The origin of the Yorkshire pudding is, as yet, unknown. There are no cave drawings, hieroglyphics and so far, no-one has unearthed a Roman Yorkshire pudding dish buried beneath the streets of York. The puddings may have been brought to these shores by any of the invading armies across the centuries but unfortunately any evidence of this has yet to be discovered.
‘Make a good batter as for pancakes ; put in a hot toss-pan over the fire with a bit of butter to fry the bottom a little then put the pan and butter under a shoulder of mutton ,instead of a dripping pan , keeping frequently 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.’
The next recorded recipe took the strange pudding from local delicacy to become the nation’s favourite dish following publication in “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” by Hannah Glasse in 1747. As one of the most famous food writers of the time, the popularity of the book spread the word of the Yorkshire Pudding. ‘It is an exceeding good Pudding , the Gravy of the Meat eats well with it,’ states Hannah.
Take a quart of milk, four eggs, and a little salt, make it up into a thick batter with flour, like 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.
Mrs Beeton may have been Britain’s most famous food writer of the 19th century but her recipe omitted one of the fundamental rules for making Yorkshire pudding – the need for the hottest oven possible. The recipe was further wrong by stating to cook the pudding in advance before placing it under the meat an hour before needed. Yorkshire folk blame her error on her southern origins.
Mrs Beeton’s Yorkshire Pudding Recipe – 1866
1 ½ pints milk
6 large tbsp. flour
1 salt spoon salt
Put the flour into a basin with the salt and gradually stir in enough milk to make it a stiff batter. When it is perfectly smooth and all the lumps are well rubbed down, add the remaining milk and the eggs, which should be well beaten. Beat the mixture for a few minutes. Pour into a shallow baking tin, which has been previously well rubbed with beef dripping. Put the pudding into the oven. Bake it for an hour. Then, for another 30 minutes, place it under the meat, to catch a little of the gravy that flows from it. Cut the pudding into small square pieces, put them on a hot dish and serve. If the meat is baked, the pudding may at once be placed under it, resting the former on a small three cornered stand. Time: 1 ½ hour. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons. Seasonable at any time.
Yorkshire Pudding in the 20th Century
The Yorkshire pudding survived the wars, the food rationing of the 40’s and 50’s, and sailed through the swinging sixties. However, as the pace of modern life picked up and more woman worked, cooking in the home started to fall. The rise of convenience foods and ready meals towards the end of the last century saw the invention of the first commercially produced Yorkshire puddings with the launch of the Yorkshire based Aunt Bessie’s brand in 1995.
In 2007, Vale of York MP Anne McIntosh, campaigned for Yorkshire puddings to be given the same protected status as French champagne or Greek feta cheese , “The people of Yorkshire are rightly and fiercely proud of the Yorkshire pudding,” she said “it is something which has been cherished and perfected for centuries in Yorkshire.”
At the time Yorkshire pudding was deemed too generic a term but that hasn’t stopped Aunt Bessie’s and two other pudding manufacturers with support of the Regional Food Group for Yorkshire and Humber making another attempt for the protected status. Understandably, this has caused concern from everyone outside of Yorkshire who make the puddings commercially. Roast Beef and Yorkshire-Style puddings?
Today the Yorkshire pudding is as popular as ever whether home-cooked, eaten at the thousands of restaurants across the UK serving a traditional Sunday lunch, or bought in from the supermarket. On a Sunday ex-pat Brits throughout Europe and the rest of the world tuck into Yorkshire pudding and in Australia, New Zealand and Canada puddings are still a large part of the food culture. Just why this simple mixture of flour, eggs, milk and salt gained a place in the culinary hearts of a nation, and a worldwide reputation, is a mystery which many have tried to solved but have yet to find the answer. Maybe it is simply because the taste so good?