Do You Know Welsh Rabbit?

A Famous Beer Dish – or it Was

In the early beer renaissance, when beer cookery came up, two dishes were invariably mentioned: Welsh Rabbit and Flemish beef carbonnades, or beef stewed in beer.

Almost all beer fans knew these, or one of them. Today, I’d wager most people under 40 don’t know either, who follow beer or not.

Welsh Rabbit reached its apogee in North America between about 1880 and WW I. Like many dishes, its relative ease of preparation and modest cost ensured popularity. And it was just of the moment, for whatever reason.

Welsh Rabbit was often eaten as a late-night snack, sometimes post-theatre. It was considered a light meal. When well-made it is still very worthy.

The recipe below is from a 1900 issue of Hotel Monthly, a trade journal (via Hathitrust). When the writer, F.G. Bothwell, states “beer” suits the dish as well or better than Bass Ale, he means lager beer.

At the time, lager was generally sweeter than Bass, which explains the opinion, I think. Any beer will work, and a pinch of sugar never hurts.

The injunction for the dish to be served burning hot is completely correct. A tepid rabbit is a travesty.

The dish admits of many variations, but the recipe is a good place to start, or end. As Bothwell wrote: “try it”.


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5 thoughts on “Do You Know Welsh Rabbit?”

    • Tom, good pointers, thanks. I think cheddar-and-beer soup can be counted an American specialty too, and perhaps is another spin-off of the British Welsh Rabbit.

      Gary

  1. From Oxford dictionary:
    A more likely derivation of the name is that Welsh in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was used as a patronizingly humorous epithet for any inferior grade or variety of article, or for a substitute for the real thing (thus a Welsh pearl was one of poor quality, possibly counterfeit, and to use a Welsh comb was to comb one’s hair with one’s fingers). Welsh rabbit may therefore have started life as a dish resorted to when meat was not available. The first record of the word comes in John Byron’s Literary Remains (1725): ‘I did not eat of cold beef, but of Welsh rabbit and stewed cheese.’

    For a superior grilled cheese add bacon !

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