Have you ever noticed that some of those old family recipes never taste as good as you remember from your childhood? Those early cooks didn’t waste a thing as anyone who inherited a recipe for giblet pie will attest. I also have a recipe that calls for one quart of nice buttermilk. As soon as I find buttermilk that meets that criteria I’ll try it.
I especially like the old time recipes for sourdough biscuits. Here’s a recipe from The Oregon Trail Cookbook:
“Mix one-half cup sourdough starter with one cup milk. Cover and set it in the wagon near the baby to keep warm … pinch off pieces of dough the size of the baby’s hand.”
Early cooks didn’t have the accurate measuring devices we have today and had to make do with what was handy—even if it was the baby.
If you’re in the mood to drag out an old family recipe this Thanksgiving, here are some weights and measures used by pioneer cooks that might help:
Pound of eggs=8 to 9 large eggs, 10-12 smaller ones
Butter the size of an egg=1/4 cup
Butter the size of a walnut=2 Tablespoons
Scruple= (an apothecary weight=1/4 teaspoon
Old-time tablespoon=4 modern teaspoons
Old-time teaspoons=1/4 modern teaspoon
2 Coffee Cups=1 pint
As for the size of the baby, you’re on your own.
– Weights from Christmas in the Old West by Sam Travers
Chuck wagon or trail recipes call for a different type of measurement:
Li’l bitty-1/4 tsp
A Wave at It-1/16 tsp
Whole Heap-2 Rounded cupfuls
However you measure it, here’s hoping that your Thanksgiving is a “whole heap” of fun!