About butter and how to select flour

A 1879 newspaper has a recipe section with the following recipes and advice:

  • boiled quail
  • Minnehaha cake
  • parsnip fritters
  • about butter
  • how to select flour
  • stewed birds
  • and how to make ‘a bright pretty orange colour‘ using cuckle weed (cockle weed) ‘more commonly known as pitchfork burrs‘ instead of peach leaves, and also how to get a pretty green colour for carpet rags by boiling blue cloth in yellow dye

Our lives are different in many ways from those of people who lived nearly a hundred and forty years ago – we might eat boiled quail (although I think we are more likely to roast it) and we certainly might make a cake similar to Minnehaha cake made in the usual way and with a filling of chopped raisins and hickory nuts; we certainly might enjoy parsnip fritters, and also stewed birds – if we called it game casserole. The recipe is for older tougher birds and suggests pigeon as being particularly tasty, cooked with salt pork, celery and onion.

However, butter and flour we do just take for granted and buy ready to use in the quantity we require. Just in case you should ever need it, here is some advice about butter, and making sure flour is fresh:

About BUTTER.- It takes no longer to set a table neatly than it does to set it carelessly. Now in regard to butter, We have it on our table three times a day, therefore I think it important that it should look inviting, not as we so frequently see it, in both large and small broken pieces, surrounded by numberless crumbs as is the case when taken hurriedly out of the jar or tub. When we purchase butter the better plan is to take out of the jar, tub, or firkin five or ten pounds, and work it over in a wooden bowl into small rolls. Then you will always have a neat looking plate of butter to set upon your table, a smooth, round slice, instead of a ” jumbled mass.”

How to SELECT FLOUR.- first look at its colour ; if it is white, with a slightly yellowish or straw-coloured tint, it is a good sign. If it is very white, with a bluish cast, or with black specks in, the flour is not good.
Second, examine its adhesiveness – wet and knead a little of it between the fingers ; if it works dry and elastic, it is good ; if it works soft and sticky it is poor flour made from spring wheat, (except the Minnesota new process which is the best) and is likely to be sticky.
Third, throw a lump of dry flour against a dry, smooth, perpendicular surface; if it falls like powder, it is bad.
Fourth, squeeze some of the flour in your hands; if it retains the shape given by the pressure, that too is a good sign. Flour that will stand all these tests is safe to buy.

You will find this and other gems here:



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