Peek into Early American Kitchens with Iowa’s Recipe-rescue Project

The family cookbook with grandma's notes covered in splatters from years in the kitchen could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to the popularity of food blogs and cooking apps. But a new "DIY History" project through the University of Iowa hopes to bridge the two worlds. The university is scanning a 20,000-item collection of vintage recipes, and asking food-loving volunteers to help transcribe and tag them, making gems like the ones below searchable and accessible to the public.

Proceed with caution, however. These recipes might be a little trickier to execute than grandma's artichoke dip. It takes an adventurous chef to follow vague instructions from hundreds of years ago, before the modern oven was invented.

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Mrs. Samuel Leeds's recipe for 'Cold Slaugh' and ale From the cookbook and travel diary of Mrs. Samuel Leeds, a recipe for 'Cold Slaugh' is followed by a recipe for beer!

Cold Slaugh
Cut your cabbage fine, make a regular drawn butter, then pour in some vinegar. When it boils beat up the yolks of two eggs, stir them in the mixture and then pour it over the cabbage. Sprinkle the cabbage with a little salt.

Ale
4 oz hops 2 lbs malt 1 qt molasses 1 pt yeast Steep the hops + malt 4 hours in 3 galls of water. Let it stand 5 days before bottling.

Mrs. Samuel Leeds sounds like a pretty cool lady, who puts egg yolks in her 'cold slaugh' and washes it down with homemade ale.

Ginger Bread from 1850:

Take a pound of Flour, rub into it half a pound of Butter then add half a pound of raw Sugar, and half an ounce of powder'd Ginger, mix it altogether with your Hands, lastly add a pound of Treacle, when it is all well beat together bake it in a dripping-pan in a hotish Oven.

What classifies as a 'hotish oven'? 350 degrees?

A vintage American cookbook cover.Macaroons from 1700:

Take one pound of the finest sugar sifted, one pound of Jordan Almonds, blanch & beat them very well with orange- or rose-water, to keep them from oyling mix your sugar & Almonds very well, take the whites of six eggs, beat them into a froth & mix altogether, don't make it too light, but rather leave out some of the Egg lay wafer paper & drop them what size you please, dust them well over with fine sugar sifted, just before you sett them in the Oven (which must be pretty quick) - They will ask half an hours baking, they will rise by degrees, & if a little colour'd are the better, lett them be cold before you cutt them off, keep them in a pan, this is a good recipe if you can hit to mix them right - Cook Jones

There are so many quirks to love from this 300-year-old recipe from Cook Jones: setting the macaroons in the oven 'pretty quick,' and 'they will ask' for half an hour of baking. But our favorite is the advice at the end: 'this is a good recipe if you can hit to mix them right'!

"History seems like a disembodied thing," Iowa's Outreach and Instruction Librarian Colleen Theisen told Yahoo! Shine, "but from the Civil War letter I transcribed with advice on preventing an uncle from getting too drunk on 'grog' to the recipe that explains pies couldn't have lemons because they were too expensive, these things make history hit home."