Vintage recipes: Glossary of 44 helpful cooking terms & definitions

Vintage mixing bowl with flour in it in an article with a glossary of cooking terms

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Glossary of cooking terms & their definitions

Welcome to our glossary of cooking terms! When working with vintage recipes, it’s not uncommon to come across unfamiliar terminology or cooking methods. This cooking terms glossary is designed to help you navigate those unfamiliar terms and successfully execute your vintage recipes.

From “Apollinaris water” (say what?!) to “zest,” this glossary covers a wide range of cooking terms and techniques that you may encounter in your culinary adventures. We hope this is a helpful reference as you explore the world of vintage cooking!

Apollinaris water: A naturally sparkling mineral water from Germany

Aspic: A clear gelatin made from vegetable or meat broth, or from processed gelatin

Baste: To spoon or ladle drippings, marinade or another liquid over food as it roasts

Batter: A flour-liquid mixture that is thin enough to pour

Beat: To stir vigorously with a spoon, or to beat with an egg beater or electric mixer

Bind: To add egg, thick sauce or another ingredient to a mixture to help it hold together

Blanch: To scald quickly in boiling water

Bombe: A frozen dessert with two or more flavors layered in a fancy mold — also the name of the mold itself

Bouillon: A clear stock (like bone broth) made of poultry, meat, vegetables and seasonings

Bread: To coat with bread crumbs

Coat: To cover with flour, crumbs or another dry mixture before frying

Comfits: Candy-coated nuts, seeds, fruits or spices (Jordan almonds would be considered large comfits)

Compote: A mixture of sweetened cooked fruits

Forcemeat: A mixture of ground raw or cooked meat/poultry/fish, combined with vegetables, bread crumbs, and spices or seasonings

Frizzle: To fry bacon or another thinly-sliced meat until the edges ruffle

Garnish: To decorate with colorful and/or fancy-cut small pieces of food (See Fancy fruit & veg! Do-it-yourself garnishes)

Gill: Generally considered to be 5 liquid ounces, or a quarter of a British pint (which is 20 ounces vs the US 16 ounces), or half an Imperial cup measure… however, depending on when the recipe was written, it could mean a quarter of an American pint, which would make it 4 liquid ounces, or half a cup

Glace: Means something is candied, such as glace cherries and other candied fruits

Hors d ‘oeuvre: Bite-sized appetizers, typically served with cocktails

Lard: White rendered pork fat, used as a primary cooking/baking fat for generations

Macedoine: A mixture of vegetables or fruits, cut into small pieces

Macerate: To let something steep in wine or spirits

Marzipan: A sugary almond paste, also called almond candy dough, used to make decorative edible shapes

Mold: To shape in a shaped mold (also may be spelled mould) – this does not refer to the fungi

Mull: To heat a liquid (often cider or wine) with spices so the beverage takes on the smell and flavor of the aromatics

Oleo: Margarine — a butter substitute (also called oleomargarine back in the 40s/50s)

Paraffin: A white wax — specifically petroleum wax, used in canning and preserving

Paraffin paper: Waxed paper

Pipe: To squeeze frosting, whipped cream, mashed potatoes, or another similarly soft mixture through a pastry tube

Plump: To soak raisins or other dried fruits in liquid until they are rehydrated and plump up

Poach: To cook in simmering liquid

Ragout: A stew, usually with meat and vegetables

Ramekin: A small individual-size baking dish

Saleratus: A leavening agent — potassium bicarbonate or sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda. The first known use of the term was in 1837.

Shortening: Fat used to make cakes, pastries, cookies and bread flaky and tender (usually made with vegetable oil now)

Steep: To let food soak in liquid until the liquid absorbs its flavor, as in steeping tea in hot water

Stew: To cook meat and/or vegetabnles in hot liquid, then serve in the gravy created by the cooking process

Stock: Meat, poultry, fish or vegetable broth

Stud: To stick cloves, pieces of garlic, or another seasoning into the surface of a food to be cooked

Stuff: To fill the body cavity of fish or poultry

Timbale: A savory custard made with meat, fish, poultry or vegetables

Top of the bottle: The rich cream that rises to the top of a glass bottle of whole milk

Truss: To tie poultry (such as a Thanksgiving turkey) into a compact shape before roasting

Zest: The fragrant, oily and colored part of citrus fruit skin


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