My Pioneer Cookbook Adventure – 15 Incredible Recipes from “The Virginia Housewife” ~ Circa 1839

Before we get to the main blog article, I wanted to share my latest purchase with you. My antique waffle iron, circa 1900. Have a look!


It is in really good condition. I have seasoned it and tried using it once, which was an utter failure. The waffles stuck to the inside, so much so that we almost couldn’t get it open. I will not give up. I’m going to season it again and keep trying.


As I have come to the end of the first section, baking soda bread, in the 1903 Good Housekeeping cookbook,  I decided to do something a bit different, before moving onto the next section.

All of the antique/vintage cookbooks I own are from the first half of the 20th century, which is fine, but, I wanted to get some that are a bit older. However, buying antique cookbooks is not an inexpensive endeavor, many costing $100’s or even into the $1000’s. So, I’ve taken to the internet and found a plethora of sites with pdf or ebook versions of these antique cookbooks. Since I hail from Virginia, I chose the Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph. 

This book is full of wonderful and unique recipes. I’ve chosen recipes that are fitting with today’s lifestyle. There are, however, many recipes not as common today, such as how to bake a calf’s head or how to fry calf’s feet. What is wonderful about that time period is they used quite literally everything on the animal, which is very healthy. Some of the things they used, such as the head, feet and organs, contain abundant amounts of collagen, minerals, healthy fats and other nutrients. When making bone broth, for example, the best parts of the animal are the feet, joints and head, as these contain the highest amounts of collagen.

You’ll have to do some research to “translate” many of the recipes. You will also have to experiment with oven temperatures. Many say simply “bake”. There are a few that use terms such as “quick”, “fast” or “hot”. In cases like that you can refer to the following chart:


It is my intention to keep searching for reasonably priced hard copies of these cookbooks. However, I’ll be trying many of the recipes from this and other cookbooks, and reporting the results to you. I hope you enjoy looking through these wonderful and unique recipes.

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From: The Virginia Housewife

By: Mrs. Mary Randolph –

Published – 1839

Source for images

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Chicken and Eggs

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Since baking soda wasn’t invented until 1843, the rising agent for all baked goods was yeast. Below is the method used in the book for making yeast. Hop tea, as you may suspect, is a tea made from hops, which can be found HERE.

A GILL is equal to 4 ounces.

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