Dripping is the fat which drips from roasted meat… as simple as that. In past times when people had to make use of everything they had, and when there wasn’t the ridiculous and wasteful amount of choice in shops, dripping was used for frying, baking, cooking and on bread or toasted items. Living in northern climes we didn’t have olive trees growing, we didn’t have vast acres of sunflowers, and as far as I remember linseed oil was used to keep wooden items including floor boards and cricket bats in good condition.
My dad really didn’t like dripping on bread or toast, and so it was something we never had, although it was collected from the Sunday roast and given to my aunty, whose family loved it! I came across dripping as a delicious spread in one of my favourite little cookery books, Recipes from an Old Farmhouse, by Alison Uttley. She describes how even hundreds of years ago people liked choice and variety and used their cookery skills to provide their families with different fare than bread at every meal. She also makes a point that at the time of the Corn Laws wheat was very expensive, whereas oats which could grow on any poor or rocky soil could be used for much more than porridge, including oatcakes.
Mrs Uttley describes how ‘great batches of oatcakes were made each week and hung up to dry like brown washing on a line’. However, when she was a child,in the late 1800’s, in her family oatcakes were bought not made; they were bought from the oatcake man who came every couple of weeks, on foot, walking across hilly Derbyshire with a huge basket of oatcakes on his arm. In these days of mass transport, we take so much for granted! oatcakes, she tells us were to be toasted and then eaten with dripping.
Pikelets were made in Mrs Uttley’s home and these were made from a yeasted batter, with yeast bought from the oatcake man; they were cooked on a hot plate or griddle until pale gold, allowed to cool and dry and then toasted… and they were eaten with butter, not dripping. She also gives a recipe for Carsington pikelets; Carsingoton is a village in Derbyshire and there is a huge reservoir there called Carsington Water… we stayed near there on a couple of family holidays. Carsington pikelets ar not yeasted but the batter is made using baking powder (or cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda mixed, ½ an ounce to ¼ ounce) They too are cooked then toasted and are very light… unlike at Scotch pancake which people sometimes think they are.
One little story about dripping… as I mentioned earlier, at home we collected our dripping and gave it to an aunty. One hot summer’s day she called round to see us, and usual her car was full of children, her own and other people’s, and she gratefully collected a pudding basin full of dripping which she put in the boot of her car, before taking the children out for the day… I think you can guess what happened to the dripping, in the boot of a hot car on a hot summer’s day… the car smelt of dripping for years!