Frugal cooks from the early nineteenth century used a surprising variety of ingredients to make pickles, recording their favorite recipes in handwritten cookbooks.
Most people these days are familiar with dill pickles and sweet pickles. Perhaps they have even been exposed to an occasional jar of bread and butter pickles. A quick look at the pages of antique, handwritten cookbooks reveals that cooks from previous generations knew countless other ways to make pickles, using a surprising array of unique ingredients.
Rare Handwritten Books Reveal Unusual Recipes for Pickles
Cooks of old often needed to be frugal and industrious, using whatever ingredients were on hand and preserving them for later use. An antique cookbook reveals that friends often traded favorite recipes and tips for preserving the bounties of the season, and that pickles were often on the menu. Following are four unique pickle recipes found in a handwritten cookbook by Ferne Halliday of Nampa, Idaho, who recorded the recipes in the early to mid 20th century.
- 6 pounds peaches
- 1 ounce stick cinnamon
- 1 ounce whole cloves
- 3 pounds sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 pint apple cider vinegar
First peel the peaches by placing a few peaches at a time in a pot of boiling water for one to two minutes. Remove the peaches from the pot and let them cool. The peels should rub off easily. Use a paring knife to remove stubborn peels. Next, remove the peach pits and cut the peaches into 1 to 1 1/2 inch slices.Tie the cinnamon and cloves in a few layers of cotton cloth. Add the bag to the vinegar, sugar, and water, and bring to a boil. Add the peaches and cook until tender.
To make syrup from the remaining liquid, boil for about ten minutes until it has thickened slightly. Ferne notes that one shouldn’t leave the spices in the syrup for too long. Lift the peaches out of the kettle, fill sterilized jars to the rim with peaches and syrup, and seal.
Sweet Green Tomato Pickles
- 1 peck green tomatoes (a peck is 2 gallons, 8 quarts, or 1/4 bushel)
- 6 medium onions
- 2 heads cauliflower
- 3 green peppers
- 1 bunch celery
- 3/4 cup salt
- 2 quarts vinegar, divided
- 2 quarts water
- 2 quarts sugar
Slice all vegetables into bite-size pieces and sprinkle with 1/4 cup salt. Boil until clear in one quart of the vinegar and the 2 quarts of water. Drain. Add 1 quart vinegar, 2 quarts sugar, and 2/3 cups whole pickling spice. Boil all together and seal while hot.
Pickled Pineapple Chunks
- #2 can pineapple chunks
- 1/2 can vinegar
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
Drain the liquid from the can of pineapple chunks and fill the can halfway with vinegar. Pour the can of pineapple chunks and vinegar into a saucepan and add the cinnamon and whole cloves. Heat to boiling and then chill. Yields 34 to 40 pieces.
- 20 pounds pears
- 2 quarts vinegar
- 7 1/2 pounds sugar
- 2-3 whole cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 vanilla bean, broken into pieces
Peel and core the pears, and slice them in quarters. Combine the vinegar and sugar in a large pan. Wrap the cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and vanilla bean in a square of cheesecloth and tie securely. Add the spices and the pears to the pan and boil until slightly brown. Lift out the pears and boil down the syrup, if needed. Place the pears and syrup in sterilized jars.
Handwritten Antique Cookbooks Teach Creative Ways to Make Pickles
Handwritten cookbooks show that making pickles was a popular and frugal activity for many cooks who lived in the early 19th century. These rare books offer a fascinating look at the industrious lives of the people who took the time to write down their favorite recipes.