Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Cold Meat And Pickles

A comment by Di on yesterdays post prompted more childhood memories for me.

My Grandparents were frugal people, a trait born of necessity having lived through two world wars and times of great shortage.

Nothing was wasted, everything had a purpose and yet they never seemed to be short of anything.

Grandad grew almost all of the vegetables they needed and those that weren't used fresh were preserved in chutneys, jams and pickles.

Great sacks of potatoes sat in the shed and onions were plaited into long ropes that hung from hooks in the rafters.

The large dark wood wardrobe built into the alcove at the side of the fireplace in the front bedroom housed row after row of jams, jellies, pickles and dark, thick cut marmalade that sparkled like jewels in the dim light when the door was opened.

Housework in those days really was a full time job without the convenience of modern technology and labour saving devices.

I remember being given the job of sweeping the carpet in the little used front room.  The carpet was a deep pile textured carpet in a kind of ginger colour and the curtains and chairs were a dull gold draylon. 

The huge bay window where my favourite chair sat was hung with ridgedly starched net curtains that scratched my nose as I pressed it against the window.

I can still recall that smell and feel the coolness of the glass through the net.

The curtains ran on a track outside of the bay and when I pulled them across it was like being in my own little den where no one could see me but I could see all that was happening outside.

Sweeping that carpet was not my favourite job!  I don't know if they ever owned a vacuum cleaner, my memories are of an old fashioned carpet sweeper like this one:

It had a spiral shaped brush at the front that turned and swept the dust and crumbs up into the base as you pushed it across the floor.  Easy enough on a flat floor, not so easy on that bumpy, textured carpet!

Sunday lunch was always a very proper affair, the only hot meal of the week to be eaten in the middle of the day.

No roast was complete without it's correct accompaniment.  Apple sauce for pork, bread sauce with chicken, Yorkshire puddings with beef and mint sauce with the lamb.

Mint sauce was made from mint grown in the garden.  I was sent to pick a small bunch which would first be washed and then the leaves stripped from the tougher stalks.  The mint was laid on a wooden board and sprinkled with sugar and then chopped with a roller with a row of sharp blades before being left to infuse in dark malt vinegar.

I don't know what became of my Grandmothers mint roller.  I suppose it could have been used for any herb but the days of 'fancy' cooking hadn't yet arrived and I never saw it used for anything other than mint.

Last year when I was looking around an antique market near Lyme Regis I stumbled upon a herb cutter exactly like my Grandmothers.  The only one I'd ever seen other than hers so of course I HAD to have it!

It now sits proudly in a cabinet in my front room along with some other kitchenalia I've collected over the last few years.

The joint of meat cooked on a Sunday was always large enough for several meals and Monday was cold meat and pickles day.

Slices of cold meat were served with huge piles of buttery mashed potato, a loaf of bread warm from the oven and a jar of chutney or pickle from the wardrobe in the front bedroom.

My favourite was the dark green, slightly onion'y runner bean chutney packed with plump sultanas ladled out with a long stemmed rather worn silver spoon.

The rest of the meat was made into pies with golden pastry crusts, a small ceramic blackbird with it's beak open poking up through the centre to let the steam escape.

If it had been beef for Sunday lunch Grandad would clamp the mincer on to the side of the blue formica table in the kitchen and turn the handle as my Grandmother fed the slices of meat into the top.  I watched with fascination as the mince was forced through the holes and dropped into the bowl below.

Later it would be transformed into a huge cottage pie topped with mashed potato, the top raked with a fork so the peaks became caramelised by the butter dotted all over it before it was popped into the oven.

I also found an original 1960's mincer still in it's box with instructions at out local antiques market, perhaps my next post should be about the things I've collected so far ...

1 comment:

Di said...

Oh Sarah, more wonderful memories! I still adhere to the accompaniments you listed with the various roast meats - and actually had a carpet sweeper like the one you described as a wedding gift many years ago! We also had an electric vacuum cleaner but the carpet sweeper was quick and easy in between full vacuuming sessions!

And I wonder, did your Gran feed a slice of bread through the mincer at the end to 'clean' it? Am sure that was added into the meat mixture to bulk it out a bit! I seem to recall my Gran doing that, and possibly my own Mum did so too.

Keep going with those memories :)

Di xx