HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Old Recipes

Really old.

We hosted out-of-town relatives this week. I wanted a cool, never-tried recipe for a good dinner. I own a lot of cookbooks, as do you all. ...

I ended up using a recipe from the original 1959 Baton Rouge Junior League cookbook, River Road Recipes.

This was way cool. An oven-braised chicken recipe with wine, paprika, lemon juice and butter, I threw in some garlic, because who used fresh garlic in 1959? But we love it. The dish took a little too much time and attention -three different temperatures, and lots of basting - but wowow. fall-off-the-bone meat and the most incredible sauce to go over mashed potatoes.

Do you dip back into 'old' books? what treasures have you found?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've relied on many recipes from old, regional and junior league cookbooks over the years.

    My poundcake recipe comes from one called "Bishop's Cake" in an old edition of another Louisiana junior league cookbook - can't remember which one because I've made it so many time over the years I know it by heart.

    Every attempt at gumbo I've ever made has been based on research conducted through La. junior league cookbooks as well.

    My tried-and-true dumpling recipe, the noodle-y sort, is called "Never-fail Dumplings". It comes from the Fish and Game cookbook from Rockport, TX. The dumplings were used for squirrel and dumplings. I've always used them with chicken since the neighbors might call the police on me if they caught me skinning a squirrel.

    Then there's the deep mine of dip and spread recipes perfect for any entertaining situation.

    All these old cookbooks have had as much influence on my cooking over the years as any proper technique encyclopedic cookbook I own.

    1 Reply
    1. re: agoodbite

      if I were your neighbor I would applaud a slight reduction in the local squirrel population.

      those JL and church cookbooks do have some gems scattered in the rough.

    2. There are wonderful recipes in these types of cook books, and they have become old favorites over the years.

      Now, I have to say that I thought from your title that the topic was about cooking in the 19th century, and was sad to learn that 1959 is "really old" since I was born in 1958. ;o)

      1. I have my mother's recipe box with handwritten recipes from her as well as her grandmother. Coffee cake, cheesecake, applesauce cake -- all simple (I'm not particularly a baker) using ingredients you generally have on hand. My mom's prune cake (basically a moist, spice cake) was so popular friends of mine used it for their birthday cakes.

        1 Reply
        1. re: berkleybabe

          Would love the prune cake recipe if you could post it please.

        2. I have Meta Given's "Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking" from 1947. It's quite interesting -- several pages on cooking squirrels and one on cooking groundhog (in a pie, with onion, cloves, celery, carrots, potatoes and a baking-powder biscuit dough). Somewhat sexist by today's standards - e.g. it has the Family Hostess' Creed: "Happy family relationships are part of my responsibility; therefore I will save enough energy to do the job of being a happy and helpful hostess to my family day after day."

          1. not a book, but my favorite recipes for chicken and dumplings, stuffed green peppers, icebox cake, banana bread, and chocolate crackle cookies are all still in my grandma's handwriting. i love using them because its like having her back in the kitchen cooking up a storm

            1 Reply
            1. re: mattstolz

              I feel the same way with my Mums recipes, in her handwriting, if I can't find a recipe, I go to my mums cards and find what I was looking fork as when she would come over in the 60s, she would ask for the recipe we were having, copy it, and likely never make it, but she had good intentions

              1. re: iL Divo

                Sorry, I was gone all day.

                what lovely responses.Thank you so much - how fun to read that old treasures are still used, or at least read. !

                Is there something specific I should say here iL Divo? confused...m y normal M.O.

                I have my grandmother's 'Settlement Cookbook," 1947 edition, that is so taped and wired that I am always afraid to use it. But I do.

                1. re: nikkihwood

                  the oven braised chicken, you said something about BR junior league cookbook, the recipe

                  1. re: iL Divo

                    gotcha. sorry

                    Vineyard Chicken

                    1 3-pound chicken, quartered [we used leg/thigh combo, for 6 people]
                    1 cup dry white wine
                    1 tablespoon lemon juice
                    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
                    ½ teaspoon paprika - I used a little more
                    ¼ cup melted butter
                    ¼ cup finely chopped green onions
                    2 teaspoons salt
                    ¼ cup minced parsley

                    [plus about 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic, but if you do not love garlic, decrease amount.]]

                    Place chicken, skin side down, in large casserole. [roasting pan.] blend all other ingredients together, and pour over the chicken.

                    Cover with foil and bake one hour at 325 degrees.

                    Remove foil; turn chicken skin side up and increase temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, basting two or three times.

                    Increase temperature to 425 degrees, and bake for 30 minutes more, basting frequently. Total cooking time is two hours.

                    I actually gave it about 20 minutes at 425. It was done. It was terrific.

                    I hope that you make this, and I hope that you like this.


                    1. re: nikkihwood

                      I'd have been tempted to add either rosemary or thyme,

                      but sounds great as is

              2. I love to go to library book sales/garage sales/used book shops for old cookbooks. I found one from 1964 a few years ago. I like it because it has cooking times and temps for meats etc. Some time I just want to make old school "Yankee" pot roast without 18 ingredients...I also have my (now passed) grandmother's cookbooks and hand written notes in French for her cooking. Sop good

                2 Replies
                1. re: MIss G

                  Agree with you. I do the same whenever back in the US. Love the old ring bound church cookbooks. Simple is better to me. Do you have a good recipe for Yankee pot roast?

                  1. re: cathodetube

                    The onion soup mix pot roast , using chuck roast, as the fat gives good flavor, it was my Mums midweek recipe, and the gravy with the mashed potatoes, and carrots and parsnips cooked with the roast, a real warm fuzzy, heart warming, fall meal

                2. was going through my long-passed Grandma's stuff and found a little book of recipes largely copied from magazines current in the 30's (occasionally attributed) it was fascinating how much butter and eggs went into things

                  1. My banana bread comes from River Road II. I have all kinds of old cook books books and my oldest recipe that I regularly make, that I can give attribution to is my great grandmother's green tomato relish,and I have been making it for about 40 years. I have many collections and hand written books that I have acquired at garage sales and thrift stores. One book I have is a very old collection of cakes written in sort of a Spencerian script.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: wekick

                      Sounds like you have a wonderful collection. Can you post your great grandmother's green tomato relish recipe, and the banana bread recipe?

                      1. re: cathodetube

                        Mimi's Green Tomato Relish

                        You can make a smaller batch using these proportions. I have used a food processor but it is too finely chopped.

                        Use an old fashioned grinder to grind together the following:

                        1 dozen red peppers (sweet not hot)-- small from the garden
                        1 dozen green peppers-- small from the garden
                        6 medium sweet onions
                        1-4 small hot peppers
                        2 dozen green tomatoes ( 3.5 inches across)

                        Shred and chop finely 1 head of cabbage. Soak it in water for about 10 minutes and drain and squeeze in dishtowel until dry.

                        Mix all together in a large bowl and add:

                        1 T. celery seed
                        1 T. mustard seed
                        1 tsp uniodized salt
                        1 quart of white vinegar
                        2 cups sugar
                        Mix all well and place in clean jars. We do not process this but keep refrigerated and eat it within the next month or so. I have kept it up to a year in the frig but can't recommend it to others.

                      2. re: wekick

                        Ditto on the request for the green tomato relish recipe. I call this "Chow-Chow" and have been using the same recipe for decades now and was actually wanting to do something different with the last of the garden this year. Too late now (I made and canned my same old hot chow-chow), but for next year, it would be good! TIA!

                      3. I worked with a girl who was still in high school back in the 70s. Her class had a project that everyone had to bring in one of their grandmother's recipes. Since this was a 99% Italian neighborhood, they were pretty much all old school Italian. She generously made sure I got one of the mimeographed copies, which I still have. The cannelloni is an annual favorite and I've had to give the recipe to anyone who ever tasted it; the crumb cake starting with a boxed mix is better than any bakery crumb cake I ever tasted. I used to have to ship that to my Dad upstate every time I made it. But what a treasure trove, I learned to cook following those recipes even thought the directions weren't all that detailed. Strufoli, mussels marinara, stuffed artichokes, fried bread with anchovies, Italian fish stew, chicken cacciatore. I know you can find these all over the internet, but these were someone's GRANDMOTHER'S favorite recipes. Very cool.

                        1. It's kind of funny... like another poster, when I read the title of the thread, I was thinking "olde" recipes, as in those from the 18th century or before. Even then, people were using fresh garlic. They used anything they could get their hands on that was edible.

                          For me, those from the 50's and 60's are not really old recipes and aren't so far off from what the American home cook is making today. One of my favorite recipe books is one from the Great Depression. Those are starting to get a little old, but still use modern cooking methods and ingredients. I've made a lot of things with my dd from The Little House on the Prairie cookbook that was published based on the foods mentioned in the series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have about 20 self-published church cookbooks from the time you're talking about and enjoy reading through them, but don't really consider them old recipes.

                          Some of the really old recipes that I've resurrected involve wild game, rabbit, open-fire cooking methods, and extended cooking times that incorporate foods that need to be used up (soups that sit all day on my cast iron woodburning stove, not cooking stove, during the winter and I may add a bunch of different things like root vegetables that need to be used up, for example).

                          1. Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire is a fun one and a good challenge. The recipes take a lot of effort on the part of the cook and use a lot of butter, stock, truffles, etc. It's old enough to be public domain, so you can read it for free:

                            1. I still have my Mums Better Homes and Gardens cook book, with notes written by the recipes my Mum used a standbys. The famous green beans cooked in mushroom soup, with the durkey onion rings on top and baked, is still advertised in magazines as a real staple from the so to speak Olden days, 60s