A Victorian Christmas on East Hampton’s Main Street
Writing as Martha Wickham, East Hampton’s first woman novelist Cornelia Huntington, captured the life of her hometown. Published in 1857, “Sea-Spray: A Long Island Village” had East Hampton residents checking each character to find out which neighbor they could identify. Our copy of the book belonged to Judge William Hedges, and he carefully wrote out all the identities of the main players on the flyleaf.
The author noted, “It was Christmas all over Christendom; but little did Christian Sea-Spray regard the blessed associations of the day.” She notes that the Puritan background of its village’s earliest settlers, who had rejected the Church of England with gumption, generations later, made their own non-church holiday celebrating Santa Claus on December 25th. She writes about “miles of father’s Sunday stockings…suspended on bed-posts” and children waiting for the arrival “…of the arrival of the good Saint.”
“But it was Christmas Eve. Ernest and Allen had rolled in the immense Yule Log, which now was sending its cheerful glow. Great was the glee in unpacking gifts to witness and share in the joy and its occasion. There were toys, books, confections, and the never-failing Knickerbocker, which without, in Gotham, Christmas would hardly be Christmas.”
The Knickerbocker was a punch (and later a cocktail) which was named for the style of pants that the New World Dutch men wore rolled-up just below their knees. The first printed recipe is in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 “The Bartender’s Guide” printed in London.
Here follows the recipe for a single serving:
Squeeze out a lime or lemon and put into a glass along with the rind
2 teaspoons of mashed raspberries or raspberry syrup
1 wine-glass of Santa Cruz rum
½ teaspoonful of curacao
Cool with shaved ice; mix well and ornament with berries of the season.
If not sweet enough, put in a little more raspberry syrup.
To go with your Knickerbocker, may we suggest an 1859 recipe for ginger snaps. This comes from Mrs. Cornelius’ “The Young Housekeeper’s Friend; or, a Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort,” a copy of which was ordered from a Boston Bookseller, to be sent to Gardiner’s Island:
4 ½ cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground cloves
1 cup of butter
A little less than a cup of sugar
1 ¾ cup of molasses
The dough should be rolled out and cut into shapes.
Before baking at 190 degrees, sprinkle each cookie with salt.
Bake for 7 minutes. Makes about 50 cookies.