Sunday, November 24, 2019

A Pinch of This and a Dash of That

Have you ever noticed that some of those old family recipes never taste as good as you remember from your childhood?  Those early cooks didn’t waste a thing as anyone who inherited a recipe for giblet pie will attest. I also have a recipe that calls for one quart of nice buttermilk. As soon as I find buttermilk that meets that criteria, I’ll try it.

I especially like the old-time recipes for sourdough biscuits. Here’s a recipe from The Oregon Trail Cookbook:
"Mix one-half cup sourdough starter with one cup milk. Cover and set it in the wagon near the baby to keep warm ... pinch off pieces of dough the size of the baby's hand."

Early cooks didn’t have the accurate measuring devices we have today and had to make do with what was handy—even if it was the baby.

If you’re in the mood to drag out an old family recipe this Thanksgiving, here are some weights and measures used by pioneer cooks that might help: 

Tumblerful=Two Cups
Wineglass=1/4 Cup
Pound of eggs=8 to 9 large eggs, 10-12 smaller ones
Butter the size of an egg=1/4 cup
Butter the size of a walnut=2 Tablespoons
Dash=1/8 teaspoon
Pinch=1/8 teaspoon
Dram=3/4 teaspoon
Scruple= (an apothecary weight=1/4 teaspoon
Gill=1/2 Cup
Old-time tablespoon=4 modern teaspoons
Old-time teaspoons=1/4 modern teaspoon
2 Coffee Cups=1 pint
As for the size of the baby, you’re on your own.
                                           Weights from Christmas in the Old West by Sam Travers

Chuck wagon or trail recipes call for a different type of measurement:

William Henry Jackson [Public domain]
Li’l bitty-1/4 tsp
Passle-1/2 tsp
Pittance-1/3 tsp
Dib-1/3 tsp
Crumble-1/8 tsp
A Wave at It-1/16 tsp
Heap-Rounded cupful     
Whole Heap-2 Rounded cupfuls
Bunch-6 items

If you’re expecting a large crowd around your Thanksgiving table, you might forget about the turkey and opt for the following:

2 large size buffalo
Lots of brown gravy
Cut buffalo into bite size pieces. This may take up to two months.
Put in a very large pot and add enough gravy to cover the meat.
Add vegetables as desired.
Cook stew over a fire for about 4 weeks at 400 degrees. Periodically add water and stir.

However you measure it, here’s hoping that your

Thanksgiving is a “whole heap” of fun!

 What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Meet the Haywire Brides


Also available.  The Cowboy Meets His Match

Coming May 2020
The Outlaw's Daughter


  1. I love the things you found! Laughed at "it might take two months" to cut up the buffalo for stew. I always say that it's the whole shebang that's my favorite because I don't make that particular menu any other time of year than Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, mashed taters, sweet potatoes sometimes, winter squash, cranberry sauce, boiled makes for a beautiful plate!!! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  2. Hi Connie, that made me laugh, too. Thank God our dinners won't take two month to prepare! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.