Thursday, 4 December 2008

Organizing Recipes

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm

When you start cooking from scratch, you start collecting recipes. Disclaimer: my recipes are not organized, by any stretch of the imagination. There are recipes and cookbooks in every room of my house (if you count the Old Farmer's Almanac hanging in the bathroom). I can usually, but not always, find something I'm looking for, with a minimum of searching. Organizing them is one of those things on the "I really should do this someday" list in the back of my mind.

The computer has made finding some favorites a bit easier. Some are online - my browser favorites toolbar has a recipes folder full of folders full of bookmarked recipes. Others are saved on my hard drive - another folder full of folders. Some are scanned, some typed out, some even formatted to print on 3x5 cards (which my printer doesn't do very well). But the computer is in the spare room - to use any recipes from there means either printing them out or running back and forth, kitchen to computer. Maybe someday, I'll get a laptop and wireless router, and get everything scanned to a hard drive. Maybe. Someday.

I have a couple of inherited boxes of recipe cards - I add to them occasionally. I have a small shelf-ful of favored cookbooks in the kitchen, most sprouting a forest of post-its along the tops, the pages scribbled with changes and notes. On the kitchen table is a stack of magazines, also sporting a rainbow of post-its marking recipes I'd like to try. On the side of my refrigerator, magnet clips hold clippings cut from newspapers. And then there's the Grey Notebook.

A half-size looseleaf binder, it was a bridal shower present. The giver had labeled some of the dividers and written in a couple of her recipes, but most of the pages were blank. What a wonderful present! This book lives on a shelf above the kitchen counter, next to the microwave. The recipes in the Grey Book are my tried and tested, used all the time, favorites. The One-Hour French Bread, one of my first posts on this blog, is in the Grey Book. Most of the recipes I've put on my own blog are the ones from this book.

The Grey Book is my own personal reference book. One tab I've labeled "Feeding a Crowd". In that section are my traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes. I know most of them without looking, but having them listed helps me make out my shopping list. The front page is a little timetable I've made, that helps me get everything on the table at the same time. The book usually stays open on my counter from Wednesday morning until Thanksgiving dinner is served on Thursday. Since everybody has their own family traditions and favorites, I didn't think something like this would be of use to anyone else, but my sister asked me to put it on line, so here it is. If you think you might find it useful, clicking on the picture should bring it up large enough to read.

Another section in the Grey Book is "Harvest Time". Not only are my canning recipes here (many are also on my blog), but also a page for each year, listing what I harvested, what didn't do very well, how much put away, and how much was still left from the year before. By looking at the progression on these pages, I know I need to do at least 2-3 canner loads of whole tomatoes each year, but make plum jelly only every fifth or sixth year. It's also helped me figure out how many jars, of what size, I need. In a small house, with limited storage space, having just enough is the ideal. The front page of this section is my quick canning reference, listing headspace, processing type, times and pressures adjusted for my altitude, and other little notes to myself. Maybe you will find it useful as well. Maybe you'll start your own reference book. Or maybe you'll share your own recipe organizing ideas here.