If you’re anything at all like me, then you probably love cooking and have a ton of vintage cookbooks. Mine range all the way back to the late 1700s, and I absolutely love reading through them.
One of my biggest problems with these very old cookbooks was some of the terminology, cooking times, and descriptions that were used within the text. I figured I couldn’t be the only one that got hung up on these terms, so I thought I would address it here in a blog post
Ingredient Terms for Cooking
Some of the ingredients mentioned in old recipes sound so strange, you might think they don’t even exist anymore! The truth is, however, they were just words from a different era. In other situations, they used words to describe a specific concoction. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most commonly seen vintage ingredient terms.
- Oleo – margarine
- Saleratus or Soda – baking soda (for leavening)
- Yeast Cake – equal to 2 1/2 teaspoons of dry yeast
- Suet – fat from beef (you can’t find this easily these days, so if you intend to use a recipe that calls for suet, I suggest you collect your own, which can be done anytime you cook beef with the fat. Simply refrigerate)
- Indian Meal – corn mean
- Bouquet Garni – herbal mix tied into a small cheesecloth packet that can be cooked in the dish, but then easily removed once the flavors have been infused.
- Forcemeat – a stuffing made primarily of either bread or meat
- Pourable batter – 1 part liquid to 1 part flour
- Drop batter – 1 part liquid to 2 or 2 1/2 parts flour
- Soft dough – 1 part liquid to 3 1/2 parts flour
- Stiff dough – 1 part liquid to 4 parts flour
Measurement Terms for Cooking
In many of the old cookbooks, you won’t find a definitive temperature for a lot of the recipes. That’s because they couldn’t set theirs to a specific temperature. Many had the, then, “modern convenience” of a gas range, but many of those did not have temperature settings in the early days. Others still used the wood cook stove.
You can easily refer to these terms to see what you need to set your modern oven to in order to get the same results.
- Very slow oven – about 250 degrees F
- Slow oven – about 300 degrees F
- Slow/Moderate oven – about 325 degrees F
- Moderate oven – about 350 degrees F
- Quick moderate oven – about 375 degrees F
- Moderately hot oven – about 400 degrees F
- Hot oven – about 425 degrees F
- Very hot oven – about 450 degrees F
- Extremely hot oven – about 500 degrees F and up
Other measurements came in what looks to us to be vague terms, but were, of course, easily understandable in those years to the average housewife. Here are a few that have thrown me off.
- Butter, size of an egg – 1/4 cup of butter
- Butter, size of a walnut – 1 tablespoon of butter
- Cooking spoon – 3 tablespoons
- Dessert spoon – 2 teaspoons
- Gill – 1/2 cup
- Peck – 2 gallons
- Pony – 1 ounce
- Salt spoon – 1/4 teaspoon
- Jigger – 1 1/4 ounces (liquid)
- Dash – 1/8 teaspoon
- Pinch – 1/16 teaspoon
The first time I ever heard of cooking with a spider, as a true-blue arachnophobic, I was completely beside myself! Thankfully, I found out quickly what that meant. It took some searching, but I was going no farther until I had my answer!
- Spider – a skillet with legs (in the days of cooking over a fire, it enabled the cook to set the pan directly over the flame without needing to construct a surface first)
Updates to Come
Over time, this post will be updated. If anyone knows of any terminology I have left out, please be sure to drop it in the comment section below so all our readers will be able to see it too!