As a follow-up to my last post as well as to our latest video, I’m offering a couple of 18th century recipes from the 1767 cookbook, Primitive Cookery; or the Kitchen Garden Display’d. As I previously mentioned, this book was a collection of recipes that were “borrowed” from other sources: the two recipes I’m highlighting were originally from Hannah Glasse’s earlier cookbook The Art of Cookery. Both recipes happen to use rice as their main ingredient.
Rice was an important food in 18th century English diets. That topic, however, is far too complex to be addressed at this time. Entire books have been written on the subject. One that I would highly recommend is Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection by Karen Hess.
I struggled a bit writing this post. Normally, I enthusiastically celebrate 18th century foods. In contrast, this post has brought a certain degree of sobriety.
Much of the rice enjoyed on English tables originated either from West Africa or South Carolina and Georgia. While indigenous rice had been cultivated in Africa for thousands of years, it wasn’t until possibly the 16th century that the finer, whiter oriental varieties were introduced. The crop was so successful there and the grain so popular, that its production quickly surpassed the indigenous varieties.
By the late 1600s, these strains of rice had also been introduced to the swamplands of South Carolina and portions of Georgia. Within a few years, hundreds of tons of rice were being exported. The success of the crop in the colonies was directly due to the expertise of African slaves brought from the rice-growing regions of West Africa.
We cannot correct the inhumanities of history by ignoring them. While the purpose of this post is to examine two very simple rice recipes, I do not want to overlook the reality that lies behind them. The fact is, the luxuries enjoyed by so few were the result of the blood, sweat, and tears of so many.
So are these recipes.
Having said that, here are the recipes. They are exceptionally easy to make.
Carolina rice was a long grain rice. In my experience with these recipes, I found a medium grain rice to work better than a modern extra-long grain rice. The quantities used in these recipes are almost irrelevant. There is a great deal of latitude in terms of how much rice you use. I also found that while you need to leave some room in the pudding cloth for the rice to expand, if you leave too much, the end result will be a bag of soggy rice rather than a well-formed pudding ball.
One other word of advice draws upon 18th century kitchen wisdom that is not mentioned in these recipes: once the puddings are done boiling, you may find it easier to remove them from the pudding bag if you first dip them in cold water for a few seconds.
Finally, this recipe calls for a sauce of equal parts melted butter and sugar. In my opinion, the sauce really makes these dishes. If, however, you choose to not use butter, you may want instead to try drizzling some sherry sweetened with a little sugar.