Conrad Bladey Peasant
cbladey at bcpl.net
Tue Oct 31 08:32:51 EST 2006
Parkin also known as Yorkshire Parkin has quite a history and folklore.
The central aspect is that it is baked hard and after a time comes back
to life and softens.
At this moment I have a fresh tray of Parkin right out of the oven in
preparation for our annual guy Fawkes celebratons. Parkin is in the
family of ancient cakes- thor cake, tharf cake.
A cake made chiefly of treacle and oatmeal-North Of England.
Wright's English Dialect Dictionary, vol. vi. p. 75. Thar-cake, short
(1) An unleavened cake of flour or meal, mixed with milk or water,
rolled out thin and baked.
(2) A kind of cake of oatmeal, butter, and treacle.
Used in West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derby, Cumberland and Durham.
Professor Skeat writes me:" The Middle English form is therf-cake, and
thus occurs in Piers Plowman. The A.S. for there of is theorf (very
common), Old Norse Pjarfr (thiarf-r), Old High German derb, all meaning
unleavened." It would therefore seem as though the cake itself was of
Anglo-Saxon or possibly Gothic origin but, unless on the lines suggested
by Dr. Tille, it is difficult to say why it should be so closely
associated with the early days of November, although if there be allowed
us an explanation of origins, then the practice of eating a fancy cake
on one particular day in November in connection with feasting held on
account of some national festival-such as the discovery of the gunpowder
plot-may have developed from it. Should such a conjecture be correct,
there would be nothing novel in it to folklorists, as they are
constantly finding Christian festivals synchronizing with older heathen
observances on which they have been engrafted.
-Source-C.J. Tabor Folk-Lore,Vol. XIX, 1908.,p.337-339
Parkin, Tharf Cake and November 5th
In Huddersfield the custom of making parkin for November 5 was so strong
that a supermarket is offered all shoppers who spent over £10 a free
500 gm bag of oatmeal and a free 2 lb tin of golden. One eats parkin by
the fistful, in hunks. There is a more refined biscuit variety
Modern parkin is made with treacle and that means that this custom must
date to after the mid seventeenth century. and therefore is not likely
to be older than the mid-seventeenth century when Barbados sugar made it
possible for Molasses to be more widely available. Treacle was a
replacement for honey used in the original parkin. Honey also was used
in sacred foods so possible parkin has its origin in this tradition. .
Spices became more available just in time for the return of fairs and
festivals following the Restoration of 1660. Gingerbread consumption
probably rose at this time. Parkin is a poor man's gingerbread with
oatmeal or breadcrumbs substituted for white flour. Prior to later
changes parkin was a basic food product which used elemental ingredients
available as early as the Iron Age. Some argue that because of its
sweetness parkin would not have been an ordinary food until after 1700.
This is another indication of its possible sacred origin. Honey was also
relativly expensive and its use may have been reserved for important
occasions. An additional sacred aspect of both gingerbread and parkin is
related to the water attracting or hydroscopic properties of honey. As
with the German Lebkuchen, hard gingerbread made with honey is baked dry
but comes again after storage as does parken- softening up and becoming
richer. Early versions of parkin are associated with special religious
events such as: Easter, Little Lent (November 11) or Martinmas, as well
as the 40 day period of Lent. Honey being sacred and a special food
could be included in fasting breads. Honey was also associated with
The association of parkin with November derives from confusion. Parkin
Sunday in West Riding areas was the Sunday in the Octave of All Saints
that is any of the first seven days of November. In Lancashire Tharcake
Monday was the last Monday after October 31st. Cake night in Ripon and
Caking Day in Bradfield, Sheffield was November 1st. or All Hallows. On
these dates boys and men conducted mumming activities from house to
house collecting money for their cakes which were, as is parkin, made
with oatmeal, butter and treacle. Soul mass cakes were made for the poor
on November 2nd, All Souls' Day. In Lancashire thes cakes were oatcakes
but in York they were a kind of parkin. Such cakes would also be eaten
on November 11th, old Martinmass. Parkin therefore is associated with
the month of November. When the celebration of the Deliverance of 1605
became the primary celebration of the month parkin followed as it was
the seasonal food. While it may be associated with bonfire none of the
other November celebrations with which it was associated were also
associated with fires. Parkin was adopted by the bonfire traditions in
the 19th century. This probably occurred with the condensation of all
November and Fall holidays into one. In Leeds Guy Fawkes day was known
as Parkin Day. Perhaps a day to remember the bread rather than the plot!
"On November 5th in Nidderdale schools (Lofthouse and Middlesmoor) the
master was barred out by the scholars until he granted a half-day
holiday; a collection was then taken among the scholars for parkin
ingredients, and a parkin party followed, an equal number of small
parkins being allotted to each child. In Huddersfield the headmaster of
Almondbury Grammar School was given presents of parkin by parents and
others. At Midhope near Sheffield the schoolmaster received so many
parkins he was still eating them behind his desk lid the following
May."-Peter Brears, Traditional Food in Yorkshire ( Edinburgh, 1987), p.
171; Easther, p. 97.
Most parkin recipes date from the mid nineteenth century at which time
modern flowers and leavening agents such as baking powder became
popular. Before that time the recipe was so simple as not to require
publication. By 1919 M. Gaskell in A Yorkshiere Cookery Book could
provide 17 recipes for parkin. Today the recipe varies widely.
Hard Honey Tharf Cakes/Parkins
Plain tharf cakes, slightly sweetened, made by the poor for holidays.
8 oz oatmeal
⅔ cup milk
1 large tablespoon honey
ginger or black pepper (optional)
Melt the honey, in the milk. Add the meal making very stiff dough.
Form into several 3" diameter cakes, about ¼" thick. Heat a heavy iron
frying pan or griddle sprinkled with meal on the cooking surface, then
put the cakes on the griddle/pan.
Cook with care for about an hour until dried out and hard. Keep any
browning to a minimum
If the cakes are at all damp they will not keep. The cakes will remain
hard for several months.
Bakestone Parkin with Honey
Derived from the 1830 treacle parkin of Miss Ferrand. It probably was
made until the end of the seventeenth century.
8 oz honey
2 oz butter
12 oz medium oatmeal
I tbs milk (optional)
butter for greasing
ginger, allspice, black pepper (optional)
Carefully melt the butter and honey. Mix in the other ingredients.
Butter an iron frying pan or griddle. Press mixture which should be
stiff in to make one cake ¾" thick. Cook slowly for no more than an
hour. Do not let the honey burn. Cut the bread into quarters or
smaller. Turn to cook the other side. Add more butter on the pan each
time the bread is turned. Cook for about 10 or 15 minutes longer. It is
done when dry throughout. .This bread is tender when fresh but hard
later. It softens after several weeks left at room temperature.
A Bakestone Parkin with Treacle
From recipe derived from a description given for parkin of 1830 by
Miss Ferrand of Brockholes, Huddersfield.
5 oz black treacle
5 oz Dark Syrup
4 oz fat (½ butter, ½ lard)
1 ¼-1 ½ lbs medium oatmeal
3 tsp ground ginger or grated dry ginger root
2 tbs milk
lard for greasing
Carefully melt fat and treacles. Mix with the other ingredients making
a very thick dough. It must stay in shape when a spoonful is placed
onto a plate. (If it needs thickening leave overnight.) Use more meal
if too thin. Melt lard lard in a 9" diameter heavy iron frying pan.
Spoon the mixture onto the pan making one large cake 1" thick. Use a
heavy pan. Heat slowly-do not burn. Turn off heat when you smell
treacle. Turn the heat down or remove from heat source. Let sit for 30
minutes and turn the cake over repeating the process above. Cook slowly
for 15 minutes or more Cut into your cake while soft so it can be broken
into pieces evenly later. The cake should be slightly crunchy on top and
bottom with a small middle. This recipe can be made into small cakes
flattening them in the hot pan till about ca centemeter in thickness.
It can also be made into a 1 ½" thick cake on baking sheet. Bake it at
gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) for about 40 minutes . Do not over brown-turn
heat down as required. Beat eaten when warm or after two weeks on the shelf.
Treacle Parkin, Oven-Baked
From the mid-nineteenth century. Flavored like treacle toffee
1 lb treacle (½ black treacle, ½ Dark Syrup)
8 oz butter
1 ½ lbs medium oatmeal
8 oz brown sugar
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
Carefully warm the butter and treacle until melted, then mix with dry
ingredients. Grease a 7 ½×9 ½×2". Bake at gas mark 2, 300°F (150°C)
for 2 hours. When done it will spring back when touched. Best when
underdone in the center.
Beer Parkin, Yorkshire
Mid- nineteenth century. Flour, egg, beer and baking soda help make a
8oz plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ginger
8 oz medium oatmeal
6 oz fat (mixed butter and lard)
1 lb black treacle
½ pint strong beer (e.g. Guinness or Theakston's Old Peculier)
1 egg, beaten
Mix the treacle and beer and warm. Mix flour, soda and ginger. Add
oatmeal . Rub in the fat in. Add beer, treacle and egg. Mix well.
Grease a 7½×9½×2" tin. Bake one hour at gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C). Eat
within two weeks of baking.
Modern Parkin from Huddersfield
8 oz butter
8 oz Dark Syrup
8 oz self-raising flour
4 tsp ginger
8 oz medium oatmeal
8 oz demerara sugar
¼ pint milk
Dark Syrup helps the flavor but you can substitute half black treacle
and half golden syrup. Warm the butter and syrup, till melted. Beat
eggs. Mix with milk. Mix flour and ginger, then mix with the sugar
and oatmeal. Add the butter and syrup, eggs and milk.Mix well. This
should be a sloppy batter. Grease a 7½×9½×2" tin. Pour in the batter.
Bake at gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C) for one hour in the middle of the
oven. Edges will be slightly crisp. The centre should be tender. Keep
in an airtight tin.
Thor Cakes, Derbyshire Mrs Nixon, White Lodge Cottage, Baslow near Bakewell
For November 5th. Recipe from about 1940 collected by Dr Bedford (
Bedford MSS 432/4 p. 56, Leeds University Brotherton Library.)
A large quantity
2 lbs fine oatmeal
3 tbs sugar
8 oz lard
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger
Mix into a paste with treacle. Rub lard into mixture. Use around 3
tbs treacle. Roll dough to ¼" thick. Make into roundsl. Bake at gas
mark 4, 350°F (180°C) for 25-30 minutes. Leave a minute and cool.
Yorkshire Parkins Mrs A. Eley, Snydale, Wakefield,
4 oz plain flour
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp mixed spice
8 oz oatmeal
4 oz brown sugar
4 oz lard
4 oz treacle (dark)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbs milk
Mix flour and spices, mix in oatmeal and sugar. Rub in lard. Add
treacle. Mix soda in milk. Mix all together. Make a light paste. Dust
with some meal. Form into rounds ½" thick. Place them well apart on
a larded aking tray. Bake at gas mark 2, 300°F (150°C) for about 25
4 oz plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt (optional)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp mixed spice
4 oz fine oatmeal
3 oz sugar
2 oz lard
3 oz syrup and treacle mixed
a few almonds, blanched
Mix flour, soda, salt and spices, then mix with oatmeal and sugar.
Warm treacle and lard gently till just melted. Make a stiff dough.
Form into walnut-sized balls. Put far apart on greased trays. Press
half a blanched almond in the centre of each. Bake at gas mark 3, 325°F
(170°C) for 15-20 minutes. Makes 20.
'Traditional Food East and West of the Pennines' Papers by Peter Brears,
Lynette Hunter, Helen Pollard, Jennifer Stead and C. Anne Wilson EDITED
BY C. ANNE WILSONwith illustrations by Peter Brears Edinburgh University
Makes: 12 Pieces
8 oz wholemeal or plain flour
1/2 level teaspoon salt
1 to 2 level teaspoons ground ginger
1 level teaspoon ground mace
1 level teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 oz medium oatmeal
1 oz. soft dark brown sugar
4 oz. black treacle
4 oz. golden syrup
2 oz. margarine
2 level teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
8 fl oz warm milk
1 egg lightly beaten
4 oz seedless raisins (optional)
Pre set oven at 325 F. Sift flour, salt and spices together into a
mixing bowl. Stir in oatmeal and sugar. Gently melt treacle, golden
syrup and margarine over a low heat. Make a well in the center of flour
mixture and pour in melted ingredients. Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in
warmed milk and add to mixture with lightly beaten egg. Add raisins. Mix
to a soft batter and pour into a lined greased meat tin about 8X10
inches. Bake in pre-heated oven for 40 minutes. When cooked parkin
should be an even brown color and have shrunk away slightly from the
sides of the tin. Leave to cool on a wire rack. If possible keep parkin
in an airtight tin for at least a week before serving. (Originally it
would have been put in special wooden parkin boxes)
In Bradford, Yorkshire. Parkin baked in the shape of pigs is eaten on
Nov 5th . These are cookies/biscuts rather than cakes.
Jameela Lares wrote:
> Quoting Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>:
>> By the way, what is the etymology for "parkin"?
> It is probably unknown. OED has the following:
> orig. Eng. regional (north.) and Sc.
> [Origin unknown. Perh. < the surname Perkin or Parkin (earlier also a
> A kind of gingerbread made from oatmeal and treacle; (as a count noun) a
> piece or cake of this.
> 1800 D. WORDSWORTH Jrnl. 6 Nov. (1941) I. 71, I was baking bread, dinner, and
> parkins. 1828 W. CARR Dial. Craven (ed. 2), Parkin, a cake made of treacle and
> oat meal, commonly called a treacle-parkin. 1884 I. BANKS Sybilla III. 145
> Bribed by a cake of parkin from Dame Dorothy's capacious pockets. 1907 J.
> KIRKLAND Mod. Baker II. 188 Scotch Parkins belong to the same family as
> Parleys. 1931 A. UTTLEY Country Child ix. 112 It was a ‘Bun Fire’, when they
> ate parkin and treacle toffee, and children danced round the fire before winter
> swept the fields. 1991 Sun (Brisbane) 30 Oct. 25/1 Parkin... Commonly made in
> Yorkshire, this traditional cake has many versions, all containing oatmeal (use
> any breakfast rolled oats).
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