Until just about a century ago, women had to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen to ensure that the family was fed. They didn’t have the conveniences we have today: supermarkets, pre-prepared ingredients, and imported fruits and vegetables. They often had to use ingredients they grew themselves, and when they did purchase goods, they had to visit separate stores: the butcher, the cheesemaker, the farmer, and so on.
Despite the difficulty of obtaining ingredients as compared to today, women were extremely creative and came up with many ways to prepare delicious food. Sharing recipes was as popular then as it is now; but instead of the food blogs and Instagram accounts they have today, 100 years ago, women would publish their recipes in local newspapers.
Here are some fascinating recipes we discovered in the MyHeritage newspaper collections.
Raisin Stuffing & Lobster in Aspic Jelly, The Boston American, 1921
The Boston American featured a weekly recipe contest in the 1920s, and many home cooks sent in their recipes hoping to win the grand prize: $25 redeemable with a grocery or provision dealer who advertised on the Boston American. That may not sound like much, but that’s worth about $375 in today’s dollars! The winning recipe was featured in the paper on Mondays. 10 additional prizes, of $1 each in cash, were awarded each week, and two of those recipes would appear in the paper on the remaining days of the week.
The recipes below, submitted by Millicent Love, won the secondary prize on Saturday, November 12, 1921.
The first recipe, “Raisin Stuffing for Poultry,” looks pretty familiar to us in the 21st century, especially for Americans who celebrate Thanksgiving: you may have sampled a poultry stuffing made of apples, bread crumbs, onions, raisins, butter, and seasonings. The second, “Lobster in Aspic Jelly,” may sound less appealing to the modern palate. Aspic jelly is a kind of meat jello, in this case made from gelatine and layered with lobster meat in a jello mold.
Hawaiian Pineapple Prize Pie, The Boston Post, 1921
The recipe below won first place in a pie-baking contest at the Cleveland Food Show in 1921:
The pie featured Hawaiian pineapple (presumably canned) topped with fluffy meringue. Canned pineapple was an exciting novelty in the early 20th century, as it made this exotic tropical fruit easily available and affordable for cooks all over the United States.
Snow Pudding, The Boston Post, 1921
The recipe below, published in The Boston Post on December 4, 1921, is for what looks like a simple, creamy pudding:
The recipe calls for cornstarch mixed with a little sugar and salt and brought to a boil in water, then mixed with stiffly beaten egg whites. With the remaining yolks, you make a sweet sauce to pour over it by mixing the yolks with sugar and milk.
Below are some additional recipes we found in old cookbooks from around 100 years ago, courtesy of the Henry Ford Museum online collection.
Gingerbread, A Little Cook Book for a Little Girl, 1905
A Little Cook Book for a Little Girl contains easy recipes for little girls to make all by themselves. The recipe doesn’t include instructions on oven temperature, because ovens didn’t have thermostats in that period.
Here is a recipe for classic gingerbread from the cookbook:
Peanut Butter Griddle-Cakes, Larkin Housewives’ Cookbook, 1915
The Larkin Company was a mail-order business that sold household products like soap and packaged foods. The Larkin Housewives’ Cookbook is a collection of recipes submitted by Larkin customers to the company’s recipe contests.
This recipe is an interesting spin on the traditional griddle cake or pancake:
Rich Blackberry Cake, Larkin Housewives’ Cookbook, 1915
Princess Sandwiches, Mrs. Rorer’s Sandwiches, 1912
Sandwiches became a popular lunch and dinner food in the late 1800s in the USA. Mrs. Rorer’s Sandwiches was originally published in 1894 by a popular cookbook author named Sarah Tyson Rorer, and it was the first American cookbook that was dedicated to the art of the sandwich. Here is one of the unusual sandwich recipes from the book:
Virginia Mixed Pickle, Buckeye Cookery, 1890
Buckeye Cookery was organized as a fundraiser for the Congregational Church in Marysville, Ohio in 1876. It was published in several more editions and was very popular with Midwestern cooks.
The following recipe is quite complicated, requiring multiple days’ worth of work. It makes us appreciate how easy it is these days to walk to a store and buy a jar of good pickles!
Sweet Potato Pie, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Southern Cooking, 1881
Abby Fisher was an African-American cook who moved to California from her native Alabama in the 1870s. She sold pickles, jellies, and preserves and won awards for her cooking. With encouragement from her neighbors, she created this cookbook to bring Southern cooking to California. She didn’t know how to read or write, so the recipes were dictated.
Here is her recipe for sweet potato pie. We’re not sure what she means by “sweeten to taste,” but a “gill” of milk is a quarter pint, which equals 5 imperial fluid ounces or around 3/5ths of a cup.
Sample more incredible historical morsels by searching the newspaper collections on MyHeritage!
Source: My Heritage