Ducks and Stuphins – Sausage Makers and their OXFORD SAUSAGES
By Eben van Tonder
20 August 2019
Food offers us a beautiful opportunity to not only look into the distant past but to taste what our forefathers tasted. It is to experience history! The allure is irresistible! I have not done a study on the earliest reference to the Oxford sausage but found this fascinating reference from an author from the 1840s.
His name was Joseph Thomas James Hewlett and he lived from 1800 to 1847. He was a novelist, son of Joseph Hewlett of the parish of St. Pancras, Middlesex, and was born in 1800. He was educated at the Charterhouse, where Lord-chancellor Eldon placed him. On 13 May 1818, he matriculated from Worcester College, Oxford, and on 5 Feb. 1822, he graduated with a B.A.. On 25 May 1826, he received an M.A.. (Cooper, 1885 – 1900)
He was initially appointed head-master of Abingdon grammar school. His career there was, however, a failure and he did not hold the post long. His subsequent life was a prolonged struggle with poverty. Retiring to Letcombe Regis, near Wantage, Berkshire, he endeavoured to gain an income by writing novels. In 1840, through the intercession of Fox Maule (afterwards Lord Panmure), an old schoolfellow, Lord-chancellor Cottenham presented him to the rectory of Little Stambridge, near Rochford, Essex, of the annual value of 175l. He died there on 24 Jan. 1847. One of his novels was ‘College Life; or the Proctor’s Note-Book,’ 3 vols., London, 1843. (Cooper, 1885 – 1900)
In this novel, we find “The History of Lady Fleshington Freeliver”. It is this section that he gives us a nugget for the food historian.
Lady Fleshington Freeliver
He tells the story of one Daniel Ducks who lived on Penny-Farting-Street. He was appointed as the “purveyor of milk” to St. Jude, the local college. Not only was he famous for his milk, but also for his eggs. His eggs were so famous that it was said that “the men of St. Jude’s were perpetually subjected to the inroads of their friends at breakfast-time, on the sole plea that fresh eggs were not to be obtained elsewhere.” He was a very astute man, able to glean the financial standing of the many people who wanted to befriend him. In particular the many ladies. (Hewlett, 1843)
One family caught his eyes in on account of their abundant financial resources, the Stuphins. “They were an amiable old couple, who had one unmarried but quite-ready-to-be-married daughter, who assisted them in the pleasant and profitable trade of sausage-making. They did not manufacture those horrible concoctions of all manner of nastiness, which, to hide their filthy component parts are tied up in opaque chitterlings (small intestines of a pig); but the pure, the delicious, the far-famed digestible OXFORD SAUSAGES!” (Hewlett, 1843)
Hewlett pauses to make an editorial comment which is my interest in the account and the reason why I will forever hold him in high esteem and be grateful to him. He writes: “before I proceed in my narrative, I feel benevolently disposed to confer on the readers of these pages – that is, upon “society in general”, a favour which, I trust, they will duly appreciate. Those who have eaten the old OXFORD SAUSAGES will do so by anticipation, when I tell them what I am about to disclose to them the way of making the delicacy according to the recipe given to me out of gratitude for my delicate attention to her by Lady Fleshington Freeliver, who pronounced them edibles which, “no lady or gentleman ought to be without.” The other division of the world, who have not yet partaken of the mixture, will, I am sure, on making “one trail” give “further orders” to their cooks, and gratefully give me a place in that best of lady’s albums, the family recipe book.” (Hewlett, 1843)
He is tempted to disclose the historical origins of the recipe, but then, for fear of annoying his readers he suffices with the following remarks. “The Romans owe the introduction of them [these sausages] at their meals to that great fighting-man and voluminous author, Varro, who obtained the recipe from the Lucanians. Whether it was handed down from them to old Simon Stuphins, by written document or oral tradition, I must leave to those who delight in such abstruse inquiries to determine. Simon inherited the recipe and here it is. (Hewlett, 1843)
To Make OXFORD SAUSAGES: Ingredients
1 1/2 pound pigmeat (cut from griskins, rindless) – A lean cut of meat from the loin of a pig.
1/2 pound of veal
1 1/2 pounds beef suet (Suet is the raw, hard fat of beef or mutton found around the loins and kidneys)
5 eggs (yolk and white)
Dessert spoon of sifted, well-dried sage
Pepper and salt to taste
Chop meat into small blocks
Pound into marble mortar till short and tender
Chop suet very fine.
Beat eggs and remove white specks, pour over meat and suet.
Knead it together. Add sifted sage, salt, and pepper, and mix till distributed evenly through the mix. When well mixed, press it together. Keep it from air in a cool place. Roll the sausages on a flour board and use very little grease in frying them. (Hewlett, 1843)
Note to Vendors and Machine Sausage Makers
Hewlett makes the following additional note before returning to his tale. He entreats the vendors and machine sausage-makers of the University “not to be offended with his betraying the secret of their trade” and he assures them that it will not interfere with their local interests. “The undergraduates are not allowed to compound their own sausage meat; and the graduates are quite satisfied with what they can obtain ready-compounded.” (Hewlett, 1843)
The Novel Continues
Daniel Ducks set his sights on Miss Stuphins and her parent’s strong financial position. He carefully timed his first visit to the mother. I quote from the novel one paragraph that tells the rest of the events. “In less than one week from that eventful evening, the neighbors who had their suspicions, as they afterward said, observed that Daniel’s house was “to let,” and saw a painter obliterate the old letters over the sausage-shop, and supply their places with this announcement,
DUCKS AND STUPHINS
OXFORD SAUSAGES! A fascinating mention. I will do a study to find the earliest reference to the ingredients of this famed sausage but as far as references go, this one is exquisite! I am heading for the kitchen to make my first small batch. Forever grateful to Hewlett’s tale of Daniel Ducks.
(c) eben van tonder
Cooper, T.. 1885 – 1900. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 26
Hewlett, Joseph Thomas James. Smith, Elder & Co
Hewlett, J. 1843. College Life; or, the Proctor’s Notebook. Henry Colburn.