The Welsh Rabbit Bounds From the 1930s

[A] delightful relish to serve with rarebit is a dish of old-fashioned cucumbers and onions. Slice the cucumbers and a Bermuda onion fairly thin. Cover with cider or wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Let stand for fifteen minutes before serving.

Welsh Rarebit No. 2

Dice one pound of well-cured New York or Old English cheese and melt it slowly in a chafing dish or pan. Add half a teaspoon of salt, a soup spoon of Worcestershire sauce and enough stale beer or ale to make the right consistency. Pour it over toast, toasted English muffins or toasted wafers. If the rarebit strings it is because the cheese is green.

Tomato and Bacon Rarebit

Place a thin slice of peeled fresh tomato on toast. Pour the rarebit over it and garnish with two or three pieces of crisp bacon.

These recipes are from Virginia Elliott’s Quiet Drinking, a 1930s book I reviewed recently in this blogpost. Any good aged Cheddar, or similar hard cheese, works well. The crumbly, rather than the elastic type, works best.

The direction to use “stale beer” does not mean beer turned sour, but simply beer flat and left in an open container from the night before. Fresh beer is certainly good to use too, but it’s probably a good idea to shake all carbonation out of it.

I’d omit the salt, as cheese and Worcestershire have plenty.

You can add other flavourings to taste such as cayenne (traditional), paprika, scallion bits, bits of diced beet.

I’ve written earlier how Welsh Rabbit captured the imagination of American gourmets in the gas lamp era and up to Prohibition. The source of the image below is explained in this further post on the dish.

Elliott’s reprise of the dish in her early post-Repeal cookery book, which has a chapter on the foods to accompany beer, echoed an earlier era. After WW II, the dish recedes in importance in American cooking.

The 1960s brought the idea back via the fondue and raclette craze but beer did not usually complement such Swiss ways with cheese. Welsh Rabbit in modern cookery is practically forgotten, it was swept away by the postwar infatuation with Continental, (non-U.K.) peasant, and market cuisines.

Welsh Rabbit is due for a comeback, don’t you think? It would suit many who don’t eat meat or like to minimize their consumption. The hearty cuke and onion garnish suggested by Elliott is just right, too. That was the salad of earlier generations.

Rabbit redux!


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