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Preserving heirloom recipes

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Preserving heirloom recipes
Heirloom recipes are not just about the actual recipes. They are a vital part of each family's history and heritage, a way to pass on a family tradition and tell the story of that particular family. Certain dishes are traditional to that family such that changing a single ingredient amounts to sacrilege.

A good heirloom recipe covers techniques, methodology, and ingredients. You might even find a handwritten note about whether the finished product was good or not! These recipes are true treasures for foods that you can't just buy at the supermarket.

How to start an heirloom cookbook

This will take some organizational skills, but it's worth it.

Have one member of the family be in charge of collecting recipes from all the older members who are still alive. Provide each person with a card to write down their recipe in as much detail as they can, including specific brands if possible.

When all the recipes are collected, make copies of all the recipes so that everyone has a copy, then create recipe boxes or books for everyone. There are now online services for print-on-demand books which may also be a useful option for the finished book.

Questions to ask about family recipes

How to find your grandmother's long-lost recipe

I would suggest searching online for anything you can remember about the recipe. Any special ingredients, seasonality, type of dish -- any information might help you locate an heirloom recipe.

With a bit of luck, it might turn out to be a documented recipe cut from a newspaper or magazine.

A pinch of this, a dash of that

Once you find the recipe, you might see some unusual measurements listed. How much cinnamon is in "a pinch"?

Storage and care of vintage recipes

To treat your vintage recipe cards properly, store them in acid free containers. These are more widely available now with the popularity of scrapbooking. Look for the words "acid free" or "archival quality" on the labels.

Warning: Don't store vintage recipes (or any paper ephemera) in a hot attic or garage or a damp basement. In addition to the temperature control issues, those areas might harbor silverfish that love to feast on old paper. They will nibble little trails through your precious collection.

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