Old recipes

23 February 2010
Hanno with Flora McDonald. Flora is Bernadette's little dog, we are looking after her for a few days.

I have always loved books and learned early in my life that books were entertaining, explanatory, trustworthy, and a dependable companion both in my home and when travelling around.  Books are where I go to for my information, even now in the age of the internet, my first port of call when I want to learn something is the library.  I used to buy all the books I read but now that I have reduced the amount I spend, books are a shared experience with others using my local library.  Sometimes though, I'm lucky enough to gather enough points on my Amazon widget to buy a few books, and that is exactly what I did just after Christmas.  Of the three books I bought then, I want to write about A Well-Kept Home by Laura Fronty and Yves Duronsoy.

This is a book that will serve to give you those hints, tips and recipes that you'll never find in a modern magazine or most books on household tips.  This is a gentle look at how we can use old-fashioned methods in our modern homes.  
 Click to enlarge.

This book is familiar to me, it's how I am living.  Some recipes and hints are old favourites, some are totally new to me. There are little treasures in the book like these:

If only a few drops are required, prick the lemon with a toothpick, press it, then put the toothpick back like a cork! To extract all of its juice without a lemon squeezer, cut in half, push in a fork and turn it vigorously around in the pulp. If you only use half, the other half can be kept under a glass turned upside down on a saucer.

6 egg shells
Juice of two lemons or ½ glass of vinegar.
  • Break the egg shells in tiny pieces and put them in the glass items that require cleaning.
  • Pour in the lemon juice or vinegar and shake.
  • Leave overnight, so the shell dissolve, If necessary, use a bottle brush to clean the dirtiest areas. Empty out the solution.
  • Rinse in very hot water.
If onions sprout, do not throw away the green stalk as they can be used in salads or other dishes.  You will be positively glad of sprouting onions in winter, when chives are rare and expensive.  In order to make an onion sprout, put one atop a flared neck jug, filled with water. In less than ten days, you will have many fresh and delicious green sprouts.

This onion tip will also work by piercing the onion with two toothpicks on either side of the onion. That will allow you to suspend the onion over a glass of water.

And here is a lovely old fashioned recipe from my CWA (Country Women's Association) cook book:

Take tomatoes not quite ripe, the green ones are best; wipe with a cloth and take off the stems. Put into a preserving kettle, allowing ½ lb (250 grams) white sugar for every pound of fruit. Add a little water for syrup. Slice 1 lemon for every 2 lbs fruit, and add.  Boil until thoroughly done, and the syrup is thick.  Do not put much water in at first, as it may be added easily.

CWA cookbooks are available from most CWA branches.  Mine is about 40 years old but it says inside the cover it's available from The Secretary, Soldier's Memorial Hall Committee, Tandunda SA 5352.  If it's still available, it's a fine book.  There are no photographs in it, which was the custom in those days, just old-fashioned recipes.

And finally today, the recipe for my Buttermilk Apple Cake that a few people have asked for.

Make the topping first, then set to one side.

1/3 cup plain (all purpose) flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped nuts - walnuts or pecans would do nicely
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup soft butter 
Mix all the ingredients together.

Cake Batter
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup butter
½ cup white or raw sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk (or plain yoghurt)
2 apples - cored, peeled and sliced finely
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  1. Turn on your oven 190 C (375F). Grease a 9 inch baking tin/pan.
  2. Cream the butter and both sugars, when it's light and fluffy, add the egg and mix in.
  3. In another bowl, mix together the sifted plain flour and baking powder.
  4. Add buttermilk and flour mixture alternately, mixing as you go. Add lemon zest.
  5. Add half the batter to the baking tin and spread on a layer of the thinly slices apples. Sprinkle cinnamon over the apples. Add the other half of the batter.
  6. Sprinkle on the topping.   
  7. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.
This is a moist cake suitable for a lunch box, morning tea or dessert, with custard or a little cream. 


  1. What a wonderful post today Rhonda! I am going to see if my local library has that book, it looks delightful! I feel like we all need to get back to basics a little more, it would make our lives so much more meaningful. The cake recipe looks Delicious - it is certainly one I will try soon. I have loved all of the recipes I try from your blog! Have a wonderful day.

    Blessings, Barb

  2. I have cut down on my book buying considerably. We have a wonderful library system and I use it a lot. I will be sure to see if they can get me this wonderful book.

  3. Flora McDonald looks very much like a dog we used to have. He was absolutely the best dog in the world - ever! I'm sorry Flora McD is visiting under sad circumstances (Bernadette in the hospital). I'll put Bernadette on my prayer list.

    Connie (Georgia in U.S.)

  4. A Well Kept Home sounds like a real find! And since I make our butter, I'm always looking for ways to use the leftover buttermilk -- this cake recipe looks delicious.

  5. Rhonda, how deep (tall) is the pan you used for your cake? I was thinking a cake pan, but your cake looks taller than I could make in a cake pan (layer)

    I have all te ingredients here, and I want to make it!

  6. Good morning Rhonda, that recipe looks nice, many thanks. What breed is Flora McDonald please? I do hope that Bernadette makes good progress, it must be such a relief for her to know that FMc is such good hands.

  7. I have a book similar to this: Molly Dye's hints and tips. I think Molly had a household column the Sydney Telegraph paper many years ago and the book is a collection from that column. Anyway, I've had it since I was a teenager and still refer to it for exactly those kinds of tips that you need around the house.

  8. I love the kousehold hints in those one books. Practical and cheap, knowledge that seems to be lost to most today.

  9. Patricia in DenverFebruary 23, 2010 9:06 am

    I also have re-discovered the library and wonder why I used it so seldom before now. I enjoy it very much. I have read this beautiful book with it's many tips. Also, I would like to thank you for the many recipes you share with us. I have made your spinach pie, which has become a staple in our house, and your banana nut cake which we love. I will make this tasty looking treat soon.

  10. Rhonda thank you for the cake recipe, it sounds very good and I'll be trying it soon. Like you I cut back on buying books a number of years ago. At the time it was to down size our home before retirement, but I now prefer to get books from the library when ever I can. If I want to buy I try to find them used first before going full price.
    Flora is an adorable little girl..will be praying for Bernadette.

  11. I am a book hoarder, but every now and then I get or buy a book which I am only ever going to read once. I donate these to my local library. The same with magazines I am subscribed to - the library loves extra copies of current or near current issues. Also, you can ask the library to buy in books. They usually have a budget for reader requests and are glad to get some direction about what to buy. At least they know one person will read it! Anna

  12. The cake looks tall. Does it require then a rather tall baking tin? I am looking forward to trying this recipe! :) Thankyou also for the housekeping book title. It must make Bernadette feel so much better that her sweet dog is taken care of and has another dog also for play and company while there. Anna

  13. I like the sound of that cake especially that little addition of Lemon :-). I have a collection of old cookbooks too and love all the old recipes.

  14. I loved this post. My first cookbook was The Searchlight Cookbook. It was put out by a similar group as yours here in the US in war time. They had the Searchlight Institute. My first cooking lesson with my Mom was from this cookbook. I made vegeteble soup for dinner. I was 9 yrs old. The best part: my Mom helped me follow the recipe...but after it was together she said: A little of this would be good in your soup and a little of that. My first lesson taught me about using what you had and not following a recipe to the letter. When my father and brothers came home my Mom said: "Cathy made dinner" That was almost 40 years ago and I still love to cook. Can't wait to try your apple cake. I will after work tomorrow!

  15. Can't wait to try that Buttermilk Apple Cake; thanks for that, Rhonda.

    As for the book, it seems a bit of repetitive stuff. Most people (I would think) would know about cleaning with lemons, vinegar, etc.

    After looking through it on Amazon, I will pass on this one.

  16. A lovely reminder to revisit one of my favourite books. This book is a treasure, and sits proudly among my collection of domestic books.
    Tracy (Brisbane)

  17. Flora McDonald looks just like my Rhododendron. They aren't dogs, they are love bunnies!

  18. Hi Rhonda

    I have an old recipe book that my mum had from the 50's called the Green & Gold Recipe book. Is that what is in the picture?

  19. I collect old cookbooks, they are a wonderful social history of women in the home. They make for a great read!

  20. I have a collection (ahem, I had better not tell you how many!) of cookery books, including lots of older ones, and a couple nearly 100 years old which came from elderly relatives. I love to go through them for interesting tips and recipes to try.

    I loved it when you said "This book is familiar to me, it's how I am living." I think there is no better recommendation . . .

  21. P.S. I have just Googled the book you bought (A Well-Kept Home), and it mentions using ivy water for laundering delicate fabrics. I have some delicate old Victorian pieces of embroidery here - could you please share that recipe?

    Off to try your cake recipe, having bought a 30 lb box of cooking apples yesterday - should see us through the next few weeks!

  22. What a yummy-sounding recipe, and I have some buttermilk in the fridge...

    I remember Molly Dye's column too; I think a lot of it was contributed by readers.

  23. I just wanted to say hi Rhonda. I found your blog last week and well, I think it's safe to say that you have changed my life! I am on maternity leave with my lovely four month old daughter and I was just starting to feel down because I'm stuck in the house all day. After I found your blog I have been making changes in the way I think and do my tasks in the house and I'm really enjoying making my house a home now. I have been baking bread for us, and have managed to get a small bit of land to start growing some vegetables. I was wanting to take charge of my home life in so many ways but you inspired me to "just-do-it".

    Thanks for all your great posts! Oh, and just to add, i love the name Flora MacDonald. I actually come from the town in Scotland where Flora Mac's statue is...looking out toward Skye where her Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to.

    Take care x

  24. I can see myself making that cake this weekend and as I have lots of green tomatoes that the bugs want, I think I may try that jam too!

  25. Good Morning Rhonda Jean!

    I have been coming to your blog off and on for about 1 year now, and have truly enjoyed it, but have never commented.

    Today, I just feel that I need to tell you how much you are blessing my life by sharing yours.

    When life gets hard to deal with some days, a lot of people turn to works of fiction as an escape. I turn to your blog. It truly brings me a sense of peace and centeredness.

    Many blessings to you for just being who you are and doing what you do.

    With much love,

    from Pennsylvania, USA

  26. Thank you for sharing the recipe. I made a cake last night with almost the exact ingredients except instead of flour in the topping I used rolled oats and put it on before baking. It is a very good cake.

  27. Ohhh, my mother used to make tomato jam. Thank you for this recipe. I'll use it this summer when we have some "love apples."

  28. I have a few old women's association cookbooks from my home town in Prince Edward Island. I cherish them...they are older than I am and the recipes are fantastic. A lot of them written back during WW1 and WW2 when things were tight. Many recipes were altered to compensate for lack of eggs and butter. A little piece of history along with many many time honoured recipes that I will cherish.

  29. As a librarian in a rural Arizona (USA)community, I thank you for your plug. I have tried hard to put good resourceful homesteading and simple living books into our collection since I started four years ago. In this horrible economy people are finally starting to notice. Thanks for the book recommendation. I always love to hear what others are reading.

  30. Rhonda, I just made this cake, and I am wondering if there is meant to be more liquid -- the batter is very thick. A basic plain cake is similar to this recipe but with two eggs and half a cup of butter.

    Another thought: I am using cultured buttermilk rather than actual buttermilk. What do you use?

  31. Rhonda, The tomato jam looks great. We got a surprise frost last night and I have a bunch of green tomatoes that I had to pick to save. I think the tomato jam will do well to use up the greenies. If I made this, would you water bath preserve them? (I know you do canning different in AU - I am in the states). Or is there enough acid to just let the jars seal and have them be shelf stable? Thanks for any help.

  32. I wouldn't water bath them, the sugar and lemon are natural preservatives. I would store them in the fridge just to be certain. Good luck.


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