Dictionaire oeconomique or The Family Dictionary of 1725 informs its readers that you can have lettuce in abundance in January by carrying out the following procedures. Prepare beds for the lettuce seeds and then keep the seeds themselves in a bag of water for four hours before placing them in a warm chimney. The seeds should then be drained and heated 'in such a manner that they will bud'.
Finally the seeds should be furrowed in their beds approximately two inches deep. It is then recommended that the seed beds should be sprinkled with 'mould' and covered with straw to protect them from birds. Assuming the frost is unable to penetrate, the writers reassure that the lettuce leaves will be tall and wide enough to eat within ten to twelve days.
If you were lucky enough to achieve such abundant lettuce production in January, the following Victorian recipe for ginger lettuce - yes, ginger lettuce might be something you would consider preparing, if you have in excess of about a week to spare!
'Cut (the lettuce) in 1in or 2 in. lengths. Throw it into water; for each Ilb throw in a teaspoonful of cayenne pepper, and a little salt. Let it stand two days. Strain and wash in clean water. Clarify an equal weight of fine loaf-sugar. Take 11/2 oz. of good ginger for every Ilb, soak it in boiling water and slice it, boil with the sugar fifteen minutes. Pour it boiling hot over the lettuce, which must be well drained. Keep back the ginger, which boil with the syrup three times (at intervals of two or three days), and pour boiling hot on the lettuce. At the last boiling add the juice of two or three lemons. If the syrup is allowed to cool, it spoils the colour of the ginger'.
(The country house, a collection of useful information and recipes, ed. by I.E.B.C, 1866:103)
Aside from some good early lettuce, you would no doubt have used these two items in the process of creating the above ginger lettuce recipe of 1866.
|Glass juicer c.1888©Museum of Kitchenalia|
|19c Sugar nippers©Museum of Kitchenalia|