Cannon Iron Foundries Ltd had their origins in the middle of the nineteenth century and had their head offices and works at Deepfields, Bilston.  They made all sorts of cast iron goods, especially cooking pots, saucepans, frying pans and the like.  When gas cookers started to come into use they made them too and became one of the biggest and best known suppliers of them.  It became the practice to give away a cookery book with each new cooker.  This was probably needed originally because cooking with gas was somewhat different from cooking on a range or open fire.  On the up side, it was much easier to start up and switch off; you could control the heat much more accurately; and you could maintain that accuracy over a period of time.  On the downside, you only had, usually, one oven space; and you could not vary the heat for different items by using different ovens for different foods nor by moving the food closer to or further away from the fire on a trivet or jack;  the best you could do was to make some use of the temperature gradient between the top and the bottom of the oven.  

The title page of the Cannon Cookery Book
The Cannon Cookery Book on display here (the title at the top of the page comes from the cover) is the 12th edition, dated May 1950.  The first edition was issued in June 1932.  All the recipes are said to have been "proved and tested in the Cannon Research Kitchen".  The curious result of all this is that Bilston, not usually known as a gastronomic centre, probably produced more cook books and recipes, and had a greater influence on cooking, than most other places in the country.  Its main rival must have been the Radiation cookery book, which was produced by another oven manufacturer, New World.

The recipe book contains instructions on how to use the cooker, as well as extensive notes on general cookery principles.  But the bulk of it is made up of several hundred recipes, as well as a special section on Christmas Dinner and another section on how to cook complete meals on only one setting of the thermostat - the "Autimo Controller".  

The book is intended to allow for beginners, though it does not actually contain instruction on how to boil an egg.  But just about everything that was standard family fare in the 1950s is there, including some recipes that reflect war time shortages and rationing.  What is not there is probably more noticeable.  There is one mention of macaroni but nothing about spaghetti or pizza, one mention of curry powder (for a rechauffe fish dish) but nothing more about Indian food; and there is certainly nothing about sauerkraut, and anyone interested in French haute cuisine would not find much of interest in it.  The recipes below are ones which might awaken memories of the way we used to eat.

Stewed Tripe and Onions
1 lb tripe 1 oz butter
2 large onions 1 oz cornflour
0.5 pint water salt and pepper
0.5 pint milk

Peel and cut up onions, put in a stewpan with cold water, bring to the boil, drain off water.  Add tripe cut up into neat pieces, pour over the 0.5 pint of water, simmer gently for three-quarters of an hour. Blend cornflour with milk, add to the stew and allow to cook ten minutes.  Add butter and seasonings to taste and serve.

Sugarless Cake
4 oz margarine 0.5 lb self raising flower
4 oz sweetened condensed milk Little milk
Pinch salt 4 oz sultanas
2 dried eggs (reconstituted) 0.125 teaspoon ground cinammon

Cream margarine and condensed milk together, warming a little if necessary.  Beat in the eggs gradually.  Mix flour, salt and spice together and stir into creamed mixture, adding a little milk if required.  Stir in the fruit.  Bake in a greased tin, in centre of oven about one hour with "Autimo" set at Mark 3.

Semolina Pudding
1 oz castor sugar 1 egg
1 pint milk  strip of lemon rind
1 oz semolina or a little cinnamon

Put the milk on the boil with the strip of lemon rind or cinnamon.  When boiling sprinkle in the semolina.  Simmer very slowly until the semolina thickens and is cooked.  The time required is about 15 minutes.  Remove the lemon rind or cinnamon, add the sugar, stir in the yolk of egg; whip up the white stiffly and fold into the mixture.  Pour the contents of the saucepan into a pie dish, bake in a moderate oven until slightly brown with the "Autimo" set at 2.

6 - 8 sponge cakes 1 tin pears
1 packet raspberry jelly wine, if liked
0.5 pint custard 1 small tin of rapsberries
3 tablespoons raspberry jam

I cannot be bothered to give the method which appears in the Cannon cook book.  This is not trifle but a sort of raspberry jelly with cake and custard.  Mrs. Beeton would have thrown a fit.  The recipe shows the boring condition which British cookery had got into in the 1950s.


Things gradually improved.  This recipe book is undated but is from the late 1950s or early 1960s.   It is confined to recipes for grilled food because Cannon had introduced the Foldaway High Level Grill.  Up to this time the salamander and grill pan had been between the hobs and the oven; and it was impossible to see what was going on without either bending down or pulling out the grill pan.  The eye level grill was a marked improvement. 

The grill pan was not only visible but filled the whole width of the oven;  and it had a rack which could be placed at any one of seven different levels.  When the grill was not in use it could be folded up completely or just the lower tray could be put in position for such uses as keeping saucepans warm.

The recipe book starts by announcing that "a doctor will tell you that a grill is more easily digested" and that grilled food is excellent for those on a low-fat diet.  The recipes are notably more oriented towards French cuisine - or, at least, are pretending to be. 

The book starts with Bordeaux Eggs, Eggs a la Bercy and even Eggs a la Portugaise. Later there is Lobster en Brochette and Russian Kebabs and, in a flight of fancy, Quails a la Crapaudine - a dish which would not, at that time, have been offered in many of the cafes of Bilston.

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