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Preserving your family recipes


heidih
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As I thought about Fruit and vegetable gardening tips handed down (clicky for topic) I was reminded of my ongoing effort to chronicle our family recipes. My mother and all my grandparents are gone. At some point I gathered the "best of"" from my mom's cookbooks and cooking notes, copied them and added my own recollections. I gave my sister a copy to review and to add her recollections. It has been a treasure for us. We recently discussed taking the time to chronicle in more depth our recollections of mom and grandma's dishes and between us attempt to put the recipes to paper. This will take some experimentation of course.

What have you been doing in terms of preserving the dishes special to your family?

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I'm having my Dad cook his family's dishes and writing it down. It's a pretty unique cuisine, Strasbourg ghetto aesthetic and techniques with northern Mexico ingredients. None of this stuff actually has a recipe; most of it is "add ingredient x until the mix tastes right, then simmer until it looks right, then add y until it tastes right again." So the notebook is more a narrative thing ("how I made chipotle beef chorizo") than a set of coherent instructions. I'm going to have to bite the bullet and make all that stuff and actually measure everything one of these days.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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My Mom has shared a bunch of things from my Grandmother's recipe box and the narration is great. Hand written with embelishments and the recipes are who knows how old going back to the turn of the century when everyone knew how to kill a chicken or bread fried items.

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Both my mother and my grandmother would clip recipes from virtually every magazine they read and save them, but most of them were never made. We only have a few actual family recipes, my grandmother's cheese pie for example, so I don't think that a compendium would be worth it at this point in our lives. My sister and I are the ones who really love to cook and experiment, so I have been writing down the recipes that we use and saving them for our kids. So far there's only half a dozen or so, in addition to about 3 from my mother and grandmother. I'll keep the habit up as well as I can, and hopefully I can make up a nice volume for my kids later on in life.

edited: to fix some typos

Edited by Shamanjoe (log)

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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Last Christmas I was at my mother's house and I found 2 little spiral notebooks that belonged to my grandmother. She kept them in her purse and whenever she ate something she loved at a party, she would ask the hostess for the recipe and write it down and date it. These notebooks span 50 years.

My grandmother was an intuitive cook and didn't follow recipes for her own cooking. These notebooks have been invaluable in trying to recreate her dishes. For instance, most of the baking recipes in her notebook use sour milk, that must have just been the custom in her community. That information helped me finally figure out her apple kuchen.

I love that the recipes are written in the voices of the hostesses. Many are written like most recipes--a list of ingredients and then a method. But my grandmother had 2 friends who cooked like she did and those recipes are the best. Especially the ones from her friend Florence. Grandma would write down just what she said--"What you do is you take enough flour to come halfway up my yellow bowl and work the lard in right."

I have been trying to make one thing a week from the notebooks since I found them. The best so far has been some date stuffed cookies.

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I just remembered the most remarkable occasion. My ex was always going on about some of the sweets made by the cook at the hospital where his mom worked and that he adored when served in the cafeteria. He was impossible at describing the dishes. We finally went to visit the elderly retired cook and she was thrilled that he cared and that I cared enough to want to re-create them. Several hours were spent with her. Of course her recipe cards could not just be copied because the instructions were all in her head, as were some of the recipes themselves. Since his mother, the hospital dietician, did not really cook :shock: , these were really his only "family" recipes. Point being that when asked the cooks may be thrilled that you care and happy to share, you just have to let them express the recipes in their own way.

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Prior to my Grandmother passing away in 2001 at the age of 94, one of my cousins spend time with her to watch her prepare many of the family foods she made for holidays and everyday fare. My cousin also asked all of us to submit recipes to add to the book. The book was published a year after my Grandmother passed away. It is filled with all of her recipes we still cook today as well as many that were submitted by her children and grandchildren. It also has many photos of our very large extended family. It is a special legacy and we use it often. Tomorrow I will gather with my aunts and cousins to prepare many of the Syrian recipes that we use for the up coming Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah. We remember her fondly as we try to recreate the many special dishes she made and have to think that she would be very happy to know that these dishes still help to bind her family together. We have extra copies to pass to our children and hope that one day they too will carry on the traditions of our family.

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My mother has old hand written recipes from one of my great grandmothers and both of my grandmothers and bought myuself and my sister recipe books to add our recipes too. Whenever i go home and think of a dish i need the recipe for she'll cook it with me and i write down the notes as a lot of her recipes are in her head. My mum (who is only in her mid 50's) also has a habit of shouting out random facts about her recipes whenever she thinks of them " If i die your fathers favourite chocolate cake recipe is page 345 book X" " The scones are from x book page 27" etc which whilst they sound a bit morbid have become a long standing joke in the family and certainly make sure we remember where favourite recipes are

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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When my oldest sister got married, my Mom wrote out (by hand) a cookbook of some of our family favorite recipes to give to her as a gift. By the time my younger sister and I got married she had lost her vision due to macular degeneration, so she wasn't able to duplicate the gift for us as she had planned. My older sister did photocopy her recipe book, though, so we are still able to have that in her own handwriting. My Mom has been dead now for almost 18 years, but her own handwritten cookbook notebook is still in Dad's kitchen, and I still use it from time to time when I visit. That is still one of the family treasures.

Unfortunately, one of the recipes that all of us really wanted ---- the thick chocolate fudge icing that she always used on all our birthday cakes ---- was one that she knew so well that she never wrote it down completely. She has her recipe for caramel icing written down, and then noted "This adjusts well for chocolate", and I'm pretty certain that's the basis of the recipe she used, but none of us have been able to duplicate "the icing."

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My mother has been typing up and distributing family recipes gathered from all of us and from some family friends. I keep a print-out handy with my own handwritten notes. (People in my family sometimes forget that "a package" is only useful if there is only one size.)

"What's more, I believe it's a cook's moral obligation to add more butter given the chance."

Michael Ruhlman,
Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind Everyday Cooking

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For the past thirty years I've been collecting, testing, modernizing (to make measurements more accurate) the recipes that have been staples in my family for generations. I've had help and encouragement from my daughter, my aunts, cousins and friends.

I am descended from a long line of foodies who were also collecting "receipts" and passing them on in journals and other writings as well as by work of mouth.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Many years ago my younger sister got married and for her shower gift we presented her a unique recipe book. We took the wedding invite list and sent them all invitations to her bridal shower and requested if you weren't able to make it (many didn't because of long distances) please send a photo of the family and a favourite family recipe.

We were please that almost all of the long distant invitees did indeed send in their photos and recipes. The cookbook was a one of a kind and my sister tells me that when she uses it she has a tendency to spend a few extra minutes going through the book looking at the photos and notes as many families wrote stories with their recipes. It captures a moment in her life as well as some great recipes that were tried and true favourites of friends and relatives.

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Many years ago my younger sister got married and for her shower gift we presented her a unique recipe book. We took the wedding invite list and sent them all invitations to her bridal shower and requested if you weren't able to make it (many didn't because of long distances) please send a photo of the family and a favourite family recipe.

We were please that almost all of the long distant invitees did indeed send in their photos and recipes. The cookbook was a one of a kind and my sister tells me that when she uses it she has a tendency to spend a few extra minutes going through the book looking at the photos and notes as many families wrote stories with their recipes. It captures a moment in her life as well as some great recipes that were tried and true favourites of friends and relatives.

What a wonderful idea. :wub: :wub:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I have a treasure trove of hand-written recipe cards to draw from past generations of my family and I've vowed to someday honor the wonderful women who left them to me by writing a cookbook of some of these precious recipes. Most of the recipe cards, (all written in "cursive" in ink with a fountain pen), have come from my two Grandmothers, Mildred Lura Ross and Edna May Yount Pink. I also have a good collection of recipe cards from my dear Great Aunt Bertie who was my Mother's Aunt. Some of my Grandmothers and Bertie's recipes go back to at least the late 1800's and quite possibly were handed down to them by their Mother's. Both sides of the family trekked West in the mid-1850's, so I imagine the recipes are very, very old.

My Mother, Janet Edna Pink Ross, 85 years old, still has her own collection of recipe cards, magazine and newspaper clippings and old cookbooks at home and will most likely bequeath them to me someday.

I get very nostalgic this time of year over the wonderful recipe cards that Aunt Bertie left because most of them were for the delicious pickles and canned fruits that she put up every summer. Many of the recipes used fruits and vegetables that came from Aunt Bertie's backyard of the small farm she lived on with her parents, Max and Jennie Pink. Aunt Bertie's brother, my Grandfather, Ralph Pink, would drive from Twin Falls every Summer to Oregon to visit our family in The Dalles, Oregon. On the way home, Grandpa would stop in Hermiston, Oregon, to buy some big fat watermelons,(a prized crop grown throughout the Columbia River basin around Hermiston). One of the giant watermelons would be used in Bertie's Watermelon Rind Pickles. Bertie's Watermelon Rind Pickles were a family favorite and to this day I dream of the taste of those tart, sweet, crisp pickles.

Now fast forward 45 years later. What a delicious way to preserve what is typically discarded into the waste bin-watermelon rind. And wouldn't that sound trendy on the menu of an upscale bistro today? "Grilled Spice-Rubbed Chicken with Bertie's Watermelon Rind Pickles." Now who even preserves Watermelon Rind today?

I wish I had the hands and tricks for getting Bertie's recipe right. I'm still working on the recipe, but somehow, even with her hand-written card in front of me, I just haven't gotten the sugar to vinegar ratio right yet. But when I do pull out that recipe card every summer, when I go buy a ripe, Hermiston watermelon, I can still hear Aunt Bertie's voice. I still see her thick black hair woven into a bun on top of her head and I still remember those Watermelon Rind Pickles. That's what I remember when I think about preserving family recipes and I consider myself quite fortunate to be the heir to many recipes that are over 100 years old.

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I make both sweet pickled watermelon and honeydew melon rind and watermelon, honeydew and casaba melon rind preserves.

2009 batch

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HPIM2824.JPG

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Great idea for a topic, Heidi.

I've got tons of old recipes from people of no relation and zilch from my ancestors. There were a few generations in a row that were boy-heavy which I suspect explains the lack of hand-me-down recipes. That said, my expanded family of elders are, for the most part, cooking like never before. I guess what we do is more like cross-generational swaps with the books, recipes, links, etc.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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  • 3 weeks later...

This is an amazing topic. It shows how emotional foods are. From aunts,parents and grandparents. There are some really amazing ideas.

"Flour to the middle of my yellow bowl" puts you almost in that kitchen!

Scubadoo97 made my eyes tear (easy though to get this to happen...)] I want to do this too!

"If I die your fathers favourite chocolate cake ..." -are we so devoted to our spouses? We should be...

Beth Wilson's sister is very lucky! What an awesome idea!!

I have a simple index card box of recipes-colored cards to code. I always write where the recipe is from,who gave it to me and on the back, my memories of the person or time I ate the particular creation or any other information. I made a copy of it all,by hand, for my daughter when she got married. I guess Ineed to put some effort into this and get recipes from families far away and all over the world.

Edited by Lior (log)
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