Vintage Recipes

Envelope Recipe
Vintage Recipes straight from Grandma

Vintage Recipes are not something I ever really considered as especially interesting. Recently, I was helping my 79 year old mom go through some old things she had and we ran across my grandmother’s old recipe box.  I was really surprised to see recipes in there that I still use.  Other vintage recipes however, not only surprised me, but kind of grossed me out a little.

My grandparents lived on a dairy fairy in northwest Iowa that belonged to my grandpa’s parents. They were among the first to have electricity on their farm back in the early 20th century, just to give you an idea how old these vintage recipes are.  During the depression, they were among those who did not lose everything and were  able to hire hands and help around the house, occasionally for nothing more than a meal.  I don’t think it was ALL the time, but during planting season and harvest season help was needed.  This meant that grandma needed to prepare huge amounts of food.  In addition, they canned about anything they could back in those days from in-season fruit to various meats they butchered themselves.  When they canned, the food had to last until the next year, when all these foods came back in season again.  So that means when the women weren’t cooking meals for the hands and the kids, they were probably canning something.  That is when they weren’t cleaning house and doing laundry too.  I imagine we’d feel like we were running a restaurant if we had to do they kind of cooking that they did on the farm in those days.


Vintage recipes often varied with locations because of the availability of certain items such as peaches or oranges, which were highly seasonal back in those days.  Just as corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes were only available at certain times of the year, even though they grew them right there on their own farm.  So someone from Florida might have a whole bunch of different recipes than someone from Iowa.  I can remember one year when someone brought in crates and crates of peaches.  Each one was wrapped in its own little paper.  I was pretty little then. The next time I saw them, they were all in jars.

My aunt and uncle still live on that farm and my cousin built a house down the road.  It hasn’t been a dairy farm for about 50 years now.  Their son raises Show Lambs now.  Things are pretty high tech there these days.

A rhubarb plant


Few people these days even know what rhubarb is, but it was often used in jams, pies and cakes. Rhubarb is a stalk plant, like celery and it is hearty enough to survive Iowa winters.  Rhubarb is very tart and is commonly combined with other fruits for a tangy taste. The vintage recipe, hastily written on an old envelope in the photo above,  is a recipe for rhubarb marmalade.  Observe that the envelope has a 1 cent stamp.  The pre-cancelled stamp was used between 1916 and 1950 for non-profit organizations to send mail.  This “worthless” piece of paper must have just been handy when grandma decided to write down someone’s recipe for marmalade.


I came across a recipe for Baked Heart.  I can’t imagine eating such a thing, but it is interesting to think about what people ate back in those days. Anyway, as a curiosity more than anything, I added it to my list.

What’s coming. . .

pickle jar
Old Pickle Jar

There are a few other cool recipes I intend to add.  Some are so so simple, like homemade dill pickles.  I found an old black ceramic crock at an antique store that I’m going to use to make my own dill pickles.

People used to really love something called Lime Pickles.  I have made those before, they’re really pretty and they’re really crisp.  Others might be a blast from the past.  Does anyone remember those cute little cookies we used to get at Christmas time?  Pfeffernusse.  I also have a recipe for ketchup and one to brine 100 pounds of meat.  I’ll leave them cluttered here on my desk so I get back to them soon.

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