There is a popular misconception that the cucumber sandwich is a simple combinatino of sliced cucumber, bread and butter. Not so. Country Life reveals the startling truth about this well-loved centrepiece of the British summer tea table, from 1899.

‘Stamp out some rounds from slices of white bread with a fluted cutter, and spread them with green butter, made according to the directions given below; have ready some thin slices of fresh cucumber which have been drained on a cloth, place a slice of cucumber on half the round, then form into sandwiches with the remainder of the prepared bread.

Cover the uppermost side of the sandwiches very neatly with a layer of the green butter and let them remain in an ice cave or refrigerator for half-an-hour, then glaze over the green butter with some cucumber aspic which is about to set, and put them into the ice cave until the jelly is firm. Make ornamentation on the top of the jelly with little diamond-shaped pieces of white of egg, setting them in place with a little liquid jelly, and keep the sandwiches in the ice cave until they are required.

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For the green butter, put a small bunch composed of equal quantities of chervil, tarragon, and parsley into a saucepan, cover with cold water, add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda, and let the water boil up, then drain the herbs thoroughly on a cloth, and pound them in a mortar with a teaspoonful of capers, two gherkins which have been finely chopped, and the hard-boiled yolks of three eggs; when the mixture is smooth, add four ounces of fresh butter, a few drops of tarragon vinegar, a dust of cayenne and celery salt, and sufficient of Mrs A.B. Marshall’s apple green to make the mixture a pretty pale green, and pass it through a sieve.’

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