Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Jersey Kitchen - Part 2

In an earlier post, I recalled the "Jersey Kitchen" mentioned in the Guide book of 1932, and how I still remembered it in the 1970s. With the construction of the new Museum, it was sadly lost, and this is the second part of a guide book, written by Ralph Mollett for the Museum, in 1957, which describes its features, and gives the Jerriais name for each.

Jersey Wonders are still baked on a regular basis, and can be found, hot and ready to eat, at the Cider Festival at Hamptonne Farm Museum in October, and at the two Steam Fayres at the Steam Museum, one around Liberation Day, and the other around September. Both events are well worth a visit

There is not only cider from Jersey orchard apples (quite different from English varieties) at Hamptonne, but also you can see the crushing process at work, and the horse tugging the large granite wheel around the cider crusher; there is traditional music, and Morris dancing, bags of hot fresh chestnuts for sale, and a real ale tent, as well as walks through the water meadow, and the sensory garden.

At the Steam Fayres, there are two steam trains running, one large engine with restored Victorian carriages, and a smaller one around the inner track, as well as lots of vintage cars to see, steam engines at work, music, and land rover trials around an extremely bumpy pitted track. In the Autumn, there has sometimes also been a threshing machine in operation.

Not surprisingly, as someone who likes puns, my book which dips into the history and legends of the Channel Island is also called "Jersey Wonders"!

It is a tradition to serve Conger soup as part of the Lent Lunch on Good Friday at St Brelade's Parish Hall, along with cheese and bread and a cup of tea. I always try to get there, because it is a delicious soup, and a once a year opportunity - not being much of a cook myself!

After the Jersey Kitchen, part 2, I give two recipes for Conger Soup (from the Channel Islands Forum), if you want to try your hand. One is an 1870 recipe, and the other is a simpler recipe from 1939. There is also a recipe from the BBC site for baking Jersey Wonders.

Regarding gathering seaweed for manure (wraic), I still remember the lorries coming down the far end of St Brelade's Bay to gather up the seaweed, but if they come now, there must be far fewer of them, for I have not seen them now for many years.


A dried codfish ("mouothue") hangs from the ceiling, reminding us of the days when Jersey took a very active part in the Newfoundland Cod Fisheries ; large quantities of dried cod were brought to the Island for home consumption and for export to Mediterranean Countries.

In the wall there is a so-called " bénitier " ("bénêtchi") ; this one was found in an old house now demolished. A number of them are still to be found in old houses of the early seventeenth century ; the use of these ornamental recesses is doubtful.

The lanthorns ("les lanternes à corne") are genuine old specimens fitted with horn windows instead of glass.

The crockery and pewter-ware are from old Jersey Kitchens (la vaisselle et l'êtain).

The wool-winder (dêvidouaithe) and the spinning wheel (rouet) were in constant use all over the Island, when the inhabitants were employed in knitting stockings and jerseys, the latter taking their name from the Island. Large quantities of these were exported during the 17th and 18th centuries. The box-like settee (veille or filyie) formed a seat for the knitters ; and during the long evenings with an oil lamp overhead the matrons gathered together, and knitted, and many old tales about witchcraft and fairies were no doubt told in the ancient Jersey language.

The Jersey method of knitting (ouvrer) is different from either the English or French way.

Ploughing (à la grand' tchéthue), (the big plough) was held in Jersey in January and February. The farmers would combine and plough their lands with ploughs cutting deep furrows, using teams of at least 6 to 8 horses. During the morning a lunch was provided in the field, generally consisting of large dough cakes (gâche dé pâte, à corînthe) and a generous allowance of cider or coffee. At midday the farmer on whose land the team was working gave all his helpers a good meal, and the evening was spent in festivities.

The vraic (sea weed) harvest was a day's outing. Vraic is a splendid manure, and was also used for fuel when dried. The party went with their horses and carts (hèrnais) which were without springs, and drove to the beaches down the stone slipways specially made for the purpose.After gathering the vraic they returned home with carts heavily loaded, the party returning on foot after a strenuous day's work. Special buns were made and eaten on the beaches called galettes à vrai. These vraic buns containeda plentiful supply of raisins.

At Easter-tide cakes boiled in lard called des mèrvelles (anglicised to "Jersey Wonders ) were made, also a sort of biscuit called " simnel " (simné). On Good Friday a dish of flour and eggs boiled in milk called fliottes was eaten.

Bourdelots, apples covered in dough and pâte à soiyi, a kind of apple layer-cake, were largely baked In the ovens during the Autumn and the Winter.

Conger Soup (la Soupe d'andgulle) is still a local dish; the head and tail of the conger are boiled, then milk, butter, vegetables and herbs are added to make the Soupe, with petals of marigolds floating on the surface.

At spring tides the Ormer is caught and is a good food when properly cooked.

Gâche à crétons was a "cake" made with the residue from melted pig's fat (crétons), known as cracklings or graves, and apples, mixed in dough.


1870 D'la Soupe D'angulle
Jersey Conger Soupe

Recipe: CalculatorJersey.


1 and 1/2lb Conger,
3 Pt's water,
1 heart of cabbage chopped,
2 leeks,
petals of a marigold or two,
1 quart of milk,
1 oz of jersey butter,


Fresh Conger boil in 3pts of water approx one and half hours strain and keep the liquid, remove fish from the bone.
Return to the pot with the chopped cabbage and leeks, bring to the boil over slow heat.
Add parsley seasoning to taste add quart of milk and 1oz of jersey Butter.
To serve sprinkle with marigold petals.
Finally serve with fresh Jersey cabbage loaf and churned Jersey butter.

1939 D'la Soupe De Congre.
During The Occupation Of Jersey By The Germans.

Recipe: CalculatorJersey.

1 lb of conger,( on the head )
1 lb tomatoes, ( skinned )
1 onion,( chopped )
8 oz peas,
1 small cabbage, ( chopped )
2 Pt's of milk,
salt and fresh milled pepper,
1 bouquet garni,
marigold petals,
1 oz of jersey butter,


Wash the conger head well in plenty of water.
Place in a pan cover with cold water and boil for one and a half hours.( A pressure cooker is useful for this.)
Drain and reserve the liquid.
Take fish of the bone and add with the prepared vegetables the herbs also the fish to one and a half pints of the fish stock season to taste and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Take out the bouquet garni, then ladle 3 large cupfuls of fish into a sieve or liquidizer.
Reduce this amount to a puree then return to the pan.
This thickens the soup and there is no need to add flour.
Add milk, butter, and bring to the boil very slow and simmer.
Serve very hot.
Serves four people.
Serve with the Marigold petals on the top.
Best with Jersey cabbage loaf and fresh churned Jersey Butter.

Jersey Wonders
This recipe makes around 40 wonders

1 ½ Ib self-raising flour
4 oz butter
8 oz caster sugar
6 eggs


Sieve flour and sugar and rub in butter, chopped into small pieces. Add whisked eggs to make a light dough.

With floured hands make the dough into golf ball sized shapes. Place these on a lightly floured tray and cover with a damp cloth for two hours.

Then roll out each of the balls into oblongs two inches x four inches.

With a sharp knife slit the centre of each oblong and twist the top end (of the oblong) through the slit.

Drop four to six Wonders at a time into a large pan of hot oil, cook for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Drain on kitchen paper.



L'Office du Jèrriais said...

Mèrcie bein des fais! J'avons eune douzaine d'èrchettes pouor d'la soupe d'andgulle en lîngne sus Les Pages Jèrriaises

For yet more comparative Jersey gastronomy, there are a dozen conger soup recipes on Les Pages Jèrriaises, along with loads of other traditional recipes - bourdélots, fliottes, mèrvelles, podîns and gâches, etc.

alane wallace said...

This is so interesting because the recipes sound so familiar from the local Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch) cooking. One of my dad's seasonal specialties he remembered from the 1920's and 30's was "apple dumpling" which was a cored apple, filled with sugar and cinnamon and wrapped in pastry. He always put cream or milk on his hot dumpling, but I liked mine plain. Yummy.