24th December 1816
As you know, I— Letitia Wellbeloved, roving correspondent—have been commissioned by the chief editor of The Lady’s Magazine to visit the most splendid country houses of several well known and respected members of society and to share with you, a little about the Christmas traditions of these families. And my, what a wonderful whirlwind of a tour it has been so far! Not only have the most delightful Christmas recipes been shared, but there’s also been a fare amount of juicy tidbits of gossip sprinkled throughout each report… Let me assure you, dear Readers, you are about to hear a few more… er, recipes and Christmas traditions that is!
At the end of this post, I have included the list of other grand homes I will be visiting, together with details of two generous prizes donated by the editor of The Lady’s Magazine. All you have to do is enter something called a RAFFLECOPTER… whatever that is! You can click HERE to enter it or go to the end of this post.
Today, I have the pleasure of reporting from Arlington Abbey in Little Arlington, Surrey, home of the very newly wedded, Jasper and Tessa Hargreaves, the Earl and Countess of Arlington.
[ As an aside, dear Readers, you may have read in certain society pages such as the Teatime Tattler (although it is rather naughty of me to mention such a salacious tome), about the events leading up to the sudden betrothal and marriage of the notorious, but-oh-so-scrumptious rake, Jasper Hargreaves, Lord Arlington and Miss Tessa Penrose, the sister of Viscount Trevilian.
For many years, Miss Penrose had been a relative stranger in the realm of the haute ton. A confirmed bluestocking, she devoted much of her time and energy to supporting charities and to pursuing a ‘career’ (quite outrageous, I know) as a portrait artist. It was a shock indeed when whispers about the scandalous behavior of the quite singular Miss Penrose and Lord Arlington reached this correspondent’s ears. Apparently, this spinsterish miss was publicly compromised by Lord Arlington—and by compromised I mean the pair were actually ‘caught beneath the kissing bough’—at a Yuletide ball at Penrose House in London at the start of this month. It is my understanding that Lord Arlington decided to take the course gentleman should always take in these situations and offered for Miss Penrose’s hand in marriage straightaway. This seemingly mismatched couple have since been united in holy matrimony in the private chapel right here at Arlington Abbey. Only time will tell if this hasty union will be a love match…]
Now, without further ado, I’d like you to meet Mrs. Greenaway, the housekeeper of Arlington Abbey…
LW.: Dear Mrs. Greenaway, I must thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. I understand you were very much involved in preparations for Lord and Lady Arlington’s wedding breakfast last week, and I also hear the earl has planned a grand feast for the estate’s tenants on Christmas Day (heavens, is it really tomorrow?)
Mrs. G.: Yes, that is indeed correct, Miss Wellbeloved. And what a right busy time it’s been. However, it’s been such a pleasure to organize both events for his lordship and his new countess. And such a beautiful sweet-tempered woman she is—I can see why Lord Arlington appears so smitten, even though the wedding was… ahem, so sudden. I don’t mind the extra work, considering his lordship seems so happy. After he returned from Waterloo last year… Oh it was such a sad time… [Mrs. Greenaway takes a moment to dab at her eyes with her apron before I feel I can ask my next question]
L.W.: As I mentioned, it must have been quite a surprise for you and the other staff to hear your master was getting married. I can’t imagine you had much time to prepare for Christmas considering the wedding was on the 18th December. Are there any Christmas traditions particular to Arlington Abbey and the earl’s family that you would care to share with the readers of The Lady’s Magazine?
Mrs. G.: Well, yes. However, Lord Arlington’s father—he passed away last year—was not one for celebrating Christmas. So the festivities Jasper has organized (I’ve known his lordship since he was a boy so it’s hard for me to think of him as Lord Arlington), they will be new traditions. It is wonderful to see the house brought to life again.
L.W.: How lovely! Do tell me what has been planned.
Mrs. G.: You may have noticed how bright and welcoming the Great Hall is. Lord Arlington asked his steward to procure an enormous Yule log for the fireplace and his lordship lit it himself this very morning. I’m sure it will continue to burn right through the season (and what a dreadfully cold year it has been. We surely need it!) The Hall and the main living areas have also been beautifully decorated with boughs of holly, ivy, mistletoe and Christmas roses. And so many candles. No expense has been spared, let me tell you. I’m sure Lady Arlington will be delighted to see what the master has done to make her feel welcome.
L.W.: And what will be served for Christmas dinner, Mrs. Greenaway? I’m sure it will be a veritable feast!
Mrs. G.: I certainly hope so considering the menu I planned buycheap-pillsonline.com with Mrs. Newbury, the head cook here. There will be ham, roast goose, turkey and duck aplenty, a haunch of venison, roast beef and even a suckling pig. There will be stuffing from the fowl, roast chestnuts and vegetable dishes of course—Mrs. Newbury has even managed to obtain asparagus and Brussels sprouts! And then to finish there will be trifle and Christmas pudding all washed down with mulled wine, cider or ale.
LW.: And what particular family recipe will you be sharing with us today, Mrs. Greenaway?
Mrs. G.: As a special treat for your readers, I would be happy to share my tried-and-true recipe for plum pudding. The late Countess of Arlington—Jasper’s mother—loved it so. And I hope the new Lady Arlington loves it too!
Traditional Plum Pudding
Ingredients for the fruit mixture:
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 225 grams/½ pound of butter
- 450 grams/1 pound of dried mixed fruit (e.g. sultanas, currants, raisins, peel, glacé cherry pieces)
- 1 tablespoon of marmalade
- 2 tablespoons of brandy
- 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
Ingredients for the cake mixture:
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup of self-raising flour
- 1 cup of plain flour
- ¼ cup of toasted, slivered almonds
- 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and mixed spice
To serve: custard and cream
- Combine all of the ingredients for the fruit mixture—except for the bicarbonate of soda—in a large saucepan. Stir over low-medium heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is combined. Bring to the boil and let the mixture simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda—the mixture will froth up at this point. Set aside to cool for an hour.
- Sift the flours and spices into a large bowl. Add the cooled fruit mixture, lightly beaten eggs, vanilla, brandy and toasted almond slivers. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
- Transfer mixture to a greased pudding basin with a lid (grease with butter). Seal well. Place a trivet in the bottom of a very large soup or stock pot, then place the basin on top of this (this will stop the top of the pudding from sticking too much). Carefully pour boiling water from a kettle around the pudding until the water level is about half-way to two-thirds up the side of the basin. Bring the water to the boil over low-medium heat, place the lid on the pot, then boil/steam the pudding over low heat for 3-4 hours. Check the water level every so often and top up with more boiling water from the kettle as required.
- After 3-4 hours, very carefully remove the boiled plum pudding from the pot of boiling water.
- Let cool then store in a cool, dark place for several weeks (even a month to six weeks). Every week, you can remove the top of the pudding basin and sprinkle the pudding with a little more brandy.
- To serve the pudding hot on Christmas Day, place the pudding basin in another pot of boiling water as described above and ‘steam’ for an hour or two until heated through. Remove from the basin, turn out onto a pudding plate and serve with thick custard and cream.
This is Letitia Wellbeloved bidding farewell to Arlington Abbey. I hope you will join me at one of the other places I will be visiting. You can click here to join the hop or scroll further down to find each stop…
If you want to find out more about Miss Tessa Penrose and Jasper Hargreaves, Lord Arlington, you can read about their romance in the Christmas novella All She Wants For Christmas by Amy Rose Bennett. It’s one of seven novellas in the recently released Bluestocking Belles’ Christmas box set, Mistletoe, Marriage, & Mayhem.
When confirmed bluestocking, Tessa Penrose, is thoroughly compromised at a Yuletide ball by Jasper, the Earl of Arlington, she is none too pleased to have to marry him. But not only her reputation is at stake. Can Tessa trust this disreputable rogue with a secret she will do anything to hide?
One thing is certain: she dare not trust her husband with her heart.
Mistletoe, Marriage, & Mayhem
In this collection of novellas, the Bluestocking Belles bring you seven runaway Regency brides resisting and romancing their holiday heroes under the mistletoe. Whether scampering away or dashing toward their destinies, avoiding a rogue or chasing after a scoundrel, these ladies and their gentlemen leave miles of mayhem behind them on the slippery road to a happy-ever-after. ***All proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.***
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Join the Historical Hearts for a weekend of Christmas revelry in the tradition of all good historical romances. Take a sneak peek behind the scenes of the grand houses and share some of the gossip about ‘them up there’ as well as forgotten traditions and favorite family recipes.
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And especially for the readers of The Lady’s Magazine, there is a chance to win yourself a Christmas present of one of two Amazon Gift Vouchers. Just make sure you enter the Rafflecopter right here!