Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tudor Kitchen, Part 3

As I mentioned in Part 1, in 2007 I was fortunate enough to visit London, England.  The number one item on my "to do" list was to visit the Hampton Court Palace, which Henry VIII used as one of his palaces.  It has a working Tudor kitchen and I want to share what I saw with you.

This part focuses on food and storage.

Here is some beef that was roasted on the spit.  Notice the hole!

And here are some pies before they are baked...

... and afterwards!  Pies were their own container and didn't need any special cooking dish.  This was convenient when cooking for crowds.

Serving implements include metal plates if you can afford them; wooden if you can't.  Trenchers, plates made from sliced, stale bread, are out of fashion at this time.

 Most people ate with spoons and knives.  Forks were not considered eating utensils in England.  The spoon shapes you see here are typical of the period.

Storage containers came in a variety of shapes and materials, depending on usage.

These are various containers:  tall storage jars with lids (unglazed because they didn't need to be), two pitchers, and some bowls.

These are pitchers and jugs.  The green glaze is a typical color popular in the Henrian era.

You can take cloths and tie them over the tops of the containers, especially if the containers have a lipped edge to catch the string.  I have also heard that sometimes the cloth was oiled or waxed.  I think that would be considered expensive in this time period.

These storage pots are only partially glazed, as was typical of the era.

These beautiful red ware bowls are only glazed on the inside.  Good for mixing, serving, and storing.

I believe this is a salt cellar.  Salt was considered a spice, was often mentioned as a "sauce" to be served with meats, and was expensive, though not as expensive as pepper and other imported spices.  The container could be something else, though, since it wasn't labeled.

So there you have it.  A brief tour though the Tudor Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.  I hope you go there some day and witness an actual cooking event.  They do demonstrations with experts who are in costume and probably in character.  I want to hear about your adventure!


  1. Fantastic blog. I want to know more. What kind of storage containers would they have use to store nuts, such as kentish cob nuts, and how would they have kept out the mice and rats?

  2. Hi James,

    Thanks for your comments!

    I'm no expert on the subject but from what I have read in the past, storage containers needed to be inexpensive whenever possible. I think that means baskets, which are cheap and easy to weave when they are not fancy. You can make them from local materials that can be gathered year-round and prepared for weaving when you need them. Think of thin branches (withies), woody vines, reeds, and fibrous stalks of plants.

    Also, I think the inventive cook would use containers that no longer were good for their original purpose, like barrels that leaked or wooden boxes with broken handles or loose joints. Basically anything that can hold nuts without tipping or losing them through holes.

    As for mice and rats, I've read that many kitchens kept cats around to hunt the rodents. Sometimes small dogs (e.g. rat terriers) were used, too. I also recall something about different types of repellents and baits that some household instruction books describe. Hmmm. I think I need to research that!

    Another issue is insect invasions. One stored nut with a bug in it can turn into a destroyed food nightmare. This I've experienced in that my friend's sons have tried to collect acorns for me (I pay well!) but they weren't careful and some weevil-type bug ended up infesting the entire stock.

    I read an account of a spring cleaning for a house that involved taking everything out of the house and putting it into the yard (posting a guard so no passerbys took anything!). Then they took a mix of various ingredients which included dried herbs and burned it to fill the house with an aromatic smoke. It was supposed to kill or drive off the bugs. When the place aired out again, they put their items back in the house. For small areas, wiping down the surface with vinegar was recommended.

    James, I have never before heard of Kentish cobnuts. Thanks for bringing them to my attention! I read about them and find them intriguing: they taste like coconuts when they are young and like hazelnuts when they are mature. Perhaps some day I'll get to try them.

    You asked a good question and made me think about the answer in detail. Nice!

    -- Tracy