Festive food of South Tyneside’s past

Busy in the kitchen in days long ago.
Busy in the kitchen in days long ago.

Christmas, for the lucky ones, is a time of fun, festivities and food – and today Dorothy Ramser serves up a reminder of some recipes from the past in the last part of her seasonal look-back.

The historian and regular contributor tells how the column “Hints for housewives” in the Gazette of December 1889, featured recipes for such dishes as pork and cabbage casserole, steamed oysters, devilled pig’s feet (probably tastier than it sounds once the bone was removed ), oysters on toast, pressed beef and apple mould.

“This,” says Dorothy, “is a recipe for plum pudding: – 1lb raisins, 1lb suet, quarter pound of breadcrumbs, quarter pound of flour, quarter pound of brown sugar, grated rind of one lemon, half a grated nutmeg, five eggs, half pound candied peel and half pint of brandy. The method: mix all the dry ingredients together. Beat the eggs and brandy together then pour over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Boil in a basin (presumably it was buttered, lined and covered with pleated greaseproof paper) for six hours, then again for six hours the day it is to be eaten.”

Another recipe for the 1889 Tyneside Christmas kitchen was ‘meat croquettes’ which sounds suspiciously like burgers and featured one pound of minced beef mixed with one finely chopped onion and one bunch of chopped parsley, the whole seasoned with salt and pepper made into flat cakes and fried in butter.”

Away from food, Dorothy explains that during the Christmas of 1907 there was a large increase both in letters and parcels passing through South Shields Post Office, with Ocean Road Board schools brought in to help with the extra work and were “kept busy until Christmas morning”.

“In 1916 T&G Allen’s, of South Shields, were advertising Christmas cards described as all made in England. Also available were hand-painted calendars. They also held a fine selection of children’s books which ‘would build up a child’s character as they impart inspiring knowledge of the world’ – declaring ‘buy the bairn a book this Christmas!’ They also had a large selection of fountain pens from 3/- to £6 six shillings.

“J.J. Grants, of 19-21 Fowler Street, were selling rings, pendants and brooches and dainty wristwatches for the ladies in December 1919. They stocked cigarette cases, gold and silver watches and chains, tie pins and signet rings for gentlemen. A fine selection of silver plate and umbrellas were also being sold.

“Binns had a Grand Christmas Bazar in 1935 which featured a ride on a scenic railway to the exotic destination of the “land of sunshine” for 6d with each person receiving a gift as they alighted.

“Later in 1950 Binns ran Christmas advertisements promoting evening gowns, one of which was described as champagne coloured with a low cut square neckline, trimmed with brown sequins and draped pockets, retailing at £6-16s-6d. Another, in black georgette, for the fuller figure, was adorned with gold sequins and had cap sleeves with small buttons down the bodice. It could have been yours for 10 Guineas. To complement the outfit they had an evening bag with diamanté clip fastener for 31 shillings.

“Meanwhile, on Christmas Eve in 1968, the toys on the giant Christmas tree at the Gaumont in South Shields were removed and given to the local hospitals. We too should spare a thought for those less fortunate on Tyneside and ensure elderly neighbours are not alone at Christmas.”