Spherical sweetmeats, known from advertisements throughout the 19th Century. It is possible that they are named after Admiral Horatio Nelson.
Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805)
Known as a type of biscuit at least since an advertisment in the Morning Post on Wednesday 20 April 1803 for 'E Russell, Bread and Biscuit-baker ... the greatest variety of biscuits, Nelson's balls, Dutchess of York's biscuits..."
But also known as the name for a type of boiled sweet. James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps' 'A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases' (v2 p574) of 1855 gives; "NELSON'S-BALLS. A globular confection, in great esteem with boys" and 'A treatise on the art of boiling sugar' of 1865 by Henry Weatherley dscribes "Small Bulls Eyes and Nelson Balls: Are made for the boils as instructed for sticks either plain or striped the bulls eyes are cut with scissors and the balls are passed through the machines for the purpose"
Original Receipt in the 'The complete bread, cake and cracker baker' (1881) by Gill, J. Thompson
3 lbs flour
1/2 lb butter
1/2 lb sifted sugar
Essence of lemon to flavor.
Mix up very stiff with milk; place in a cloth for a half hour; break smooth with a biscuit break; mould into small balls about the size of a walnut; bake in a rather quick oven, and put in a warm place to dry.
For other dishes associated with Lord Nelson, see:
Lord Nelson Sole
Lord Nelson Veal
Lord Nelson's Cutlets
Nelson Ball Pudding
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