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Christmas in the past


Christmas speciality foods in Victorian and Edwardian times

Christmas speciality foods

Even working-class people in Victorian and Edwardian times made efforts to have speciality foods at Christmas – ones that they couldn't afford or have time to make during the year. This page describes how the whole family chipped in for the preparation and what the foods were - all from personal recollections.


Extracted from the memoirs of the webmaster's mother(1906-2002) and edited by the webmaster with further research

When I was a child in the early 1900s, there were few speciality foods in the shops. So ordinary working class families had to make their own. Favourites were special pickles and mincemeat, specially preserved meats, and sweets.

Pickles for Christmas

Pickles for a traditional Christmas


Some weeks in advance, my mother would cut up red cabbage and put it into jars of vinegar.

She would also pickle green walnuts by putting them into jars of vinegar.

Salt beef

salt beef for a traditional Christmas

Salt beef - more pink and flaky than ordinary beef

About a week before Christmas my mother would make salt beef ready for supper on Christmas night. This was a way of preserving the meat.

For the salt beef she would buy a piece of beef brisket and put it into brine for a few days, then cook it in water with a few pepper corns added for flavour. When cold she would press it into a tin, put a plate on top and then a weight.

To serve, it was turned out onto a plate and sliced. The slices looked pinker and paler than roast beef slices, but it was tender and pleasant to eat.


Also about a week before Christmas my mother would make brawn - which was preserved lumps of cold meat set in jelly.

brawn for a traditional Christmas

Brawn - lumps of meat preserved in jelly

She would buy half a pig's head and trotters and a leg of beef and boil them all together in a little water. When they were cooked, she would cut them up into pieces and put them into a large basin with some of the water. All this set solid when cold. I don't think gelatine was used. The meat juices themselves produced the jelly.

To serve, the brawn was turned out onto a plate and cut into thick slices or wedges. The portions had to be thick because the lumps of meat came out whole.


turkish delight sweets for a traditional Christmas

Turkish delight sweets

My father always made coconut Turkish delight for Christmas, but I don't know how he did it or whether it was usual practice for the man of the house to make the sweets.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.

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