I love collecting recipes & getting cookery books & magazines.
I have recipes from Poland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America as well as from other countries that I have visited & from some I have not.
I write up recipes on cards for many of my favourite recipes as I find it hard to remember all the details and amounts.
The hardest thing I find is getting the measurements right.
When trying to get a recipe from my mother she would say in Polish things like “ just add enough flour until it is the consistency you want” or ” add the milk until it is right”.
I used to find this so hard, however now I find I say similar things especially when writing for this blog. It is difficult as there are so many variables that all make a difference, such as the type of flour, the temperature & humidity in the kitchen and so on.
At least you can be sure with weights & measures!
Well sadly – not always – hence this post.
For many recipes the exact amounts do not matter that much however with cakes & pastries the correct proportions do matter .
Let me start with weights.
I used to use pounds & ounces – especially when this was how everything in England was sold & how it was written in books.
Many years ago I bought some balance scales and a set of metric weights.
Balance scales I think are more accurate than the ones with just one top pan especially for small weights & I love the way they work.
I know the new electronic scales are good especially as you can zero the bowl and add ingredients – I just love using the balance scales – there is a sense of symmetry that just appeals to me.
Well going totally metric has not happened in England but recipe books & magazines tend to be in metric and imperial – I just stick to the metric.
At least I thought I am safe with my Polish books as they use metric weights!
How wrong I was!
Some of my Polish cookery books are written using grams & kilograms – but not all of them and especially not my favourite old book – which was also my first.
In this book the weights are given in dekagrams (decagrams) – abbreviated to dkg (deka is from Greek and means 10 – so 1 dekagram is 10grams.
When I went to Poland I found that when shopping for food my cousins all talked in deko or deka and they would ask for 20 deka of sausage when I would have asked for 200grams.
So not too big an adjustment to make when using a recipe however my biggest problem was not concentrating and half way through I would forget and when seeing for example 25dkg of something – I would add 25g!
I did have a few disasters!
Now I always write out the weights in grams – usually on post it notes & leave these in the book – especially for recipes I use often. This is a useful hint for recipes that you want to halve as well – as lack of concentration halfway through can also have disastrous results.
So is it any easier using volume?
Measuring in pints or litres should be easy if you have a jug with graduated markings but there is a little problem as UK pints and American pints are different. An American pint is 16 fluid ounces & a UK pint is 20 fluid ounces.
In American recipes the quart which is 2 pints is often used – but the American quart is smaller than a UK quart. My auntie in America was correct when she said a quart was near enough the same as a litre.
In many American recipe books you will often find that volume measurements in are given in cups.
If you use the same cup as someone else then it is no problem in measuring and not much of a problem with liquids, with solids then it does make a difference in how tightly you pack in the ingredient and how level or heaped is the top.
So no wonder there are charts published which give the weight equivalents for cup volumes of different foodstuffs.
All this then begs the following question …
What is a cup?
or in Poland
What is a szklanka (glass/tumbler)?
A szklanka in Poland is 250ml – a quarter of a litre – this is a metric cup.
An America cup is is 8 fluid ounces (half an American pint) and approximately 240ml.
There is an Imperial cup which is 10 fluid ounces (half a UK pint) and approximately 284ml – you might find this in older UK cookery books.
I had a look at some of my cups and found that only 2 of them held the equivalent of an American cup – whereas 2 of my tumblers held 250ml – so definitely a Polish szklanka.
I found that some of my mugs were the old Imperil cup – half a UK pint
I looked at my bought measuring cups and saw that they were different – one was an American cup the other a metric cup – I must remember that when I use them next.
What size is your spoon?
In Europe certainly before 1700 it was common practice to have your own spoon with you when you went travelling. Just as now when you would rarely leave the house without your wallet, mobile phone and keys, then having our own knife and spoon was very common. Indeed the English expression ” being born with a silver spoon in your mouth” – refers to this – as well as being rich.
In later times and especially with the introduction of the new invention from Italy of the fork it became more common for households to have sets of cutlery for guests.
Sizes of spoons evolved for different uses but now in recipes there are mainly 3 sizes used for measuring – teaspoon, dessert spoon and table spoon with 1 tablespoon being 3 teaspoons & 1 dessert spoon being 2 teaspoons.
The sizes of these spoons are different in the UK, in the USA and in Europe with the ones in the USA being nearly the same as the metric ones.
In the UK a teaspoon is nearly 6ml and a table spoon is just under 18ml.
In Europe a teaspoon is 5ml and a tablespoon is 15ml whilst in the USA the teaspoon is just slightly less than 5ml and a tablespoon is just slightly less than 15ml – so for practical purposes they are the same.
I have some measuring spoons which have both the UK and metric sizes on them but I have noticed that ones for sale now just have the metric sizes on them.
I have not covered the variations that are to be found in Australia & Canada & other countries.
Just be aware of differences in measurements if you are using recipes from other countries.
Make notes & keep them with your recipes, or even rewrite your recipes on cards so you do not forget any changes you make.