Turkey, Christmas pudding and mince pies haven’t always been on the menu on 25th December. In Medieval times, goose and woodcock would have on the table of the rich and possibly even swan, with the King’s permission. Covered with butter and saffron and the swan was then roasted. If a poor family wanted goose it would cost them a day’s wages. Venison was also common and the leftovers were often given to the poor to put into pies. Christmas pudding would have been a porridge mixed with currants, dried fruit and spices.
Mulled wine and Church ale was consumed and a nobleman would probably have had a boar’s head on the table too, with an apple or orange placed in its mouth.
During the Elizabethan era, the Christmas feast was a big affair. A rich family would have a course of banquets containing sweet and colourful delicacies. Sugar was very popular and still quite expensive and featured heavily in the sweetmeat course. Dishes were made from almonds, sugar and a milk based sweet sauce made with sugar and rosewater. They also would have had some early forms of central heating. Of course this was nothing like the systems that a Gloucester Boiler Service company such as hprservicesltd.com checks each day.
A Georgian Christmas feast would most likely have taken place on Twelfth Night on January 5th. A dessert called Twelfth Cake was a major centrepiece of the feast and a party involving eating, drinking and game-playing would take place around the table. The Twelfth cake normally contained a dried bean and a dried pea. The man who got a slice with the bean in it, was elected King for the night and the woman who found the pea became Queen. It is thought that this is where the tradition of placing a sixpence inside a Christmas pudding originates.
In 1837, when Queen Victoria came to the throne, there was much poverty and not many could afford to have a turkey on the table. Roast beef became a popular option in the north and goose in the south. Rabbit was a further option for those too poor for beef. During the 19th century many people stopped putting meat into mince pies and they became more like the pies we enjoy today.
During the Second World War, turkey was simply not available so family’s enjoyed chicken instead. Mutton or rabbit was used if chicken was hard to come by. Many things were in short supply due to rationing, like chocolate, sherry and fruit.