Recently a consortium bid (including industrial manufacturers - Roberts, the Real Yorkshire Pudding Company, and Aunt Bessie's) failed to gain EU Protected Geographical Status (PGS) for the Yorkshire Pudding on the basis that it was "too generic" to be deemed regional. In theory, PGS aims to protect the integrity of heritage foods while at the same time being a way to raise the profile of regional products and skills. This allows the consumer to distinguish "authentic" from a ubiquitous food products without all the bother of having to find anything out about the food in question. Although, one has to wonder how much profile raising a company that produces millions of Yorkshire puddings a week actually need. On the other hand, the decision to award a PGS or not to a particular product can have very large and expensive consequences, even for large food companies. There is now a rush in the UK to gain PGS for a whole range of food stuffs. This has been accompanied by a number articles published using terms like "heritage", "tradional", regional and even the occasional "terroir", which unfortunately have failed to show any understanding of what Protected Designation of Origin (PDO); Protected Geographical Indication (PGI); and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) actually mean. According to the European Commission:
Amazingly, not mention of "Nostagia food", "Comfort food" or "Emotional eating", which are clearly just as important marketing terms for the businesses involved, as gaining a PGS label for these products. It will be interesting to see if the PGS labels will be perceived as maintaining its integrity in the future. One wonders how many times it will be reported that X product will "have the same status as champagne or Parma ham.", before people start to question the statement?
Central to the failed Yorshire Pudding bid was the claim that the term "Yorkshire Pudding" was first described by the 18th century cookery book author Hannah Glasse and that this pudding differed from other similar dishes which all suggests it is originally from Yorkshire. The recipe in question is as follows:
The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1747)
"A 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."
By 1755 the Glasse had sold the copyright of "The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy" due to bankruptcy and the text is outwith her control. While it was prehaps most popular and influencial English cookery book of the 18th century, most editions were not in fact the work of Hannah Glasse. If Glasse knew of a regional Yorkshire connection with the pudding, within a few years of publishing the recipe, that direct link was lost. A later version of the recipe:
The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1784) "A Yorkshire Pudding. TAKE a quart of milk, and five eggs, beat them up well together, and mix them with flour till it is of a good pancake batter, and very smooth; put in a little salt, some grated nutmeg and ginger; butter a dripping or frying pan, and put it under a piece of beef, mutton, or a loin of veal, that is roasting, and then put in your batter, and when the top-side is brown, cut it in square pieces, and turn it, and then let the under-side be brown; then put it in a hot dish as clean of fat as you can, and send it to table hot."
The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1784)
"A Yorkshire Pudding.
TAKE a quart of milk, and five eggs, beat them up well together, and mix them with flour till it is of a good pancake batter, and very smooth; put in a little salt, some grated nutmeg and ginger; butter a dripping or frying pan, and put it under a piece of beef, mutton, or a loin of veal, that is roasting, and then put in your batter, and when the top-side is brown, cut it in square pieces, and turn it, and then let the under-side be brown; then put it in a hot dish as clean of fat as you can, and send it to table hot."
These recipes were extensively copied in other cookery books in the 18th and into the 19th century. By the early 19th century Yorkshire Puddings were being made in many locations throughout the UK. In fact there are early 19th century references to Yorshire Pudding being cooked in Anglo-Indian households. If it was ever a regional dish, it became widely produced throughout the country within a generation of its publication by Glasse. So is there any case for the Yorkshire Pudding being a regional dish historically?
One thing that is worth mentioning the technique used to make the 18th century Yorkshire Pudding is different to how Yorkshire Puddings are made now. Domestic technology has changed a great deat since the 18th century, Yorkshire Puddings are no longer cooked in front of a fire using radiant heat, even in Yorkshire. This is a major change from the original recipe. The second point, that has often been made, is that although Hannah Glasse may be the first person to publish a recipe using the term "Yorkshire Pudding", the pudding was published in an earlier work under a different name.
The Whole Duty of a Woman (1737)
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 frequent1y 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."
In fact, as discussed by Jennifer Stead in the introduction to Prospect Books facsimilie edition of the first edition of Glasse's "The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy", "The Whole Duty of a Woman" was the source of many of Glasses recipes. Given that Glasse re-published so many recipes without a change to the original name, why did she use the term "Yorkshire Pudding" and why is her recipe so much more detailed? Given the specific changes made to the recipe it does seem that she had some personal experience, did she also know of a specific Yorkshire regional connection?
It is unlikely that we will ever have an answer to this question. While it is the case that Glasse lived in northern England for the early part of her life, this was Northumberland, not Yorkshire. It is possible that Glasse encountered this pudding in Yorkshire, but it is equally the case that the name of the pudding could be her own creation. Regionally named dishes tend to be quite rare in early English cookery texts. Glasse gives recipes for "Yorkshire Pudding" and "Welsh Rabbit", fine, but she also gives recipes for "English Rabbit" and "Scotch Rabbit". It does seem more likely that Glasse created some of these names, rather then finding a specific regional recipe for "cheese on toast" in each corner of the kingdom so why not coin "Yorkshire Pudding" too?
However it is worth while asking if these types of puddings had any obvious regional distribution early in their recorded history. In terms of ingedients and cooking techniques that define this pudding we have:
1) Composition: a batter
2) Techniques: upper surface cooked in front of a fire by radiant heat, lower surface cooked on top of the fire by direct heat. Positioned underneath a roating meat joint to catch the juices.
Given how simple it is in composition, it will come as no surprise that historically batter is a common base for a wide range of food stuffs in the British kitchen. Batter was boiled in a cloth to produce puddings, used to produce various fritter or made into pancakes. It is this latter batter that is essentially the basis of the Yorkshire Pudding. Many early historical recipes produce products that are very similar to the Yorkshire Pudding:
The Wellcome Library Western Manuscripts; MS. 3009, pg. 178
"To make a Pan Pudding
Take 2 or 3 spoonfulls of malt flower, put itt into some milk and soe much salt, pepper, cloves, and mace as will season it, then strew in some wheaten flower, stiring it together till it be About the Thickness of batter, soe you may poure it out of a ladle or spoon, then butter an Earthern pan, round About the sides, and bottom, then poure in your pudding, and bake it with brown bread, but you may draw it out, before your bread. After it halth stood in the Oven something aboue an houre."
The Wellcome Library Western Manuscripts; MS.4054, pg. 127
"A Fraze or Pan-Pudding
Beate 6 or 7 eggs & putt to them a pinte of creame & thicken it with flower, not all together so thick as pan-cakes batter season it with salt & a little pepper, fry it with butter; when one side is enough, turne it with a plate, and fry the other, you may putt in Corrints & shread suet with rose-water, nutmeg & sugar for seasoning."
A collection of above three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick, and Surgery by several hands (1717)
"A very good Tansie.
TAKE a pint of Milk, and a pint of Cream, about a pint of Juice of Spinnage, which must be well dried, after washing, before you stamp it; strain it and pour it in; beat fifteen Eggs with a little Salt, leave out eight. Whites, strain them into the other things, put in near a pint of grated Bread or Bisket, grate in a whole large Nutmeg, and as much Sugar as will make it very sweet, thicken it over the Fire as thick as a Hasty-Pudding; put it into a butter'd Dish, and a cool Oven: Half an Hour bakes it"
So the use of a batter to produce a baked pudding is not specific to the Yorkshire Pudding. These recipes are not cooked under a roasting joint of meat by radiant heat, but then again neither are modern Yorkshire Puddings. MS. 3009's "Pan Pudding" will be a dish similar to a modern Yorkshire Pudding, and for that matter it is similar to many European recipes such as Le Far, Flan du Perigord, Clafoutis and Flognarde. But, none of these batter puddings, historic or extant, are cooked underneath a roasting joint. In fact this seems to be a relatively uncommon technique over all, although William Ellis writes in 1744 that for potatoes "a very common Way [is] to boil them first, then peel them and lay them in the Dripping-pan under roasting Meat". It is the uncommon nature of technique that may indicate where these types of recipes originated. The majority of examples of recipes using the technique of cooking a pudding by radiant heat in front of a fire originate in the northern part of the UK. Very north.
The technique of cooking a pudding using the radiant heat of a fire is found in several recipe manuscript collections from Scotland:
The National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Acc. 12242, pg. 10
Mrs Janet Maule hir Book of Receipts, (1701)
"A Baken pudding before a fire
Take a Chopin of sweat milk or creame and boile it with a little sweat butter, taike six eggs and three whyts beat them wel with a spoonful of cold cream and when the milk is preffic cold, put in the milk eggs sweattened with sugar then thicken it with a little grated wheat bread and seasoned it with a little nutmeg and sinamon then mix al wel togither and butter the dish ye mind to bake it in before ye putt in the mixture, then put the dish after the mixture is in on top of a pot ful of boiling water before a fire and serve it up with forsed sauces for ye may taike the same ingredients for a quaking pudding.
A Baken pudding in a Frying-pan
Take a Chopin of milk and twelfe eggs wel beatt and mix them togither then with flour thicken it and shred Sewat and season with shugar and sinamone beatt, butter the sydes and bottome of the frying-pan before ye putt in the mixture then sit it before a fire and when it is hardened sett it on a fire stil shifting it til it be baken then serve it up with a sauce of beat butter, Ginger and sugar.
The National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Ms.10281, pg 172
"A Baken pudding in a frying-pan
Take a Chopin of sweet milk & 12 eggs well beat, & mix them together; then thicken it with flower & shred Sewat, season it with Sugar & beat Cinnamon; butter the sides & bottom of ye Frying-pan before you put in ye Mixture; then set it before a Fire, & when it is hardened set it on a Fire, still shifting it till it be baken. Then serve it up with a sauce of beat Butter, Sugar & Ginger."
Take a Mutchkine of sweet milk, 8 eggs & some grated bread, mix all together, & when well beat thicken them with flower; put in a little Ginger, Flower & Salt; butter the Frying-pan about the sides & Bottom; put all in and set before the Fire till well hardened; shift it sometimes and when well baken butter or sugar it."
The " Baken pudding in a frying-pan" recipes are the same near identical in both manuscripts. While there does not appear to be a direct relationship between Ms.10281and the earlier Manuscript Acc. 12242, the majority of recipes from the former work are repeated in the latter. This suggests that there is an earlier (17th century) source for these "Baken" puddings. While, it is not stated that these puddings are baked under roasting joints of meat, this is mentioned as an alternative cooking technique in several mid to late 18th century Scottish cookery books and one cookery book from the very north of England.
A New and Easy Method of Cookery by Elizabeth Cleland (1755)
"To make a Plain Tansy.
TAKE a fine stale Penny Loaf, and cut the Crumb in thin Shaves; put it in a Bowl, then boil a Mutchkin of Cream, and when boiled, pour it over the Bread, then cover the Bowl with a Plate, and let it ly a Quarter of an Hour ; then mix it with eight Eggs well beaten, two Gills of the Juice of Spinage, two Spoonfuls of the Juice of Tansy, and sweeten it with Sugar, Nutmeg, and a little Brandy ; rub your Pan with Butter, and put it in it; then keep it stirring on the Fire till it is pretty thick; then put it in a buttered Dish ,you may either bake it, or do it in the Dripping-Pan under roasted Meat."
The Lady's, housewife's, and cookmaid's Assistant by E. Taylor (1769), published at Berwick on Tweed.
"A Pudding to bake under meat.
A Quart of milk, six eggs, a little salt, make it into a batter with flour, as thick as for pancakes; put some dripping or butter into a stewpan or frying-pan, boil it upon the fire, pour in the batter, and hold it upon the fire two or three minutes to harden the bottom, then set it under the meat before the fire. Give it a heat upon the fire several times, shifting it in the pan when it is stiff enough to bear it. Make the pudding of such a size as to be baked enough when the meat is ready. Slide it upon a dish, and send it to table, with melted butter"
Cookery and Pastry by Susanna MacIver (1789)
"To make a Tansy Cake.
Beat fix eggs with four or five spoonfuls of flour; mix with them a mutchkin of sweet cream or new milk; sweeten it to your taste ; season it with some nutmeg and a little salt; put in as much of the juice of tansy as bitter it to your taste, and make it green with the juice of spinage; mix some oiled butter in it, and cast them all well together; you may fire it in a frying-pan on the top of the fire, but take care not to burn it. You may fire it below meat that is roasting, or in an oven; but be sure to butter the plate very well that it goes in. In case it is fired below meat, pour off all the fat from it before you send it to the table; strew sugar over it.
A common Potatoe Pudding to be fired below roasted meat.
Boil and skin as many potatoes as will fill the dish; beat them, and mix in some sweet milk; put them on the fire with a good piece of butter; season them properly with salt and spices. Some choose an onion shred small, and put in it. Put it in the dish and fire it below the meat, until it is of a fine brown on the top cast three eggs well, and mix in with the potatoes before you put them in the dish; it makes it rise, and eat -light; pour off all the fat that drops from the meat, before you send it to the table : it eats very well with roasted beef or mutton.
A Bread Pudding to be Fired below meat.
Take a chopin of milk, and slice down as much of the. heart of a fine loaf as make it very thick; put it on the fire and boil it. If you see it too thin of ,bread, put in a little more; let it boil until it is pretty thick, stirring it from the bottom of the pan to keep it from burning; put in a handful of suet; if you have none, put in a piece of fresh butter; take it off the fire and sweeten it to your taste; season it with what spices you choose ; beat six eggs, and let the pudding be a little cold before you put them in; mix all well together, and put it into a dish, and fire it below the meat; turn the dish often, to make it of an equal brown; pour off all the fat before you send it to the table"
These recipes are also found in 19th century Scottish cookery books, although the domination of the Yorkshire pudding was becoming firmly established.
The new practice of cookery, pastry, baking, and preserving by Mrs Hudson and Donat (1804)
Lancashire Pancake Pudding.
"Two eggs, three spoonfuls of fine flour and a little salt, beat these together, and add to them near an English pint of water; take of the drippings of roasting mutton one or two spoonfuls, and put them into the frying pan, set it over the fire, when hot, pour in the above mixture, then set the pan over a chaffing dish of red hot coals, and set it before the fire; bake it as^quick as you can about ten or fifteen minutes : It must not be turned."
"Yorkshire Pudding to bake under a Roast. — Mix four ounces of flour very smoothly with a pint and a half of milk, four beat eggs, and a little salt, and also ginger, if liked. Butter a shallow tin pan; pour the batter into it, and place it below the roast. When settling, stir up the batter; and when browned on the upper side, turn over the pudding,* first drawing a knife round the edges to loosen it. Brown the other side. It should be about an inch thick when done. This is the favourite English accompaniment to a sirloin of beef, or a loin of veal or mutton; finely-minced parsley, eschalot, onion, and also suet well-beat, may be added."
Interestingly, while these published recipes post-date "The Whole Duty of a Woman" and "The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy", they are sufficently different to these recipes to suggest that either they are up-dated versions of earlier recipes. It seems incredible that the technique for cooking batter type puddings would be confined to a particular region. Compared to English texts, Scottish cookery texts either in published or in manscript form are much less common. The relative over representation of original recipes for batter puddings 'baked in before the fire" in far north of the UK does suggests that this is there historic heartland. However, while these puddings were relatively common in 18th century Scottish sources, by the early 19th century only Yorkshire and Potato pudding were found in Scottish texts, and by the end of the 19th century, only the Yorkshire pudding remained in Scotland. So it seems that the Yorkshire Pudding wasn't created in Yorkshire, it was created in British cookery books.
Finally I would like to thank the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland for permission to reproduce these manuscript recipes.