The American Pictorial Home Book
or Housekeeper's Encyclopedia - online book

A reference manual of household management in Victorian times.

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There is no reason why very much should be left to be done on the day itself. Mince-meat for pies may be made months before and kept in a good stone jar with a closely fitting stone cover. The plum pudding may also have been made and boiled at least a week previously. The mince pies should be made the day before; so should the force meats for stuffing turkeys, and all the gravies and many of the sauces. The roasting of meat must, of course, be done on the day, and the pudding will want an hour's hard boiling, the gravies warming up, and so on; but there is no reason why the work of entertaining a large party should not be spread out over several previous days, not one of which will be over-burthened. Now for the Christmas dinner, from which, if you are wise, you will omit both soup and fish, for two reasons (both are excellent ones): the first is that the children, young and old, should all be at table if possible, and they do not care for or know how to manage soup; and the second is the comfort of the servants. If, according to the old homely fashion—never so good a fashion as on this, the best of all days,—they eat at your table, and do not change about; if you are able to have a number of them and they dine away, which in that case is of course only proper, then it will be well to give them as little trouble as you can. However, the dinner to be de­scribed is a wholesome, plentiful family meal, to which father and mother and children, friends and relatives, may all sit down together, and so may the servants if only one or two. The table, when spread for a large dinner party, such as will be described, shall have at the top a large roast turkey, stuffed with fine force-meats and garnished with sausages—what our English ancestors called "an alderman in chains," and flanked by a tureen of delicate snow-white bread sauce on the left side and another of brown gravy on the right. At the bottom a fine piece of roast beef done to a turn, smoking hot, on a hot dish, with a well to it to hold the gravy, and supported on the right side by a tureen of hot horse-raddish sauce, on the other by a dish of light Yorkshire pudding. On the right side of the table should be a couple of boiled fowls with a tureen of parsley sauce behind them, and on the left side a boiled ham, or better still, a leg of pickled pork. With this course of savory dishes, mealy, boiled potatoes, two delicately brown ones, which have been baked with the beef for half an hour or so ; one of nicely mashed potatoes and of potatoes in their jackets, which old-fashioned folks always like ; in addition, there must be boiled cabbage, cauliflower, aspara­gus, peas and mashed turnips, beets, salsify and carrots. So equip­ped, you are abundantly prepared to entertain twenty or more guests, but if your party be very large have a second turkey ready to be brought on the table when the first is used, You may not want it,