Reading really old recipes will often times make you thank your lucky stars that you were born into a world of modern conveniences, where no one in the house has to go out and kill the main course, search for berries, stoke the life giving fire... unless they want to, of course.


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Poke Sallet with potlikker
Parboil several cups of poke, and drain off liquid. Cook parboiled poke with a ham hock in a large pot of water for a couple of hours, "like turnip greens". "Dandelions are done the same way. Thistle, wild lettuce, whiteweed, narrow and broad leafed dock, pussley (sic),  wild violet leaves, wild mustard are all cooked like turnip or mustard greens."

Parboiling and draining the water from the poke (pokeweed) is essential, as it drives out naturally occurring alkaloids and acids which, if left in, can give you a major case of the "bad guts"

Poke is a viney, aggressive plant characterized by a magenta stem and purple berries when the plant matures. Very young poke is suggested for eating. Please know what you're looking for, so you don't serve a big bowl of stewed poison oak...

The people of Appalachia have gathered the plants that grow in abundance in the southern US for centuries.  Poke is a plant that grows copiously in the woods of the south.  They attributed restorative properties to the broth made with these greens (the 'potlikker'). 

Many varieties of these "weeds" that were gathered by my grandmother 75 years ago are now affectionately known as "mesclun" by yuppies everywhere, who shell out quite a bit for organic dandelion greens, etc.



"Sallet" is an old English term for "cooked greens", as opposed to "salad", uncooked greens.  There is a yearly Poke Sallet Festival in Harlan County, Kentucky.



Sauces from the Middle Ages
Recommendations for sauces from a French cookbook written in 1651:
For chicken or fried fish - "jance": a mixture of cider vinegar, white wine, burnt bread, cloves and ginger.
For boiled cold fish- a green sauce of vinegar, cider vinegar, ginger and various "hot" herbs
"Camelina" sauce was a blend of either red wine, vinegar or both, toasted bread, clove, ginger, grain of paradise (Alligator pepper)
, cinnamon, and "long pepper". It was served with boiled fish or red meats, referred to as "crude meats".
Red meats might have included boar or venison. Fish could have included lamprey eels and dolphins ('sea hogs').
The "cruder" the meat, the spicier the sauce.

Ketchup has had a long and strange journey to it's current home at the Heinz factory, being colored day glo green and forced into squeeze bottles.  It started out as fish sauce in Asia.  British merchant sailors acquired a taste for the tomato-less sauce on their fish and chips and brought it to England, where it's quite aromatic smell drew cats - thus fish sauce became "cat - sup".  At some point tomatoes were added, it got a whole lot thicker, and eventually it was sold in little plastic packets in McDonald's restaurants everywhere.

Lots of different Catsups were developed by inventive cooks over the centuries - and  a lot of them had no relation to fish sauce or tomatoes.

Apple Catsup
12 tart apples, pared, cored and quartered.
1 c sugar
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp dry mustard
2 white onions, minced
2 c pickling vinegar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp salt
1/2 c prepared horseradish

Place the apples in a large pot, covered with water. Cook slowly until the apples are soft and the water has almost completely evaporated. Put the apples through a sieve or vegetable mill. You should have about 1 quart of pulp. Add the remaining ingredients and heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour. Keep refrigerated. Excellent with roast pork, ham, goose or duck.4

Margarine was invented in France by Hippolyte Mège-Mouriez , as a butter substitute that was demanded by Emperor Louis Napoleon III. The name was coined by Mège-Mouriez because he developed it by using margaric acid. Margaric acid was so named because of it's pearly appearance - margarites is Greek for "pearl".  (Nat'l assn of Margarine Manufacturers)


Out of the old west comes this recipe, from a stubby gunfighter named Bat Masterson, who was a close friend of Wyatt Earp during the heyday of Dodge City, KS.  Later on, he moved to New York City and became, of all things, a sports writer.  This recipe was one he invented that became popular all over cowboy towns of the western expansion.

William B. 'Bat' Masterson

Prairie Dog

Take a wiener and split it lengthwise. Rub the insides of the wiener with ground sage, and broil until done. On one side of a bun, spread mustard and cover with thinly sliced dill pickle. On the other, sprinkle with Worcestershire. "It makes the usual catsup and mustard wiener sandwich taste very poor in comparison" 2


The Gem Cyclopedia of Universal Knowledge is a virtual plethora of information about living as a proper, well educated individual in 1896. The following receipts are taken from it's ample chapter on homemaking.

Beef Heart Soup

Take 1 beef heart, cut off most of the fat and wash it thoroughly. Then put the heart into a kettle with 1 1/2 gallons of cold water and boil until tender. Just before it is quite done add salt to taste. Have ready a variety of finely chopped vegetables - about 1 quart - to which may be added a small quantity of either macaroni, rice, or vermicelli. Boil all together for 1 hour. Serve hot with cubes of golden brown toast, and you will enjoy a delicious soup. Better satisfaction will be given if the heart is removed from the broth before adding the vegetables. It may then be stuffed and baked, sliced for sandwiches or made into a fine hash.

Oyster Toast

Select 15 plump oysters, chop them fine, add salt pepper and a suspicion of nutmeg. Beat up the yolks of 2 eggs with a gill of cream; whisk into this the simmering oysters (I think the author forgot to add to simmer the oysters in a saucepan...); when set, pour the whole over the slices of buttered toast.

Head Cheese

After thoroughly cleaning a hog's or a pig's head, split it in two with a sharp knife; take out the eyes, take out the brain, cut off the ears, and pour scalding water over them and the head and scrape them clean. Cut off any part of the nose which is discolored so as not to be scraped clean; then rinse all in cold water and put into a large kettle with hot (not boiling) water to cover it, and set the kettle (having covered it) overthe fire; let it boil gently, taking off the scum as it rises; when boiled so that the bones leave the meat readily, take it from the water with a skimmer into a large wooden bowl or tray; take from it every particle of bone, chop the meat small and season to taste with salt and pepper, and if liked, a little chopped sage or thyme.

Spread a cloth in a colander or sieve, set it in a deep dish and put the meat in, then fold the cloth loosely over it, lay a weight on which may press equally the whole surface ( a sufficiently large plate will serve); let the weight be more or less heavy, according as you may wish the cheese to be fat or lean; a heavy weight by pressing out the fat will of course leave the cheese lean. When cold take the weight off, take it from the colander or sieve, scrape off whatever fat may be found on the outside of the cloth, and keep the cheese in the cloth in a cool place, to be eaten sliced thin, with or without mustard and vinegar or catsup.

After the water is cold from which the head was boiled, take off the fat from it and whatever may have drained from the sieve or colander and cloth, put it together in some clean water, give it one boil, then strain it through a cloth and set it to become cold, then take off the cake of fat. It is fit for any use. 6 (the author needs to read his chapter on 'grammar')

A familiar one came from the Native Americans

Native American Meat and Fish Sauce

Combine a level teaspoon of ground horseradish and 2 oz catsup. Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving. Originally, the tomato based part was tomato pulp with "Indian" spices, but the author of the cookbook I got this from substituted ketchup. (Basically, it's cocktail sauce) Horseradish is native only to the Americas, and Europeans widely believed the tomato (a plant from the nightshade family) to be poisonous.  It makes sense that the Natives invented shrimp cocktail sauce long before whitey came over.
"It just cannot be beat. Brings out the flavor of meat, fish, or seafood perfectly."

Modern day barbecue is contributed to the Native Americans, who had a unique way of cooking meat over a wood fire when the Europeans came to settle the Americas. Natives had a word for this, which the Spanish morphed into "barbacoa", and hence - barbecue.


Sesame seed is a food that was brought to the Americas by African Slaves.  In Charleston and Savannah, they're still called "benne (pronounced 'bennie') seeds", just as the African slaves called them when they brought them here.

Benne Seed Wafers

1 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c softened butter
2 c brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large skillet, toast the sesame seeds lightly then cool.
Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add the sesame seeds. Grease a cookie sheet. Drop by teaspoonfuls 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes in upper 1/3 of the oven - only a sheet at a time. Let cool for 1 minute, then gently but briskly scrape up the wafers with a spatula and let cool on racks.

You might want to use a silicon baking mat or greased parchment paper for this one...


aunt matildas recipes


"Aunt Matilda's Selected Receipts" is a tiny booklet that was given away with the purchase of 10 bars of Dobbins' Electric Soap. This copy was printed by I.L. Cragin & Co, Philadelphia, in 1879.

Roast Pigeons
Clean, wash and dress as you would chickens; lay several in your dripping-pan, in rows; add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan; baste three or four times with butter, after that baste often with their own gravy. Thicken the gravy with a little flour. Lay them close together on a plate, and serve with crab-apple or quince jelly.

Green Corn Pudding
Take a half a dozen ears of green sweet corn, and with a sharp pointed knife, split each row of kernels and scrape from the ear; mix with this pulp two eggs, well beaten, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, one tablespoon of butter, one saltspoon of salt, half a pint of sweet cream (or or milk with an extra spoonful of butter), and one dozen crackers, pounded fine. Mix well together and bake two or three hours. Use the corn raw.

Pigeons aren't native to the Americas.  They were first brought over from Europe to Canada in the 1600's, primarily for cooking.  They are reportedly delicious. I know that my cat agrees. 7


"Real Old Fashioned Shortcake" was another give away booklet put out by the Reliable Flour Corp. in Boston, Mass.

bohemian cookbook

marie rosicky

Marie's book, originally published in Czech, was re-printed in English in 1949.

I'm sure this old recipe is riddled with opportunities to get a case of botulism, so use at your own discretion.

Canning Geese (Zavarovani husi)

The goose, thoroughly cleaned, is sprinkled with salt and caraway seed, and (if you like it) rubbed with garlic mashed to a paste. Roast the goose in a very hot oven forty or fifty minutes, so it browns on the surface. Then cut it up and put the pieces in preserving jars with a wide neck, screw on the cover (with rubber ring) and put the jars in a boiler containing a small amount of water, so they can cook in steam. Do not add water to the meat, it will form sufficient juice, which can be utilized later for gravy, etc.

Here's a dish that Healing Foods from the Bible claims was served at the Passsover seder


Combine ingredients and serve immediately

old 20's 30's 40's 50's 60's 70's 80's

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1. Jones, Evan; American Food: The Gastronomic Story. Random House Inc., New York. 1975
2. Herter, George Leonard et al;
Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices. Herter's Inc. Waseca, Minnesota. 1961
3. Wiggington, Eliot; Foxfire 2.
Anchor Press/ Doubleday, New York. 1973
4. Szathmary, Louis;
American Gastronomy, Arno Press, New York. 1974
5. Flanderin, Jean-Louis et al, ed.;
Food: A Culinary History. Columbia University Press, New York. 1996
6. Northrop, Henry Davenport;
The Gem Cyclopedia of Universal Knowledge. J.H. Moore & Co, Chicago. 1896