"Green some codlings as for a tart, rub them through a sieve, with as much juice of spinach or beets as will make the pudding green ; four eggs well beaten, with near half a pound of butter, half the crumb of a penny loaf, a little brandy, and lemon-juice if the codlings are not sharp ; puff paste round the dish : half an hour will bake it."
Charlotte Mason, The Lady’s Assistant for Regulating and Supplying the Table, 4th edition (1778)
Okay, let’s try to unpack this one. A ‘penny loaf’ was a specific, but fluctuating size. The sizes and prices of loaves of bread used to be determined by the ‘Assize of Bread and Ale‘ that specified the weight of several loaf sizes, and adjusted the weight of bread according to the price of wheat. Fines or punishments could be levied on any baker who failed to provide good weight. So let’s just say the crumbs of half a small loaf.
Spinach or beet juice sounds easy enough, although obviously you wouldn’t want to use the roots of a purple beetroot, as that would stain the mixture pinkish reddish green. Or muddy brown, more likely. Actually, it’s fairly clear that you’re supposed to use the leaves rather than the root, so leaf beet or ‘perpetual spinach’ should do the job nicely.
Which leaves me with one question: how exactly does one “green some codlings as for a tart?” Luckily, Mrs Mason provides the answer later on in the book:
"Gather [codlings] the size of a large walnut, with a leaf or two on ; put vine leaves and codlings in layers into a preserving pan, till the pan is full, then pour in spring water ; cover the pan close, set them over a slow fire till they will peel ; when peeled, put them into the same water, when cold, with more vine leaves ; green them gently over a slow fire, then drain them on a sieve ; boil them gently in a good syrup once a day for three or four days ; set them by in glasses ; brandy-paper."
Well, that’s quite the prep procedure for what amounts to a novelty, green-coloured apple pie, but it could be interesting to try the method. Does anyone feel up to the challenge? If you do decide to give this one a go, I’d really love to hear about it. Please do let me know, either via the comments or by sending me your notes and photos by email if you’d like me to write up a blog post about your Green Codling Pudding.