5 Tips for Making Family Recipes Jump Out of Your Cookbook (And Into Your Reader’s Kitchen)

Many of my family recipes were tucked away in cardboard shoeboxes on well-worn recipe cards until I developed my cookbook software. The margins of the recipe cards were often decorated with cryptic comments and sage advice regarding the taste, texture, and preparation techniques that gave the recipe its unique place in the repertoire of our family’s cooks.

Such comments are wonderful insights from the past for anyone trying to recreate the family recipe, so make sure you include these observations and advice when creating your own cookbook. (In my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software, scanned recipe cards can be included as a photo within the recipe page, thus retaining the “flavor” of the original.)

When you choose recipes for your family cookbook or other cookbook-making project, consider the following 5 tips for making your family recipes even better:

1. Introductory “Sell Copy”
Include a brief introduction to the family recipe that sets the tone for why it was a favorite of Aunt Josie’s, or how old it is, and maybe how you think it got changed over the years. Tell stories about how it came from the Old World, or it was the first solid thing your daughter ate. Make each recipe a way to tell a little of the story of your family.

2. Quantity
Always try to provide an expected number of servings for every family recipe. You’ll want to include the serving size (ounces or ½ cups portions) as well as the number of servings that the recipe will yield. For some foods volume of yield is more useful, such as “makes one quart,” or “makes two large bowls.”

3. Specific Descriptions
Describe how a mixture should look or feel at a certain stage if there could be variances in how someone interprets the family recipe. It is better to add “The crepe batter will be quite thin” if there is a chance someone could misinterpret the family recipe.

4. Visual Prompts for Doneness
Let’s say your family recipe called for sauteed onions. Instead of just saying “cook and stir about 10 minutes,” you could include “or until onions are soft and translucent.”

5. Give Reasons
Include a reason for doing something if it is a unique or a less common cooking technique. For example, most cooks know that you stir sour cream into a hot dish just before serving to prevent curdling. But some may not realize the importance of “Rinse bean sprouts” unless you include “to remove salty, canned taste.”

Hope these 5 tips help in making your family recipes better when creating your cookbook!

Happy cookbooking!

Erin

About Erin Miller

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