5 mins

How to make Canadian food from 1812

Alicia Wanless from the St. Lawrence War of 1812 Bicentennial campaign suggests ways to turn back time in your kitchen

Hammish’s recipe for lemon snow (Alicia Wanless)

Have you ever read a recipe from 1812? It isn’t quite what we’ve come to expect today. Gone are the neat little opening lists of ingredients. Simple standard measurements are absent too. No. A Canadian Regency recipe is more a thick and challenging paragraph, full of archaic directions and calls for copious amounts of lard.

It had been my hope to base this blog on personal cooking experiences. Hannah Glasse quickly put me off that pursuit. An 18th century cookery writer, Hannah compiled one of the best-known cookbooks of her time – The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy.  To a modern cooking incompetent, Hannah has made the task anything but plain and easy.

Take for example Hannah’s instructions on “To Make a white fricasey”:

“You may take two chickens or rabbits, skin them and cut them into little pieces. Lay them into warm water to draw out all the blood, and then lay them in a clean cloth to

If you don’t see the turn off, well, you’re a much more determined chef than I am. From stew I moved to gruel. Alas, the only pleas at our house in contemplating this experiment were please don’t as opposed to for some more. Fortunately, there are others equally as interested in heritage food – with the skills to make tasty dishes too!

Chef Hamish Robb of the Red George Pub in Prescott, Ontario, seems groomed for the task. His grandmother’s cookbook, a family heirloom, contains many Canadian recipes reminiscent of Mrs Glasse. And better still, Hamish knows how to follow and adapt those instructions. Recently Hamish treated an audience to Lemon Snow (see below).

According to British food historian C Anne Wilson the 19th Century, desserts called ‘snows’ date back to the Elizabethan era. Beaten egg whites mixed with either fruits or cream created a light and delicious centrepiece for a banquet. And in my pursuit of Regency comfort food, Hamish’s Lemon Snow had a far better impact than the idea of cutting up a rabbit.

Close to Toronto, the town of Prescott was once home to another heritage hospitality expert, Paul Fortier. Owner of Jessup Food & Heritage Ltd, now in Kingston, Paul is renowned for his historic meals – both in terms of food and creating a period ambiance.

A little further afield, Fort York in Toronto is well known for period suppers. These events are rare, but well worth the price and trip.

For the more modern DIY-ers, Parks Canada released a Heritage Gourmet app late last year, complete with a Macdonell Cock-a-Leekie Soup, named for Fort Wellington’s hero “Red” George Macdonnell.

You can enjoy period delicacies for the War of 1812 Bicentennial – using original or modified recipes. If you seek comfort, however, Misters Robb or Fortier might be your best bet at tasting the Regency period.

Hammish’s recipe for lemon snow


2 cups of water
Rind of 4 lemons and 1 lime
Use juice from the lemons and lime
½ cup of sugar
2 tbsp of corn starch
2 egg whites


1. Mix all ingredients, cook it and cool in fridge until it is cool and thickens.

2. Take the two egg whites and beat till firm and fold in the cooled lemon curd.

3. Chill and serve.

Alicia Wanless is from the St. Lawrence War of 1812 Bicentennial campaign. While Canadians mark the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, much of their commemorative programming appeals to a broad range of interests, welcoming Janeites, English Country Dancers, Napoleonic, Regency and War of 1812 re-enactors, alike.

If there is one month for you to live Regency, it is next June 14 to July 14 along the St. Lawrence River. Find out more about the events and how to get involved here.

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