The Welsh Rabbit Bounds into 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 1930s-era Quiet Drinking, a tome I considered in this blogpost. Any good aged Cheddar, or similar hard cheese, works well. A crumbly, rather than elastic, type is best to ensure the right consistency.

The direction to use “stale beer” does not mean beer turned sour. It means beer left open and become flat due to escape of gas. Fresh beer is good to use, too, but shake the carbonation out to ensure the best texture.

You might omit the salt, as cheese and Worcestershire sauce have plenty.

You may add other flavourings such as cayenne (traditional), paprika, scallion bits, diced beet, bacon.

I wrote earlier how Welsh Rabbit captured the imagination of American gourmets in the gas lamp period. This continued until the start of National Prohibition in 1920. (The source of the image below is explained in this further post on the dish).

Elliott’s reprise in a post-Repeal cook book appears in her chapter on suitable foods for beer, but echoes an earlier time when the dish enjoyed great popularity. After WW II it seems almost to disappear from the canons of American and probably British cookery.

The 1960s brought the general idea back via the fashion for fondue and raclette but beer did not complement Swiss ways with cheese. Welsh Rabbit today seems almost forgotten, despite the infatuation with world, peasant, and market cuisines. (It is, at bottom, hearty British country food).

Welsh Rabbit is due for a comeback, don’t you think? It would suit many who don’t eat meat or wish to reduce its consumption.

The zesty cuke and onion garnish suggested by Elliott is just right for it, too. That was the salad (one form of it) of earlier generations.

Rabbit redux.