Sunday, 13 December 2009


It is hard to believe that it was just on a year ago when the Hoydens and Firebrands launched their blog and I thought I would take this moment to thank not only my fellow Hoydens – Anita (who deserves extra special thanks for being our webmistress!), Sandra, Mary and Kim for their friendship and fabulous insights into all things seventeenth century, and also our Followers and friends for their support of our blog over the last year.

Because the five of us, while sharing a passion for the seventeenth century, have such different interests, I have learned so much from the other hoydens and we would love to hear from our regular (and irregular) readers, which blogs have piqued their interest over the year or indeed if there are any suggestions for topics they would like to see in the coming year. Please leave us a comment!

The Hoydens are scattered around the world and it is only the marvels of the internet that can bring us together. I am the only Australian and like everyone else looking forward to Christmas, my favourite time of year. I haven’t dared look at the weather forecast because down here in Melbourne, Christmas day can be anything from a very pleasant low twenties to high thirties (celcius). Being of Anglo-Celtic descent, my family enjoys a “traditional” English Christmas of Turkey, ham and pudding – although on very hot days we have been known to do it as a cold buffet!

I am ashamed to admit that I am a little behind in my Christmas baking. Christmas is now the only time of the year when I do bake (oh the calories!) and I love it because a day spent in the kitchen with the smell of cakes and mince pies wafting through the house, marks a connection with the women of my family back through the ages and I know this an unseventeenth century topic but I would like to tell you about one of those women!

My mother’s family came from the border country of Lancashire and Yorkshire (the Pendle witch country that Mary writes about) and the women were formidable. According to Grandmother Brown (my great grandmother) if domestic work wasn’t finished by lunchtime then you were an idle housekeeper. My heavens, she’d be turning in the grave to see my standard of housekeeping! Sundays were for the Lord and woe betide my mother if she wore a dress without sleeves or picked up anything other than the “good book” on the Lord’s Day of Rest!

And then there was my Aunty Etty (Hetty), one of a number of elderly great aunts collectively referred to as "the prickly aunts" not by virtue of their personalities but because they always seemed to be prickly to kiss! Aunty Etty enjoyed the reputation of being the best cook in the family and she was, as you can probably imagine, a round, sweet natured old lady. I only met her on a couple of occasions, the last being at the grand old age of twenty one when she looked me up and down and the following conversation ensued.

“How old art thou?”
“Err, twenty one, Aunty Etty.”
“Twenty one! Twenty one and not married! Aren’t there any decent boys in Australia?”

Last year I shared the seventeenth century Christmas pudding recipe with you, so this year I would like to share “Aunty Etty’s mince pies” (which were legendary!). No one quite made them like Aunty Etty, even my Mum and I have to confess to tweaking the recipe slightly, so along with Grandmother Brown, poor Aunty Etty is now probably spinning in her grave!


8 oz (250gr) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz (125gr) sugar
4 oz (125gr) butter
I beaten egg
¼ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp lemon rind

• Sieve flour and add sugar

• Rub in butter until mixture resembles bread crumbs

• Make into dough with egg

• Wrap in cling film and rest in fridge ½ hr and then turn on to floured board and proceed as for ordinary pastry.

• Makes about 12 pies using one jar of fruit mince (of course, Aunty Etty made her own fruit mince!)

A safe and happy Christmas to my fellow hoydens and our friends and we look forward to continuing on in the new year with more special guest bloggers and fascinating corners of the seventeenth century to explore.

Aunty Etty as a child, 2nd from left front row...
(Uncle Bateman - in uniform back row was killed in the fighting in Mesopotamia WWI, my grandfather is next to him)


Kim Murphy said...

It wasn't until I met my husband, who is from Ireland, that I learned the traditional Christmas dinner is turkey. I, of course, found that humorous since the turkey is originally from North America. That would certainly make it a 17th-century feast!

Alison Stuart said...

Actually, Kim, the traditonal English Christmas meat is beef or boar (hence the Boar's Head carol)!

I don't know when Turkey became the dish de jour! I suspect it is probably more of a 20th century innovation, adopted out of Thanksgiving.

Perhaps one of our readers can help?

Marg said...

It is pretty safe to look at the forecast this year. As far as I know it is going to be pretty mild here in Melbourne, thank goodness.

With the prospect of hot Christmas every year my mother NEVER cooked any hot roasts, so it was something of a shock to me when I moved to England and was expected to produce roast turkey!

As for the posts I have enjoyed, I really like the posts where you focus on little known people from history. So fascinating reading about some of the amazing lives led by some people!

Anita Davison said...

Happy Christmas Everyone, and I have enjoyed our year very much too. And as for feeling guilty about being behind with the baking, Alison - I have the perfect method which means I don't worry about that for an instant - it's called Marks and Spencer!