Thursday, September 27, 2012

Decoding Antique Recipes

Have you ever looked at an old recipe and wondered what the heck "Oleo" was? Or how to make sour milk? Here is a quick guide to some old-fashioned terms you might find on old recipes. Some of these may seem obvious, while others are real stumpers. Some of these you may not have seen because, hey, my ancestors just might have been oddballs.

Oleo = Margarine. It used to be called "oleomargarine" many moons ago.

T (Tbsp) vs. t (tsp) = Shorthand for Tablespoon and teaspoon. It used to be that people would use a capital T for Tablespoon and a lower-case t for teaspoon.

Spry/Lard = Spry was a brand name for Lard. Lard can generally be substituted with vegetable shortening very successfully in most recipes, but there are some recipes when lard really is better (a pie crust for mincemeat, for example). Nowadays many recipes that used to call for lard use butter.

Suet = Beef fat. The only recipe I have seen this in (and used it in myself) is a 100-year-old Irish mince pie recipe. It is also used a lot in traditional British puddings.

Soda = Baking Soda. That one's pretty obvious.

Sour Milk = Milk that has been soured with vinegar. To make sour milk, put 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar into a cup measure, then fill it with milk up to the cup mark. Stir well and let sit for five minutes. Not to be confused with clabbered milk, which is milk curdled with lemon juice. Sour milk can usually be substituted for buttermilk in most recipes.

"Coffee Cream" = No, they don't mean French Vanilla Coffee Creamer! I've seen this in a couple of recipes from the 1940s that list coffee cream where they apparently mean half and half or light cream.

Icing Sugar = Powdered, or "Confectioner's" Sugar

Carnation Milk or Pet Milk = Evaporated Milk. Many home cooks used to write out their recipes using brand names. Carnation is still around, of course, but they make many different milk products these days. In some cases, seeing a brand name in recipes gets confusing because the brand is no longer around or they were a strictly regional brand.

Treacle = Although they are not technically the same thing, if you see "treacle" in an old recipe, it basically means Molasses.

Salad Oil = Vegetable Oil.

Scant vs. Heaping = Pretty self-explanatory - "Scant" means slightly less than what is called for (a scant Tablespoon is just a little less than a full measured Tablespoon) and "Heaping" or "Rounded" means a little more.

"Mix like cake" = When you are making something that is not cake but will be mixing it in the way cakes are usually mixed: Cream butter with sugar, add eggs, then liquid, then gradually add flour.

"Moderate" Oven, "Hot" Oven, etc. = A moderate oven means 350 degrees. It is the "middle" temperature and the most commonly used in baking. A hot oven would be 400-425. A "Slow" oven would be 300-325 and a "cool" oven would be 200.

This is just my own short list of what I've seen come up in my old family recipes. If you are interested in learning more, a really excellent website about food history is The Food Timeline

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