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Food Hints and Advice

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Most old cookbooks also included cooking and household advice. Here are some hints from 1800s cookbooks. Please note that the advice about preserving meat and milk is not safe according to today’s food safety standards, but this was before electricity and refrigeration was available.

Lemons will keep fresher and better in water than any other way. Put them in a crock and cover them with water. They will in winter keep two or three months, and the peel will be as fresh as the day they were put in. Take care, of course, that they do not get frosted. In summer, change the water twice a week and they will keep a long time.

Lemon or orange peel grated and mixed with powdered sugar and a squeeze of its own juice (the sugar making it into paste) is excellent to keep for flavoring. Put it into a little pot and it will keep for a year.

In grating nutmegs, begin at the flower end. If you commence at the other, there will be a hole all the way through.

Tea or coffee made hot (not at all scorched) before water is added, are more fragrant and stronger. Thus, by putting three spoonfuls of tea in the pot and setting it in a warm place before infusing, it will be as strong as if you make tea with four spoonfuls without warming it, and much more fragrant.

Vegetables that are strong can be made much milder by tying a bit of bread in a clean rag and boiling it with them.

Bread dough is just as good made the day before it is used. Thus, a small family can have fresh bread one day and rolls the next by putting the dough in a cold place enveloped in a damp cloth. In winter, kept cold yet not in danger of freezing, it will keep a week.Bread that is very stale may be made quite fresh for an hour or two by dipping it quickly into milk or water and putting it in a brisk oven till quite hot through. It must be eaten at once, or it will be as stale as ever when cold.

Celery seed takes the place of celery for soup or stews when it is scarce.

Green beans, gherkins, etc., put down when plentiful in layers of rock salt, will keep crisp and green for months, and can be taken out and pickled when convenient.

Parsnips should be kept down cellar, covered up in sand, entirely excluded from the air. They are good only in the spring.

Cabbages put into a hole in the ground will keep well during the winter, and be hard, fresh, and sweet in the spring. Many farmers keep potatoes in the same way.

Turnips of small size have double the nutritious matter that large ones have.

Ruta Baga is the only root that increases in nutritious qualities as it increases in size.

Milk which is slightly turned or changed may be sweetened and rendered fit for use again by stirring in a little [baking] soda.

Meat to be kept in warm weather should be rubbed over with salad oil and every crevice filled with ginger. Meat that is for roasting or frying is much better preserved in this way than with salt. Take care that every part of the surface has a coat of oil. Steaks or chops cut off, which always keep badly, should be dipped into warm butter or even dripping* if oil is not handy (the object being to exclude the air), and then hung up till wanted.

* Dripping – The fat and juices from the roasting pan when cooking meat.

Meat that has become slightly tainted may be quite restored by washing it in water with a teaspoonful of borax dissolved, cutting away every part in the least discolored.

In summer when meat comes from the butcher’s, if it is not going to be used the same day, it should be washed over with vinegar.

Poultry in summer should always have a piece of charcoal tied in a rag placed in the stomach, to be removed before cooking. Pieces of charcoal should also be put in the refrigerator* and changed often.

*Refrigerator  A device to hold a block of ice to keep food cold was called a refrigerator before electric refrigerators became available to the public in the 1920s and 1930s.

To prevent grease from spattering when frying foods, put a bit of bread in the pan and fry it at the same time. It will prevent the grease from splashing out onto the stove and so save a lot of unnecessary labor in cleaning and polishing the stove afterwards.

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5 Comments

  1. Love the picture at the beginning of this post. And the tips were great, although adding borax to meet seems a bit weird. 🙂

  2. I’ve always been fascinated by “how my ancestors did it” types of things. They certainly had many tips likes for making their food last longer which was essential for survival.

    • I don’t want to live in the past, but am happy people documented how life was. Some hints can be used today and others are dangerous. But people lived in different circumstances and even most of their food wasn’t like it is today.

  3. These are great tips even if some are considered outdated. I might try that bread in the frying pan for grease splattering.

    • I used to always read “Hints from Heloise” in the newspaper and now am enjoying these old-time hints.

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