Sara Swanson

1860’s Recipe: Calf’s feet jelly

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In 1867 Manchester was no longer a frontier town. Residents had access to groceries and dry goods and even imported ingredients like lemons and spices. So what did they cook?

An idea can be gained by reading The Virginia Housewife from 1860. It is full of recipes, some nearly identical to recipes we cook today, others, like calf’s feet jelly seem very foreign. Browse recipes that would have been familiar to Manchester’s residents 150 years ago at http://www.vintagerecipes.net/books/virginia_housewife/.

Here is how to make calf’s feet jelly:

To Make Jelly From Feet

Ingredients

  • 4 calfs’ feet
  • 1 quart of white wine
  • 6 fresh lemons
  • 1 1/2 pounds of powdered loaf sugar
  • cinnamon
  • mace
  • 8 eggs

Instructions

Boil the calfs’ feet, that have been nicely cleaned, and the hoofs taken off; when the feet are boiled to pieces, strain the liquor through a colander, and when cold, take all the grease off, and put the jelly in a skillet, leaving the dregs which will be at the bottom. There should be from four feet, about two quarts of jelly: pour into it the white wine, the juice of the lemons strained from the seeds, powdered loaf sugar, a little pounded cinnamon and mace, and the rind thinly pared from two of the lemons; wash the eggs very clean, whip up the whites to a froth, crush the shells and put with them, mix it with the jelly, set it on the fire, stir it occasionally till the jelly is melted, but do not touch it afterwards. When it has boiled till it looks quite clear on one side, and the dross accumulates on the other, take off carefully the thickest part of the dross, and pour the jelly in the bag; put back what runs through, until it becomes quite transparent; then set a pitcher under the bag, and put a cover all over to keep out the dust: the jelly looks much prettier when it is broken to fill the glasses. The bag should be made of cotton or linen, and be suspended in a frame made for the purpose. The feet of hogs make the palest coloured jelly; those of sheep are a beautiful amber-colour, when prepared.

Much like we feed Jell-o to sick kids today, calf’s feet jelly was once considered restorative food for the sick.

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