Summer of the Archives

Have you ever scrolled through the many items in the North Carolina Digital Collections and discovered a hidden treasure? Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our collection in the hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials in our digital collections.

Looking to try something new? How about dying your own fabric, whipping up some arthritis treatments, or white washing your own stucco? The State Archives of North Carolina Private Collections includes the Polk Recipe Book from 1858. The Polk Recipe Book is from the Lucy Williams Polk Papers private collection. Lucy Williams Polk was wife to Williams Polk, whose brother was James K. Polk, the 11th President of the United States. The recipe book belonged to Mary K. Williams, Lucy’s mother.

Polk Recipe Book, 1858, PC_75_10_Polk_Recipe_Book

Polk Recipe Book, 1858, PC_75_10_Polk_Recipe_Book

The recipe book includes handwritten recipes ranging from fabric dyes, herbal remedies, jellies, cakes, breads, and apparently even a ginger beer recipe (although I haven’t found that one yet!). The book also includes newspaper cutouts on topics ranging from “Training Steers” to “Bed-Bugs”. It’s everyone’s do-it-yourself home-keeping manual (or at least the 1850s version)!

The item is part of the NCDC artificial online collection, Food and Cooking, which began as part of the 2013 North Carolina Archives week celebration. Other items in the collection include cookbooks, court transcripts for moonshine cases, and trademark applications; all relating to North Carolina food culture and history. So go check out the recipe for not only green pickles, but also yellow pickles, from the Polk Recipe Book.

But keep in mind, this is from the 1800s, they might not have most things at the grocery store. Although the German Ginger Cake might be worth trying to modernize the recipe. If you want to read more about transforming historical recipes into modern ones, check out an article about it here.

P.S. the Ginger Beer recipe is on page 10!