Summer (Cooking) School, Part 2: Canning and Preserving

Picking up on the theme from earlier this month, I thought it might be fun to continue some cooking school lessons over the summer. So, this week, we’re looking at Ola Powell’s Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use, published in 1917.

Each chapter includes a LOT of informational content, but each is also punctuated by photographs and illustrations throughout. Since the book is really designed to be a lesson book, though not exactly a text book, it does come complete with built-in quizzes. The end of every chapter includes a list of questions about the content, so you can make sure that learning has really soaked in and been preserved (pun intended, of course). The chapters cover the foods you would expect: fruits, veggies, pickles and relishes, jellies, preserves/conserves/marmalades, and fruit juices. But it also includes chapters on the history and safety of canning and preserving, techniques, drying foods for preservation, canning as a business, and teaching canning.

The diversity of this content is an important reflection on the significance of canning and food preservation. It was a necessity for feeding a family, but it was also a social activity, a profit-making opportunity, and clearly integrated into many aspects of domestic and home life, whether rural or urban.

Ola Powell was an extension agent by training and that surely shows. In addition to the many editions of Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use, between the mid 1910s- and the early 1940s, she also authored or co-authored works on a variety of other topics, including making and caring for mattresses and bedding, sewing, plants and plant diseases, home demonstration work, and farm and garden management.

You can find Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use in its entirely among the scanned books from Special Collections online. You know, in case you’re looking for a good mushroom ketchup recipe or a few trivia questions on the advantages of canning in tin versus glass.

Until our next summer school lesson, stay cool and enjoy something tasty…

Summer (Cooking) School is in Session, Part 1: A Few Food Lessons in Domestic Science

The spring semester is over, but summer school has begun here at Virginia Tech. If that reminds us of anything, it’s that we’re ALWAYS learning. So, this week, we’re looking at Twenty Lessons in Domestic Science by Marian Cole Fisher, published in 1916. We won’t look at all 20 (and honestly, we almost weren’t going make it past the awesome diagrams in Lesson One!), but we may also revisit this book in the future!

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There are a few pages before the actual lessons start, covering basics like cooking methods, budgeting, and rationing (although not in the war-time sense we’ll see this concept used staring the following year during World War I). And, there’s a table of “Important Equivalents to Memorize.”


Then there’s Lesson Number One: Function of Foods. Which includes some awesome charts from the USDA

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And here are a few pages from Lesson Number Three: Cakes and Their Process, which is where we start to get to some actual recipes!

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If you’re interested in the rest of the lessons, you can see this item in its entirety on Special Collection’s digital platform. It was part the more than 200 titles relating to food history that have been digitized. We also have two copies of the print volume in the collection, too, if you want to see it in person. (Or, you can wait and see if we add some more in the future!) For now, just remember it’s 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder to 1 cup of flour for your biscuits, muffins, and quick breads. Oh, and frosting goes well on just about anything sweet–right? 🙂