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Recipes from the 1800's

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Came across some interesting recipes (at least to me) while looking up some info at the American Ancestors website. Thought maybe some of you would be interested. Sorry if I placed it in the wrong forum.

 

http://www.americanancestors.org/holiday-family-recipes/ 

If Wile E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME stuff, why didn't he just buy dinner?
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If Wile E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME stuff, why didn't he just buy dinner?
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post #2 of 15

Pretty interesting stuff. I'm always curious to see how common recipes change over time as our tastes change.

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #3 of 15

I have a couple of cookbooks dating from the 1890's and earlier.  One thing that I find really interesting is that for many recipes it is nothing more that a listing of ingredients, with none or almost no description on how to prepare the items, unless it was a very complicated dish.  It was just expected that the person reading it would already know "how" to cook.

http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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post #4 of 15

Pete, on that note, I have a lot of hand-written recipes from my great-grandmother that will say something like "cook until done" or "roast until it looks right". My great grandmother also had interesting measuring devices, such as "a thimble of salt" or "a cereal bowl of rice". It kind of makes it hard to recreate some of the recipes.

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #5 of 15

Many recipes from the 18th and early 19th centuries merely say, "cook 'til enough." And rarely provide any directions, or the directions are very open and loose.

 

Not so surprising, in either case, because young ladies, in those days, were taught how to cook. So all they needed was a list of ingredients and, sometimes, minimal instructions.

 

Back in the day, "Books of Cookery" were the normal practice. These were notebooks that worked from both directions. One side was a "book of cookery," the other "a book of sweetmeats (i.e., desserts etc.).

 

These manuscript books were actually arranged by categories. As new "receipts" were obtained, they were added to the middle pages.

 

Before a young lady left home to start her own household, she would take her mother's book and copy it out, putting the additions in their proper places. This became the foundation of her own book of cookery.

 

It wasn't until the mid- to late-19th century, when cookbook publishing became a major practice, that recipes as we think of them started to codify.

 

When you think about it, though, other than baking, quantities for most dishes are not cast in concrete. And what often is important is the relationship ingredients have to each other. In that respect, Rachael Ray has contributed greatly to newish cooks. How many times, for instance, when a "cup" of something is called for does she just grab her coffee cup? And the teaspoon used to stir her coffee. And yet, the final dish comes out just as if she'd used more precise measurements.

 

Most of us cook with a dash of this and a soupcon of that. Basically, no different than what grandmaw wrote down.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 15

had interesting measuring devices, such as "a thimble of salt" or "a cereal bowl of rice".

 

Older measurements can really drive you bonkers. But those two are comparatively easy.

 

There is a dish, dating from at least the 16th century, for Oyster Loaves. Basically, you hollow out breadstuff, mix the crumb with oysters, cook the whole thing in lots of butter, and refill the loaf. The written recipes for this specify a two-penny loaf.

 

Uh, huh! There's not a food historian alive who can identify a two-penny loaf anymore. Doesn't stop us from making that great dish (I use individual Sally Lunn "muffins" when I make it, for instance). But we're certainly not using the original measurement except by accident.

 

Even precise measurements can be confusing, because different cultures meant different things. A British gil, for instance, and an American gil, are not the same. Historically, England and the Continent used level spoonsful, while Americans used rounded ones. Again yeilding different quantities, even when the physical spoon was the same.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #7 of 15

I'll tell you that most recipes in Italy are little more than lists of ingredients still.  Rarely do they explain technique. 

 

But beyond the measurements, there is another problem, that ingredients are not the same.  So even if they did use precise measures it wouldn't matter much. 

 

I have a wonderful book by three french historians, who researched medieval italian and french cooking.  It's really interesting.  Redon, Sabat and Serventi. 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

 

Most of us cook with a dash of this and a soupcon of that. Basically, no different than what grandmaw wrote down.



That's exactly how I cook, even when using a recipe. However, the trick comes in when the old recipes are for bread, or cakes, or some other baked good. Then all bets are off.

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #9 of 15

Very interesting and I will have to read that page. I would also be interested to know about any great chefs in history and their recipes.

post #10 of 15

the trick comes in when the old recipes are for bread, or cakes, or some other baked good.

 

That's certainly true when the recipes says "add enough flour to form a thick paste"....." or "mix in some baking powder." Only experiementation will tell us how much flour that is, and what is meant by thick, and how much "some" is.

 

As a side comment, we all blythly accept the statement that baking, unlike savory cooking, requires precise measurements. But when you lay that against the reality, it isn't, strictly speaking, true.

 

At one time I had 15 different recipes for Sally Lunn bread, ranging over time from the "original" buns, to post American Civil War. Differences ranged from insignificant to radical. And, yet, they all produced similar breads.

 

Technique can have an effect as well. Given the same precise measurements, for instance, a bread dough can vary based on whether you add the dry ingredients to the wet or vice-versa.

 

Even some modern recipes reflect this non-precision. I've seen many a bread recipe that listed, for instance, "3 1/2-4 1/2 cups flour." Now I know all about the effects of atmospheric conditions. But the fact is, a full cup is a very significant difference. There is nothing precise about it.

 

So I'd have to say that, yes, the trend line with baking is more towards the precise. But it's not as cut-and-dried as some would have us believe.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 15

The 'Christmas Plum Pudding' recipe reminded me about a question that occurred to me on a bus trip to Ogelbay Park and the Festival of Lights this past weekend during which we watched a movie.   In A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott (or any other version, I suppose), is the 'Christmas Pudding' a plum pudding?  It's nearly black in the movie.

 

I don't like food, I love it.  If I don't love it, I don't swallow.
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I don't like food, I love it.  If I don't love it, I don't swallow.
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post #12 of 15

Christmas Pudding is, indeed, plum pudding, traditionally spelled Plumb Pudding. There was a slight change in ingredients, but nothing that significantly varied it.

 

I have versions dating as far back as 1725. Interestingly, it isn't until the mid-19th century that plums became commonly used.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #13 of 15

Some old recipes don't give you much information, but some give you way too much. I have some books with OOooold french recipes where everything is detailed from the way the embers should be disposed, the size of knife, the type of pot you should be using, the type you should not be using, etc etc....

 

This is not the best one, but I thought I'd share this example. I'm translating to the best of my ability. Note the style (I guess people back then didn't talk the same way we do now - note how everything has to be "nice" or "good" - I also like how they insist on using clean pots). Also notice how the entire recipe is just one sentence.

 

Boiled sweet Apples

Even more, boiled sweet apples: in order for the person doing the cooking to understand, take some good barberine apples according to the quantity one wants to make, then peel them as they should be, and cut them in nice silver or gold platters; and you should have a nice clay pot good and well cleaned, and put inside a nice, clean water that you will boil over nice lively embers, then you will put your apples inside to boil, and you will have to have some good sweet almonds in large quantity depending on the quantity of apple you've put to boil, and peel them, clean them and clean them very well and put them to be pounded in a mortar that doesn't smell of garlic, and that way pound them very well while pouring some of the broth where the apples cook; and when those apples will be cooked enough, take them out over a nice clean cutting table, and with the cooking liquid filter your almonds to get a good thick almond milk, and put it back to boil on a lively ember without smoke, with a little bit of salt, and while it will boil, mince the apples very finely with a small clean knife and then, once minced, put them in the almond milk, and add a large quantity of sugar, depending on the quantity of apple, and then, when the doctor will be asking for it, serve in nice bowls or silver or gold platters.

 

My personal favorite was the "garlic" comment. lol.gif

post #14 of 15

Not much has really changed in that regard, French Fries.

 

Ever listen to, say, Ina Garten or Paula Deene? Everything is "nice" or "good."

 

I often wonder, when Ina says something like, "a teaspoon of good vanilla" if that's opposed to bad vanilla. And if so, why would anybody choose to use bad vanilla. And how do they tell the difference anyway?

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

Ever listen to, say, Ina Garten or Paula Deene? Everything is "nice" or "good."


No, I have to say, I've never listened to either. There's a recipe in my grand mother's recipe notebook where she specifies to use a "very good vinegar", and I take this to say that it's important for that particular recipe to use a good vinegar, because in that recipe the taste of the vinegar comes through very well, and in that particular recipe the vinegar is an integral part of the dish, whereas in other recipes it might not be so important, and you can use just plain old normal vinegar. I have to confess that I'm no vinegar expert and I'm not sure if I, myself, would make the difference. But maybe she did. Or, who knows, maybe she was often getting mediocre vinegar, and just about any vinegar I use today she would have called "very good"? Hard to tell. But at least she only used the word once in her entire notebook.

 

 

 

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