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A leg of mutton with oysters roasts in front of the range.

Balancing the spit - the pairs of rabbits and lobsters above are locked together in a last embrace in order to distribute their weight evenly on either side of the spit. When running a spit from a weight driven clockwork jack, it is essential to ensure that the joint or bird is properly centred, or the spit may stop running.
Roasting Course Outline


10 am - Welcome and intoduction to the course by Ivan Day. Broches, jacks and dangle-spits - a short illustrated talk on the history of roasting and broiling techniques and equipment.

10.45 -13.00 - Demonstrations and hands on experience of ordering a fillet of beef for the spit. Balancing the spit. Trussing fowl and game birds. Basting and dredgings. Roasting session, which naturally leads to a high calorie lunch!

13.00 - 14.00 - Lunch

14.00 - 15.30 - Lashing a bird spit to a large spit. Venison roasted in collops. Roast veal olives in caul.

15.30 - 15.45 - Tea

15.45 - 17.00 - Sauces for roast meats.

17.00 - 20.00 - Free

20.00 - Historic Dinner at Wreay Farm


10.00 - 10.45 - Trussing and roasting a whole pike larded with eel (or salmon with pickled herring - depending on availability).

10.45 - 13.00 - Larding and barding meat. Robert May's roast chine of mutton larded with bitter orange peel, or Richard Briggs leg of mutton with oysters (depending on season).

13.00 - 14.00 - Lunch

14.00 - 17.00 (Tea at 15.30) - Broiling with the gridiron, standing toaster and firebar toaster. Carbanadoes of beef. Broiled cutlets in paper.

Have a look at some Period Roasting Recipes:

A standing toaster with its trivet and dripping pan. There were many types of 'toasters' used for cooking meat, fish, bacon and other small items in front of the fire. Some clipped onto the grate and were known as 'fire-bar toasters', others had legs like those above and were therefore called 'standing toasters'.


Roasting Courses

Many people think that roasting in front of an open fire was a primitive and dirty cooking method. On the contrary it was frequently a highly controlled and sophisticated procedure with an advanced technology and its own remarkable cuisine.

At Historic Food we roast in front of an original period roasting range with a variety of hand-turned and jack-driven spits, dangle-spits, toasters and bottle-jacks.

Ivan not only collects period clockwork roasting equipment, but also restores and replicates these fascinating machines. Above is a replica he made of an eighteenth century English brass-fronted two-spindle jack - the original is in the Castle Museum in York. This particular example is frequently used on our roasting courses. It is set up correctly with a double pulley suspension and weight.

To the left is a nineteenth century bottlejack set up with its flywheel for vertical roasting. Its verge escapement allows the meat to rotate three times clockwise and then three times anti-clockwise. It is in fact a mechanised dangle-spit with an automatic basting facility. Note the little pieces of bacon fat suspended from the four fat hooks. These gradually melt during the cooking process and slowly baste the bird or joint.

From time to time we sell clockwork jacks and bottle jacks - look out for them on our SHOP page. We can also advise museums on the restoration and correct setting up of these extraordinary 'roasting engines'.

Above - an early eighteenth century weight driven jack in the Wreay Farm kitchen. With its double pulley, this mechanism is capable of running two spits at the same time.

Left - This larded pheasant, secured to a spit with wooden skewers, is being basted with a pierced ladle. The small perforations filter out any pieces of ash that may have found their way into the dripping pan. Some dripping pans were provided with a special perforated and lidded well that fulfilled a similar function.

Find out more about Roasting and Clockwork Jacks

This standing toaster would have been perfect in a small chamber with a modestly sized fire, such as a student's lodgings. It could be adjusted both horizontally and vertically. The multi-pronged fork could be swung back to remove the meat for turning with a pair of steak tongs.
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