Unearthing old family or magazine recipes can be fun. But they often cause consternation because they use measurement terms that aren’t common anymore. For instance, if you use the recipe in the title, you will end up with 27 gallons of punch.*
So, where can you go to translate some of those vintage measurements into modern terms? The trusty Old Farmer’s Almanac website, that’s where. Since they’ve been around since 1792, they’ve seen measurements come and go. Their website has several different pages that offer measurement conversions (including metric equivalencies).
One of the recipe roadblocks I’ve run into with Depression and War era recipes is the use of numbers for can size instead of the modern method of indicating ounces. For example, a recipe often will call for a #2 size can of tomatoes. In modern terms, a #2 size can is the same as 2 1/2 cups or 20 ounces. The food historians at The Food Timeline help us understand the history of these terms and how to translate it into modern cooking terms. They have a whole bunch of PDF’s that can be downloaded/printed out for easy referencing.
I’ve received a lot of letters from readers who feel intimidated by vintage recipes because of the outdated terminology. I’m here to encourage you to go ahead and give them a try! We have this vision of our grandmothers spending hours in the kitchen creating these complicated dishes when, in fact, most older recipes are actually rather simple in comparison to modern cooking show creations. In most cases, the hard part is figuring out the modern measurement equivalent.
By the way, The Mister says he can understand how “firkin” fell out of favor but he kind of likes “runlet…”
To your modern retro life!
*Truth be told, the original recipe, from the 1950s, only called for two quarts of cranberry juice and a quart of lemon lime soda topped with two cups of frozen strawberries. I don’t have any recipes that call for firkins or runlets.