Gold Medal Flour Cookbook of 1904 - A good look at the history of what we make and eat!

I am a collector of cookbooks.  The older the better.  I find them fascinating.  The history of where the average housewife/cook came from and how we got to where we are today with the foods we prepare for those we love.   Most of my readers know that the very name of my business comes from an old cookbook, The Buckeye Cookery cir 1876.   My most recent addition has me completely enthralled.   While in Mineral Point Wisconsin last weekend, just milling around a small flea market mall, tucked in amongst a few other old books, was the Gold Medal Cook Book.   Compliments of Gold Medal Flour manufactured by Washburn-Crosby CO., Minneapolis Minn.  cir 1904.   (For just a mere $7.00).    My love of all things Edwardian causes a conflict within as to whether my most favorite part of this find are the recipes or the advertisements.  

Which brings me to why I am devoting an entire blog entry to this crumbling gem.   The first page, following the cover/title page is devoted to Tables.   Tables for measurement, table of proportions, time for baking, time for summer veggies and winter veggies, broiling and meats.   Standard you would think.  However, what is standard for us in 2015 is far from standard in 1904.   I was reading the Table of Proportions to my husband (he is a patient and tolerant man!) and he looked at me and said, you really should blog about this.  It is classic!  So here I am.

A measurement for a "gill".
Standard 1/2 c (4 oz) in US,  and 5 oz in the UK.  
When perusing the first Table of Measurements, I came across a measurement I had never heard of previously.   Two gill's make one cup.  Okay - so it wasn't hard to figure o
ut the measurement of a gill - equal to 1/2 cup.  But, did you know that One quart, less one gill, sifted patent flour makes one pound?   Even more fascinating is that One quart of sifted pastry flour makes one pound.  No need to take away that extra gill.   Thus the difference between pastry flour (made from soft wheat flour) and patent flour (made from hard wheat flour) comes down to the weight of a soft wheat versus hard wheat -  Something completely new for me.

It was the Table of Proportions which grabbed my attention enough to start a conversation with Tom. In this table you will find the proportions of flour to another substance, in order to get a standard result.   I always knew the math was important, but in contemporary cooking classes and in our contemporary cookbooks, we have many tables, but not this one.  This table is basically the math required to make your own recipes!  Bingo!!!!   Here are some highlights...

"One quart of flour required one pint of butter to make pastry (or a mix of butter and lard)
One quart of flour requires one heaping tablespoon of butter for biscuits
One quart of flour requires two tablespoons of butter for shortcakes
One quart of flour requires one cup of butter for cupcakes.

One measure of liquid to three measures of flour for bread.
One quart of flour requires one scant quart of milk for all batters.
One quart of flour requires one pint of milk for muffins, gems, etc."  (The next blog will be about Gem Cakes and have a few recipes.  They are a forgotten goodie that should be returned to our standard of fares!)

It then goes on to tell us the proportions of soda to liquid, molasses, salt to meat and then defines what a spoon means, how a half-spoon is measured and finally, the definition of a speck.   ("A speck is what is placed within a quarter inch square surface.")

Over the next several months, I will be preparing and writing about some of these historical recipes.  I will include their origins, as far back as my research can take me and then hope to make a contemporary version that you and your families/friends/guests will enjoy!   Please comment and add your suggestions.  Try the recipes, tell me what you think!