Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Preserving recipes


Many years ago, our ancestors stored their recipes in their head, never writing down anything.  They knew the measurements by heart and had no reason to document the ingredients.  Cookbooks were almost unheard of and measuring tools were non-existent. 

Unfortunately, many wonderful family recipes have been lost because they were never put in writing for preservation.

When my mother passed away a couple years ago, I inherited her “dark green metal” recipe file.  On it was a sticker with the date of 1949, just five years after I was born.  This is now one of my most treasured possessions. 

As I went through the recipes, I could remember her making each of them.  They were all favorites of mine, with the exception of her “Tuna and Pea Casserole”.   It was inexpensive to make and was one of my dad’s favorites so she made it often. No matter how many times she made it, it never got any better. I just couldn’t eat it. “Sorry, Mother.”

She, like many other cooks, had her own shorthand when writing out the directions.  I am not sure if that was for her convenience or so that no one would ever be able to steal her secrets.  This is a good reason for listing accurate ingredients and instructions when writing out your recipe.

To start a permanent file for yourself, begin with lined recipe cards, category separators and a recipe file that is big enough to hold a large amount of cards.  I prefer the 4x6 size cards (found in the office supply section) because they give you more room to write your instructions.

When writing out your recipe, be consistent with abbreviations.  I prefer to use the word “cup” rather than a “C”, “teaspoon” instead of “t.”, etc.  This way there is no question of the correct amount of the ingredients to be used. 

Remember, these cards will be handed down over time to your family members and they should be able to accurately read what you have written.  If you want a special file box you can find them
on-line under “recipe file”.

If you are someone who likes to cut out recipes from magazines, then I recommend you obtain 5x7-sized cards and a separate file to hold them. Cut out the recipe and use a glue stick to attach to the large card.  If a picture is available glue it to the back of the card. 

I suggest you use a cross reference system to keep track of these “cut out” recipes.  Here is how it works.

Place a blank card under each category in your main recipe file.  When you add a “cut and paste” recipe to your large file, list it on the corresponding blank card in your main file (you DO NOT need a separate card for each recipe, but rather use a separate line for each recipe).  Now when searching for a chicken dish, you will know what you have in both your main file as well as inyour large file.
Have you ever made a new recipe from one of your cookbooks and it turned out wonderful, but now that you want to make it again, you don’t know where to find it?  The answer is another cross reference system.  Here is an example of how that works. 

In your main recipe file, create a blank card for each category and write COOKBOOKS across the top of each one.  Then, if the recipe you want to reference is for meatloaf, on the blank card under meat write “Better Homes and Gardens -Meat Loaf- Page 232”.  When you are looking for a meatloaf recipe, you can locate exactly what cookbook and what page you can find it under.  Again, list each recipe on a separate line until that card is full before adding another card.

There are notebook style recipe files where you slide your card between pieces of plastic. The problem with these is that they don’t allow for as many recipes as a file.  If you use the 3x5 or 4x6 sized cards, plastic sleeves can be purchased to go over each recipe and will help preserve the writing which can get wet or dirty when in use.

When I went through my mother’s file, I found several “cut out” recipes that were torn, tattered and faded.  These are best preserved by laminating.  You can do several recipes with one sheet of laminating plastic. This will prevent them from fading and tearing further.  I suggest you make a copy of the original (for you and other family members) and glue it onto a recipe card.  Use this one when cooking, and put the laminated copy away for safe keeping.

Have you ever found a recipe in a magazine to only realize there was an even better one on the back page of this one? Not a problem.  Almost everyone who has a computer has a printer that has copying capabilities. You can make a copy of one side and use the original for the second copy.  Again use the “cut and paste” method and add them to your file.

Ever thought of creating a recipe file for your daughters, daughter-in-laws and granddaughters?  It is easy and they will love it. 

Using your copying machine again, make copies of each of your recipes.  Then using the “cut and paste” method, make recipe cards for each file.  Be sure to make little notes on each card to personalize your thoughts on each recipe.

Make sure you use a ball point pen to write out your recipes.  I used a marker style pen once and when the card got wet the whole recipe smeared.  Luckily, I knew it by heart so I recreated it from memory. 

I know how upset I am when I lose or misplace a recipe so I now treat my recipe files as important documents.

Remember, someday your grandchildren or great-grandchildren will be looking for their favorite recipe and you will want to make certain it is right where they can find it.  Remember that by preserving your recipes, you will be creating a memory book of your life in your kitchen.

Here are a couple of great recipes from my mother’s file:

This cake was a favorite of my mother’s and she made it often. The tartness of the lemon glaze is such a refreshing change from harsh, sweet icing.

1 small pkg. lemon Jell-o
¾ cup boiling water
1 pkg. lemon cake mix
¾ cup oil
4 eggs (add one at a time)

2 cups sifted confectionary sugar
½ cup lemon juice (fresh is best)

Dissolve Jell-o in boiling water and cool.  In large mixing bowl, combine cooled Jell-o with cake mix, oil and eggs.  Beat until smooth.  Spray 9x11 glass baking dish with non-stick spray and pour in cake mixture.  Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  While cake is baking, mix sifted sugar with lemon juice making sure there are no lumps in the glaze.**  Cool baked cake 5 minutes and then carefully punch holes (using a table fork) over the entire cake. Pour lemon glaze slowly over the cake. Spread carefully as you go, being careful not to disturb cake.  Cool and store in refrigerator. **If lumps develop in glaze, heat  in microwave for a minute, stirring occasionally.

1 ½ tablespoons corn starch
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup half-half
1 cup evaporated milk (NOT condensed)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
1-2 drops red coloring (optional)
2 egg whites
1 small bag milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine corn starch, sugar and salt and slowly blend in milks (a little at a time to avoid lumps).  Add extracts and coloring (if desired to create light pink color).  Beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold into milk mixture, making sure all is mixed well. Pour chocolate chips in bottom of pie shell.  Carefully pour mike mixture over chips.  Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, reducing heat immediately to 350ยบ and bake 25-30 minutes longer. (A table knife should come out clean when it is inserted into filling 2 inches from crust edge.)  Cool and then refrigerate. NOTE: Be careful if adding coloring. Keep it light in color as it will darken while baking.  It should be pale pink in color. For alternate flavors, try Almond or Rum Extract (omit coloring).

My mother was an avid bridge player, playing at least twice a week.  She had quite a list of snacks, but this was her favorite veggie dip recipe.  I love it and sometimes add a little half – half and use it for a wonderful salad dressing.

1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard (dry is best)
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Combine mayonnaise with all of the seasonings.  Slowly add vinegar and mix thoroughly.  Store in refrigerator. NOTE: For salad dressing, add 1 teaspoon of half-half 1 teaspoon at a time until consistency of thick salad dressing.

Sheryl, a Wilmington native, is an accomplished cook, homemaker, and writer. She currently resides in Wilmington with her three sons and seven grandchildren.

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