One of our current exhibitions is Cooking by the Book: Amelia Simmons to Martha Stewart, an exploration of food in Connecticut from the colonial times to the present. The developers read any number of cookbooks in preparation. In the collections here at CHS we have a large assortment of both printed and manuscript recipes gathered by individuals or organizations, like those produced by a church or civic organization.
Some women liked to collect their own recipes and compile them in a small book, sort of like our recipe cards of today (do people still keep recipe cards?) or Pinterest pages. The handwritten recipes give one a sense of what one person thought important to make for her family. Today we like to have exact measurements and temperatures and cooking times. Well, in 1845, one woman only listed the ingredients. How did she know how to create the finished product?
For example, the recipe for “Corn Oysters” calls for one pint of grated green corn, 1 teacup of flour, 1/2 cup of butter, pepper, and one egg. Beat well together and fry in butter. In this instance, green corn means young, tender sweet corn.
“Potatoe [sic] Pudding” calls for 1 pound of potatoe [sic] strained through a sieve, 1/2 pound butter, 10 eggs, 3/4 pound sugar, 1/2 pint wine, and one nutmeg. Did you boil this or bake it? How long? What temperature? Modern cooks want to know!
Many of these handwritten booklets include recipes for medicines. “Blackberry syrup for Cholera Morbus” consists of 2 quarts of blackberry juice, 1 pound loaf sugar, 1/2 ounce nutmeg, 1 1/2 ounce allspice, boil together for a short time and when cold add a pint of 4th proof Brandy. Most of these recipes include large amounts of alcohol.
The recipes in the exhibit are a bit more up to date than these, but they also show how tastes and women’s work in the home have changed over time. Please come visit. And if you want to show off your own family recipes, consider entering the CHS Community Cook-Off on April 5.