Saturday, September 17, 2011

Charles Dickens' Gruel

Johnny Mumbles Presents: Charles Dickens' Gruel (From Household Words, 1881)

 Being my first attempt at gruel and wanting to produce a preparation of the highest quality, I investigated some alternate recipes before beginning. In doing so, I discovered the following: 
Hooper, Mary. Cookery for Invalids: Persons of Delicate Digestion, and for Children. London: H.S. King, 1876.

Evidently, Mr. Dickens needs to learn about attribution.

                                                              Lancet, volume 1, 1853.

Obtaining the right groats was difficult, I really wanted to purchase the proper Robinson's Embden groats or even Robinson's patent groats, unfortunately neither are available. Instead I settled with McCann's whole grain oats.

Following the instructions exactly, 1 quart water, two ounces groats. 
(Two ounces of McCann's is slightly more than 1/3 of a cup)

Gently boil and stir for four hours.

                                                                    After one hour. 

                                                                    After 3 hours.

I added approximately one cup of water per hour to prevent scorching.

Lacking a "Hair sieve" I used a mesh sieve to isolate the gruel from the groat.

Be sure and use two spoons as per the instructions to avoid contaminating your gruel with groat.

                                                               Whisk until creamy.

                                                                      And Serve.

Being a purist I ate my gruel without any accouterments, but I think that the addition of just about anything could improve the flavor tremendously.

In grading:

5 Martin Chuzzelewit's for ease of recipe.
3 David Copperfield's for flavor.

With an overall score of:

6 Edwin Drood's.


  1. just a shout out! I'm totally enjoying this blog-- thanks!

  2. i love this so much i just spent 10 f'in minutes trying to reset google password!

    Florence Nightingale had some invalid recipes that were equally horrifying--I have been fascinated by the dark unspoken underbelly of the very creative Victorian times. I am currently imagining all those large women in crinolines in their birthday suits. Keep up the cooking and posting. tom sale aka pinky diablo