Lemon Snaps Recipe from 1877

When my sister asked me to bring lots of cookies to her Super Bowl party, I took that as an invitation to try a few old-fashioned recipes. Mrs. E. L. C. of Springfield is the 1877 baker who shared this cookie recipe.

Though the original baker left out a few important details, I’m happy to say that I only had to make this recipe once—and the cookies were a hit! Or since this was for a Super Bowl party, maybe I should say they were a touchdown. 😊

Dissolve ½ teaspoon of baking soda into 2 teaspoons of hot water. Set aside.

Cream together 1 cup of sugar and 10 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the prepared baking soda.

Mrs. C. simply said to flavor with lemon. I added the zest of 2 lemons, the juice of 1 lemon, and ½ teaspoon of lemon extract to the batter.

Since this was for a Super Bowl party where one of the teams wore yellow, I added yellow food coloring to the batter.

Mrs. C. was another one who advised adding “flour enough to roll thin.” I used 1 ½ cups of flour, blending into the wet ingredients a little at a time.

Lightly flour the counter and rolling pin and then roll out the batter. Cut into desired shapes.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. The cookies flatten while baking so allow room between them. Bake cookies at 350 degrees about 9 – 11 minutes.

Delicious! Wonderful lemony flavor really came through. Guests loved the texture and flavor. If you like lemony desserts, this is the cookie for you.

I’d definitely make these again.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart


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




Molasses Cookies Recipe from 1877

When my sister asked me to bring lots of cookies to her Super Bowl party, I took that as an invitation to try a few old-fashioned recipes. The 1877 baker who shared this cookie recipe is Miss J. O. DeForest of Norwalk.

Miss DeForest advised bakers to add “flour enough to roll out.” No measurements. One of the problems with following older recipes is that they leave out important details. In trying to figure out how much flour was needed, I had to make the batter twice. Perhaps I grumbled a little, as I dumped the first batch in the garbage, that the reason Miss DeForest left out the measurement is that she couldn’t figure it out either. But, since I was alone in my kitchen, only my stand mixer and I know that for sure. It’s more likely that this baker was like my grandmother—an excellent cook!—who never measured anything.

Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 3 cups of flour. Mix or sift together and set aside.

Mix 1 ¼ cups of sugar and ½ cup butter until blended. (I used a mixer.) Stir in ¼ cup of molasses.

Whisk 1 egg and then mix it into the batter.

Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, to the wet ingredients.

Lightly flour the counter and rolling pin and then roll out the batter. Cut into desired shapes.

Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Bake cookies at 350 degrees until lightly browned, about 11 – 14 minutes.

The cookies had a great texture. Even with only ¼ cup of molasses, that sweet tangy flavor really came through. If you don’t like molasses, you won’t like these cookies. This is not a common flavor these days, and most guests at the party flocked toward the other types. My husband liked them a lot.

Honey, molasses, and sugar were all used to sweeten foods in earlier centuries. As a little girl, I remember that my grandfather considered molasses a big treat.

I’d make these again—just not for another Super Bowl party.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart


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



Sand Tarts Recipe from 1877

“Bring cookies to my Super Bowl party,” my sister told me. “Make a lot of them.”

She left it wide open for me to try old-fashioned recipes. I found this sand tarts recipe in an 1877 cookbook. I’d never eaten—or even heard of—this type of cookie so I compared it to a few recipes online. Modern recipes used confectioner’s sugar, with a few other changes as well. My purpose is to follow Miss Clara G. Phellis’s recipe as closely as possible.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I made this recipe once using confectioner’s sugar, but the mixture was too dry to roll out. I tried again with sugar and it worked fine.

Add 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon to ½ cup of sugar. Mix together and set aside.

I used a stand mixer to cream ½ cup of butter into 1 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl until blended well. Whisk 1 egg and add it to the mixture. Then add 1 1/2 cups of flour a little at a time, mixing until all the flour is incorporated into the mixture.

(My dough was too dry so I had to add another egg, which made it slightly wet. If this happens for you, add flour, a little at time, for a final mixing.)

Roll out the dough in a thin layer and then cut the cookies into squares.

Bake on a cookie sheet at 325 degrees for 9 minutes.

While the cookies bake, use your mixer to whip two egg whites until creamy—but not stiff.

Remove the cookies from the oven after about 9 minutes. Put a dollop of meringue on each cookie or pipe it on. Then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Add slivered almonds on top and return to the oven for a couple of minutes to lightly brown the meringue. (Bake longer for a crisper cookie.)

I liked it very much. The cinnamon sugar was a nice touch. Guests liked the soft texture of the cookie and the light cinnamon flavor.

Modern cookie recipes don’t use the meringue. Instead they are rolled in confectioner’s sugar and dropped onto the cookie sheet.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart


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


1870s Advice on Maintaining the Sitting Room

As the sitting room in the nineteenth century was the most used, the author of Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping advised homemakers to make it the most pleasant one in the home. This compares to the family rooms of today.

If mats were kept at the door, the room could get by with one cleaning a week.

Don’t lay Brussels carpet (a heavy wool rug with a strong linen backing) in the family’s room because they hold a lot of dust and are difficult to clean.

Moths often get under the carpet. To prevent this, mix coarse black pepper with camphor-gum. Spread in thick proportions all around the carpet edges.

When cleaning with oil-cloth, use warm water (no soap.) Mixing milk into the water improves the cleaning.

Have a soiled carpet in the winter? Sprinkle snow onto the stains and sweep before it melts.

Attach a scrap bag to the sewing machine for bits of cloth and thread to keep them off the floor.

“Wire doors and mosquito-nettings” allow fresh air inside the home while keeping out the flies.

Wash windows weekly. Wipe doors after sweeping.

Interesting advice!

-Sandra Merville Hart


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

1870s Advice on Sweeping Rugs

My parents’ home had hardwood floors so I did not learn how to vacuum until in my late teens. All of the old historic homes I’ve toured have rugs in most rooms. As a writer of historical novels, I’m always fascinated with old traditions. How fun to find advice of an 1870s author about cleaning her parlor.

Thoroughly clean the parlor once or twice a week.

Cover books, statues, and other tough-to-dust articles with cloth covers called “dusters.” Open blinds to allow sunlight inside the room. If it’s not windy or stormy, open the windows.

Check the ceiling for cobwebs.

Sprinkle “moistened bran, salt, damp coffee-grounds, or tea-leaves” on the carpet. There are no suggestions on how long to leave this on the rug. Whether these products improve odors or help in cleaning is not clear.

While one of these products stays on the carpet, clean edges and corners of the room with a stiff whisk-broom and a sharp, pointed stick. Using a feather duster, remove cobwebs. Brush curtains and frames.

Move furniture from one section of the room. Sweep with short, light strokes toward the center of the room by drawing the broom. Then go back and sweep a second time with longer, forceful strokes. Sweep the area a third time using long “vigorous” strokes.

The author calculated it would take 20 minutes to sweep a large room this way, but clean rugs are worth the effort. Cleaning this way extends the life of the carpet. It also freshens and brightens the fabric.

Interesting advice!

-Sandra Merville Hart


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

1870s Comparative Value of Fuel

I’ve learned from other sources—family and friends who have experience with wood-burning stoves or bonfires—that some woods burn faster than others. I found a great table in an 1877 cookbook grading woods on their value as fuel.

Shellbark Hickory topped the list at 100.

Pig-nut Hickory was second on the list at 96.

White Oak was rated at 84 while Yellow Oak was 60.

White Ash was 77 and White Elm was 58.

The only Maple wood listed was Hard Maple—59.

Red Oak—69; White Beech—65; and Black Birch—62.

Chestnut trees grew in abundance in the 1877 and were graded as 52.

White Birch was graded as 48.

I’d always heard that pine wood burns hot and fast. This book rated Yellow Pine as 54 and White Pine (the lowest grade mentioned) as 42.

The cookbook author noted that some woods, hickory being one of them, received their value from the “heat of the coals after burning.”

Even the same type of woods can vary in density. Trees grown in open areas on dry land are best.

I remember walking through the forest with my dad as a child. He showed me how to tell the different species of trees—the bark and the shape of the leaves were the biggest clues. Yet the height and width of the trees are also considerations.


-Sandra Merville Hart


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

1870s Liquid Measures

Leafing through a cookbook from 1877, I found a great table of liquid measures. Some of these are common measures today while others were better known by our great-great grandparents.

1 teaspoon full = 45 drops of pure water at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. (This measure was included due to the varied sizes of teaspoons.)

1 teaspoon = about 1 fluid drachm

4 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon or ½ fluid ounce (today’s measures are 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon so this shows the change in measuring spoon size over the years)

1 ounce = 8 fluid drachms (1/4 gill)

1 pint = 16 fluid ounces (4 gills)

16 tablespoons = ½ pint

1 tea-cup = 8 fluid ounces (2 gills)

4 tea-cups = 1 quart

1 common-sized tumbler holds about ½ pint (8 ounces)

4 gills (gi.) = 1 pint

2 pints = 1 quart

4 quarts = 1 gallon

The cookbook author mentions old French measures for liquids used “1 tea-cup equals 4 fluid ounces or 1 gill.” The author does not say how many years ago that measure had been used. The tea-cup was about twice that size in the 1870s.

These important variations make it challenging to figure out ingredient measurements for historic recipes.


Has anyone run across recipe measuring in gills or drachms?

-Sandra Merville Hart


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

I’ve Brought some Corn for Popping








“I’ve brought some corn for popping.” This line from the beloved Christmas carol “Let it Snow” started me wondering when the tradition of popping corn began.

People have known how to pop corn for thousands of years. Ears of popcorn were discovered in the Bat Cave in New Mexico that are about 4,000 years old. Found in 1948 and 1950, a penny is larger than the smallest of these ears while others are about 2 inches long.

Popcorn remnants discovered in Mexico have been dated to around 3600 BC.

Surprising, right?

One-thousand-year-old popcorn kernels found in North Chile still pop.

Aztec Indians in the 16th century used popcorn for ceremonial headdresses and necklaces. Young women danced a popcorn dance wearing popcorn garlands on their heads.

Pearls or Nonpareil were names that the kernels were sold under on the United States eastern coast in the 19th century.

Popcorn ground with cream or milk was a popular dish for breakfast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Popcorn balls became beloved Christmas gifts in the 19th century. These were also used in decorating mantles and Christmas trees. Stringing popcorn was also popular as garland.

Street vendors pushed carts with steam or gas-powered poppers to sell popcorn at fairs and parks. The aroma alone must have sold the treat at outdoor festivities.

Popcorn was so inexpensive—5 or 10 cents a bag—that sales actually increased during the Great Depression. Selling popcorn at movie theaters increased the snack’s popularity.

Microwave popcorn made the snack a modern convenience since the 1980s.

-Sandra Merville Hart



“Early Popcorn History,” Popcorn.org, 2018/11/02


“Popcorn,” Wikipedia, 2018/11/02 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popcorn.

Pumpkin Pie: A Holiday Tradition

Hurrah for pumpkin pie is a line from a song often sung at Christmas— “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Originally published in 1844, this song shows the long-standing tradition of eating pumpkin pie during the holidays.

December 25th is National Pumpkin Pie Day!

The Church’s observation of meatless days led to eating more pie at the Christmas season—often fish pies. Fruit pie became popular in the 1500s with the lowering of sugar prices. The nobility enjoyed them on holidays and special occasions.

Others soon began to eat pies but kept the custom of baking them on holidays and other special occasions.

Pumpkin pie recipes are found in English cookbooks from the seventeenth century though American cookbooks generally didn’t have them until the early 1800s. Pumpkin pie soon became a staple at Thanksgiving.

Pumpkins are harvested in the fall, making them a natural addition to holiday dinners. Our family has pumpkin pie at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The world’s largest pumpkin pie was baked on September 25, 2010 at the New Bremen Pumpkinfest in Ohio. The pie had a diameter of 20 feet!

I am including a link to the recipe for my mom’s delicious pumpkin pie.


-Sandra Merville Hart


“History of Pie: Why do we eat Pie During the Holidays?” Marie Callenders, 2018/11/05 https://www.mariecallendersmeals.com/articles/history-pie-why-do-we-eat-pie-during-holidays.

“National Pumpkin Pie Day,” Holiday Insights, 2018/11/05 http://holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/December/pumpkinpieday.htm.

“Pumpkin Pie,” Wikipedia, 2018/11/05 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumpkin_pie.


Chestnuts Roasting …

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire …

I love listening to “The Christmas Song” during the holidays. Roasting chestnuts must have been a beloved holiday tradition for many families in days gone by.

American chestnut trees once grew in abundance in the United States—so many, in fact, that they made up almost 25% of the forest. Tragically, an Asian blight attacked the trees, virtually wiping them out from 1920 – 1940. About 4 billion trees died.

There is a bit of good news–scientists working on ways to save them from extinction are making some progress.

Today, China leads the world on chestnut production.

Chestnuts are harvested in the fall and winter. When buying them, look for a shiny brown exterior. Make sure they are firm. Refrigerate until ready to use.

I had never roasted chestnuts on the fire or the oven, yet sources suggested roasting them in the oven as more reliable. I followed this advice.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wipe chestnuts with a wet cloth.

IMPORTANT: Cut an X with a sharp paring knife, placing the slits on the rounded side. (One of my chestnuts popped inside the oven even with an X cut into the side. I will make the slits a bit larger next time.)

I placed the chestnuts in a cast iron skillet for roasting from 10 – 30 minutes. (Some sources suggested roasting at 450 for 15-20 minutes.)

I set the timer for 10 minutes to check it. Shells peel back while cooking. Watch for the meat to turn a caramel color to show that it’s done.

I roasted a batch for 25 minutes. One chestnut popped in the oven about 30 seconds before I retrieved them, so I think I left them in a bit too long. I’ll try 20 minutes the next time.

Peel the outer shell off to reveal the browned meaty portion. The consistency reminded me of a baked potato—and the flavor reminded of sweet potatoes, not the nutty flavor I expected.

I have a few chestnuts left in my fridge. I want to roast these over a fire one evening soon.

I’d love to hear if you try roasting them!

-Sandra Merville Hart



Boros, Phyllis A. “Roasting Chestnuts: a holiday tradition for many,” Connecticut Post, 2018/11/04


Smith, Pat. “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, a bygone tradition,” Newark Advocate, 2018/11/04 https://www.newarkadvocate.com/story/news/local/2015/11/25/chestnuts-roasting-open-fire-bygone-tradition/76377700/.


Vogel, Mark R. “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” FoodReference.com, 2018/11/04



“How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts,” MarthaStewart.com, 2018/11/04