Bluing Recipe for Laundry

I’m always searching for interesting or little-known tidbits from our past. While reading about how folks laundered clothing in the 1800s, bluing was often mentioned.

White fabrics can become gray or yellow after washing. Adding bluing to the wash or rinse water gives a subtle blue hue to whites even as it makes whites appear whiter and cleaner. Bluing is part of the manufacturing process for many white fabrics.

Laundry detergents improved over time, but whites can still grow dingy with frequent washing. Even today, bluing is a better option for whitening because bleach weakens the fibers. Bluing is still available today.

Women made their own bluing in the 19th century.

One ounce of Prussian blue (dark blue pigment) and ½ ounce of oxalic acid (used to remove yellow or brown rust stains) are dissolved in 1 quart “of perfectly soft rain water.” Store in a corked bottle. Insert a quill into the cork to easily control pouring the bluing, as 1 to 2 tablespoons is enough for one tub of laundry.

Chinese blue was considered the best. In the 1870s, it cost 12 ½ cents per ounce. Oxalic acid cost 3 cents. The amount made by this recipe lasted a year for a mid-sized family.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Bluing for Laundry,” Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., 2018/07/29

“Bluing (fabric),” 2018/07/29

Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.

“Oxalic Acid,” Sunburst Chemicals, 2018/07/29

“Prussian Blue,”, 2018/07/29



From the Stage to the Page

Today’s post is written by fellow author and friend, Sharyn Kopf. Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Sharyn!

Two weeks before I moved to Bellefontaine, Ohio, in 2013, I saw a notice that the local theatre was holding auditions for Our Town. I couldn’t resist. I love being in a show. During the audition, I told the director I would be interested in a humorous part. She must have liked my interpretation because she cast me as the comedy relief, Mrs. Soames, and a star was born.

Ha! Not really,* but a story was. Because it was in rehearsing that play that I first stepped into the Holland Theatre, a unique structure built by Schine Enterprises in downtown Bellefontaine in 1931. The Schine family was responsible for constructing about 150 theatres in six states, but the Holland is the only one with a Dutch-style atmosphere.

Theatre architecture was at its peak in the 1920s, and many were built with an eye toward atmosphere, designed to resemble anything from an Italian piazza to a Grecian ruin to a Moorish courtyard. Theatre-goers would enjoy performances amidst Corinthian columns and loosely draped Roman statuettes with come-hither eyes. The majority of these theatres favored a Spanish or Italian fashion.

Which is why the Holland stands out with its 17th-century Dutch cityscape. If you’re not caught up in what’s on the stage, you can cast your gaze on almost life-sized timber-framed facades with softly lit windows next to two windmills that turn beneath a ceiling covered in twinkling stars.

The building screams, “Story!” and not just when you’re watching a play. I loved the historic charm from the moment I walked through one of the three sets of double doors at the entrance. But it was the romance oozing from the brick and wood and stone and dripping from the two-story red curtains that appealed to me most. Though much of the restoration has been done, it’s still an old theatre … an ideal setting for a love story and, perhaps, a haunting. All of which led me to create Stephie Graham, a lonely graphic designer who’s directing The Rainmaker at the Holland … and is distressed to find herself falling for her leading man, Andy Tremont.

But I had to bring a touch of the theatre’s history into it and did so by introducing Juniper Remington, a young girl who sang from her broken heart on the same stage 80 years before … and now may be a forlorn ghost trying to keep Stephie and Andy apart.

Or is she?

After all, the theatre is a place where magical things happen and happy endings bring the audience to its feet. And who doesn’t love being a part of that?!

-Sharyn Kopf

*Though I did win a Holland Windmill Productions Award for best supporting actress!


Sharyn’s bio:

Sharyn Kopf didn’t find her voice until she found a way to turn grief into hope. For her, that meant realizing it was okay to be sad about her singleness. In doing so, she was finally able to move past her grief and find hope in God.

It also meant writing about the heartaches and hopes in being an older single woman. She published her first novel, Spinstered, in 2014, and a companion nonfiction version titled Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40 in 2015. The sequel to the novel, Inconceived, released in September 2016 and, one year later, she finished the series with Altared. Her current project is a novel about a lonely girl with a knack for matchmaking.

Besides writing and speaking, Sharyn is a freelance ghostwriter, editor and marketing professional. In her spare time, she enjoys goofing off with her nieces and nephews, making—and eating!—the best fudge ever, taking long hikes through the woods, and playing the piano.

Meatless Tomato Soup Recipe

Tomatoes are among my favorite foods so I was happy to find a recipe for meatless tomato soup in an 1877 cookbook. The original cook was Mrs. D.C. Conkey of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I’ve learned to modify recipes for smaller portions so the ingredients were halved and made about 5 one-cup servings. Double the ingredients if feeding a larger family.

Peel and roughly chop two large tomatoes for a pint. This gave me about 1/3 to ½ cup more than strictly needed, but it worked out fine.

Stew the tomatoes in 2 cups of water on medium high heat until soft, about 25 minutes. Use a medium to large kettle.

Boil 2 cups of milk.

Lower the heat to medium. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda. It begins to bubble immediately, reaching the kettle’s rim in seconds. Remove from heat before it boils over. Stir and return to the heat, allowing it to cook a minute or two. (I’d never used baking soda this way before and was amazed that it pureed the stewed tomatoes!)

Add the boiling milk and stir. This tones down the bubbling a bit.

Mrs. Conkey then directs us to salt, pepper, and butter “to taste, with a little rolled cracker.” Due to experiences with other recipes in this book, I took that to mean combine cracker with melted butter. I crumbled two squares of crackers and stirred in melted butter. This went into the lightly boiling soup. I added ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

The soup cooked on a gentle boil another 10 minutes.

I couldn’t believe the results—the stewed tomatoes were almost completely pureed!

The soup had a slight buttery flavor. In my opinion, there was twice as much milk as needed. For the same proportions, I’d use 1 cup of milk next time. Even with that, I enjoyed the light, refreshing soup.

And I learned a new trick! Who already knew about the baking soda trick?

I’d love to hear from you if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.



Potato Salad

Today, I’m sharing my potato salad recipe with you. I love many different potato salads, but this is the one I usually take to picnics and family gatherings in the summer.


6 to 7 medium to large potatoes

3 eggs

1/2 medium onion

4 dill pickle spears


1 tablespoon mustard


It’s easy for peeled, chopped potatoes to get mushy while cooking. One trick in making potato salad that I learned as a teenager is to boil the potatoes whole.

Rinse the potatoes. Place them inside a large kettle and cover with cold water. Cook them on a medium to a medium high heat for a gentle, bubbling boil. Keep an eye on them. To test them for doneness, poke with fork. My medium-sized potatoes boiled gently for about 50 minutes. Larger potatoes require a little longer.

You’ll have to watch carefully and catch them before the peelings start curling open because that allows water inside. If that happens, the outer part will be mushy.

While the potatoes cook, boil 3 eggs on a medium high heat until hard-boiled, about 6-7 minutes. Replace the hot water with cold water as soon as you remove it from the heat. Set aside a few minutes to allow them to cool. Then peel and chop the eggs into a separate bowl.

Chop 4 dill pickle spears. I always add a tablespoon of pickle juice (or vinegar if you prefer) to the pickles to give it an extra burst of flavor. Set aside.

Peel a medium-sized onion. (I usually use Vidalia onions or white onions. Vidalia onions are a sweet onion while the white onions have a stronger flavor.) Dice ½ the onion and set aside.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove from the stove. Pour out the hot water and cover them in cold water for about five minutes. Then remove the potatoes from the water and let the skins dry for easier removal.

It’s a lot easier to peel the potatoes when cooked this way. Start cutting with a knife and then pull sections of peeling off. After peeling all the potatoes, chop them to the desired size and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add a little salt and mix gently.

Add eggs, onions, pickles, and a tablespoon of mustard.

From here on, I take after my grandmother who never followed a recipe. Add 3-4 heaping serving tablespoons of mayonnaise to the salad and begin mixing gently. If the salad looks dry, fold in another tablespoon and another until the potato salad has the desired consistency.

Then I start tasting. I immediately decided it needed another pickle spear. I chopped another spear and stirred it in, adding a spoon of pickle juice with it.

Another taste. Needed more salt. (Hint: add salt sparingly each time until it is salted to taste.)

You may decide it needs a bit more onion. If so, stir it in now. One thing I’ve discovered over the years—if I make it to my taste, my family and guests generally like it as well.

This recipe will serve about 8 people. Modify it for larger or smaller crowds.

Hope you enjoy this recipe.

-Sandra Merville Hart

1877 Housekeeper’s ABCs


Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, written in 1877, is full of recipes and helpful advice to housekeepers. I found this wonderful list of “easy-to-remember” advice because it is written alphabetically.

 Apples—Keep in a dry, cool place without freezing.

Brooms—These will stay soft and pliant if kept in the cellar.

Cranberries—Store in water in the cellar. Change water monthly.

Dish—When baking cakes, set a dish of hot water in the oven to prevent cakes from scorching.

Economize—You’ll never beg if you economize health, time, and means.

Flour—Cover securely to keep flour cool and dry.

Glass—Stir 1 tablespoon of ammonia into 1 quart of water to clean glass.

Herbs—Gather herbs when they begin to blossom and store in paper bags.

Ink Stains—To remove ink stains, wet the stain with spirits turpentine. (Spirits of Turpentine is made by distilling resin from live trees.) Wait 3 hours and then rub.

Jars—“To prevent, coax ‘husband’ to buy ‘Buckeye Cookery.’”

Keep—Keep an account for all supplies with cost and date of purchase.

“Love lightens labor.”

Money—When someone gives you change, count it carefully.

Nutmeg—To find out if nutmeg is good, put a small hole in it with a pin. Oil will run out if it’s good.

Orange and Lemon Peel—Dry it, pound it, and then store in corked bottles.

Parsnips—Dig parsnips in the spring.

Quicksilver and an egg white destroys bedbugs.

Rice—Choose large, fresh rice. Old rice may have insects.

Sugar—Granulated sugar is best for general use.

Tea—”Equal parts of Japan and green are as good as English breakfast.”

Use—Make a cement of salt, ashes, and water to fix cracks in stove.

“Variety is the best culinary spice.”

“Watch your backyard for dirt and bones.”

Xantippe—Don’t be like her. (Xanthippe was the wife of Socrates. She had an argumentative spirit.)

Youth—Best kept by a cheerful spirit.

“Zinc-lined sinks are better than wooden ones.”

 What a list! Some of this advice is outdated but much is still useful today. A few of these were too precious not to quote directly, which is shown by the quotes.

I’ve not heard of the bedbug cure using quicksilver. Bedbugs aren’t a new problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if this works.

Hope you enjoy this blast from the past.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.

“Turpentine,”, 2018/07/24

“Xanthippe,”, 2018/07/24



1870s Treatment for Baldness

I’m always searching for interesting or little-known tidbits from our past. I found treatments for baldness in an 1870s cookbook that I’d love to share.

Caution: These were treatments or cures from 140 years ago. I’m not a medical professional and make no claims to how well they work nor am I advising anyone to try them.

According to the 1870s writer, hair loss indicates a scalp disease. The cure? Dip the head into cold water twice daily then rub with a brush until it glows.

If the hair is too long to rub with a brush:

  • Make a wash of 3 drachms (1 drachm = 1/8 ounce) pure glycerin and 4 ounces of limewater. (Limewater is a diluted solution of calcium hydroxide. It has nothing to do with the fruit.)
  • Brush hair until it glows.
  • Rub the glycerin/limewater wash into the roots.
  • After using this solution for 2 to 3 weeks, add ½ ounce of tincture of cantharides to it. (Warning for modern-day readers: Cantharidin is poisonous if taken internally. It’s considered an extremely hazardous substance. Further, Scientific American warns that it injures the hair and “should never be used.”)
  • Treat the area with this solution once or twice daily. If the area grows tender, stop using.

If the baldness is in spots, dip a soft toothbrush in distilled vinegar and brush the area twice daily.

This information is passed along for the entertainment of my readers. If you read this in one of my historical novels, you’ll know where I found the information!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.

“Cantharidin,”, 2018/07/29

“Drachm,” Oxford University Dictionary, 2018/07/29

“Hair Tonic,” Scientific American, 2018/07/29

“Limewater,”, 2018/07/29

What is Pie Plant?

I found a recipe for Pie-Plant Pie in an 1877 cookbook. I had never heard of this before and did some research.

Rhubarb was referred to as pie plant over 100 years ago. It first came to North America in the late 1700s. Early on, it was mostly eaten in pies, which gave rhubarb its nickname.

Though rhubarb is a vegetable, may consider it a fruit because it is cooked in tarts, pies, and sauces.

Hothouse rhubarb is generally pink or pale red with yellow-green leaves. This type is sweeter and milder than the field grown variety, which are red with green leaves.

Never eat the leaves. They contain oxalic acid, poisonous to humans.

The stalks are crisp, similar to celery. The vegetable has a tart taste.

When cooking, cut the stalks in small pieces. It can be stewed in water with sugar until soft. Because the vegetable is highly acidic, don’t use aluminum pots to cook it. Rhubarb has a lot of water so not much water is needed in cooking.

Make a rhubarb sauce with such spices as ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg, usually eaten cold.

Because of the acidic qualities, store only in glass or stainless steel. The stalks may be stored and refrigerated in sealed plastic bags for one week. It also freezes well.

Whenever I see pie-plant in an old recipe, I’ll know they mean rhubarb.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.

Land O’Lakes Test Kitchen. “The ‘Pie Plant:’ All About Rhubarb,” Land O’Lakes, Inc., 2018/07/23

“Rhubarb,”, 2018/07/23


Southern Tomato Pie Recipe from 1877

I had six tomatoes in my fridge that I needed to use. I found a recipe for tomato pie that called for green tomatoes. These were ripe, but I’ve never been a big fan of green tomatoes anyway. I decided to make the pie, substituting red for green tomatoes.

Wash and slice tomatoes without peeling them. Put the tomatoes in a medium-sized saucepan with about a cup to a cup and a half of water. Cook over medium low heat until they start to become tender, about 15 minutes.

Remove from burner. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons sugar. The 1877 cook then says “flavor with nutmeg.”

I cringed a little, unsure how this spice would taste with tomatoes. I added ½ teaspoon nutmeg.

Prepare double-crust pie dough.

Hint: I learned a little trick from another 1877 cook when baking liquidy pie fillings: Mix 3 tablespoons of flour with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Sprinkle this over the crust. You may only use 1/3 to ½ of this mixture. It keeps the bottom crust from getting soggy.

Using a slotted spoon, add stewed tomatoes to bottom crust. Then arrange the top crust over the tomatoes and add holes with a knife.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

I tasted the pie warm from the oven (not hot) and also cold. I liked them both.

The small amount of sugar in the pie didn’t make it too sweet. There was just a hint of nutmeg. If you’d like more, add 1 teaspoon of nutmeg instead of ½ teaspoon to the stewed tomatoes before baking.

Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods but I don’t like them roasted. I was surprised how much I liked this pie.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.




Mom’s Pie Crust Recipe

I have to confess when baking pies I usually save time by purchasing pie crust, but sometimes I make it from scratch. My mind goes back to childhood days and my mom’s pies. She made her own pie crust. She taught me how to make it.

This is her recipe for an 8 or 9-inch double pie crust.


1 ½ cups sifted flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup shortening

4 to 5 tablespoons water

Sift together the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening (she always used Crisco … so do I) with a pastry blender or a fork until the pieces are the size of small peas.

Stir in 4 tablespoons of water. Add another tablespoon of water if ingredients are too dry. (I always need the extra tablespoon of water.)

Divide the dough in half.

Sprinkle clean counter surface lightly with flour. Rub a little flour over a rolling pin to prevent it from sticking to the dough.

Plop the dough in the middle of the floured surface. Flatten it a bit with your hand to get it started. Then take the rolling pin and, starting from the center with each stroke, roll smoothly toward the side. Alternate strokes to each side and top and bottom.

Roll dough until it is the right size for your pie dish. Layers will be thin. I’ve found that it helps to gently fold the crust in half before picking it up and arranging in on the pie dish.

If you’re like me, you have a little more on one side than another. After the crust is in place, follow the edges with a fork to cut off the excess.

My mom usually dipped a fork in flour and made a pattern with it around the edges. I use my thumbs to make a pattern.

Poke a few holes in the bottom crust and around the sides using a fork.

Hint: Save the excess dough to clean the flour off the counter. That’s another hint from my mom.


-Sandra Merville Hart


Peach Cobbler Recipe from 1877

I bought 4 large peaches from a neighborhood vegetable and fruit stand. It’s the middle of a hot summer and a great time for a peach cobbler. There is a recipe for it by Miss S. Alice Melching in my cookbook from 1877.

Alice’s original recipe made a cobbler 9×18 so I halved the ingredients. It called for canned fruit so I cooked the peaches.

Peel and slice the peaches. Put them in a kettle with just enough water to cover them. Cook over medium heat. When it comes to a low boil, continue cooking about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. The water has become a very light syrup.

To make pie crust for the cobbler, add 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of lard (I used Crisco shortening) and stir into the dry ingredients. Stir in 2/3 to ¾ cup of milk or water (I used milk) until it is the right consistency for pie crust, which is not too wet and all dry ingredients have been incorporated.

Divide the dough into 2 sections—roughly 1/3 and 2/3. The smaller section is the top crust.

Lightly flour the surface and rolling pin. Then roll into a thin pie crust. Arrange it on the bottom and sides of your dish (I used a 9×9 casserole dish.)

Mix 3 tablespoons of flour with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Sprinkle this over the crust to keep the fruity filling from seeping into the lower crust.

With slotted spoon, remove peaches from kettle. Arrange these over the crust. I took ¼ cup of the syrupy peach water and poured it over the peaches. The original recipe didn’t call for this, but this small amount of liquid added flavor and moisture without destroying the crust.

Sprinkle ¾ cup sugar over the peaches.

Roll out the rest of the dough and place it over the top. A lattice top will work nicely too.

Bake at 400 for 25 – 30 minutes or lightly browned.

The peaches cooked perfectly except … there weren’t enough of them. I’d double the amount of peaches for the same sized dish next time. Adding extra syrup (cooking water) to the dish was an excellent call. I added ¼ cup—next time I’d do at least ½ cup, especially with more fruit.

The cobbler tasted delicious, with a wonderful peach aroma and flavor. I will make this summery dessert again.

Blackberries, apples, and other fruit can be substituted. If using fresh fruit, cook the fruit for about 5 minutes as above; if canned, there is no need to cook it before baking.

-Sandra Merville Hart



Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.