Few readers today realize that most of Dickens’ Christmas stories, including a Christmas Carol, were actually ghost stories – some perfect for Halloween. “A Christmas Dinner” includes a recipe perfect in its colorful orange presentation for a light meal on Halloween before the onslaught of candy.
The recipe for Cheese Rarebit was featured in an 18th-century British cookbook known to have been kept in the Dickens’ kitchen by his wife Catherine. Here in the 21st century, culinary historian Alice Ross has updated the recipe for the modern cook, included below.
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An English Rarebit
Cut a handsome toast of Bread without Crust, and shave a good Quantity of Cheese very fine.
Set a Tin Oven before the fire, and have in Readiness a Glass of red Port Wine.
Toast the bread carefully on both Sides, then pour the Wine upon it, and turn it.
When it has soaked up the wine spread the scraped Cheese thick upon it, lay it in the Oven, and place it before a good fire; the Cheese will do very quickly and very finely. Send it up very hot. There are three Ways of toasting cheese: the first is the genuine Method, and those who are fond of Cheese prefer it to either of the others.
One would think nothing could be easier than to toast a Slice of Cheese, and yet not only in private Families but at Taverns we see nothing is done so badly: The Directions here given are easy to be observed, and they will never fail to send it up either Way mellow, hot, well done, and with the bread crisp and soft.
-Martha Bradley, “The British Housewife” (London, 1756)
8 thick slices of bread, with crusts removed
24 ounces port wine *(If making for children, apple juice can be substituted for wine)
1 lb. cheese: Stilton or cheddar, grated
Cut thick slabs of bread, remove crusts, and toast on both sides in a broiler.
Pour the wine on the toast quickly.
Spread the cheese thickly atop the toast, and return to the broiler until it is melted.
Red Rock Press