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Heirloom Recipe Conversions and Substitutions

Why doesn't your recipe taste like Grandma's?


Stirred With Love

In the days of our ancestors, Grandma didn't have much to work with in the way of ingredients. Basic staples were limited to flour, sugar, and salt, plus eggs, meat, and vegetables from the land. Imagine not only having to create something flavorful to break the monotony, but also the hassle of cooking the meal without our modern conveniences.

Yet, somehow Grandma's cooking always tasted wonderful! I remember watching and taking diligent notes while my husband's Grandma tried to show me how to make his favorite Italian creme pie. She did not hesitate to make two instructions very clear: Use a wooden spoon that has been designated strictly for the custard and only stir in one direction. She insisted that diverting from these instructions would produce an inferior result. She must have stirred with a special love ingredient, because I could never duplicate it exactly.

In trying to duplicate heirloom recipes from our ancestors, one runs into headlong into major differences in food staples of old compared to today's commercial products.

Today's sugar and flour is more refined. Eggs have a different flavor because of commercial foods they feed upon and likewise with meat products. Vegetables are hybridized to withstand vigorous transportation, handling by machines, and to extend shelf life. Milk products are homogenized and pasteurized. All of these factors are bound to affect taste.

Cryptic Measurements

If you were able to get that heirloom recipe written down, it might contain some rather cryptic measurements.

Have you ever tried to figure out how much is in a jigger, a wineglass, a tumbler, or a coffeecup? What's the difference between a spoonful, a saltspoon, a dessertspoon, and a kitchen spoon? How hot is a slow oven as opposed to a quick oven? How do you judge a glob of butter the size of an egg, walnut or hazelnut?

There is help for you with those measurement terms and more in this Heirloom Weights and Measures Conversion Chart. Many old (and new) recipes also use metric measurements. Just fill in the amount on this Recipe Conversion Calculator and away you go with easy conversions.

More About Heirloom Recipe Conversions and Substitutions

Old Recipe Measurements
Recipe and Receipt History
Cans to Cups Conversion Chart
Heirloom Weights and Measures Conversion Chart
Recipe Calculator Converter


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