Have you ever had the entertaining opportunity to watch your grandmother cook? She may seem to have mysterious rituals, certain ways of doing things that don’t necessarily make sense, but always end up producing a culinary masterpiece. If something goes wrong in the kitchen, she doesn’t run to the nearest computer and ask Google for guidance — the problem is fixed from deep culinary experience, even if it’s buried in a tattered (yet treasured) recipe book.
Unlike today, the generation from the early to mid-twentieth century didn’t have access to the vast database that is the Internet, and so they were forced to draw upon the knowledge of past experiences. This “vintage” knowledge of how to get things done in the kitchen surpasses a mere Google search, containing all the quirks and nuances of the people who passed the knowledge on and presented solutions that would otherwise elude us. We would do well to listen to our elders the next time they prattle on about how to cook this or prepare that, as it will likely make things a whole lot easier in the kitchen.
Here are a few vintage cooking tips that will give you that edge over your modern counterparts.
19 essential vintage cooking tips
Sick of peeling hard-boiled eggs?
Place your eggs in a pot or pan and cover with cold water. Now sprinkle approximately two tablespoons of salt in the water and turn on the heat until it begins to boil rapidly. Cover the pot or pan with a lid and remove from heat, leaving the eggs in the water until it cools. The eggs will be so easy to peel.
Oatmeal in soup
Add a dash of oatmeal to your soups. It will help to thicken them and give them a flavor and depth you’ve never experienced.
Green vegetable color
If you’re entertaining and want to preserve the vibrant color of green vegetables, cook them in boiling water with a pinch of baking soda.
If you are planning on steaming your vegetables and also want them to keep their color, first rinse under cold water and then rinse them in boiling water containing a dash of baking soda. When you steam them, they should retain more of their color.
Add one-quarter of a teaspoon butter to cranberries as you cook them and they should taste sweeter once ready, so you won’t need to add as much sugar.
More lemon juice
If you want to squeeze more juice from a lemon, pour hot water over it before squeezing. The modern equivalent to this is to put the lemon in the microwave for a few seconds, but as with most things the original is usually better!
Hot griddle test
To determine whether your griddle or frying pan is hot enough to cook on, sprinkle a few drops of water on the surface. If the water “dances” on the surface of the pan, it is ready to start cooking your food.
Lemon on rice
Squeezing one-quarter of a lemon on rice as you cook it will help to whiten it, as well as provide a nice flavor.
To keep cookies nice and fresh, put ripped tissue paper at the bottom of the container or jar you’re storing them in.
Cakes often become dry if they sit out for too long without being covered. Wrap the cake in a damp cloth and put it in a moderately warm oven until the cloth feels dry. Your cake will magically be moist.
Adding a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar in the water when cooking cauliflower helps to retain the snowy white color.
No more bad boiling smell
Boiling ham or cabbage can create quite a stench. Add a dash of vinegar to the boiling water to keep the odor to a minimum.
Perfect poached egg
Adding a teaspoon of vinegar to water when poaching eggs will help to keep the egg whites from spreading and keeps things nice and compact — for that perfect poached egg.
Stop sausage shrinking
If you want your sausages to retain their original size when cooked, boil them for approximately eight minutes prior to frying or baking to stop shrinkage.
If you’ve decided to cook turnips, you can prevent the smell from permeating your house by adding a teaspoon of sugar to the water you’re boiling them in. This will also give the turnips a nice flavor.
If you like to sweeten your peas with sugar, try this healthier alternative: boil them along with a few empty green pea pods. This will keep them sweet and save you from unnecessary sugar intake.
Keep sweet potatoes from drying out during baking by greasing their skins with butter, oil or lard before placing in the oven.
To remove the fish odor from utensils and plates, add two teaspoons of baking soda to the dishwasher before turning it on.
Before peeling new potatoes, soak them for 30 minutes in cold, salted water. The skins will peel off much more easily and your hands won’t get stained.
Want to make things even more efficient in the kitchen? Find out how common cooking mistakes could be sabotaging your food.
Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.