The Efficient Way to Wash Dishes

Source: The Text-Book of Cooking (Greer, 1915)

I’m always looking for household tips that will make my life easier. Here’s some hundred-year-old advice on how to wash dishes efficiently.

Be Efficient

The following “efficiency” method for washing dishes in a sink has been suggested. A sink provided with a stopper over the drainpipe and with a rubber hose attached to the hot water faucet saves the use of several pans and eliminates lifting the dishes from one pan to another.

Place the prepared dishes in proper order in the sink, arrange the stopper over the drainpipe and fill the sink with cold water. Allow the dishes to soak. Remove the stopper, drain off the cold water; replace the stopper and fill the sink with hot water.

As the hot water issues from the hose, hold a soap holder at the mouth of the hose and “wash” the dishes by directing the water from the hose all over the dishes. Allow the dishes to remain in the hot water about 15 minutes. If necessary, wash with a cloth or dish mop.

Again remove the stopper and drain off the soapy water. Replace the stopper and fill the sink with clear bot water. Lift the dishes out of the sink and place the china dishes on dish racks or drainers. If necessary, dry them. The drain and dry the glasses and silver.

A Text-book of Cooking (1915) by Carlotta Greer

Hundred-Year-Old Orange Nut Bread Recipe

I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy holiday bread recipes, so was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Orange Nut Bread. Graham flour, candied orange peel, and pecans give this bread a nutty, yet distinctly sunny, orange flavor.

I definitely plan to make this recipe again. It’s tasty, and the candied orange peel makes it just enough different from most nut bread recipes that it is sure to be a hit this holiday season.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (February, 1917)
Source: Good Housekeeping (February, 1917)

I was surprised that the recipe called for no shortening, and for less sugar than many modern nut bread recipes – but it all worked. This bread has a nice texture; and, while a little drier than some quick breads, is very tasty.

When I made this recipe I used less salt than called for in the original recipe. Two teaspoons of salt seemed a tad excessive.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Orange Nut Bread

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups graham flour

1/2 cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup candied orange peel

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1 egg

2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two loaf pans.

In a mixing bowl stir together all-purpose flour, graham flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate small bowl, combine the candied orange peel and pecans. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the dry ingredients that had been previously combined to coat the orange peel and pecan pieces. Set aside.

Add egg and milk to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl; beat until mixed. Stir in the orange peel and pecan mixture. Bake 35-45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.

Using Paper to Determine Oven Temperature When Baking Cakes

A hundred years ago most people had wood or coal stoves – and ovens didn’t have thermostats. Here’s advice in an old home economics textbook about how to determine whether the oven was at the correct temperature for successfully baking cakes:

Baking Sponge Cakes [Cakes without Fat]: A practical test for the temperature of the oven is the placing of a bit of flour or white paper in the oven. If at the end of 5 minutes the paper or flour is slightly browned, the oven is of proper temperature for sponge cakes or cakes without fat.

Baking Layer and Loaf Cakes: If a bit of flour or white paper is delicately browned after being placed for 2 minutes in the oven, the oven is of proper temperature for layer cakes containing fat. For a loaf cake the oven should be cooler, since a longer time for baking is required. It is especially important that a crust does not form over the top of a cake before the cake has risen, or before it has been in the oven one-fourth of the time required.

A Textbook of Cooking (1915) by Carlotta Greer

Old-fashioned Chinese Chews Recipe

I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Chinese Chews. The recipe was for walnut and date cookie balls. Why were they called Chinese? Were the balls supposed to seem special  because the name evoked thoughts of  exotic, far away places?  I think of the middle east when I think of dates – but not China.  That said, improbably named recipes inevitably intrigue me, so the next thing I knew I was making Chinese Chews.

Chinese Chews are a sweet chewy treat, and would make a nice addition to a holiday cookie tray.

They were fun to make. The dough is spread thinly in a pan or baking sheet, and then baked until it just begins to brown. The baked dough is then removed from the oven, cut into pieces, and rolled into balls which are then coated in granulated sugar.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1917)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Chinese Chews

  • Servings: 20-25 1-inch balls
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup dates, chopped

1 cup walnuts chopped

granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F.  In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs. Then stir in the dates and walnuts. Spread thinly on a baking sheet. (There may not be enough to cover the entire sheet.) Place in the oven and bake until the dough sets and just begins to brown (about 15 minutes). The baked dough should look “not quite done.” Remove from oven and cool about five minutes.

Use a spatula to remove the baked dough from the pan  Take chunks of the baked dough and shape into 1-inch balls. (Don’t worry if baked dough comes out of the pan in odd-shaped pieces. I put all the pieces in a bowl, and intentionally combined some of the “crustier” portions from the edge of the pan with some of the softer portions from the center to make balls that had a nice consistency.)  Roll each ball in granulated sugar. Work quickly because the balls are easier to shape when the dough is still warm.

Cook’s note: The hundred-year-old recipe called for pastry flour. I used all-purpose flour and it worked fine.

Grandma’s 1914 Thanksgiving

The home Grandma lived in when she kept the diary.


Almost seven years ago I began this blog as a place to post my grandmother’s diary entries a hundred years to the day after she wrote them. She kept the diary for four years when she was a teen living on a farm in central Pennsylvania. After I completed posting all the diary entries, I changed the format to its current focus on food.

On this Thanksgiving day, I thought you might enjoy reading (or, for long-time readers, re-reading) what my grandmother wrote on Thanksgiving Day, 1914:

Thursday, November 26, 1914: Thanksgiving, have been having quite a long vacation. We had a Thanksgiving dinner for one thing. My taster was lacking due to a cold and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I might have. Carried a sassy goose down from town last Monday. The remains are in the pantry awating further digestion for the morrow. Wonder if that goose will keep me awake tonight.

Helena Muffly

Old-Fashioned Squash Pie

If you like pumpkin pie, but are looking for something a bit richer and more flavorful, Squash Pie is the pie for you.

I used  heirloom hubbard squash to make this hundred-year-old Squash Pie recipe, but other winter squash would work equally well.

This recipe uses less milk and more eggs than the typical modern pumpkin pie recipe. Similarly the spices are just a little different  from modern recipes.  Many modern recipes call for cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger – the old recipe lists cinnamon and nutmeg, but does not call for any ginger. All of these tweaks are good – but the texture and taste are a little different than modern Pumpkin Pies.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

Paste is an archaic term for the pie pastry. When I made this recipe I used my usual pie pastry recipe, but sometime soon I’ll try the old recipe for “Chopped Paste.”

Here’s the Squash Pie recipe updated for modern cooks:

Squash Pie

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 3/4 cups winter squash (hubbard, butternut, etc.), pared and cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 9-inch pie shell

Put cubed squash in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender (about 20 minutes); remove from heat and drain. Puree squash. (There should be approximately 1 cup of pureed squash.)

Preheat 425° F.  Put pureed squash in mixing bowl, add sugar, eggs, milk, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; beat until smooth. Pour into prepared pie shell. Place in oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°. Continue baking (approximately 40-50 minutes) until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.

1917 Mistletoe Oleomargarine Advertisement

Source: The Housewife’s Cook Book (1917) by Lilla Frich

Hundred-year-old cookbooks often included advertisements at the back of the book, which helped defray the costs of printing the book. Here’s a 1917 cookbook advertisement for oleomargarine. (Yes, they had margarine back than – though they called it by a longer name.). It appeared in The Housewife’s Cook Book (1917) by Lilla Frich.

The book was self-published by Ms. Frich. (Is Ms. the right title to use when writing about a woman who wrote more than 50 years before the term was term was commonly used?) She was the Supervisor of Domestic Science for the Minneapolis Public Schools.

Even though the book’s title refers to “housewife’s,” I think that the book was written for use in high school domestic science (home ec) classes. I guess the presumption was that students needed to be taught skills in school so that they were prepared for their future careers as homemakers.