Thursday, July 12, 2007

From the Cookbook of Mrs F. H. Stephenson

Mrs F. H. Stephenson, in case you were wondering, was my great-grandmother. More specifically, she was my maternal grandmother's mother. The book is very thin, and is almost entirely dedicated to desserts. I would love to have some of her other recipes for breads and main dishes, but alas, I am unaware of the existence of such a book. My great-grandmother was born sometime in the late 1870's or early 1880's (I don't have the exact date on me... but she was in her early 40's when my grandmother was born in 1921). She was married when she was about 20 years old, around 1900. The book probably dates sometime after 1900 because included in the book was a very old bank check that has a space for the year which reads "19__" -- and on the back of the check is written yet another recipe. I believe it dates no later than the late 1930's, because there is so much sugar used in the recipes that it could not have been during war rationing -- and after WWII she was being cared for by her children and probably did not cook very much. Her family was not very much hurt by the Great Depression, so it theoretically could have been from that time period as well. But I believe it most likely it dates from 1900 to 1930.

There will probably be more pages to come, as we transfer the images to JunkMale's computer. This particular page is dedicated to a certain someone whose heart sings when she reads from a cookbook that calls recipes receipts. :)

Click on the ghetto scan (aka digital photograph) to get a larger and hopefully more readable version of the two receipts. For those who cannot read it, here is a transcription of this page:

Receipt for ice-cream.
8 eggs, 1 lb sugar, 1 gal milk, flavor to taste.

Angel Food Cake
Sift a teaspoonful of cream of tartar six times with a half cupful of flour. Whip the whites of six eggs until they stand alone, then gradually stir into this [or these? - the picture was cut off here] a half cupful of granulated sugar and the sifted flour. Beat very hard, turn into a clean, ungreased pan with a funnel in the middle.

Very specific, don't you think? ;-) I don't have a faintest idea of how to make ice cream from scratch, so that is not especially helpful for me. Some of the other receipts I may be able to try, having had experience in making that type of food before. There are no baking instructions (how long, how hot the oven should be), presumably because she cooked on a wooden stove that was not always at a uniform temperature. She refers to a bundt or tube pan as a pan with a funnel in the middle, which amuses me. According to my grandmother, her father bought an electric stove sometime in the late 20's or 30's -- but my great-grandmother would have none of that newfangled nonsense. She continued cooking on her wood stove, because food just came out better that way. :-)

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8 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Birdie

    Oh, what a treasure! I inherited my great aunt's recipes a couple of years ago when she passed away. Her collection was also mostly desserts!

  • Headmistress, zookeeper

    I love it! I think the ice-cream is probably a no-no today, what with salmonella and all. I wonder if it was just mixed up and poured in the old hand-crank ice cream makers, surrounded with rock salt and then a few children deployed to crank that thing all day?

  • Ewokgirl

    What a gift you have in that cookbook! Handwritten, no less!

    Wow, just reading that made my arms hurt. I'm so spoiled with my electric mixers and other kitchen appliances. I can't even comprehend whipping by hand egg whites until they're stiff!

  • JunkMale


    I also found myself wondering whether people back then hand beat their eggs with a whisk. I didn't know that human-powered egg beaters existed until I saw one at grandma's house. No doubt it would still take a loooong time though.

  • Myfriendconnie

    Headmistress, That's exactly how we used to make ice cream when I was a kid. I still use eggs in mine and no one is any worse for wear. (We eat raw cookie dough, too!)

  • Harmony

    I suppose you could always try to use a pasteurized egg substitute like Egg Beaters -- but then, if you start substituting it's no longer an attempt at duplicating the recipe!

  • Headmistress, zookeeper

    Truth be told, we eat cookie dough with raw eggs, too. And I do use raw eggs in snow ice cream.

    And Junk-Male, I have used those hand-powered egg beaters to whip up egg whites. 25 years ago when my husband was in basic training, that's the only mixer I had. It was my grandmother's. It really wasn't that bad, or at least that's how I remember it.

    Cookie dough was harder- because stiffer.

  • CappuccinoLife

    Another cookie dough eater here.

    Harmony, that is such a wonderful treasure. When my grandmother passed I inherited her sewing box, in which I found needles that must have come from her mother--they are from the early 1900's. Too cool. When we got together for her memorial, we had the chance to read some of the things her parents had written, and it was cute how, in spite of being Victorian, they were obviously in love and had a wonderful sense of humor. I love history.