The Sweet Smell of Baking

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, here’s a trip down memory lane for you! Imagine walking into your grandmother’s kitchen and smelling something homemade baking in the oven. Was it a pie filled with rhubarb, Saskatoon berries, apples or a cream filling topped with meringue? Perhaps it was homemade bread or a batch of your favourite cookies.

Pies, bread and cookies were a very popular desserts in the past because households usually had all the ingredients in the pantry. Simple pastries were made with lard and wheat flour. Sugar could be added if it was in the cupboard, but in lean times or times of rationing during the wars, the quantity available was limited. One favourite old pastry recipes also calls for an egg, vinegar and baking powder. Fillings for pies were often from the garden or coulee, or easy to make as a corn starch pudding. Perhaps you helped pick the berries or roll out the pastry!

Making bread was another regular weekly job in many homes. Yeast, sugar or honey, whole wheat flour, warmed milk, salt and butter were mixed together and set in a warm place in the kitchen to rise. The smell of baking bread often drew family members into the house so they could slice into the warm loaf and enjoy it with butter and jam. Cinnamon buns baked with a filling of butter, brown sugar and, of course, cinnamon, were special treats and often didn’t last long enough to be topped with icing.

Cookies were usually baked in large batches as they quickly disappeared from the cookie jar. Oatmeal, gingersnap, raisin, shortbread and sugar cookies were regularly baked on Saturday mornings. Chocolate chips didn’t become a staple in the kitchen until the 1940s, when Nestlé introduced them.

While chocolate chips are not on the menu, the Galt’s weekly family program, Saturdays at 1:00, does include the making of apple crisp, Spam Masubi, and pickles, among other history-related topics. Or come take another trip down memory lane with the newest exhibit “Treasures & Curiosities: The Sequel”. For more information, visit