After "Dripping Pudding" Went Yorkshire

Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding are on the menu for traditional Christmas dinner in many homes in Great Britain and in parts of the former British empire, even today. They were, of course, a regular part of many British Christmas dinners during the Regency. But just what is Yorkshire pudding, where and when did it originate, and how was it made?

The rise of Yorkshire pudding …

The word "pudding" itself has an ancient and confused history. Linguists are not sure if the English word has its origins in Anglo-Norman, Spanish, Middle French, Low German, Dutch or Middle English. According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online, the word is first attested in print in the 1300s. Among others, it has had the meaning of stuffed sausage, stuffing for roasted birds, fireworks, a sweet dessert dish, rope padding, a stupid person or a sweet or savory dish made with milk and flour, &c. Yorkshire is pudding in the last sense, a sweet or savory dish made with flour, milk, and usually eggs and salt, sometimes with sugar or spices.

Though no one is certain of the exact date, more than a century before the Prince of Wales became Regent, puddings of various names but similar recipes were being made in the north-eastern counties of Britain. A number of manuscript recipe collections dating from the mid-seventeenth century into the nineteenth century include recipes for pan pudding, fraze pudding, tansy cake, bakken pudding or a pudding to bake under meat. The batters made from all these recipes included flour, milk or cream, eggs, some of which also included salt, butter, sugar, suet, or spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves or mace. Beer was sometimes added to help the Yorkshire pudding to rise well. The cooking instructions for each recipe were all also very similar. But these many recipes are all to be found in collections of private papers which have never been published and are held in various libraries around Great Britain.

The first published recipe of what would eventually come to be called Yorkshire pudding was initially printed in a book which instructed English women on their duty. In 1737, The Whole Duty of a Woman, Or, an infallible Guide to the Fair Sex. Containing, Rules, Directions, and Observations, for their Conduct and Behavior through all Ages and Circumstances of Life, as Virgins, Wives, or Widows. was published, anonymously for the "benefit," if you will, of women. In between the exhortations to virgins, wives and widows regarding morality, meekness, pride, vanity, compassion, and affability, were mixed many "Receipts in every Kind of Cookery." One of those receipts was for "Dripping Pudding," a dish meant to accompany roast meats.

Dripping Pudding

Make a good Batter as for Pancakes, put it in a hot Toss-pan over the Fire with a Bit of Butter to fry the Bottom a little, then put the Pan and Batter under a Shoulder of Mutton instead of a Dripping-pan, keeping frequently shaking it by the Handle and it will be light and savoury, — and fit to take up when your Mutton is enough; then turn it in a Dish, and serve it hot.

A decade later, one of the best known English cooking writers of the eighteenth century, Hannah Glasse, published one of the earliest editions of her best-selling book, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy; Which far exceeds any Thing of the Kind yet published, …. In the 1747 edition, Glasse, a native of Yorkshire, published her own recipe for dripping pudding which she titled "Yorkshire Pudding."

Yorkshire Pudding

Take a Quart of Milk, four Eggs, and a little Salt, make it up into a thick Batter with flour, like a Pancake Batter. You must have a good Piece of Meat at the fire, take a Stew-pan and put some Dripping in, set it on the Fire, when it boils, pour in your Pudding, let it bake on the Fire till you think it is high enough, then turn a plate upside-down in the Dripping-pan, that the Dripping may not be blacked; set your Stew-pan on it under your Meat, and let the Dripping drop on the Pudding, and the Heat of the Fire come to it, to make it of a fine brown. When your Meat is done and set to Table, drain all the Fat from your Pudding, and set it on the Fire again to dry a little; then slide it as dry as you can into a Dish, melt some butter, and pour into a Cup, and set in the Middle of the Pudding. It is an exceeding good pudding, the Gravy of the Meat eats well with it.

Unlike The Whole Duty of a Woman, which never achieved a wide circulation, Glasse’s book sold well throughout the British Isles, though she had lost ownership of the copyright by 1755. Despite her loss of control, her recipe for Yorkshire pudding remained in subsequent editions right into the nineteenth century. By the second half of the eighteenth century, Yorkshire pudding was regularly made and enjoyed in many British homes, though it remained especially popular in the northern shires.

The point of traditional Yorkshire pudding was identified in its previous name, dripping pudding. The batter was placed in a large pan into which had been allowed to drip the fat and juices of meat roasting on a spit over the fire. Once the pan had been heated in the fire and the fat was bubbling, the batter was poured into it and placed under the roasting meat as it continued to turn on the spit, thus catching all the remaining drippings. Meat was very expensive through much of the eighteenth century, and none of it was wasted, even the drippings produced when it was roasted. Though the health-conscious today would shudder in horror, the fat from the meat drippings provided crucially needed calories, particularly for men doing heavy manual labor. The drippings also imparted a rich flavor to the Yorkshire pudding, and the high heat needed to roast meat was necessary to ensure the pudding would rise and had a light and crispy texture.

Traditional Yorkshire pudding was not served with the roasted meat, it was served before, as an appetizer or starter course. The pudding was cut into smaller pieces which were served drenched with the gravy made from the roasted meat. It is generally believed that this was done to take the edge off the diners’ appetites so that they would be satisfied with the small portions of the much more expensive meat which would be served during the second course. In poorer households, the children would receive only Yorkshire pudding and gravy, while the adults were served both the pudding with gravy and the roasted meat. Since the gravy was usually all consumed with the first course on the Yorkshire pudding, the meat and vegetables which typically comprised the second course were served with parsley or a cream sauce. Though Yorkshire pudding could be made with any roasting meat, the eighteenth-century Englishman was very fond of his roast beef. Thus, by the turn of the nineteenth century, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding had become a quintessential traditional meal throughout England. Even before the Regency, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding were a favorite Sunday dinner, especially among the middle and upper classes. There were even many among the aristocracy who enjoyed such a meal.

Even before the Regency began, there were many British households who considered roast beef and Yorkshire pudding the perfect Christmas dinner. Dear Regency Authors, should you need a menu for a Christmas dinner in a story set during the holiday season, you cannot go wrong with a traditional dinner of Yorkshire pudding drenched in gravy for the first course, followed by roast beef and vegetables garnished with a white or parsley sauce. Maybe the hero is especially fond of Yorkshire pudding and the heroine makes it for him. Will she be an experienced cook, or will this be her first attempt at Yorkshire pudding and roast beef? Or, perhaps a young lady from the country has come to London to stay with friends and is very disappointed to learn the Christmas dinner will not include Yorkshire pudding and roast beef. Might the hero arrange to change the menu, unbeknownst to the lady of the house, in order to please her? Will a traditional meal of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding find a place on the table in one of your upcoming novels?

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About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
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19 Responses to After "Dripping Pudding" Went Yorkshire

  1. helenajust says:

    Reading this is making me hungry… It’s strange how good the Yorkshire pudding tastes when eaten in the same forkful as the beef, given that they were traditionally eaten separately.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      I confess that I have never had Yorkshire pudding, but during the research for this article I found myself longing to taste it. Nearly every source mentioned how very good it was. Maybe one day I will give it a go.

      Regards,

      Kat

  2. It also tastes good when cooked with sausages for toad in the hole… nowadays because sausages are lean you have to add dripping when they are half cooked before adding the batter instead of relying on them to give up enough fat to cook it it. [I still save and clarify all my dripping to use, no waste in this household; can’t beat it for roast potatoes. I also boil all bones for stock and dripping. As a family we don’t eat much meat, about 2oz a day, a little more than when there was rationing, so it really IS an added source of protein and a viable alternative on bread or toast to butter. Though for us, that’s for choice not necessity. Butter was particularly expensive during the Napoleonic era as dairy pasture was often given over to the essential cultivation of barley and wheat. Conversely, beef dropped in price as beef cattle did not need such rich pasture as dairy, and were more cultivated than dairy kine.]

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      I did read about Yorkshire pudding being made for toad in the hole, but I could not find any explanation about how it got that name. If you know and are willing to share I would love to find out the origins of the name.

      My grandmother, who lived on a farm, also saved everything. She kept a tin for bacon grease on the stove and it was used for frying just about anything. I must say, fried eggs are the best when fried in bacon grease. She also saved any meat drippings and fat which were not eaten to be used in the making of soap. Like you, she also boiled bones for soups or to make stock for flavoring.

      Thanks for providing such interesting information about crops and beef management during the Napoleonic times. I think we sometimes forget that though no battles took place in Britain, there were still powerful effects on the home front.

      Regards,

      Kat

  3. The other filling pudding also often associated with Yorkshire is the suet pudding, served as a pie crust when wrapped around steak and kidney as steak and kidney pudding [or Kate and Sidney if you’re a Londoner] for the same reason, to take up the flavour of the gravy and take the edge off the hunger. It exists in the form of various types of dumplings too, which may be ‘Suffolk sinkers’ – heavy and solid – or ‘Norfolf floaters’ which have raising agents in the flour and float on top of the stew they are served with. Each region has its favourite recipe and they can be made with fats other than suet [I use marge because I’m lazy]. The dumpling predates the potato by an unspecified period, about 100 years or maybe more and my personal theory is that it may have been introduced in the wet years of 1416-19 if turnip crops rotted in the ground.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      Suet is one thing I have never cared for, though my grandmother used it in making mince pies at Christmas-time, usually topped with a brandy hard sauce. Most everyone loved them, but I preferred pumpkin pie. Suet is used here to put out to feed birds in the winter. I am perfectly happy to let them have all of my share!

      I have never heard of “Suffolk sinkers” or “Norfolk floaters” before. Think I will go with the floaters. They sound much like dumplings my grandmother made, which were light and tasty. She usually made them with chicken soup, and I loved to watch them floating on the surface of the chicken soup.

      Makes sense that the dumpling pre-dated the potato, at least in Europe. The potato was an import from South America in the sixteenth century, though initially, many in Europe were afraid to eat it. I did not know about the “Turnip famine” of the 1400s, but if it was a staple of the diet, suddenly lost, there would be a need to find an alternative.

      Thanks for sharing your amazing knowledge!

      Regards,

      Kat

      • There’s no real mention of a turnip famine in as many words but mention of hunger caused by the failure of many harvests is mentioned. This is why we have the Norfolk Broads – the peat pits got filled. Be aware I AM extrapolating and making an educated guess… however, I can’t find any mention of any kind of dumpling in the ‘forme of cury’ which was Richard II’s cookery book, well the one his cooks used, which might be because it’s a food that’s too low class for a king, or it might be because in the mid fourteenth century it hadn’t been invented.
        The secret to Norfolk floaters is some bicarb and a pinch of tartaric acid to make it rise.
        When I was a kid, suet dumpling boiled in plain water and smothered in golden syrup [sugar based not corn syrup but not too dissimilar I think] was a filling ‘afters’ if the meal had been meagre. [along with semolina pudding with nutmeg, milk rice pudding with strawberry jam or raisins and other stick to the ribs fillers that never seemed to make us into fat kids in those days]

        I’m not sure how toad in the hole got its name, but apparently in the Regency it would refer to beef cooked in the batter rather than served with it, and therefore presumably derogatory in derivation.
        I just found a possibility – here’s what it says in the 1811 dictionary of the vulgar tongue [an invaluable purchase]
        Toad in the hole: meat baked or boiled in a pie crust.
        HOWEVER! in the same entry on toad is the entry ‘as full of money as a toad is of feathers’ as a saying. As one ekes out an insufficiency of meat with batter, could it have come from an ironic rewording of that, ‘as full of meat as a toad is of feathers’? I postulate this as a possibility

        • Kathryn Kane says:

          Curiouser and curiouser, with beef, toads and feathers all munged up together. But then again, we have a dish here called pig-in-a-blanket, which is a hot dog wrapped in dough, with or without a slice of cheese put inside a slit in the hot dog. Where is the pig? Who knows! Food history is always fascinating.

          Thanks for sharing your insights, research and extrapolations.

          Regards,

          Kat

  4. What I’m curious about is how Yorkshire pudding ended up with the name “pudding”, rather than being called bread. On this side of the pond, pudding usually refers to a type of soft, gelatinous dessert created from a mix. Hmmmm….must look that up.

    I’ve often wanted to recreate a Titanic dinner, but I think it would be equally fun to recreate a Regency Christmas dinner too!

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      So far as I can tell, “bread” was a term used only for baked goods which used yeast as a rising agent. There is no yeast in Yorkshire pudding, unless you count the tiny bit which might be provided by the addition of beer to the mixture.

      “Pudding” is an ancient word which has had a number of meanings over the centuries. One of those meanings was a hot dish, more like a pie, in which meat, gravy and sometimes vegetables were enclosed. Many in the US have lost sight of that meaning, quite possibly because of the efforts of those companies which engaged in saturation advertizing to ensure their soft, sweet custardy product was top of mind with the public. The more traditional meaning of the word has gotten lost on this side of the pond.

      Regards,

      Kat

  5. I am glad to finally know what a Yorkshire pudding is, thanks, Kathry, Besides I love post related to Christmas. I’m in the mood for Christmas myself, and these days am busy with making my own Christmas baubles – or rather trying to do so. I thought it to a good idea to have papier mâché baubles with glitter and portraits of the characters of Georgette Heyer’s novel. By now, I mainly managed to get silver glitter all over my apartment… .

    Well, your mentioning of the Prince of Wales set of my plot-bunny:

    As we know, Prinny had engagend Antonin Carême as his chef at Carlton House in London and the Royal Pavilion in Brighton from 1816 to 1818. A fantastic salary of 2,000 pound had helped to lure the most famous chef away from France. Carême’s time in England wasn’t very happy. The fellow cooks were envious, the weather grisly and Carême was homesick.

    So much for the facts. Now imagination takes over:

    Christmas Eve in Carlton House, London, 1817. Prinny has guest from Yorkshire – the Howards, Lascelles and the Sykes – staying with him. To make them feel at home in grand Carlton House, he orders to have Yorkshire pudding for Christmas dinner. Carême is shocked. He has heard of Yorkshire pudding, naturellement, but never done one. It certainly is a barbaric dish! However, he has to fulfill the Prince’s wish. Will he be able to do so? He doesn’t know the recipe and his fellow cooks refuse to help.
    The next scene finds Carême in the middle of the night on the way to the butler’s pantry- he knows there is a copy of Hannah Glasses “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”. He finds the pantry locked. Bad luck! What can he do? Suddenly a floor board creeks, a door opens, the fingers of a light beam reach out to grab the chef – is it the jealous under-chef of the kitchen? Or Prinny??
    It’s a kitchen maid. Carême tries to hide, but too late. She sees him and wonders what he doing here in the middle of the night. Carême’s first impulse is to send her about her business, but to his own surprise he finds himself telling her about his trouble. The kitchen maid is a girl with a kind heart. Even better: She is from Yorkshire. She doesn’t need a cook book to make a Yorkshire pudding.
    Until the small hours the two of them sit together, the maid explaining the recipe, Carême improving it in a way only a French chef is able to do. At dinner time on Christmas Day, Carême happily presents the Yorkshire pudding (complete with a center piece in the shape of York Cathedral) to Prinny and his guests. They are delighted and reward the chef generously.
    For once, Carême shares the money. He and the kitchen maid are friends since Christmas Eve. When Carême leaves England the next year, he knows she is the one thing he will miss.

    Happy Holidays!

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      What a lovely story! I am so glad the great French chef got assistance from a Yorkshire girl. It would have been a pity if he had to rely on Hannah Glasse, since she was blatantly anti-French cooking in her books.

      I hope you had fun making your baubles, despite the glitter escape!

      Happy Holidays to you!

      Kat

  6. I know someone who was not given a share of the roast meat when he went to lunch at a schoolfriend’s house as a child in 1950s’ Britain. When he asked if he might have some he was told, ‘Meat is for Father.’

    Another fab post. It reminds me of the dripping on toast I’ll be having for breakfast on Boxing Day. Happy Christmas Kat.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      Thank you for sharing that telling slice of recent history. My research into food and nutrition history shows that for many centuries it was the male prerogative to be served any available meat first. Any leftovers went next to the women and then to the children. Though there are plenty of instances when mothers gave the meat to their children, in some cases at the risk of their own health.

      I am glad you enjoyed the post and I wish you a Happy Christmas and a very tasty Boxing Day!

      Regards,
      Kat

      • Interestingly, if WE were on short commons, meat went to guests, we had an FHB policy…

        • Kathryn Kane says:

          Nice to know that some men were willing to sacrifice their meat in honor of guests. True hospitality!

          =^..^=

          • Mum would have found a way to make sure it went evenly between dad and guests if he’d had a manual job; because then, feeding the breadwinner and making sure he has enough protein is not a question of sexism, but of pragmatic good sense… which is, of course, why the custom arose in the first place. But Dad was a true gentleman in the best sense. It’s why I picked my husband… he measured up to my father… heh, in danger of becoming soppy here! sorry…

            • Kathryn Kane says:

              Please don’t be sorry! It is very good to know there are still real gentlemen in the world. I am glad you have found one and I am sure you appreciate him.

              May you both have a very Merry, or Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!

              Regards,
              Kat

  7. Pingback: After "Dripping Pudding" Went Yorkshire | The Beau Monde

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