Grandma Minnie’s Recipes


When Grandma Minnie Erwin passed away her sons cleaned out her house in Severy, and most of the family possessions were given away or disposed of in one way or other. Photo albums, quilts and a few other personal items, were distributed to various family members. Sadly, however, as has happened so often in the past—at least in the Erwin family—many other precious family heirlooms, as well as various potentially historical possessions, were indiscriminately disposed of.

Jimmey Dean Erwin—the youngest son of “Jim” Erwin, lived with Grandpa and Grandma Erwin for a time when he was a child, and was probably closer to them, especially Grandma, than any of their grandchildrenreceived some of her photographs and personal papers.

Among the items he received were several pages that had obviously once been part of a loose-leaf note book. Grandma had written some miscellaneous notes, a few birthdays, as well as some of her recipes. In 2003 Jimmey gave me some of these items, which by then were in bad shape. The note book—if he had received it complete—could have been potentially very enlightening. Among the remaining pages, however, were some recipes.


 Candy Pudding

4 pts of sugar, ½ pt hot water, 1 pt of cream, 1 small coconut, 1 tea cup of raisins, 1 tea cup of nuts. Put cream in after candy begins to boil, a little at a time.


 Sea Foam Candy

1 ½ cups white sugar, 1 ½ cups brown sugar. Let boil until candy good. Beat whites of 3 eggs, add ½ cup raisins cut up, ½ cup figs, 2 cups of nuts.


 Poor Man’s Pudding

1 cup molasses, 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon soda, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup currents, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon cloves, a little nutmeg. No directions were listed – apparently she needed be reminded of the ingredients only.


 Vinegar Pie

1 cup vinegar, sweeten to taste. Extracts of any kind. 2 table spoons of flour. Pour boiling water on and then make a crust you can put 2 eggs in if you like and take whole for meringue.



 There were a couple of other recipes that I was able to decipher, but they were not for something to eat…


 Potash Soap

One pound of potash, two pounds of grease (probably hog renderings) and three pints of water. Soak the potash in the water for 24 hours, or boil until dissolved, then add grease, and boil until it thickens.


Soft Soap

Put the ashes in barrels, or a hopper, which is better. Pour water on every day, drain it off, and if not strong enough, pour it back, or boil it down till strong. Put straw in the barrels first, then pack ashes in. When the lye is strong enough to strip a feather, put in grease until the lye stops absorbing it. Cook until the soap looks thick.

No ingredients were listed, so either Grandma felt she didn’t need reminding, or possibly the previous list was used for soft soap also.


 It was common for pioneer families to make their own soap, but in later years—especially after the family left the farm—it is unlikely that Grandma continued the practice. I’m also curious how often she used the recipe that required “1 small coconut.” In early rural America—especially in Arkansas and Kansas—whole fresh coconuts, small or otherwise,  would have probably been hard to come by.

                                                                                                     Don Erwin