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Meat as part of the diet in nineteeth century Swansea

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Meat was a very different commodity in the 1830s. Nowadays we freely refer to ‘pieces’ or ‘joints’ of meat, but in the 1830s joints of meat were reserved for the better off. They are referred to specifically in bills and invoices as being distinct from other animal products. Every part of a slaughtered animal was used, there was no waste. The extreme poverty of the poorer classes meant that there were many ways to cook and prepare even the most unsavoury parts of sheep, pigs, and cows.

The poor in Swansea only had access to the cheapest and poorest meats. These were often old and had been badly stored. They were often heavily salted and spiced to disguise the taste.

Mutton and pork were the most typical meats that the poorer Swansea people could afford. It was usual for most meats to be boiled in some way. The following are some typical Victorian dishes that were very familiar in Swansea's poorer households in the 1800s.

Pig Haggis

The stomach is turned inside out, scrubbed clean, soaked overnight in strongly salted water, and then stuffed with potato, sage and onion stuffing, sewn up and roasted in an oven.

Pig Sweetbreads

There are three different breads, the heart, throat and pancreas. Soak in salted water and bring to the boil slowly. When cooked they should be white in colour.

Brawn

Any pieces of pig ‘meat’ could be used. The gristle, feet, and bones were set aside to simmer while the head and any larger pieces of meat were put straight into brine. Eventually all are put into the same large pot and left to simmer. It was flavoured with as many spices as possible but sage was a popular addition. When the bones were loose and can be removed easily, the liquid can be strained or left to reduce and thicken until being left to set to a jelly like consistency.

 

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