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Wonder Where Kitchen Measures Come From?

The English system of volume measures was inherited from the Saxons and resulted in a number of different gallons. The volume of each gallon depended upon the weight of the commodity it was designed to contain (e.g., beer, wheat, etc.). The American Colonies simplified the system by adopting just two standard gallons – the old wine, or Queen Ann’s gallon of 231 cubic inches for liquids (US wet gallon), and the old Winchester Gallon of 268.8 cubic inches for dry measures (US dry gallon). The British later adopted the single Imperial British Gallon that contained 10 pounds of pure water at 62°F. The result is that the gallon, quart, pint, cup, ounce, tablespoon, and teaspoon used in the kitchen, for both wet and dry measure, are based upon the US wet gallon. The volume of the bushel, peck, quart, and pint of produce you buy is based upon the US dry gallon. The pint of berries you buy is the smallest standard dry volume measure.

Two non-standard kitchen measures are the dash and pinch. Two dashes are generally considered to equal one pinch and eight pinches equal one teaspoon. The first English language cookbook to include the quantities for recipe ingredients was The Cook’s Oracle by Dr. William Kitchner (1777 – 1827). He stated “a scale and some apothecary measures” were all that a cook needed.

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