National Yorkshire Pudding Day: The history of Yorkshire puddings

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National Yorkshire Pudding Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of February in the United Kingdom. The Yorkshire pudding is a popular accompaniment to a roast dinner or can be filled with sausages to create toad in the hole. Many would describe it as a savoury pancake or an air-filled cake. It is made from a thin batter of water or milk, eggs and flour, the same as pancakes.

The first recipe for Yorkshire puddings emerged in 1737. It was described as a “dripping pudding” in a book called The Whole Duty of a Woman. Pancake batter would be placed under meat being roasted over a fire. The dripping fat would flavour and colour the pudding, as well as utilise every part of the expensive meat. Hot fat or oil was always the secret to making the perfect Yorkshire pudding.

Credit: Foods of England

It was not known as a Yorkshire pudding until 1747, when Hannah Glasse wrote about it in The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy. Glasse was a famous food writer and it was her work that reinvented the centuries-old dripping pudding into the Yorkshire pudding we know today.

The only difference was that the 18th century puddings were much flatter than the puffy alternatives that are commonplace nowadays. In fact, Yorkshire puddings used to be called Yorkshire puffs because the original pudding was so flat it was cut up and eaten, rather than made individually.

The third version of the Yorkshire pudding came from Mrs Beeton, a famous food writer in the 1800s. She revealed her secret of setting the oven at its highest temperature. However, she baked the pudding for an hour before putting it under the dripping meat, which was hailed an error by the people of Yorkshire.

The first ready-made Yorkshire pudding available to purchase was Aunt Bessie’s brand in 1995. This, however, brought concern to Yorkshire pudding manufacturers within the region who feared they might have to re-brand their product to “Yorkshire-style puddings”. This caused Vale of York MP Anne McIntosh to campaign for protected status in 2007.

Other Yorkshire pudding discourse comes from the “pudding” part of the name. Traditionally in Britain, a pudding was a meat in a sausage-like shape. This type of pudding is still found today in black and white puddings. Pudding became a synonym for a sweet dessert at the end of the 18th century and this is where the confusion comes from. However, Yorkshire puddings did used to be served sweet too. They were eaten alone or as leftovers with jam, cream, or both.

Credit: Phil Vickery

Yorkshire pudding was adaptable, and this was useful for poorer families who could be filled up without buying expensive meats. It was originally served as a starter with gravy to satisfy appetites to make the meat stretch further. This is where the saying “Them ‘at eats t’most pudding gets t’most meat” comes from.

Nowadays, the Yorkshire pudding is served with a roast dinner as singular puffs. It is also used in toad in the hole, a dish where the sausages are cooked within the batter and served with gravy. It can also be found at markets and food vendors where it is served as a wrap. The Yorkshire pudding is baked to be massive and filled with traditional roast dinner fillings.

Credit: The Shed

The Yorkshire pudding was so popular that there even used to be an annual Yorkshire pudding race. Racers would bake massive Yorkshire pudding boats and take to waters in North Yorkshire. The race was cancelled in 2015 but there is still hope for its return.

Featured image credit: BBC

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