Get your free website from Spanglefish

Ingredients in Huntly 1913

Notes on the Ingredients used in The Huntly Cookery Book (1913). To be republished as a separate booklet documents/strathbogie/ingredients-used-in-pre-wwi-huntly.pdf

In 1913, the regional diet was still largely limited to what could be produced locally and affected by seasonal factors. Furthermore, food supplies depended on war and peace, politics and commerce.  References below are listed in Janet Starkey, Strathbogie, the Gordons and the ‘land o’Cakes (Swinton: the author, 2017).

Most of the ingredients used in The Huntly Cookery Book were of necessity sourced locally. Game, dairy products, fish, fruit and vegetables were available. People made their own beer and bread, kept chickens; and grew basic fruit and vegetables in their gardens. They relied on oatmeal, barley meal, potatoes, cheese, all rich in starch and protein. Occasionally a cow or sheep were killed, and they relied on milk and kail. Other items included salmon, haddock, cold meat, roasted venison. The very poor in the 1910s relied on oatmeal, bread, potatoes, dripping and cups of tea for their sustenance. Women made jam, preserved fruit and dried vegetables, local wines and vinegars, chutney, pickles, biscuits and cakes. By 1913, Local produce remained important but, many culinary ingredients, wine and spices, though expensive, were being imported from around the world, especially from the colonies of the British Empire, America and Europe, as the following notes indicate.

Canning and processed food

Processes were changing by 1913: for the first time, a wide range of packaged and canned goods became available due to improved communications by steamship and rail.

The mid-nineteenth century saw the first canned food; by the 1890s, cans were produced in significantly large quantities and the first canning factory opened in England in 1912. They became a status symbol for middle-class households across Europe. Canned food, such as tomatoes and Golden Syrup, included in The Huntly Cookery Book, would have made a significant change to local eating habits though fresh local produce remained more important. By 1913, there was a wide range of competitively priced canned, branded and processed food available through local groceries. Processed foods, such as cocoa powder, baking powder, chocolate bars and leaf gelatine were being sold by grocers. By 1913, Swiss Milk, condensed tinned milk produced by Nestlé in Switzerland, both new and cheap, was a popular ingredient. Whilst there is no mention of Marmite, Oxo or Bird’s custard, Liebig's Extract of Meat Company feature in The Huntly Cookery Book. Liebig's Extract of Meat Company (Lemco) was created in Liebig. A cheaper version of Liebig extract was introduced as Oxo in 1899; later Oxo bouillon cubes was introduced in 1910. It was named after Baron Justus von Liebig, the German nineteenth-century organic chemist who founded it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebig's_Extract_of_Meat_Company

One of the ingredients in The Huntly Cookery Book was tomato ketchup which, by the 1860s was being manufactured in the States, especially by Heinz in Pittsburgh from where it was exported around the world. By the early twentieth century, there was a decline in the homemade production of ketchup; by the 1910s, few cookery books provided recipes for ketchup.

Acids, salt and pickling

Fresh food was also pickled, smoked and, by 1913, available canned. Salt was an important food preserver and good-quality salt was imported from France, Portugal and Spain. By 1890s, Cheshire salt mines provided 90% of British salt. Inferior quality salt was produced on the east coast of Scotland. Several of the recipes are about pickling (boiling flesh in an acid solution), a method common from the sixteenth century.  Verjuice made from unripe crab-apples was used whilst the wealthy used wine vinegar (Geddes 1994: 6–7).

Pickling vegetables and fruit was an effective way to preserve them. The development of sweet and sour pickles from the 1790s reflected eastern influences as many Scots served in the East India Company.  Pickling spices used by 1913 included cayenne pepper, ginger, mustard seed, white pepper, cloves as well as white wine vinegar and salt brine.

Some recipes specify acidic liquid, the most common being lemon juice and vinegar. Three kinds of vinegar are specific, including malt and wine vinegar. Distilled white malt vinegar is the same as 'white vinegar'. Heinz began its production in 1874 distilling it from corn and rye. Thomas R Allinson (1910) wrote, ‘Tartaric acid and citric acid also belong to the class of injurious chemical. They are often used in the making of acid drinks, when lemons are not handy. They irritate the stomach violently, and often cause acute dyspepsia.’


Possibly more disposable income was spent on a wider range of food in the 1910s, rather than on alcohol, as consumption habits were changing. Apart from the odd touch of port wine, sherry or brandy, alcohol does not figure much in The Huntly Cookery Book even though beer was brewed and whisky distilled in the region; wine was a luxury imported especially from France and Spain at least the seventeenth century and enjoyed by landed gentry. Whisky, such as Glendronach, is distilled and matured near Huntly from malted barley.

There were several long-established public houses in Huntly but these were frequented by working men. There had been a long tradition of temperance societies in Scotland. Though many people in Huntly did not totally abstain, they sympathized with efforts to combat the evil drink and such public pressure led to the Temperance (Scotland) Act 1913 whereby local areas could vote whether they remained ‘wet’ or dry’, that is, whether alcoholic drinks should be permitted or prohibited. This may be why there are few recipes that include alcohol as in ingredient and there is no recipe for the traditional ‘Athol Brose’ in The Huntly Cookery Book (Fitzgibbon 1970: 96).



In the nineteenth century, coffee was still the drink of the affluent. Decaffeinated coffee was available from 1905 and coffee powder was for sale in the States from 1909. In 1876, the firm of R. Paterson & Son of introduced the well-known Camp Coffee (with its picture of a Gordon Highlander soldier in a kilt, allegedly Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald KCB, DSO (1853–1903). It was made of water, sugar, 4% caffeine-free coffee essence, and 26% chicory essence. Such Coffee essences were distilled from the cheapest coffee beans.


Tea was first drunk in Scotland in the 1690s, when it may well have been introduced by Mary of Modena, wife of James VII and II in 1681. In the eighteenth century, tea became a luxury as it was heavily taxed though from the 1750s and it was often smuggled in from Scandinavia to north-east harbours. From the nineteenth century, came china tea services from the East, Holland or Chelsea, Worcester and Wedgewood became fashionable. By 1880, with the help of Scottish entrepreneurs, including Alexander Hall & Co of Aberdeen and Robert Steele & Co of Greenock, India overtook China as leaders of tea distribution. As tea became cheaper, it was drunk by even the poorest replacing ale as staple drink and losing its luxury status. By 1913, afternoon tea had been introduced with associated cakes and sandwiches were a feature of middle-class drawing-rooms.


Colourants were used to hide poor quality materials and were found in ketchups, mustard, etc. There was little regulation of dyes: many of them were toxic and some contained unsuitable bleach, coal-tar, and mineral and metals such as copper and arsenic.

Other colourants came from natural products. For example, Sliced Red Beet was also used for a red colour. White colouring was obtained by bounding finely pounded almonds with water or cream. Yellow colouring derived from yolks of eggs or saffron. Green colourant was made from pounded and simmered beet or spinach leaves (Smith 1888: 178).

A colouring endorsed by Mrs Marshall was ‘Sap green’, that was traditionally made of ripe buckthorn berries (Broomfield 2007: 135). She used fashionable shades of food colour, including crimson-coloured dye, carmine (aka Crimson Lake or Cochineal). This red colouring was obtained from cochineal, a scale insect in the suborder Sternorrhyncha, from which carmine is derived by boiling it with cream of tartar and a small piece of alum.

Dairy products


Milk was used in various forms: sweet (i.e. fresh ‘unsoured’), rich or sour. Cream, butter, butter-milk, whey, casein or curds and cheese were produced. A generous amount of butter was used for cooking in the local diet as George Macdonald described in Alec Forbes of Howglen: ‘rosy faced Betty got the child the best of everything that was at hand and put cream in her milk and butter on her oat cake’ (1865, I: 20).

Sometimes ‘melted butter’ is stipulated in the recipes. This was a light sauce made with lemon juice, flour, pepper, mace or nutmeg, and sometimes cream. Dairy products, including butter, milk, buttermilk, cream and cheese, were not only an important element of Huntly diet but was traded in the market.

The Huntly Cookery Book recipes stipulate various types of cream. Minimum milk fat content in various types of cream are now set at double cream 48%; heavy cream 36%; whipping or whipped cream 35%; light or single cream 18%. Other recipes stipulate sweet milk, sour milk or buttermilk.

The Huntly Creamery was founded by Northern Creamery in Huntly in 1897. It exhibited its cream, cheese and butter at the London Dairy show in October that year and closed during the Second World War.


Most local farms also had a stone cheese press near the kitchen or byre door to produce their own cheese. Hard cheeses were produced locally. Other farms produced soft cheese or crowdie from curds and whey. Beastie cheese is made from the first milk after calving; Old English: ’biest’ meaning thick milk). V

Various hard cheeses were imported into the region, including Cheddar; Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano), a hard, granular cheese from Italy, created in the Middle Ages in Bibbiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia, Italy and used in Scottish recipes as least as early as the eighteenth century.


Nor is it surprising to find that butter was much used in The Huntly Cookery Book, as it was easily obtained in the region where cattle were bred. Butter was made on farms, the winter supplies traditionally made in August and September as it kept longer than butter salted earlier in the season. ‘After the buttermilk has been drawn off, and the butter washed in the churn as usual, give an extra washing of brine,’ by adding 2lb of salt to one gallon of water (Aberdeen Daily Journal 14 August 1913: 3). It was not until the 1920s that standard packages of fresh butter were sold (Snodgrass 2004: 192).

Vegetable oils

Vegetable oils, such as olive, sesame or sunflower oils, all of which had to be imported, were rarely used. ‘Salad oil’ was a light tasting vegetable oil not extra virgin olive oil.


In the 1900s, several cookery books recommended decorating materials including crystallized violets, ginger or angelica; glacé cherries; rose leaves; pistachio nuts; small pieces of pineapple, candied citron, orange and mixed peel, and so on.

Others have recipes for ‘Preserved cherries’: ‘put maraschino cherries in a jar, add sugar, and cover them with alcohol’: Maraschino cherries being light-coloured sweet cherries.


Fish can be salted or dried, eaten fresh, fried or roasted. Long historical contacts across the North Sea with Scandinavia are reflected in recipes such as ‘Fish Stock’ and two recipes for ‘Norwegian Fish Pie’.

Whilst fish was important element in diets along the coast, patterns of fish consumption were different inland. Huntly is situated beautifully between the Deveron and its tributary, the Bogie with its fine soft water, abounded with salmon and trout as William MacGillivray (1796-1852), the Minister of the West Church, Cairnie so beautifully described (MacGillivary 192?: 31). There was a Huntly Fishing Committee that met in the Duke Street offices of Murdoch, McMath and Mitchell from the 1900s.

The seas around the Aberdeenshire coast were famous for herring and white fishing, i.e. cod, whiting, ling, haddock, sole, and halibut. Traditionally white fish was caught using baited lines but later beam trawl nets were used. Scandinavian methods of cooking, including salting and curing fish (and salted and smoked mutton), were used on the north-east coasts, possibly inherited from Viking ancestors.

By the thirteenth century, Aberdeen was famous for her speldings (small haddock (aka haddie) and other cured fish: dried cod, dried salt salmon and herring. Don Pedro de Ayala visited Scotland in 1498 commented on the quantities of dried salmon and herring (McNeill 1929: 33). Roman Catholic lairds in the seventeenth century would have eaten fish (salmon, herrings, trout, whiting, oysters, ling) on Fridays and fast days, as well as milk, bread and eggs. Salted and pickled salmon were sent to London and around the Empire from Banffshire during the nineteenth century. Herrings or oysters packed in brine were staple articles of diet throughout Scotland and herrings were a major export from the north-east until 1914, resulting in great prosperity.

Herrings coated in oatmeal (mouth-wateringly delicious!) or cooked with potatoes was a common and delicious traditional dish yet there is no recipe for herrings in The Huntly Cookery Book. Likewise, famous cured fish of the Aberdeenshire and Banffshire coasts are not mentioned.

Finnan haddie (‘smoked haddock’), which is haddock split open and smoked to a yellow colour does not figure even though they originally came from Findon, a fishing village near Aberdeen. Smoked haddock known as Arbroath Smokies, from Arbroath several miles south of Aberdeen are not included either. Yet anchovy essence, a pink-coloured, thick, oily sauce made from pounding anchovies with a range of spices, was a popular flavouring for soups, sauces, etc. features in the book.

Shell fish including oysters, mussels, shrimps or prawns, were caught in considerable quantities but shellfish are not mentioned in The Huntly Cookery Book.  It became possible to obtain fresh white fish in inland Aberdeenshire after 1854 when they could be transported quickly by train from the coast and became relatively inexpensive.


Essence of lemon

This is a flavouring ingredient made from lemon peel. In the 1900s, it was made by rubbing the lemon on a piece of loaf-sugar and scraping it into a paste.


Burnett’s vanilla essence first became available to bakers in 1847. In 1880s, synthetic vanilla became available (Snodgrass 2004: 261). By 1898, Madagascar, Réunion, and the Comoros Islands produced 200 metric tons of vanilla beans, about 80% of world production


Soft fruit grows well in the Deveron Valley slowly ripen in a cool climate with long summer evenings. From as early as 1683, emphasis was placed on preserving fruit, including pippins, quinces, cherries, raspberries, lemons, currants, gooseberries, and plums. By the early eighteenth century, deserts were thought to be novelties and included dishes such as gooseberry fool, stewed pears, almond tarts and sweet pancakes. As Grigson (2007b: 166) remarked: ‘the gooseberries of Scotland are the perfection of their race.’ Indeed, several of us still remember secretly eating too many gooseberries from Granny Murray’s garden in Albert Terrace in the 1950s.

A native of Asia, the medical qualities of rhubarb (Rheum officinalus) were well known from Roman times, but it was not until the late eighteenth century that that it was introduced as a food and a purgative by Sir Alexander Dick of Prestonfield and developed by Professor John Hope in Edinburgh. It then featured in Scottish home cooking and was easy to grow kitchen gardens.

Apples, cherries, pears, plums, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries (for which Perthshire and Angus are justly famous), red and black currants, and damsons (wild and cultivated in local gardens) were used for pies, jam and jelly and chutneys. Locally, peaches and grapes need to be grown under glass and served fresh (and peaches were picked) but this is not mentioned in The Huntly Cookery Book.  Yet there is no mention of several famous Scottish varieties of berries in The Huntly Cookery Book but this is scarcely surprising. Tayberries (Rubus fruticosus x idaeus), a cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry were first cultivated in Scotland in 1962; boysenberries (but these weren’t available until 1932) and loganberries were developed in Santa Cruz, CA, in 1880 and first became a major crop in Willamette Valley (Oregon) between 1910 and 1925.

Fruit remained an important ingredient in Huntly recipes into the 1900s (and beyond) even though much of the home-produced produce was eaten after it had been preserved rather than fresh.

Imported peaches, apricots and other Mediterranean fruits were all available locally or at the greengrocers. Oranges were traded into Scotland for the nobility at least from 1497. Bitter Seville oranges were imported from Spain to Dundee in the early eighteenth century. Oranges and lemons were later imported through Scottish ports, Leith, Glasgow and Aberdeen, and were important ingredients in puddings and cakes: the juice and rind of lemons being a common ingredient in The Huntly Cookery Book.

Dried fruits were imported (figs from Turkey, raisins from Spain, sultanas, currants and prunes) and were critical ingredients in cakes and puddings. Valencia raisins are specified in several The Huntly Cookery Book recipes as they were very suitable for cooking. These are much larger than those of Malaga. They are not sun-dried, but dipped in a kind of ley made of water, ashes and oil. These dried fruits were imported sold to local grocers at the wholesale markets in Aberdeen and then sold loose in groceries so that housewives had to pick and clean the dried fruit carefully before it could be used.

There are only two recipes, ‘Winter Fruit Salad’ and ‘Banana Trifle’ that include bananas though they had first been introduced to Britain in the seventeenth century. Bananas, then imported from the West Indies, were introduced into the Scottish diet partly because of the efforts of a Glasgow greengrocer, Sir Malcolm Brown Campbell (1848–1935) in the late 1880s.

Coconuts, the fruit of the coconut palm grown in tropical climates such as Ceylon was available in desiccated form in grocers’ shops. It was used in cakes, sweets, and curries (but there are no curry recipes in The Huntly Cookery Book). ‘Coconut’ is spelt ‘cocoanut’ throughout the book.

Wild fruit and vegetables

Surprisingly very few wild plants and vegetables that grow in Banffshire and Aberdeenshire feature in the recipes in The Huntly Cookery Book. Wild plants were important maintaining the rural population’s health up to the mid-twentieth century. There are only two references to mushroom ketchup in The Huntly Cookery Book — which was probably purchased at the grocers by 1913 — and none to any other fungi. There is no reference to nettles (Urtica dioica) which was used for soup and as a vegetable like spinach. Watercress which grows wild in streams in the area was not included in The Huntly Cookery Book.  Rose petals could have been gathered in the wild: rosewater is included but not the more traditional rose-hip syrup, rose jam, etc. are not.

Rowan berries (Scrubs aucuparia) were gathered in the wild but are not mentioned even though they were used locally to make jelly, eaten with game. As an aside: Rowans were traditionally grown near a door of a home in rural Scotland; on Rowan-Tree Day (2 May), the Eve of the Invention of the Holy Cross, crosses of rowan-tree twigs were placed over doors and windows as protection against evil spirits (Thiselton-Dyer 1900: 275). Though the flowers, berries and twigs of elders (Sambuusa nigra) which grow in the region, have been traditionally used as food, beverages, and medicine, there are no references to elders in The Huntly Cookery Book either.

Wild berries such as blackberries or ‘brambles’ (Rubus fruticosus), rosehips, wild raspberries, cranberries and bilberries or ‘blaeberries’ (Vaccinium myrtles), rowans and sloes were harvested from the woods, hedgerows or peat moors and used for puddings and tarts, jams and jellies — but do not figure in The Huntly Cookery Book. The cranberries or ‘crones’ (Oxycoccus palustric) gathered on boggy moors are smaller and are a different species from the American cranberry (Oxycoccus macrocarpon) (Grigson 2007b: 140). There is no mention of crab apples that grow in the area but they were used for jellies, and for pickling pork.


The quality of game in the moors and forests of north-east Scotland is outstanding and The Huntly Cookery Book provides various recipes that use hare and rabbit, the latter being raised domestically as well as wild.

Rabbits (Gaelic: coinnin) were a luxury imported by the Normans and became particularly popular in the Lowlands from the seventeenth century. Rabbits, which proliferated in Scotland from the nineteenth century, were widely available around Huntly and had a gamey flavour. Some were bred domestically but others were caught in the wild. Old rabbits are hung but young ones were used within two days without being hung.

Hare, a popular dish in the Highlands, were made into soup.

Game and wild birds were seasonal standard fare, either roasted whole or cooked in soup; rabbits were roasted and pigeons came from the do’cot, a practise dating from the Auld Alliance that shows French influence.  For example, there is an unusual circular red sandstone dovecot at Huntly Lodge Farm which dates to about 1752. They would have eaten venison and a wide range of wild birds such as grouse, pheasants, francolins, bustards, quails, ducks, geese, moorfowl, capercaillie, snipe, pigeons and partridges (even the occasional heron, plovers and larks) were common in the area and shot by the gentry and farmers. The landed gentry joined shoots on their moors and the gamekeeper (ghillie) was an important figure maintaining the stock and providing for the shooting seasons.

Glazing agent

Mention is made of a ‘piece of glaze’ in the chapter on sauces. This is probably a piece of glazing agent, such as beeswax.

Grasses, grains and flours


Wheat was grown locally but by 1913 cheap imports of grain from Canada, Argentina and the States helped to improve the diet of working and middle classes. Plain wheat flour was readily available and was sold flour by the miller in 140 lb bags in 1913. On farms meal was stored in girnels (large chests or barrels)

‘Common flour’ is also known as ‘First clear flour’, and is whole wheat flour that has some of the bran sifted out but less than is the case for white flour. Thus, it has more bran and wheat germ and higher ash content than white flour

Soda flour, also called ‘patent flour’ or ‘soda’, is self-raising flour which is made of 4 oz cream of tartar, 2 oz bicarbonate of soda, and 8 lb plain flour, sifted through a sieve three times (Wells 1890).

There are only two recipes specifying self-raising flour in The Huntly Cookery Book even though Coleman’s were selling self-raising flour by 1900 (Beaty-Pownall (1900), frontispiece).  The recipe for Sultana Cake (2), (Huntly Cookery Book 1913: 40), calls it ‘soda flour’. Yet self-raising flour was invented by Henry Jones and patented as early as 1845 so one might have expected to find its use was widespread in Buchan by 1913. Instead the separate ingredients are listed: for example, 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and a pinch to ½ teaspoon (1 g or less) salt. Jam Sandwich (2) on p.42 w specifies a specific brand, ‘White Lily’ which is a brand of self-raising flour produced in Knoxville, TN, the Southern United States from 1883. It is a soft wheat flour brand used for bread, biscuits and cakes of light consistency. Its white bags are extra tall because the flour weighs less per cup than other brands and are still to be found in Southern supermarkets.


Cornflour or maize flour. Packaged corn starch first introduced in 1842 (Snodgrass 2004: 261).


Oats form the predominant crop throughout Aberdeenshire, Banffshire and Morayshire and staple food of Scots at least from the 14th century.  By 1913, oatmeal, and flour made from oats, is central part of the diet of Aberdeenshire, Banffshire and the Highlands.  It is a nutritious whole food, fats, organic phosphorus and lecithin. Oats can be cultivated up to 500 m above sea level in the Huntly area, or 100 to 150 m, higher than elsewhere in North Britain and can tolerate wetter conditions than wheat. Oatmeal was bought in large sacks and farm servants were given five stone of meal as part of their annual wages.

Oatmeal formed the basis of many meals including porridge, skirlie, soup, cranachan, mealie puddings, oatcakes (a thin hard biscuit made of oatmeal), etc., all of which were omitted from The Huntly Cookery Book. Many of these were staple fare, as George Macdonald described in his novel Alec Forbes of Howglen (1865) I: 127):

‘For out of the cottages floated clouds of smoke, pervading the air with a variety of scents — of burning oak bark, of burning leather-cuttings, of damp fire wood and peat, of the cooking of red herrings, of the boiling of porridge, of the baking of oat cake &c &c’

Porridge was made from coars-ish medium oatmeal. Large amounts were made in a dedicated cast-iron pot (McNeill 1929: 262) and in the Highlands it was put in a drawer and chunks reheated. It was also served to sheep dogs.  The cook was supposed to only stir the porridge in a clockwise direction, with a spirtle (porridge-stick). Our grandmother only used a small wooden hardwood bowl and horn spoon to eat it. My father would never use sugar; his porridge was served in a bowl, sprinkled with salt and he dipped a spoon of porridge into a small bowl of cold milk, mouthful by mouthful. Anyone who used sugar was teased for being a Sassenach (an English person or Lowland Scot).

Another traditional Scottish dish that was excluded from The Huntly Cookery Book was sowans (aka sowens, from Gaelic: sùghan). Our great-grandfather mentions eating it as a late-night supper dish at home on his farm near Turriff in 1855. It is a smooth porridge made by soaking the inner husks of oats in water and fermenting them for a few days. The liquor is strained and allowed to stand for a day to allow the starchy matter to settle. The swats, the liquid part is poured off into a separate container and can be drunk. The remaining sowans are boiled in water and salt until the mixture thickens. It is served with butter or milk and tastes sour (McNeil 1929 268–70).

A third omission from The Huntly Cookery Book was skirlie. Skirlie is served with meat, poultry game or used as stuffing. Traditionally it was made from 4 oz (or a large handful) medium oatmeal; 1 finely chopped medium onion; salt; 4 tbl of good dripping. 2 oz of grated or shredded beef suet (vegetable oil is a modern substitute). The oil is placed in a very hot pan; onions are then and lightly browned; stir in oatmeal till fairly thick. Keep stirring and do not let it brown nor stick for 5 to 7 minutes then season to taste and serve (McNeill 1929: 272). Some cooks add finely chopped fresh herbs:  1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp fresh sage and 1 tsp rosemary.

Fourthly, there is no recipe in The Huntly Cookery Book for traditional oatcakes, a type of flatbread. Oatcakes are cooked on a girdle and quite a skill to make, but would have been staple fare in Huntly area in 1913 as they were throughout the Highlands (Fitzgibbon 1970: 102; McNeill 1929: 230–4). Large round oatcakes are sliced into quarters (farls) before they are cooked.

Another local oatmeal cake that was left out of The Huntly Cookery Book was the Teethin’ Bannock, used when children where teething according to Reverend William Gregor (1825–1887), minister in Turriff before moving to Pitsligo (Gregor 1881: 9; Bennett [1992]: 27).


Even though barley was a staple crop in the area, none of the recipes contain it though barley bread (bannocks) and Scot’s broth were popular local dishes.  Barley flour was a popular staple along with oats in north Scotland for centuries. Huntly had its own barley mill? The production of barley increased in the twentieth century in the area and there are mills that use barley for distillation and brewing. One of the reasons may have been that most of the barley was purchased by whisky distilleries in the lowland areas of Moray and Banffshire, while the altitude of some of the upland areas prevented barley reaching an adequate standard.


There are only three recipes where rice is included, as an accompaniment to an Invalid Chop’; Risotto rice, either Carnaroli or Arborio Italian varieties used for ‘Risotto à la Milanaise’, and ‘Carolina rice’ used for ‘Apple Snowballs’. This may be surprising, given the introduction of rice to British diets from India, China and other parts of the British Empire at least from the eighteenth century by the East India Company. Several recipes use rice flour or ground rice that is made from finely milled rice and is an important ingredient in Asian cookery.  Rice paper, which is the pith of a Chinese shrub is also used. However, one interesting speciality rice is mentioned. Carolina rice, is grown the south east of the United States, especially South Carolina. However, production died out once slave labour was not available. It was also under routine threat from hurricanes, and it was no longer grown by the 1900s so it is a bit puzzling to find it in a cookery book of 1913. Carolina Plantation Rice has been grown again on an experimental basis since 1997. It is a fluffy, white, highly aromatic rice. Basmati rice is a suitable substitute.

Tapioca, Sago and Semolina

Are ingredients in ‘Potato soup’ and were also used interchangeably for puddings.  Sago is extracted from the pith of various tropical palm stems, especially Metroxylon sagu. Sago pearls can be boiled with water or milk and sugar to make a sweet sago pudding. No mention is made of semolina made from durum flour, which was typically used for puddings.

Herbs and Spices

We tend to think of early twentieth century food in Banffshire and Aberdeenshire as bland but this list of spices (many of them sourced from far away) and herbs used in The Huntly Cookery Book, undermines this misconception. Spices and herbs were part of local diet for centuries though several one might have expected such as turmeric, coriander, cumin and mastic, do not appear in The Huntly Cookery Book. Many more were introduced in seventeenth century from Far and Middle East when people throughout Europe fantasised about the Orient’s fabulous riches and exotic cultures. Spices were brought by caravan overland and by sea by Arab traders and from India, Tibet and China. Even during the British Empire when spices could be obtained from its colonies, they were expensive. Their use denoted wealth and the ability to buy them was a question of status — and there was always the danger that they were adulterated before they reached unsuspecting consumers.


This is a starch made from the roots of several tropical plants that is added to prevent ice crystals from forming in home-made ice-cream. Though it is only used for Vanilla Ice in The Huntly Cookery Book, it was a popular addition to nineteenth-century biscuits and cakes, puddings and jellies, hot sauces, beef tea and milk.

Black pepper


The unopened buds of Capparis spinosa, low trailing shrub, which grows wild in Greece and northern Africa: cultivated southern Europe. It is pickled in vinegar and salt, & imported from Sicily, Italy, and the south of France.  It is a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine and used from classical times. In Huntly, the sauce in which capers are pickled and whole capers were used.

Caraway seeds

Archaic, caraway; from Arabic, al-karawiyyah. Scots carvi. A popular cake flavouring from the mid-nineteenth century.

Cayenne pepper

A hot chilli pepper used to flavour dishes, it is a cultivar of Capsicum annuum, originally from Latin America, classically used in Victorian cookery.



Red chillies

The chili pepper is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, used fresh or dried.


Dry stem ginger, the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, was also preserved in heavy syrup was imported into Europe from the Middle Ages onwards and used for desserts.


Herbs included mint, parsley and coriander, all of which would have been locally grown.

Jamaica pepper

This is allspice, the dried unripe fruit of Pimenta dioica, a tree native to Central America and grown largely in Jamaica. It was introduced from Jamaica into European cuisine in the sixteenth century.

Mace and Nutmeg

Often used as ground mace, this is derived from several species of trees in genus Myristica native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia from which nutmeg is also derived. It was used in European cuisine from medieval times.

Mustard, dry

Red Paprika

Pepper pods and peppercorns

The dried fruits of Black pepper (Piper nigrum)

Red pepper

A hot chili pepper, a cultivar of Capsicum annuum, used to flavour dishes. Originally from Mexico, it was brought to Britain via India in 1548.


Saffron has been an important seasoning, fragrance and medicine for over 3000 years. Medieval monks in Scotland used it to dye under garments and for colouring Easter cakes in England. In The Huntly Cookery Book, there is only a brief mention stating that Italians added saffron to Risotto alla Milanaise (Huntly Cookery Book 1913: 17).

White pepper and white peppercorns


Margarine was originally created in France in 1813 and patented in 1863. Between 1900 and 1920 commercial margarine was made of animal fats and hardened and unhardened vegetable oils in the States. The only recipe in The Huntly Cookery Book that contains margarine is ‘German Pound Cake (2)’ and this margarine is likely to have been based on soy oil which became a as a substitute for coconut oil, an earlier ingredient. From 1910, Messrs Bibby & Sons of Liverpool were selling large quantities of soy oil, they imported from the colonies. Bibby’s sold especially to Germany which was importing 110,000 tonnes of oil in 1913 for the margarine industry www.soyinfocenter.com/HSS/margarine1.php. Crisco was the first hydrogenated shortening to be made entirely of vegetable oil and kept is form even in hot weather. It was introduced in June 1911 by Procter & Gamble who extracted the oil from cotton seed but Crisco is not mentioned in The Huntly Cookery Book.


The Huntly Cookery Book includes meats from domesticated and wild animals. There were indigenous game species on the moors and forests in the area and agricultural produce from its farms. Until the eighteenth century when potatoes and turnips provided winter fodder, many cattle were killed before winter and the meat salted and kept for months. In eighteenth century Scotland only the aristocracy could eat meat on a regular basis; generally roasted (beef, veal, lamb, mutton, goat, poultry) or boiled (beef with vegetables, especially spinach, carrots or cabbage) but by 1913, meat was being regularly consumed by the gentry and middle classes of north-east Scotland. Farmers and farm labourers ate reasonably well. Local folk in 1913 would have relied on local supplies of meat and there are many recipes in The Huntly Cookery Book which include mutton, rather than lamb or beef, but fewer contain pork. All the meat dishes were well-seasoned with plenty of salt, black pepper and sometimes a little nutmeg. Husbandry improved from the late eighteenth century and cattle were bred to produce more milk and meat.


The area around Huntly is famous for its fine beef cattle and its local heritage breeds. Shorthorns were introduced into the region from England in the nineteenth century. The Aberdeen Angus breed developed by enterprising lairds and farmers in the early part of the nineteenth century from black hornless cattle of north-east Scotland known locally as ‘Buchan hummlies’ and ‘Angus doddies’. For their characteristics see http://mcjazz.f2s.com/Aberdeen%20Angus.htm

Frendraught, in Banffshire, about 6 miles (9 km) to the east of Huntly in the extensive Bognie estates, was the headquarters of Aberdeen Angus cattle production from the mid-nineteenth century and farmers in Huntly and Turriff areas regularly won prizes for their fine beasts. Aberdeen Angus black cattle produce some of the finest beef there is but much was exported, especially after 1877 when the first mechanical refrigeration plants were used in ships carrying meat to America and elsewhere.  Farmers also fattened many home-bred crosses for the London and local markets, and traded in dead meat for London and the south.

On the other hand, by 1913, cheaper meat from New Zealand, Argentina and America was beginning to flood urban markets. Beef sales, for example, were threatened by the importation of shipments frozen beef from Buenos Aires by refrigerated ships (frigorífices) which increased fivefold between 1900 and 1913. Beef products included steaks, bones, shin, mince and ox kidney — and even the knap bone (knee bone) which cost 1d from the butcher in 1913.


Farmers in the area also raised sheep, and there were many breeds of sheep entered for prestigious competitions at annual agricultural fairs. They were generally a pure bred or ‘cross’ of a native breed such as a Scottish Blackface, which flourish on rough, moorland grazing found locally. Typically, a farm would have several hundred Cheviot sheep cared for by a shepherd, who lived in a cottage in the policies with his wife who might well help in the main farmhouse. The sheep had little excess fat and produced sweet lean meat. Mutton cuts noted in The Huntly Cookery Book include best end of neck, breast, cutlets, mince and steaks. There is no mention of lamb, which would have been available from July but between January and June tastes more like mutton. Sheep were fed on grass or heather in summer and supplemented with turnips or kail (kale, borecole, Brassica oleracea) in winter.

Although not mentioned in The Huntly Cookery Book, ‘braxy mutton’ was also eaten though it had a strong flavour. It is the salted flesh of sheep that died of braxy (a disease in the abomasal lining of the fourth stomach caused by the bacterium Clostridium septicum which can now be treated with antibiotics and sometimes amputation), the only occasion when animals that died of natural causes were eaten, generally by poor herdsmen.


Farmers raised pigs in large numbers in coastal Aberdeenshire and there were also some pig-rearers in the Huntly area in 1913 and some recipes include ham, bacon or pickled pork. Much of the pig meat was pickled for winter provision or exported. Indeed, pickled pork was the staple industry of Turriff. Aberdeen became famous for exporting it for winter provision to the Baltic as early as 1730; to the Dutch in eighteenth century, for victual and their East India shipping; the pork having the reputation of being the best cured in Europe for long voyages http://forebears.co.uk/scotland/aberdeenshire/aberdeen.

One ‘Aberdeenshire cure’ for 2 hams consisted of 2 lb salt, 2 oz pepper, 2 oz mustard, 2 oz saltpetre and 3 lbs treacle. The dry ingredients were mixed together & rubbed over the hams; treacle is poured over them and the hams were turned and rubbed each day for five weeks.  Hang to dry (http://dangermencooking.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/traditional-cures-and-making-of-english.html; http://deriv.nls.uk/dcn23/9742/97421705.23.pdf

Ham was mixed with steak for French Sausage (Huntly Cookery Book 1913: 7) and Poloni (Huntly Cookery Book 1913: 9). A Tasty Supper Dish (Huntly Cookery Book 1913: 15) and Jellied Chicken were served with slices of ham. Rabbit Pie also included ham, bacon or pickled pork (Huntly Cookery Book 1913: 12).

Traditionally, there was a prejudice against pork in the Highlands, as it was thought to be unclean into the eighteenth century or later so there are few Highland recipes for example, for sausages. In The Huntly Cookery Book, there is only one recipe for pork pies and even then mutton and mince are suggested as alternatives.

Other Meat products

A wide range of other beef and mutton products were used in The Huntly Cookery Book, apart from meat, including suet, beef or sheep fat and dripping, usually beef.


Dripping is not to be confused with suet, dripping is the collected fat and juices from the roasting pan when cooking roast beef. Beef dripping has a meaty flavour and a mealy texture and a different consistency from butter. It is not the same as lard which is refined animal fat. Many steamed or boiled puddings in The Huntly Cookery Book use suet which is raw beef or mutton fat, especially the hard fat found around the kidneys of cattle and sheep. It has a melting point of 45°C to 50°C (113°F to122°F) and was rendered to make tallow for candles. Suet pudding is of great antiquity for was a way of preserving meat at the end of the season. It is not a good idea to substitute butter fats for meat fats as they have a different consistency and flavour.


Gelatine is translucent, colourless animal protein. It is a brittle, and flavourless foodstuff, derived from collagen and obtained from various animal by-products including skins and hides, bones and connective tissues of domesticated cattle, chicken, pigs, and horses. Various cuts of meat or bones are boiled and the gelatine dissolved into the cooking water. Once it is cooled the stock forms a jelly.  It is important to provide hygienic conditions to avoid any contamination. Until the eighteenth century, gelatine would have been prepared at home, in 1893 packaged powdered gelatine began to be marketed by Charles R. Knox in the States and cooks in Huntly would no doubt have obtained it from the grocer by 1913.  It was packaged and sold in different forms but gelatine leaves and sheets are the same substance as granulated or powdered gelatine. Both sheet and powdered gelatine should be dissolved in cold water. When the leaves or sheets were heated they turn into a liquid which sets as a gel when cooled.

Recipes in The Huntly Cookery Book variously use powdered, leaf or sheet gelatine and some specified specific types, including French leaves or Marshall sheets. France was renowned for its production of gelatine leaves: two French companies dominated the trade. Coignet producing thick gelatine leaves from 1818 and Rousselot produced gelatine at least from 1909 using large quantities of bone imported from India. Between 1900 and 1914 these two major French companies, Coignet and Rousselot grew rapidly (Schrieber and Herbert Gareis 2007: 3–4, 13–16).

Sheet gelatine was promoted by the fashionable Mrs Agnes B. Marshall’s cookery book (1885). Marshall’s sheet gelatine was considered to be the best quality, ‘the most easily soluble and most tasteless kind’ (George 1908: 158). Beaty-Pownall (1900: 159,234) supposes that Mrs Marshall’s leaf gelatine be used due to ‘its undoubted and guaranteed strength and purity, needs no previous soaking, dissolving very readily in a very little hot liquid.’ It was used quick-dissolving (Broomfield 2007: 135) and used in proportions 1 to 1 ½ oz to every quart of liquid, according to the time of year as more gelatine is required in summer than in winter. Mrs Agnes B. Marshall endorsed many other shortcut products including vanilla extract — but many of them were expensive (Broomfield 2007: 137). Like many TV chefs today, Mrs Marshall endorsed many other shortcut products including vanilla extract, pre-ground almonds for marzipans, baking powder, concentrated fruit juices, food colourings, liqueur syrups, bottled pepper sauces— but many of the ingredients she recommended, though good, were expensive (Broomfield 2007: 135–7).

Quite what the weight, thickness and other dimensions of a sheet of gelatine or a French gelatine leaf used in The Huntly Cookery Book is not usually specified but may be taken to be Marshall’s leaf gelatine unless otherwise specified. The relation of sheets and leaves to powdered gelatine is a bit confusing and can be controversial even today. Modern estimates are that ¼ oz. of powdered gelatine is about 2¼ to 2½ teaspoons, or that 20 sheets equal 50 g. Alternatively 1 modern pouch of gelatine powder has 2 ½ tsp (7 g), which equals 5 sheets (2 7/8" x 8 ½”); 4 leaves equal one teaspoon of powdered gelatine, which in turn is about 1/4 of one ounce; or that 6 gelatine sheets will set 17 oz. (500ml) of liquid. All very confusing! Mrs Anderson provided the most informative formula (4 ½ leaves (½ oz.) sheet gelatine (i.e.14.2 g) with her recipe for Lemon Solid (Huntly Cookery Book 1913: 33).


Many recipes include eggs as it was common for people in rural areas to keep hens as well as ducks, geese and turkeys though no recipes are given for ducks or geese in The Huntly Cookery Book. Boxes of eggs were taken by trap to the nearest railway station for shipment to Edinburgh. When there was a glut of eggs, some would be preserved with isinglass which sealed the pores of eggshells to prevent them going bad and was bought from chemist shops. Isinglass (aka water-glass) is a sodium silicate solution; and is not isinglass, a substance obtained from the swim bladders of fish (especially Beluga sturgeon). This would seal them and they would keep for up to three months. The Huntly Poultry Show was revived in February 1913.


Almonds, pistachio nuts, and walnuts were all used.

Jordan almonds, specified in The Huntly Cookery Book are a variety of high quality sweet almonds named after the Jordan Valley; or from French jardin (‘garden’) which grow in Spain. They have long, thin, slender, rather smooth kernels with thick, heavy shells and are used whole or ground. The term is also used to mean sugared almonds which have been used from Roman times for celebrations such as weddings and christenings around the Mediterranean. Pistachio nuts (Pistacia vera) were cultivated from ancient times in the Middle East and imported in small quantities until the 1930s.The walnuts no doubt came from trees of the Common or English walnut (Juglans regia) from Britain or France.

Hazelnuts do not figure in The Huntly Cookery Book.


Several of the recipes include pasta which, like fine grain semolina and farola, may well have been produced from best quality Durum wheat by James Marshall (d.1928 in business in Glasgow from the 1880s, the first to sell pre-packaged products. One of the ingredients is Italian pasta letters (Alfabetici), used for Alphabet Soup (Reeve 1882: 88).  It is pasta that has been mechanically pressed or pressed into the shape of letters and helped children learn their alphabet.


Seeds and pulses such as lentils, beans, and peas were either purchased from the grocer, or dried garden produce. They were used in soups such as Scot’s Broth but they do not figure largely in The Huntly Cookery Book.

Raising Agents

Baking powder

Baking powder is a mixture of bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda) and the acidic cream of tartar. It is made from ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda = 1 teaspoon baking powder. To activate the raising agent, it is combined with moisture such as milk, water or eggs.  It creates little bubbles of carbon dioxide which helps cakes rise. In 1842, George Borwick & Sons Ltd launched baking powder on the market; modern varieties were developed by Alfred Bird from 1843.  Rumford Baking Powder was also available, especially after 1869. The popular Mrs Marshall endorsed her own brand.

Bicarbonate of soda

Bicarbonate of soda (aka sodium bicarbonate, baking soda), called ‘carbonate’ or even soda in The Huntly Cookery Book. Sodium carbonate is washing soda which is not used in cooking. It was used from the mid-nineteenth century and often added to sponge cake recipes. A chemical reaction forms bubbles of carbon dioxide when it is mixed with acidic liquid (e.g. lemon juice, vinegar).  These bubbles help to raise the cake making the mixture less dense.   In 1846, two New York bakers established the first factory to develop bicarbonate of soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. Sodium bicarbonate is not the same as washing soda (sodium carbonate).

Cream of tartar

Cream of tartar is the common name for potassium hydrogen tartrate, an acidic chemical in powder form and an ingredient of baking powder. This fine white odourless powder is a by-product of wine manufacturing and used, for example when making meringues as it can help to increase the volume of egg whites making them lighter. Used for over 7000 years, modern manufacturing processes were developed by the Swedish chemist CW Scheele in 1769.


Yeast is used for bread and cakes but by 1913 it was gradually being replaced in Huntly by other raising agents or by self-raising flour.

Sugar and honey

Many of the puddings and cakes were very sweet but few were highly spiced. Bees were kept by a in gardens to provide honey which was the main sweetener until the eighteenth century, but it was gradually being replaced by a range of different grades of sugar, Golden syrup or treacle, all available through the local grocer by 1913.

In Roman times, honey and sugar were used for medicinal purposes, and imported from the Middle East at least from AD 1150 and then from Sicily. It was later also used as sweetener and preservative.  From medieval times until the late-nineteenth century, sugar was sold in solid cones or loaves. These cones were wrapped in blue paper from the eighteenth century onwards. Sugar was scraped off the cone using sugar nips and then had to be pounded and sieved. Cane sugar was imported from the seventeenth century from the Canary Islands for the wealthy but from c.1650 it was imported from the New World and prices dropped.  By the 1890s, Glasgow was importing most of the cane sugar across the Atlantic into Britain.

Beet sugar was produced from beets (Beta vulgaris) from 1747 in central Europe and was commercially available from the early nineteenth century. However, British beet sugar was not available in Huntly by 1913. The crop was only grown experimentally in Britain in the 1910s after a group of Dutch investors began offering contracts to Norfolk farmers to grow it and it was then shipped to Holland for processing but the crop suffered from wet weather in 1912.

Various types of sugar are listed in The Huntly Cookery Book (castor, granulated, brown, molasses, etc.). European confectioners from the eighteenth century used powdered sugars, called ‘very fine’ or icing’ sugars. Production and availability improved in the nineteenth century and the fashion of decorating cakes with icing started about this time. Caster (spelt ‘castor’ in The Huntly Cookery Book) sugar, also known as ‘superfine sugar’ or ‘baker's sugar’, has particles about half the size of those in granulated sugar and fine enough to pass through the holes of a sugar caster. Four recipes, ‘German Pound Cake’, the icing for ‘A Nice Layer Cake’, ‘Chocolate Fudge’ and ‘Swiss Toffee’ stipulated the use of granulated sugar in The Huntly Cookery Book. The Boston Sugar Refinery introduced granulated sugar in 1853 and it became popular in the States from 1883; it was later sold in bags available at grocers’ shops. In 1913, an English law court recognised that Demerara applied to any brown sugar.  Previously is applied to brown and yellow sugars coloured and flavoured with molasses, and produced from 1812 in British Guiana.

‘Moist sugar’ is a type of unrefined brown sugar with a strong treacle flavour. Also called Muscovado, it is very dark brown; coarser and stickier than most brown sugars.

Several recipes stipulate treacle (called molasses in the States) which was either a pale syrup (Golden Syrup) or a darker syrup (dark or black treacle). Golden syrup is used to sweeten puddings and desserts. It is thick, amber-coloured sugar syrup produced by the evaporation of sugar cane or sugar beet juice into sugar. In 1883, Charles Eastick, a chemist at the Abram Lyle & Sons refinery in Plaistow worked out a formula so sugar could be refined to make Golden syrup. It was sold commercially from 1885. Robert Scott took it to the Antarctic in 1911, the same year it was awarded a royal warrant. Though sold in tins in 1913 that are much the same in the 1990s, Golden syrup was also sold to shops in casks then was then decanted into a customer’s own container.


Locally grown vegetables traditionally included kail (kale); leeks; carrots: turnip or ‘neeps’ (Brassica napus), called ‘swede’ in England) and introduced to Scotland in the 1780s; spinach; white turnip; artichokes; lettuce; cabbages; and onions and were usually grown in the kail yard or commercially in open fields. Many of the vegetables we now associate with Scotland were not introduced until the sixteenth century, including tomatoes, potatoes and maize. By the 1900s, canned vegetables including tomatoes were available in grocery’s shops.

Stovies (from Old Scots; stoving = ‘stewing’) are an Aberdeenshire and Angus traditional dish, based on potatoes (‘tatties’, ‘tawties’) and onion, combined variously with carrots, beef or other meat and other left-over food. The sliced potatoes are cooked by slowing stewing them with an onion in a closed pot with fat (dripping or butter) and stock and served with oatcakes. No recipe was provided in The Huntly Cookery Book but would have been well-known.

Water and ice

Water quality was important: our great-grandmother still preferred to fetch her water from the Bogie rather than drink Huntly tap water. The Bogie ran through the rich beautiful farmland and supplied the bleachfields at Huntly with fine soft water. It joins the Deveron just below the town it or 13 miles from its source.

Ice houses were attached to richer homes in the area from the nineteenth century.  The granite ice house at Huntly Lodge was built about 1800 (and is still in the grounds of the Huntly Castle Hotel) and Forglen near Turriff Aberdeenshire had ice houses from the nineteenth century. The recipe for ‘Vanilla Ice’ mentions freezing but there was no domestic electricity in Huntly until the 1950s, let alone electric freezers in 1913. We now know that perishable foods can deteriorate quickly when exposed to bacteria such as Salmonella sp., and refrigerating food slows the grown of such bacteria and keeps food edible. Without refrigeration in 1913, Huntly housewives could place ice around perishable food. In the cold Aberdeenshire winter-weather food no doubt kept fresh enough in unheated rooms or outside.

Click for Map
sitemap | cookie policy | privacy policy | accessibility statement