the Finger and Thumb.

Woodcocks are now in Season, and it is to be advertised of them, that they are to be only pull’d of their Feathers, and not drawn like other Fowls, but the Guts left in them; when they are roasted, they must be serv’d upon Toasts of Bread, upon which the Guts are spread and eaten, when they are brought to Table. The inward of this Bird eats like Marrow; this is generally eaten with Juice of Orange, a little Salt and Pepper, without other Sauce. The Legs of this Bird are esteem’d the most, and are therefore presented to the greatest Strangers at Table; but the Wings and Breast of a Partridge are the principal parts of that Fowl, for the Legs are full of Strings, like the Legs of Turkeys and Pheasants.

The Snipe is of the same nature with the Woodcock, and is ordered in every respect like it. These may be larded with Bacon upon the Breast, or else strew’d with Salt and Crumbs of Bread, while they are roasting. Besides the Sauce used for Woodcocks and Snipes, the aforesaid Suffolk Gentleman has the following which is Gravey with a little minced Anchovy, a Rocambole, some Lemon–Juice, and a little White-wine boiled together; and when it is strain’d, pour it in a Saucer, and serve it with the Fowls.

These Birds are in plenty among the woody parts of England, from September till the end of March, and then they all leave us at one time, except only such as have been lamed by the Sportsmen, and disabled for Flight; and then they will breed in England, as there are Instances enough. About Tunbridge, it is frequent to find them in Summer; and I have known the same in Leicestershire. I think if one could take Woodcocks here in Hay–Nets, as they do in France, and pinion them or disable a Wing, and then turn them loose again, we might raise a Breed of them that would stay with us; but I have experienced that they will not feed if they are confined in Cages or Aviaries, for they must have liberty to run in search of their Food, which they find for the most part in moist places, near Springs; for I have often taken both the Woodcock and the Snipe with such Snares as are made for Larks, by laying them in the Night on the Bank of Rivulets, or watery Trenches near Woods.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54