My mom just returned from a trip with her sisters to Hot Springs, Arkansas. She brought me a souveneir, a cookbook called "Dear Daughter Cookbook: favorite recipes of the last 100 years"
There are recipes from 1850 on up to the 1960's. Supposedly they are family favorites handed down to new brides so they can continue cooking the well loved dishes. I found an interesting 'recipe' for making yeast. Apparently back in the 1850's or so, yeast cakes weren't readily available, most especially to those in remote places. So here is what they would do:
Homemade Yeast 1850
" Boil six large poatoes in three pints of water. Tie a handful of hops in a small muslin bag and boil with the potatoes. When thoroughly cooked, drain the water into enough flour to make a thin batter. Set this on the range and scald long enough to cook the flour, which makes the yeast keep longer. Set off to cool, then add the potatoes which have been mashed. Add and mix in a halfcup sugar, two tablespoons salt, and a teacupful of yeast. Let stand in a warm place until thoroughly risen, then place in a large-mouthed jug and cover tightly, and set away in a cool place. "
"Two-thirds of a coffeecupful of this yeast makes four loaves of bread."
Here is the recipe for bread and homemade yeast cakes.
Bread Like Grandma Made
" Use one-half cup of homemade yeast to each two quarts of sifted flour."
"Sift 2 quarts flour into a large bread pan or bowl, making a hole in the center for the yeast. Stir in yeast lightly, into the center of the flour, then sture in some milk or water but still do not use all the flour in the pan. The milk or water should be warm in winter; cold in summer. Cover pan with a thick cloth and set away in a warm place to rise. (This is called 'putting the bread to sponge.') In winter, in the cold houses of long ago, the sponge was set over-night. Nowadays, the sponge is set in only a few hours. After the sponge is formed, add one teaspoon of salt, and mix up with all the flour in the bowl, knead well, and ste to rise until quite light. (Two or more hours) After rising, place on bread board and work thoroughly until the dough is elastuc under pressure of the hand. in this kneading period, work in as little flour as possibly. Make into loaves and put into bread pans, and the loaves should fill the pans but halfway. Let rise to double in bulk, then bake in a hot oven- and oven hot enough to brown a teaspoonful of flour in five minutes. Bake 45-60 minutes. Let bread cool, then store in a loarge stone crock or a tine bread box."
" Take some of the homemade yeast, mix in enough cornmeal to amke thick dough which can be rolled out.Roll out the dough, cut into small squares, and spread in a clean, airy place to dry out. Store in a dry place. "
The terminology in these recipes is interesting- not exact measurements either :) I love reading about 'old timey' things. The Little House books are some of my favorites because I'm so in awe at how they lived totally self-sufficient. Oh, Pa wants to move west again, ok we'll just make new furniture when we get there. There's no kerosene in town, but Ma can make a 'lamp' out of a button and some fat. Part of me wants to return to such a simple way of life, and the other part is very glad to live in the time I do now with air conditioning, indoor toilets etc.