September 23, 2020

18th Century Wash-Balls: Scented Body Soap | How To

Colonial Era Wash-Balls Soap

Bathing in colonial times evokes images of dirty rags and lard soap. In reality is there were many scented, colored, and augmented soaps available at perfumers and many receipts (recipes) to scent pre-made soap at home. 

I made these wash-balls with castile soap that I made over a full year ago so it has had plenty of time to cure. If you're interested in knowing more about castile soap, I've written quite a bit about it here.  All you need to know for this is that castile is an olive oil based soap, used in the 18th century for shaving and washing as is has a decent lather (for the time period.)

Castile soap can be bought online or in grocery stores. You can also use whatever you have lying around. They did have different color wash-balls but the coloring agents are not something I feel safe putting on my skin in modern times.  I'll update this post with how to color your wash-balls in a safe manner. I'm thinking "melt and pour colorant" is the best bet. 

Other recipes of the time called for rice flour, starch, or hair powder in 1/2 proportion to the soap to stretch it and to add color and extra scents. Hair powders came in white, orange, brown, gray, pink, red, blue and lavender. 

Colonial Era Wash-Balls Soap

18th Century Wash-Balls


- Pre-made Soap
- Rose or other Flower Water (Other recipes from the time period suggest lavender, coriander, cloves, jasmine, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon peel, lemon juice, orange flower water, musk.)

1. Shred, grate, bash, crush, buy pre-masticated or take up the relaxing art of soap shaving. A large mortar and pestle would work best.

Colonial Era Wash-Balls Soap

3. Heat up your soap in a double boiler, in the hot sun or just use the heat from your hands. You want the soap soft but not melted.  Add your scent liquid or water if you don't want to add a scent. (Don't do this with essential oils they will burn your skin.) Stir until well mixed. I did not heat mine, but heated up my rose water. 

Colonial Era Wash-Balls Soap

4. Wet your hands and grab a handful and squeeze it into a ball. Add as much liquid as you need to get it to stick together. You want the balls as compacted as possible. 

Colonial Era Wash-Balls Soap

Colonial Era Wash-Balls Soap

5. Let them dry in ball form for a week. You can scrape the outsides with a knife or peeler to make them smoother.

Castile really is great for shaving. I'm excited to try it out now that it's scented. This is a great activity to do with kids, unlike soapmaking which can be dangerous.

If you want to buy premade soap flakes and waters I recommend the products below:

This site uses affiliate links. If you are planning on making a purchase, I would greatly appreciate if you would use the affiliate links above. It doesn't cost you any more but it does help me keep the website running. Thanks!

September 15, 2020

Civil War Era Kids Craft: Paper Boats | How to

What kid doesn't like playing with paper boats? It seems like magic that you can make a boat out of paper and even more so that paper can hold out water! You might find that kids today have never made or have seen paper boats and will find them as exciting and novel as kids in the 1860s and before.  

The instructions call for a piece of paper 6" x 4" but we also had luck with 8.5" x 11" sheets. They can be a little tricky to make so you might have to help the first few times but they'll get it eventually. These instructions are from The Boy's Own Toy-Maker (1859) but can be a little confusing, especially to younger readers. I've included a short video tutorial to try to clear things up a little bit.

Please let me know if you are interested in more Civil War kids activities or if there's a certain game or toy you'd like me to write about. 


These instructions are from The Boy's Own Toy-Maker (1859.) 

September 9, 2020

How to Render Lard and Tallow for Cooking, Soap Making and Cosmetics

In early America, grease pots were a ubiquitous part of a kitchen. Grease was collected during cooking and butchering and was later rendered (made clean), and used to make soap, candles, grease pans, for cooking, and cosmetics. Tallow is the rendered fat of a ruminant and lard is fat from pigs. 

Today, so much good fat goes to waste.   

I'm using fat that my family saved for me from tacos and meatloaf. I don't eat meat so I'm reliant on friends and family whenever I need lard or tallow. My fat wasn't too gross. Yours might have chunks of meat on it, and that's fine for this. Just chop it into pieces and melt. 

How to Render Lard

Put your fat in a pan on medium heat and add enough water to cover it.

Add 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of fat.

Heat until melted.

Pour into a sieve over a bowl.

Let the bowl Rest for 24 hours. 

Cut the tallow out of the bowl.

Rinse the tallow under running water.

You can repeat the process a second time with a finer sieve. Freeze in zip lock bags for up to a year. 

In the next few weeks I'll hopefully post a few tutorials on what you can do with rendered tallow. Stay tuned! 

September 2, 2020

Civil War Era Apple Pancakes Recipe

Civil War Recipe for Apple Pancakes

I was very interested to try this recipe as it has molasses, cornmeal, and apples, three flavors that were very common during the Civil War that have since fallen out of fashion. I found the recipe in
The American Economical Housekeeper and Family Receipt Book, 1850. The Housekeeper and Gardener (1858) stated to add "a little more flour than is given to a common pancake batter," so I added a bit more than I would for normal pancakes. 

We served ours with "maple molasses", as it was called then. They were very good. You can barely taste the cornmeal at all. We will be adding these to our regular food rotation. The recipe made about 12 pancakes so I would half it in the future. 

Civil War Recipe for Apple Pancakes


- 2 Cups Milk
- 1 Teaspoon Saleratus (Baking Soda)
- 1 Cup Corn Meal 
- 1 Cup Molasses
- 3 Apples, pared and minced 
- 3 +/- Cups Flour
- Fat or Oil for frying


Combine cornmeal, molasses, baking soda,minced apples, and milk. Mix in enough flour to make a slightly thicker than usual pancake batter. Fry in oil on medium heat until solid (about 1 minute). Flip pancakes over. Fry other side for another minute.  

August 28, 2020

Historical Kids Craft: Great Depression Paper Poppers

 This year has been weird, to say the least. My sister is a nurse so I have been spending most of my time being Nanny-Auntie to my nephew who is bouncing-off-the-walls energetic and starting 3rd grade next week. 

It’s been mostly exhausting and I’m sure others are feeling this way. We have been finding crafts and projects from the past to stay busy and paper poppers was a fast, easy history craft that kept him busy for hours. All you need is a sheet of paper. 

1930s Crafts for Kids Paper Popper

If you're interested in reading more about the Great Depression here is an affiliate link to the book we were reading about it. The Great American Depression book of fun. 

August 19, 2020

1929 Guacamole Recipe: A Recipe From the Great Depression

Everyone who knows me know I LOVE tacos. I was excited and intrigued to find this early recipe for guacamole. The recipe is from Ramona's Spanish-Mexican Cookery. The author spent 20 years in Mexico learning Mexican recipes and sharing American ones. She wrote this cookbook for Americans who visited Mexico and missed the mouthwatering food.  

This recipe was so good! I've literally made it 3 times since first trying it a few weeks ago and it looks so cute served in the shells and made it easy for everyone to have a personal bowl of guacamole by their plates without dirtying more bowls. 

Ramona's Spanish-Mexican cookery: the first complete and authentic Spanish-Mexican cook book in English (1929).

Vintage Guacamole Recipe


- 3 Medium Avocados
- 1 Tomato, Minced
- 1 Tablespoon Onion, Minced
- 1 Teaspoon Jalapenos, Minced
- 1 Tablespoon Cilantro
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
- Salt and Cayenne Pepper to taste
- Tomato slices and quartered Lemons for garnish


Cut avocados in half and remove the pits. Set peels aside. Mash the avocado meat. Mix in the tomato, onion, jalapeños, cilantro. Salt to taste. Spoon the avocado filling into the avocado shells and garnish with a slice of tomato, slice of lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper. Refrigerate until time to serve. 

You can skip the olive oil and not notice the flavor difference. I added another tablespoon of cilantro and onion, and a bit more jalapeño. Click here to watch Tanya Muñeton make a very similar recipe in Spanish.

August 12, 2020

Depression Era Spritz "Cooky" Recipe- The Perfect Recipe from the 1930s

I'm babysitting and puppysitting this week. It's been a lot especially with the pandemic and tornadoes we've been having in Pennsylvania. I'm not saying that this is a good recipe but it's probably the recipe you ate as a kid and the picky eater ate the whole plate. 

This is something fun for the kids to do if they're bored. Spritz cookies are not only for the holidays!

Vintage Depression Era Spritz Cooky Recipe


- 2 1/4 Cups Flour, sifted
-  3/4 Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Shortening (Crisco or similar)
- 1 Egg 
- 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Extract


Preheat your oven to 400 F . In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar, lemon extract, and salt with the shortening. Add your egg. Sift the flour with the baking powder. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix with your hands until well combined and fill your cookie press. Bake for 10- 12 minutes on an un-greased cookie sheet.    

Why won't my spritz cookies stick?

Cookie Sheets must be cold and the dough must be slightly sticky. If your dough is too dry, add a little water, remix it in your hands and put it back into the press. You may have to experiment how many squeezes or turns you have to use per cookie. It changes based on the shape you pick. Also, never grease the pan. They won't stick, I promise. 

August 5, 2020

World War II Banana Bread Recipe: A Delicious and Simple Way to Save Overripe Bananas

I swear that produce is going bad quicker during the quarantine. It’s been a full time job just keeping up with what is about to go bad. This recipe came to the rescue.

 It’s from Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking School (1942).   Bananas are one of the biggest sources of food waste. For every one banana eaten, two are wasted. That’s bad for us and the environment. 

Today, Cavendish bananas are the most common but in the 1940s, they would have likely be using the Gros Michel variety if they could get bananas at all. Gros Michel bananas had a thick peel and a strong flavor but were susceptible to Panama Disease, which destroyed many banana plantations in the 1950s leading to the current popularity of Cavendish. If I ever get ahold of a Gros Michel, I’ll be sure to do a taste test. 

This recipe has a nice texture, just between bread and cake. It smelled like heaven while baking and was delicious toasted in the toaster with some butter

World War II Banana Bread


- 3 Bananas
- 2 Eggs
- 3/4 Cup Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 2 Cups Flour
-1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 F. Mash your bananas with a metal fork add sugar, eggs, salt, baking soda then flour gradually. Put in a buttered 9 x 5” pan. Bake for 1 hour. 

You can also replace some of the banana in this recipe with apple sauce and some of the sugar with honey. 

Please check out and subscribe to my Youtube channel. You all asked for it, so here it is. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts and ideas. 

July 29, 2020

World War I Era Scottish Shortbread Recipe from Chester, PA

I have been wanting to make a recipe from this book for years. I've been searching and searching for an original copy of The Third Presbyterian Cookbook, 1917 but had to make due with a digital copy.

If you have been following me for awhile you might know that I've been involved with the Chester Historical Preservation Committee and we had been restoring the church for the last few years. The church was the site of the first influential vacation bible school and was going to house our archives and a performing arts center once completed.

We are heartbroken that the building, which had been added to the National Register of Historical Places last year, was attacked by an arsonist and burned in a 5 alarm fire (CW: Graphic Video) earlier this year.

Third Presbyterian Church Scotch Short Bread

- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 1/2 lbs of Butter (2 Sticks, room temperature)
- 3 1/2 Cups Flour (I only used about 2 1/2 Cups)
- 1 Egg Yolk (room temperature)

Preheat oven to 325°F Cream together sugar and butter. Mix in the egg yolk. Gradually add the flour. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoons or hands.

Roll into a flattened ball and notch the edges or press into a mold and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. 

If you are able to donate anything at all to the Chester Historical Preservation Committee, they would be eternally grateful. If you are not able to donate, you can still help by sharing this post on your social media. Thank you.

July 22, 2020

Civil War Era Popover Recipe for Breakfast

Popovers are an egg-based, hollow roll that is shaped like a muffin. Due to its hollow nature, it is perfect for filling with butter, cheese or meat. It is an especially easy way to fix breakfast or to send the men "off to battle" with a snack. Popovers also have the added benefit bread-like but not requiring any leavening agent other than the egg.

 By the 1870s, Popovers were popular enough to have been included in Annie Frost's "The Godey's Lady's Book Receipts and Household Hints," as well as many other publications. They are like individual Yorkshire Puddings. 

Below is Mrs. Hooper's Popover recipe from "Tit-Bits or How to Prepare a Dish at a Moderate Expense," a publication printed in 1864 in both Boston and New York. Other, similar recipes were printed from 1859. The cookbook emphasized plain, everyday cooking using simple ingredients.

In the video I cut the recipe by 1/4 but you can half it, double or even triple it if necessary.

Mrs. Hooper's Civil War Pop-Overs


- 4 Cups Milk, room temperature
- 4 Tablespoon Butter, melted
- 4 Eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 4 Cups Flour

Makes 24 Popovers. This recipe can be easily halved or doubled. The general recipe for popovers calls for 1 Egg and 1 Cup of Milk for every Cup of Flour.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Preheat your popover or muffin pans.

In a mixing bowl whisk together your milk, eggs, melted butter, and salt. Slowly add the flour. Do not over mix, a few clumps are okay. Remove your pans from the oven and carefully grease them. Fill the pans up 3/4 of the way. Bake for 30- 40 minutes. Once they are done baking, transfer them to a cooling rack or plate. Carefully, (they are hot) poke a hole in them to allow them to keep their shape. Eat warm with butter or jelly. 

July 15, 2020

Civil War Era Pickled Limes Recipe like in Little Women

'In debt, Amy; what do you mean?' and Meg looked sober.

'Why, I owe at least a dozen pickled limes, and I can't pay them, you know, till I have money, for Marmee forbid my having anything charged at the shop.'

'Tell me all about it. Are limes the fashion now? It used to be pricking bits of rubber to make balls;' and Meg tried to keep her countenance, Amy looked so grave and important.

'Why, you see, the girls are always buying them, and unless you want to be thought mean, you must do it too. It's nothing but limes now, for everyone is sucking them in their desks in school-time, and trading them off for pencils, bead-rings, paper dolls, or something else, at recess. If one girl likes another, she gives her a lime; if she's mad with her, she eats one before her face, and don't offer even a suck. They treat by turns; and I've had ever so many, but haven't returned them, and I ought, for they are debts of honour, you know.' -Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

I have been wanting to make these since I first read Little Women so I am very excited to share this recipe. It made no sense to me. The kids I knew hated limes. Why would anyone want to eat these? Was it a dare? Were they showing how tough they were by consuming them? I really didn't know then and still didn't know until now.

They're actually not bad! They're salty and sour and a bit tangy. I read of children in the 1860s eating them in conjunction with sweet candy. Other taste testers said they would go good with nuts and beer.

I cooked the vinegar to save time and added a bit of water to reduce the bite. I also was stuck using prepared ingredients as some of the fresh or whole spices were nowhere to be found. Feel free to use the fresh and whole kind if you can find them right now. The recipe is left open so you can pickle as many or few limes as you want. The spices should make up about 1/16 of the mixture.

Civil War Era Pickled Limes Recipe


- Limes
- Salt
-50% Vinegar to 50% Water Mixture
- Garlic, chopped
- Mustard Seed
- Cayenne Pepper
- Horseradish (shredded)


Quarter limes, leaving a bit so the 4 pieces stay connected. Place in a sanitized jar.

Sprinkle the limes with the salt, cover, and sit in a sunny spot until the rinds change colors (can be as little as 3 hours or take up to a week depending on sunlight.) Shake every day to coat the limes in juice.

Boil enough vinegar and water mixture to cover the limes.

Mix the Garlic, Mustard Seed, Cayenne Pepper and Horseradish together.

In a sanitized jar, add the limes and seasonings in alternating layers.

Carefully pour the vinegar over the limes. Let cool then cover and store in the fridge until the juice thickens.


June 18, 2020

World War I Era Pickled Eggs Recipe from Chester, PA

The Kitchen Guide (Chester, PA) 1913

When all of this started, everyone looked at their pantries and came to me and said “Now we need some of those ration recipes!” I struggled to recommend anything. This is unprecedented. Some people couldn’t find bread, others yeast. Some people had plenty of fresh fruit and others nothing.
While I did find ration recipes that helped me, it was impossible to help everyone.

This isn’t like WWII, when you knew a lot of the variables. Hindsight is 20/20 and we know most people would appreciate recipes that contained less of rationed ingredients and more of substitutes. I haven’t been posting much. It seems silly and dangerous to make special food and grocery trips right now.

This is a recipe that you can make with stuff already likely in your house. The beets are not necessary and you can stretch this a lot further if you use the picked eggs to make egg salad sandwiches. Historically, pickling eggs was a way to preserve them for future use before refrigeration. Kept in a cold place, pickled eggs can last up to 4 months! I added a little bit of water to the vinegar to remove the sharpness. They had no way of knowing the acidity of their homemade vinegars and they were likely not as acidic as ours is today.

Pickled Eggs


- 6 Eggs, Hard boiled and peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
- 24 Cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon Mustard
- 2 Cups Vinegar (2/3 Cups Water, 1 1/3 Cups Vinegar)
- Boiled Beet Slices, if wanted


Press 4 cloves into each egg, place in sterilized jar. In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat, bring vinegar (and beets) to a boil and add the salt, pepper and boil for one minute. Carefully pour the vinegar mixture over the eggs and let cool. Cover and store in the fridge for at least two days before eating. 

April 17, 2020

Sandusky Sand Tarts: 100+ Year Old Recipe

Did you know that the Sandusky Sand Tart is the official dish of the Maritime Museum of Sandusky in Ohio? Neither do they. I'm at that point in the Covid-19 quarantine where I am creating signature dishes for historical sites and museums. This post was made possible by the Sandusky Library and Jeremy Angstadt who created and forwarded me the book scan. If you're local or out that way, be sure to give them a visit.

I chose this recipe because it was marked it the book, and I love getting recipe input from previous cooks. Sand Tarts were a popular turn of the century dish and are included in many Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish cookbooks.

The Sandusky House-Keeper (Sandusky, Ohio) 1888

Sandusky Sand Tarts


- 2 Cups Sugar
- 1 Cup Butter (2 Sticks)
- 3 Cups Flour
- 2 Eggs, reserving 1 egg white for brushing on top
- Cinnamon
- Sugar
- Blanched Almonds


In a mixing bowl, cream together room temperature butter and sugar. Add the eggs, reserving one egg white. Mix in the Flour. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut into squares. Place sand tarts on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or grease. Brush the egg white and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on the tops. Press an almond into the center.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 300 degrees F for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

I made half the recipe and it produced about 20 3.5 inch cookies. The tarts spread a little while cooking so be sure to give them space on the pan. It tastes like a crunchy snicker doodle and would be very good with tea. I'm generally not a fan of crunchy cookies but these have a good flavor and texture. Thanks for coming to visit! I'm getting so stir crazy stuck in the house.

April 15, 2020

Chester Jumbles a WWI - Depression Era Cookie Recipe

Things are going to look a little weird on my site for the foreseeable future. Due to the Covid-19 Quarantine, I am stuck in New York without my camera gear, and kitchen implements.

For those of you who don't know, I volunteer with the Chester Historical Preservation Committee and was very excited to find this book that was printed in Chester, Pennsylvania while I was on vacation in Massachusetts last year. Drive 4 and a half hours for some local history? Yes, Please.

What the heck is Chester, PA? It's the first European City in Pennsylvania. It's where William Penn actually landed. It's where the wounded were sent by rail after the Battle of Gettysburg. It was home of the Eddystone Rifle Plant, during WWI. It was a major shipbuilding site during WWI and II. It's where Martin Luther King Jr. went to school. It's really historic, you'll just have to trust me.

I was very excited to get to try some local recipes from this time period. This book, The Kitchen Guide, was originally published in 1913 in Philadelphia and had only 3 recipes with Chester in the Title. Sometime during the 1913 printing and the 1927 Chester printing, "Chester Jumbles" were added to the text. Jumbles are one of the earliest forms of cookies.

Chester Jumbles 


- 2 Cups Sugar
- 1 Cup Butter (2 Sticks)
- 1/2 Cup Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 4 Eggs, beaten
- 1 Tablespoon Vanilla
- 1/2 Cups Shredded Coconut
- Almonds, sliced
- About 4-5 Cups of Flour


Cream the sugar and the room temperature, butter together until smooth. Add the vanilla, 1/2 cup of the flour, the salt and the 4 eggs and coconut. Add flour until the dough does not stick to your hands. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/4 of an inch. Cut out with round or donut shaped cookie cutters and top with sliced almonds. Bake on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and let cool.

For whatever reason I did not think I was going to like these but they turned out very good. They're soft with a light coconut flavor and nice crunch from the almonds. I only made a half batched and it made about 14, 3 inch cookies. 

March 29, 2020

World War 2 Baked Cheese Dreams Recipe

***This post is for the WW2 Ration Cook-in (#wwiirationcookin on Instagram). We're stuck at home but that doesn't mean we aren't working! For the next 7 days we will be attempting a new ration recipe from World War 2.  Be sure to check out @victorykitchenpodcast,, and @missfashionistageek on Instagram to see what they cook up this week.***

This is for day #3: Dinner. I've seen this exact recipe in a Pyrex cookbook from 1925 and in the Maritime Cookbook (1939.) It sounded pretty good.

My companion liked it and said they would eat it again. I was not at all into the texture of this. Baked Dreams or Vomit Sandwich?   It tasted like cheese flavored bread pudding with toast on top. There are two possibilities. 1. I wasn't supposed to use all 2 cups of the milk and just "coat the tops" of the sandwiches or 2. I didn't bake it long enough. It's also possible it's just supposed to taste like this. The world may never know.

I have seen other recipes for "cheese dreams" that are similar and just coat the bread and fry in a frying pan. I think that's more my preference.

The Maritime Cookbook (Montreal) 1939

World War 2 Baked Cheese Dreams Recipe 


- 8 slices of Bread
- 4 slices of Cheese
- 2 Cups Milk
- 2 Eggs, slightly beaten
- Butter (Margarine, lard, butter substitutes)
- 1/4 teaspoon Paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- Pinch Cayenne Pepper
- Pinch of Paprika


Butter the bread. Place 4 pieces in a buttered casserole dish. Place cheese on the slices of bread, sprinkle with paprika then top with the remaining bread slices. Scramble the eggs and mix with the paprika, salt and cayenne pepper and pour over the "sandwiches."Bake at 425 °F for around 45 minutes or until browned.

March 28, 2020

3 Ingredient, WW2 Egg Salad Sandwich Recipe

***This post is for the WW2 Ration Cook-in (#wwiirationcookin on Instagram). We're stuck at home but that doesn't mean we aren't working! For the next 7 days we will be attempting a new ration recipe from World War 2.  Be sure to check out @victorykitchenpodcast,, and @missfashionistageek on Instagram to see what they cook up this week.***

Today's prompt was "Lunch." There's not too much to this recipe to the point I was considering not writing a post but thought this is one recipe that might help people scrambling to make meals without being about to restock their normal foodstuffs.

We had this with a little bit of black pepper on unbuttered wheat toast. It was very tasty and decided we would eat this under normal circumstances. Wheat bread was pushed during the war as more nutritious.

The Maritime Cookbook (Montreal) 1939
World War 2 Egg and Olive Sandwich


- 2 Eggs, Hard Boiled
- 12 Stuffed Olives
- Mayonnaise


Chop the hard boiled eggs and olives together. Add a spoonful of mayonnaise or enough to wet the mixture. Serve sandwiched between slices of buttered bread. 

Copyright © 2008-2020 Stephanie Ann Farra. All rights reserved.

All materials posted on this site are subject to copyrights owned by Stephanie Ann Farra. Any reproduction, retransmissions, or republication of all or part of any document found on this site is expressly prohibited, unless the author has explicitly granted its prior written consent to so reproduce, retransmit, or republish the material. All other rights reserved.