While perusing several 18th century cookbooks, I’ve identified and included below a selection of recipes using suet. I chose these recipes because they seem to be fairly typical representations of food categories which commonly use suet: puddings, dumplings, pastry crusts, potted meats, cakes, sausages, forcemeats (stuffings), as well as fried and broiled foods. There are countless other recipes I could have chosen: beef olives, for instance, or forced leg of lamb — recipes that, judging by the number of cookbooks including them, were apparently very popular. I encourage you to try these!
- Pudding -
- Dumplings -
This recipe for dumplings is from Sarah Martin’s 1795 book, “The New Experienced English Housekeeper.” These dumplings are to accompany boiled beef. Don’t worry about how big “the bottom of a plate” should be. Make them however big you feel dumplings should be.
- Pastry Crust -
I have vowed to myself to one day make a Yorkshire pie. Yorkshire pies were commonly served around Christmas and Epiphany, and were intended to serve large crowds. Be sure to read our blog post on Christmas pies. This recipe makes an enormous pie. When was the last time you made a pie crust using 24 pounds of flour? This clip is from John Farley’s 1783 book, “The London Art of Cookery.”
- Potted Meat -
Here’s one method of of using suet to keep beef for longer periods in pots. This recipe is from Mrs. Frazer’s 1791 book, “The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, and Confectionary.” Rendered suet can be used in place of butter to seal the jars. By “Oiling the butter” Frazer means to clarify it, skimming all dairy solids from it. If you use butter to seal the pot, be absolutely sure it is well salted. Unsalted butter will quickly spoil and become moldy.
- Cake -
Here’s a recipe for cake using suet from John Perkin’s 1797 book, “Every Woman her own Housekeeper.” Dried orange blossoms are available online. Reading between the lines on this recipe, I suspect it is meant to be understood by the reader that the suet is first to be rendered, then allowed to solidify, and then grated before adding it to the other ingredients. There is very little instruction given here.
This recipe is an exception to my comments above regarding my choice of recipes based on their representation of their food category. Most period cake recipes depend on mechanical leavening for their light and airy texture. This is accomplished by beating egg whites into chiffon, which is then carefully folded into the cake batter. This recipe, however, omits eggs altogether. I suspect it uses suet instead to create a heavier, yet spongy texture. If this is indeed the case, the suet would need to be added in grated form as opposed to melted, as a cursory reading might suggest.
- Sausage -
Here’s a simple, but amazingly delicious recipe for sausage from Maria Rundell’s 1807 book, “A New System of Domestic Cookery.” Similar recipes suggest that these can be made up into “finger-like” shapes and browned in butter.
- Forcemeat (Dressing) -
Here’s a recipe that uses suet. It’s for forcemeat, or dressing. It’s from Mary Johnson’s 1753 book, “Madam Johnson’s Present.” If rabbit isn’t your thing, a fowl of your choice will work as well. A couple notes of clarification: obviously, you can substitute ground spices for those pounded in a mortar, or you can use one of our spice mixes that accurately follow original 18th century mixed-spice recipes. Also, the ‘catchup” mentioned here is likely either walnut or mushroom ketchup. (Be sure to check out my previous post on 18th century ketchups.) If you don’t have 18th century ketchup, I suggest a spoonful of Worcestershire sauce instead — a close substitute.
- Frying -
Come late spring, I love to head down the hill with fishing pole in hand, hoping to stink up a frying pan with a few bluegill or a nice bass. You can bet I’ll be trying this recipe from Francis Collingwood’s 1792 book, “The Universal Cook.”
- Grilling & Broiling -
And finally, here’s a technique for using suet when grilling or broiling. This is from T. Williams’ 1797 book, “The Accomplished Housekeeper.” Beef steaks can be grilled in the same fashion.