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Guide to Older Food Measurements

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By Valerie J. Frey | Mar 6, 2018

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The older a recipe is the more likely the measures are "rough" or estimated.
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"Preserving Family Recipes" by Valerie J. Frey combines tips and archival principles to teach readers everything they need to know to gather, adjust, and safely preserve family recipes.

Preserving Family Recipes: How to Save and Celebrate Your Food Traditions(University of Georgia Press, 2015), by Valerie J. Frey provides useful tips for successfully gathering and preserving family recipes. The book offers advice on interviewing relatives, documenting family food traditions, and collecting oral histories to help readers savor their memories. The following excerpt is from Chapter 6, “Orphaned Recipes and Conducting Research.”

Please note that, in general, the older the recipe, the greater the likelihood that measures were “rough” or estimated. Also, I have come across contradictory sources, so the list below is not foolproof but rather a good starting place.

Blade of mace = scant 1/4 teaspoon

Bushel = 8 gallons (dry measure)

Coffee cup = scant cup

Coffee spoon = 1/2 teaspoon

Dessert spoon = 1 to 2 teaspoons

Drachm/dram = 3/4 teaspoon

Drop = about 1/60 teaspoon

Firkin = 9 to 10 gallons (liquid measure)

Fistful (usually flour or cornmeal) = 1/3 cup

Gill/Jill = 1/2 cup (liquid measure)

Glass = 1/4 cup (liquid measure)

Goblet = scant cup

Half-pinch = amount lifted between thumb and first finger

Hogshead = large barrel, usually 63 gallons

Jack = 1/4 cup (liquid measure)

Jigger = 1-1/2 fluid ounces, about 3 tablespoons

Jill, see Gill

Kenning = 4 gallons (dry measure)

Kitchen spoon = 1 teaspoon

Lump of butter = 1 rounded tablespoon

Mouthful = 1/2 ounce (liquid measure)

Noggin = 1/2 cup

Nutmeg (whole) = 2 to 3 teaspoons ground spice (stronger than bottled)

Peck = 2 gallons (dry measure)

Pinch = amount lifted between thumb and first two fingers

Pint = 2 cups

Pottle = 2 quarts

Salt spoon = 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon

Saucer = 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon

Size of an egg (chicken assumed) = 1/4 cup

Size of a goose egg = 3/4 cup

Size of a guinea egg = 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons

Size of a hazelnut = 1 teaspoon

Size of a hickory nut = 1 to 2 tablespoons

Size of a quail egg = 1-1/2 teaspoons

Size of a turkey egg = 1/3 cup

Size of a walnut = 1 to 2 tablespoons

Soup spoon = 2 to 3 teaspoons, scant tablespoon

Spoonful = 1 tablespoon

Teacup = 4 to 6 fluid ounces, usually around 2/3 cup

Thimbleful = scant teaspoon

Tumbler = 1 cup

Wine glass = around 1/4 cup (liquid measure)

Turkey, chicken, and quail eggs. Turkey eggs weigh an average of 70 grams. Chicken eggs, which vary by breed and other factors, range from 25 to 65 grams, with store-bought large eggs weighing around 60 grams. Quail eggs average 6 grams.


More from Preserving Family Recipes:
Recipe Hide and Seek
General Tips for Recipe Projects
Re-creating a Remembered Dish
Collecting Family Recipes: A Group Effort

Excerpted fromPreserving Family Recipes, by Valerie J. Frey. Used with permission from University of Georgia Press, © 2015.