So WELCOME to my kitchen…….

Ever wondered how you translate Grandma’s wonderful old recipes? When she says ‘a dash’ of this…..or just cook ‘until done’ in a ‘hot’ oven?  What???  Hard to know? Yes, especially today when we have schedules to keep! But we want to make that something special!
Who wants to take a chance?

Remember: if you go back in time to when Grandma or Great-Grandma was cooking on a potbelly or cast iron stove — or in a dutch oven over a campfire — she did not have the luxury (yes, luxury!) of thermometers or  dials to give her a simple way of cooking. She had to rely on instinct. Or she learned from her mother…or she learned over time. So, what do you do, 50, 80, 120 years later when you find the delightfully scribbled recipe for, say, sourdough biscuits or devil’s food cake? 

Well, there are some guidelines and standards that have been composed for ‘modern’ cooks and bakers. As the wife of a fourth generation rancher (47 years this summer), and living in his great grandmother’s house, I’ve inherited quite a collection of wonderful vintage recipes; I have become a collector of the odd recipes scrawled in faded pencil. Perhaps that’s why this last book of mine, SOURDOUGH BISCUITS AND PIONEER PIES (TwoDot) was so much fun (and work!) to put together. Seeking out other ranching and farming women, and women who have inherited recipes, I’ve developed the hankering to learn more about vintage recipes and vintage cooks!

And I’ve had fun answering people’s questions and looking for answers when I don’t have them. So I decided I’d begin a dialogue with those who, like me, enjoy the foods of our families and communities!
Where to start? How about with temperatures…as I said, Grandma and her sisters didn’t have the luxury of gauges or thermometers to make it simple. SO……


If the recipe says:                              It means:                       
Simmering (water)                                180°
Boiling (water)                                       212°
Soft boil stage (candy/sauces)            234°
Jellying stage                                        220-222°
Very slow oven                                      250°
Slow oven                                              300°
Moderately slow oven                          325°
Moderate oven                                      350°
Moderately hot oven                             375°
Hot oven                                                 400°
Very hot oven                                        450-500°

And what about cooking times for those wonderful old cakes that Grandma made famous??? You know — the German Chocolate or Red Velvet that you’ve heard everyone rave about? Here are a few principal categories of cakes and their respective bake times:

For Sponge Cakes                      35 to 90 minutes          325°  (or moderately slow oven!)
For Angel food Cakes*              1 hour or more            325°  (or moderately slow oven!)
                          *don’t peek too soon
Butter / Loaf Cakes                      30 to 45 minutes          350°  (or moderate oven!)
Chocolate or Molasses Cakes    30 to 40 minutes          325°  (or moderately slow oven!)
Thin Layer Cakes                         20 to 30 minutes          375°  (or moderately hot oven!)
Cupcakes                                      20 to 25 minutes          375°  (or moderately hot oven!)           

A FEW EQUIVALENTS TO NOTE (the less common):
a few grains  =  less than 1/8 tsp.
3 teaspoons   = 1 Tablespoon
1 fluid ounce  =  2 Tablespoons
1  dry ounce   = 2 Tablespoons
100 grams    =  3.5 ounces
100 grams    =   7 Tablespoons butter or 1/2 cup -minus 1 Tablespoon

A RECIPE FROM THE FAMILY COLLECTION: Marie Jenner’s “Sour Cream Biscuits!”
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
Milk, as needed
Sift together dry ingredients. Mix with the sour cream to make dough. Add a little milk if needed. Roll out and cut into rounds then place on a greased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes at 425°. Makes 12-14 biscuits.

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