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discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.53
SUMMER2017

An eighteenth century dish of pork with onions & mustard from Elizabeth Cleland.

The marriage of pork to mustard has marked many anniversaries; Mrs. Cleland’s recipe, for example, dates to 1749. Without realizing it, Alex Guarnischelli, a celebrity chef, cooks a recognizable relative today. You will need an oven pan and shallow rack for the ancestral recipe. For four.


  • pigs-cattle005.jpgsalt and pepper
  • a pork loin on the bone with its fatcap of about 4 lb and, with luck, four ribs
  • 1 Tablespoon flour (preferably Wondra)
  • 32 peeled tiny white onions (see the Notes)
  • 1 generous Tablespoon malt vinegar
  • 2 heaped teaspoons dry mustard (like Colman’s)

Preheat the oven to 425.°

  1. Put the onions in an oven pan big enough to hold them in a single layer with some space separating them, then set the pork on a rack over them with the convex fatcap side up.
  2. Roast the dish for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 325° until a meat thermometer hits about 140° at the thickest part of the meat.
  3. Get the pan out of the oven, heat the broiler, and spoon the onions and pork drippings into a skillet.
  4. Broil the pork until its fatcap browns and blisters; this should take no more than a few minutes, so watch it.
  5. Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest while you prepare the onions and mustard.
  6. Cook the onions in the dripping over low heat until tender: Depending on the size and texture of your onions the timing can vary a lot, so stab an onion cruelly with a butcher’s fork from time to time.
  7. Pour off any fat not painting the onions, then stir the flour into them until it loses its raw color.
  8. Quickly stir the vinegar into the skillet followed by the mustard and cook the mixture until the onions are hot again.
  9. Carve the pork into chops and serve them with the thick onion mustard ‘sauce.’

Notes:

-Diligent readers will know that the Editor always specifies Wondra for sauces because it rarely creates lumps.

-Sandra Sherman has her own version of Mrs. Cleland’s recipe--our slight variation derives from hers--but she overlooks the essential seasoning of salt and pepper. Mrs. Cleland had not mentioned them either, but during the eighteenth century English cookery writers frequently omitted such obvious ingredients, on the assumption that their readers, or the cooks they employed, would bring a certain foreknowledge into the kitchen. They did, after all, cook virtually all day every day, something it would be rash to assume today’s readers might do.

-Many eighteenth century recipes embody a kind of lyricism, and this is one of them:

“Put a loin of Pork to roast, and put twenty small onions in the Dripping under the Pork; let the Fat drip on them, when the Pork is nigh enough put the Onions into the Sauce-pan: Let them simmer over the Fire a Quarter of an Hour, shaking them well, then pour out all the fat; shake in a little Flour, a spoonful of Vinegar, and two Tea Spoonfuls of Mustard, give them a Boil. Lay the Pork in the Dish and the Onions in a Sauce Boat.”