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Holidays are a time for family gatherings and traditions. These traditions often revolve around food when a treasured family recipe for pumpkin pie or gingerbread is made. Just as the family bible record or other valued items are preserved and past down so are family recipes and cooking traditions. They are part of a family’s heritage, and create memories which last forever. In our current online exhibit we are highlighting some holiday family favorites from the many recipes in our manuscript collection.
To date, the manuscript collection has nearly 900 recipes from a dozen family collections. The majority of the recipes (receipts) are from the 19th century. Most recipes fall in the dessert category with cake, cookies, and pudding recipes being the most popular. Johnny cakes and pickling recipes are a close second. Many of the women wrote their recipes in small notebooks or in the back of a husband’s account book or diary. It’s not uncommon to find pasted newspaper clippings of household hints or published recipes alongside a handwritten one.
These family cookbooks often contain homemade remedies for treating illnesses such as coughs or rheumatism and recipes for household cleaners. Some used the back of their cookbooks to keep track of household expenses. Instructions for baking are often missing as it was assumed the person knew the basics of cookery including how hot an oven should be.
Soft gingerbreadArianna (Duroe) Yates (b.1845) receipt book. Arianna and her family lived in Morris, Otsego County, New York.William Yates and Hannah (Palmer) Yates Collection, Mss 1001
6 cups of flour
3 of molasses
1 of butter
3 teaspoonfuls of ginger
For Asthma or Cough Syrup1 oz each of flaxseed, bone-set, -slippery-elm and liquorice1 lb. loaf-sugarSteep all together and strainLastly 1 pt [pint] of molasses
Christmas Plum PuddingFound in the Winifred Yates recipe book of 1889. Winifred (Yates) Harris (1873-1948) was the daughter of George and Arianna (Duroe) Yates. William and Hannah (Palmer) Yates Collection, Mss 1001
1 cupful butter1 cup sugar1 quarter pound raisins1 half pound English currants3 & ½ cups flour, a little citron sliced4 eggs the whites and yolks beaten separatelyPut one teaspoon saleratus [baking powder] into ½ cup cream. Flour the raisinscurrants & citron before adding to the mixture which is stirred togethersame as for any puddingBoil 3 hours in a floured cloth or in a buttered form, pour someBrandy on top and set it on fire justBefore taking to the dining roomServe with brandy sauce
Fruit cake recipe from Winifred (Yates) Harris.Note the newspaper clipping on “Potted Chicken”.
1 teacup butter4 eggs3 teacups sugar1 teacup sweet milk1 teaspoonful saleratus2 teaspoonfuls cream tartar5 cups flour Cloves Nutmeg CinnamonAll the fruit one can afford
Elizabeth (Lancaster) Atkinson (1828-1914)recipesElizabeth (Lancaster) Atkinson (1828-1914) recorded her recipes in the back of her husband, John Atkinson’s (1828-1888) diary. The Atkinsons, originally from Newburyport, MA, lived for many years in Calcutta, India where John Atkinson was an East Indian merchant from 1851-1871. Atkinson-Lancaster Collection, Mss 31
Elizabeth (Lancaster) Atkinson’s Gingerbread recipe.
Gingerbread Mix 1 ¾ teaspoon sodaTo 1 cup sour milk and add 1 cup molassesSift 2 ¼ cups flour ¾ teaspoon salt 2 ½ tspGingerCombine the mixture & add 2 tablespoons of fat and beat well. Bake 35 min. in oven 325° F
Account book of Ensign Eldredge Kelley, 1865 May 17-July 31, Mss A 1921Pages from the 1865 account book kept by Ensign Eldredge Kelley (1820-1897) of Attleboro, MA. Kelley was a courier for the U.S. Sanitary Commission who traveled between New York and Washington caring for sick and wounded soldiers. The records list name of soldier, company, regiment, state, and residence. According to the donor, his frugal wife used the blank pages to record her recipes.
Aunt Carrie’s Ribbon cake recipeThe Louise Bartlett (Carruth) Baxter Collection, not cataloged
2 c. sugar2/3 c. butter3 eggs1 c. milk3 c. flour1 tsp. cr. Tartar½ tsp. sodaBake ½ the mixture as light cakeTo the remainder add 1 tsp molasses 1 c. chopped raisins 1 c. currants ¼ lb. citron ½ tsp. cassia, clove & nutmegPut the sheets together and frost the top
Snow Cake recipe
An example of the many cake recipes used by the wife of Ensign Kelley in his Civil War Account Book
Whites of 3 eggs1 cup of powdered sugar1 cup flour¾ cup of cornstarch½ cup of butter½ cup of milk1 teaspoonful cream tartar½ teaspoonful soda Mix flour,cornstarch, cream tartar and soda together
Dora’s Sugar CookiesFrom the recipe book of Louise (Knapp) Curtis (1851-1910)The Curtis Family Papers, not cataloged
½ cup butter1 ½ “ sugar½ “ milk3 ½ “ flour2 eggs1 table spoon seed½ tea spoon soda1 tea spoon cr. tartar
Household accounts, December 1878
Louise (Knapp) Curtis used the back of her recipe book to record household expenditures on food and other items. She spent a total of $21.88 from December 1st through the 16th, including $5.90 on coal on Dec. 6th and $1.25 for beating carpets on December 14th.