Hundred-year-old Tip for Softening Butter

butter on plate with bowlButter is sooo hard when I first take it out of the refrigerator. It’s impossible to spread. Also, I never seem to think about setting it out ahead of time to soften when I want use it in recipes. I could be imagining it, but I think that cold butter is harder today than in the past.

In any case, I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old tip for softening butter:

When butter is too hard to spread easily, turn a heated bowl upside down over the butter dish for a few minutes. This will thoroughly soften the butter without melting it.

Cookbook (Published by the Bethany Shrine Patrol No. 1, Rochester NY, 1923)

Should Muffins Have a Flat Top?

blueberry muffinsUntil I read a reader’s request in a hundred-year-old magazine, I never thought about whether muffins should have a flat top:

Tell me why my muffins are flat on top?

Here’s the response:

Muffins Flat on Top

We could no be hired to tell you how to make muffins that are not flat on top, because the test of the perfect muffin is a flat top. It is like cake, it should be flat as the floor on top, and if it is not there is something wrong with either the making or the baking. To be sure, we often have hummocky muffins and hummocky cake served to us in places where they ought to know better – and they even taste good, yet we eat them with inward grief. We congratulate you that you have achieved that by-no-means easy or common task, the flat-topped muffin. Long may you continue to make them and no other kind.

American Cookery (June/July, 1923)

I’ve made various types of muffins a half dozen times across the years for this blog. I clicked through those posts and was appalled to discover that my muffins do not have flat tops.

Oh dear, I make hummocky muffins.  Maybe the person who responded was writing about English muffins, but somehow I think not. When you make muffins, do they have a flat top?

When I did this post I also learned a new word. “Hummocky” means a rounded mound of earth, knoll or a pile of ice, ridge.

Hundred-Year-Old Poem: The Woman Who Cooks

Poem titlled "The Woman Who Cooks"
Source: Order of the Eastern Star Relief Fund Cook Book (1923) published by Michigan Grand Chapter Order of the Eastern Star

Often old organization and community cookbooks contain poems that describe cooking or foods. The poems sometimes are very dated, but they provide clues about what it was like to live years ago. For example, a 1923 Michigan Order of the Eastern Star cookbook had a poem near the beginning of the book which says that women who follow the recipes in the cookbook would be successful cooks and get lots of praise for their cooking.

It’s Silly to be Extravagant with Food

family eating
Source: Larkin Housewives’ Cook Book

Here’s what a hundred-year-old cookbook said about the value of eating economically:

E C O N O M Y ! !

I’ve asked the printer man to please let that word stand out just like that – boldly, defiantly, all by its little lone self!

Economy! If over-eating is a national trait, over-spending is certainly another. . . Extravagance with food is not clever, it is simply silly. Meal planning or preparing is no job to be slouched and hurried over as quickly and as extravagantly as possible. You do not need to use fussy, difficult recipes, either. It is no harder to cook a flank steak than a porter-house. It only take a little more skill.

Look on your marketing and cooking as a game. Take pleasure in seeing how cheaply you can set a healthful, delicious, and plentiful table.

The Calorie Cook Book (1923) by Mary Dickerson Donahey


Recommended Amount of Milk Per Day, 1923 and 2023

glass of milkA hundred years ago, it was recommended that adults drink 2 cups of milk per day, while current recommendations are 3 cups per day. For children, the recommendation back then was 3 cups of milk per day, while the recommended amount now is based on age, but less for small children than in 1923.

A 1923 home economics textbook said:

One pint [2 cups] of whole milk should be allowed for each adult, and one and one-half pints [3 cups] for each child over two years of age; the younger child may need more. In addition to the prescribed allowance of whole milk, skimmed milk may be used in cooking as a source of protein and mineral matter. Part of the milk allowance for the family may well be supplied in milk soups, custards, bread, rice, and other pudding, cocoa and chocolate and in white sauce with vegetables, eggs and meats.

Economics of the Family (1923) by C.W. Taber and Ruth A. Wardall

Current recommendations, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate website, are:

  • children 12-23 months should drink 1 2/3 – 2 cups of milk per day
  • children 2-3 years should drink 2 – 2 1/2 cups of milk per day
  • children 4-8 years should drink 2 1/2 cups of milk per day
  • children 9 and older should drink 3 cups of mil per day
  • adults should drink 3 cups of milk per day.

Hundred-year-old Tips for Browning Pie Crusts

Slice of Lemon Apple Pie

Here are tips in a hundred-year-old cookbook for browning pie crusts:

To brown pies and tarts, use a small pastry brush and brush them with milk before putting them in the oven, and to glaze pies, brush them with the white of an egg if you wish them to be a shiny brown.

Order of the Eastern Star Relief Fund Cook Book (1923) published by the Michigan Grand Chapter