The Barn Door: Remembering Winter

I missed doing this last month, but remembered to post over at The Barn Door Feb. 28. If you’re not sick of looking at snow, you might want to click through to see some of the photos I posted of how winter looked in 1937.

I know, I know. Most of us don’t have to remember winter. It’s still right outside our window. But when I start complaining about the cold or the inches (or feet!) of snow, at the back of my mind I am comparing it to the winters of my childhood.

I’m sure there were probably mild winters when I was growing up, seasons that it snowed very little in my small Illinois town. When I felt sad because there were not enough opportunities to risk my life careening on a sled down the 4th Street hill.

But in my memories, winters in my childhood were always filled with three feet of snow. Huge piles of it in the corners of parking lots. Forts built from blocks of packed snow. Snow caves dug beneath the drooping branches of my grandmother’s bridal wreath bushes.

I tried to find some photos of those memories to share, but it seems we kept our camera mostly indoors in those days. So instead, I opened one of my grandmother’s 1937 Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia to see what they had to say about winter before I was even born.

via The Barn Door: Remembering Winter.


This is the way we wash our clothes, wash our clothes…

How many recipe books do you know that also include directions for how to wash your clothes? Well, the Young Housekeeper’s Friend does that, and even tells you how to make your own washtub:

Noe_washing_toolsA large painted wash tub is expensive, and it may be convenient for some persons to know that a very good rinsing tub can be made of a flour barrel. Take one that is clean and well made; have the upper part sawed off about nine inches. See that there are no nails sticking through. Make three holes large enough to admit the fingers, in two opposite staves, to serve for handles. If there are cracks, caulk them, and fill the tub with water.The water will soon swell the staves so as to close the cracks;  and when it has once done leaking,keep it always turned down in the cellar when not in use.

Calf’s Foot Blanc-mange

If you have enough calf’s feet jelly and don’t know what to do with those four feet you have left over from butchering, try this receipt for blanc-mange from The Young Housekeeper’s Friend.


Put four calf’s feet into four quarts of water; boil it away to one quart, strain it, and set it aside.  When cool, remove all the fat, and in cutting the jelly out of the pan, take care to avoid the sediment. Put to it a quart of new milk, and sweeten it with fine sugar. If you season it with cinnamon or lemon peel, put it in before boiling; if with rose or peach-water, afterwards; or, if you choose, boil peach leaves in it. Boil ten minutes, strain it through a fine sieve into a pitcher, and stir it till nearly cold. Then put it into moulds.

Calf’s Foot Jelly

Want a little jelly with your toast?  All you need is four calf hooves to make a little something special, according to The Young Housekeeper’s Friend.


Scald four calf’s feet only enough to take off the hair, (more will extract the juices). Clean them nicely. When this is done, put them into five quarts of water and boil them until the water is half wasted; strain and set it away till the next day, then take off the fat and remove the jelly, being careful not to disturb the sediment; put the jelly into a sauce-pan with whites and shells of five eggs, stir them in, and set it on the coals, but do not stir it after it begins to warm. Boil it twenty minutes longer; set off the saucepan, and let it stand covered close half an hour.  It will thus become so clear that it will need to run through the jelly bag but 0nce.

Attend to Your Custard

In case you want to follow Mrs. Cornelius’s advice from last week and serve a “nice boiled custard” with your Apple Island, here’s one of her custard “receipts.”


Put a quart of milk into a tin pail or a pitcher that holds two quarts; set it into a kettle of hot water. Tin is better than earthen, because it heats so much quicker.

Put in a few sticks of cinnamon, or three peach leaves. When the milk foams up as if nearly boiling, stir in six eggs which have been beaten, and two spoonfuls of white sugar; stir it every instant, until it appears to thicken a little. Then take out the pail, and pour the custard immediately into a cold pitcher, because the heat of the pail will cook the part of the custard that touches it, too much, so that it will curdle.

This is a very easy way of making custard, and none can be better. But in order to have them good, you must attend to nothing else until they are finished. You may make them as rich as you choose.  A pint of milk, a pint of cream, and eight eggs will make them rich enough for any epicure. So, on the other hand, they are very good with three or four eggs only to a quart of milk, and no cream.

Apple Island

From the Young Housekeeper’s Friend, another sweet “receipt” which Mrs. Cornelius calls Apple Island.


Stew apple enough to make a quart, strain it through a sieve, sweeten it with fine white sugar, and flavor it with lemon or rose.

Beat the whites of six eggs to a hard froth, and stir into the apple slowly; but do not do this till just before it is to be served.

The apples should be stewed with as little water as possible.

Put it into a glass dish. Serve with a nice boiled custard, made of the yolks of the eggs, to serve with it.

Stewed Tongue

Quite literally stewed, according to my “Young Housekeeper’s Friend” cookbook from 1859.  As for me I would need to perform the last step first before being willing to eat this dish: “Put about a pint of the liquor” in.


Boil a fresh tongue three hours, and if the skin does not easily come off, boil it longer.  Remove the skin, strain the water in which it was boiled.  Wash the pot and return the tongue to it with enough of the strained liquor [ed. note: Oh! THAT kind of liquor]  to cover it.  Put in it a carrot, a turnip, and an onion cut fine, and a tablespoon of powdered clove and also of ground pepper tied up in muslin bags.

Boil the tongue gently two hours and a half.  About fifteen minutes before it is taken up, toast two slices of bread without the crust, cut it up in small bits, and put it into the pot.

When you dish it up, put about a pint of the liquor and vegetables round the tongue in a fricassee dish.”

And I would add to this “Serve with a huge portions of strong liquor–the alcoholic kind.”

Don’t Excite Your Domestics

The holiday season is usually one where family traditions bring cheer and comfort.  In looking through an old “receipt-book” of recipes first published in 1859 by Mrs. M. H. Cornelius, I am reminded that traditions do evolve over the years, thank goodness, which is seldom a bad thing.  At least, I’m glad I do not ascribe to this counsel found in the forward of the book:

“The less alteration made in family arrangements on account of visitors, the happier for them as well as for you.  Never treat the subject of having company as if it were a great affair.  Your doing this will excite your domestics, and lead them to imagine the addition to their usual work is much greater than it is; your own cares, too, will be greatly magnified.”

Thankfully I have no domestics under me that I need to worry about exciting too much.  I am free to treat the holiday visits of friends and family as a grand affair and enjoy the excitement that then ensues.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that your holiday traditions don’t overly excite your domestics, but do bring smiles to everyone’s faces.

Making Yeast While the Sun Shines


I have a reprint of a book published in 1859 called The Young Housekeepers Friend.  It is fascinating.  In addition to recipes like the one below, it talks about how to wash your clothes (in a pot outdoors) and how to manage your servants.

If you think baking bread from scratch is too much work, how would you like to have to make your own yeast first.  The book provides recipes for three different kinds: dry yeast, soft hop yeast and potato yeast.  Potato yeast, it recommends, should be made once a week in the summer and once every two weeks in the winter.

Boil one handful of hops in two quarts of water half an hour. Strain it and return the tea to the kettle.  Have ready grated eight large potatoes, or nine small ones; which stir into the tea.

Let it boil a minute or two and it will thicken to a batter.  When nearly cold, add half a pint of good yeast.  let it ferment well then put into a jar and cover close. Always shake or stir before using it.

Use a porcelain kettle for making this yeast, or an iron one tinned inside.  A common iron one will turn dark.

What do you think–want to try it? 😉