This is a listing of odd or obsolete ingredients. Or old names for ingredients still common. Things you may come across in old recipes.

  • Buttermilk – For mid-20th century and earlier recipes, this refers to the watery milk left over from the butter-making process. Since cream often sat for some time before churning, it was naturally cultured/sour. Real buttermilk has practically zero fats and is very thin in consistency. Modern “buttermilk” is just cultured whole or lowfat milk, and thus still has butterfats and tends to be thick in consistency. You can still use modern buttermilk, but you may need to adjust. Note that you can make your own butter (I do) to get buttermilk, but if you use the buttermilk in period recipes, you must culture it, before or after churning.
  • Chyan pepper – Cayenne pepper
  • Eschalot – Shallot
  • Green Corn – This does not actually mean green in color. “Green” often refers to fresh vs. dried with some ingredients.
  • Hartshorn – In the medieval to renaissance period, this was literally produced from antler, and is an ammonia-based leavening agent used in thin breads/biscuit. This was replaced later by ammonium carbonate, but may still be referred to as hartshorn or “volatile”. Ammonium carbonate, aka Baker’s Ammonia is still readily available.
  • Saleratus – An early form of baking soda. Substitute 1-1/4 tsp of making soda for each tsp of Saleratus required.
  • Verjuice – A juice made from unripe grapes. Very acidic. It is fairly common in 16th century and earlier recipes. You can still find this if you look hard for it. Otherwise, you may have to substitute lemon juice or vinegar, but it will definitely change the flavor.
  • Volatile – See “Hartshorn”
  • Yeast – Until the very late 19th century, this refers to a liquid yeast solution, more akin to what we would call a “starter” today. Usually made by obtaining yeast from a brewer, then feeding it with flour or potato. Hops were often added, for flavoring and to prevent the yeast solution from going sour. Note that “sourdough” was not really a thing, and having a culture go sour meant it needed to be replaced. Cake yeast was just starting to become available around the turn of the 20th century. More info here.
  • Yeast Powder – This is not yeast. It is a name used for an early baking powder. Substitute baking powder.