This humble little pot has been in my family for longer than I have. Denby Manor Green was first made in 1939 but production was paused during the war and started again in 1953 which is probably when my mum first got hers for her 21st Birthday. For her ‘bottom drawer’. Domestic items given to women to prepare their lives as homemakers once they were ‘inevitably’ married. In Essex, where I grew up this curious tradition was called Bottom Drawer it may have had different names elsewhere. Without knowing it is hard to look phrases up. Google suggests that this was a nationwide term, but that household linen was the focus.
My mum did marry but actually chose to have her household china in a different colourway.
The green pot was definitely not her favourite item. It was used for low grade Christmas jobs like pressing an Ox Tongue or as a mould for home made brawn. To my mind grizzly tasks but in the sixties Essex essential Boxing Day food. As a small person both required prep that horrified me.
Ox tongue is self explanatory but the prep required was horrific. A large ox tongue was purchased from the butcher who also ran the local slaughter house. It was taken home and boiled with chopped onions, carrots and celery. Soffrito as we know it. After what seemed like hours of boiling it was removed from the pan and while still hot the tongue had to be peeled by hand and the placed in the green pot with a little of the strained boiling fluid. Then a saucer was put on top with a huge weight and the tongue was pressed as it cooled and then for a couple of days. To be revealed on Boxing day evening as a great culinary triumph. The sign that my mother was an accomplished cook who knew her way around controlling the chattering part of a cow. Brawn was an even worse delicacy. I will share the first part of the recipe and a link if you wish for further information.
The fact that this dish was wonderfully tasty shows just how good a cook my mum was even if I recoil from these foods now. Because on Boxing Day day the green pot was the star of her show people started giving her their unwanted Denby Manor Green. She didn’t really want it either for most of the rest of the other 364 days of the year. She bought and loved using the brown version. The brown version did not survive the daily toil of family life. The unloved Denby Manor Green has passed into my kitchen and is used much more frequently by me than it ever was by her. Although not at all so skillfully.*
*One year something went wrong, the tongue for whatever reason had not become one solid slab of cold meat. As the big reveal occurred the tongue flopped out of the casserole line a giant, pink, sloppy slug. Quickly returned to the kitchen it was reshaped using a scaffolding of cocktail sticks and carved in such a way that most people did not get too much wood.
May your Boxing Day be free of any Offal related incidents. Link below for the the History of Boxing Day.