How To Make A Family Cookbook

Matt, Katie and Jim Seely received a personalized aprons and chef hats along with their mother’s family cookbook.

A family cookbook is a fun Christmas gift, and a way to share your recipes for future generations. It also cuts down desperation when your college student or missionary is far away from home and desperately needs your spaghetti sauce or chocolate chip cookie recipe.

For Christmas a few years ago, Ellie Seely of Mountain Green compiled her favorite family recipes, and some of her mother’s recipes, into a cookbook. (Hubby Jim Seely gets a bit of credit for typing all the prized recipes, such as Chiffon Pumpkin Pie and Thanksgiving Cheese Sticks. Way to go Jim!) Ellie made each of her three grown-up kids a cooking apron and chef’s hat to go with the book. As you can see by the photo, the family cookbooks and aprons were a holiday hit!

A family cookbook compiled by Heather Koyen Hall.

My cousin, Heather Koyen Hall, rounded up recipes from cousins, aunts and uncles and published a cookbook called “Recipes From Eva & Wesley Koyen Family” ten or 15 years ago. It was fun to see recipes from all of the relatives, such as my sister Christi’s sourdough starter and my brother Travis’s deer jerky. And it’s not so much the recipes, but the memories of the folks who made them. Now that Aunt Elsie has passed away, seeing her Cinnamon Roll recipe brings back a lot of memories of her kitchen, fragrant with baking rolls or bread. Grandma Koyen’s white bread and doughnut recipes are still used by some of granddaughters. I’ve not seen my cousins living in Gig Harbor, Washington for quite awhile, but I feel a little closer to them when I try making their recipes such as Roasted Tomato Basil Soup. And there are some recipes you probably won’t find anywhere else, such as Grandpa Koyen’s method for cooking pine-nuts that involves setting pine cones on a tarp in the sun until the cones open up and the nuts fall out. I remember gathering them with him as a kid, and always coming back with pine gum stuck in my hair. Oh, and his famous burnt oatmeal — ingredients include forgetting all about that oatmeal on the old wood stove until it’s too late.

To me, a great sign of a family cookbook is when it captures the family’s personality, not just the recipes.

Here are a few tips for putting together a family cookbook.

Choosing the Recipes: Include the family’s traditional recipes; the ones that are always a hit at the family reunions or potlucks, or the ones that are holiday standards. If you’re making this for extended family, be sure to give everyone an opportunity to submit recipes. Give them a deadline, and you will likely have to bug some people about getting them turned in. If someone doesn’t want to type up the handwritten recipes in their recipe box, get out your cell phone and take photos of the recipe cards.

Printing your book: One of the easiest and least expensive methods is the good old loose-leaf binder. Print copies of the existing recipes on 8-by-10 sheets of paper and place them in clear protective sleeves. Print a cover page that can slide into the binder’s cover.

A few advantages to the binder book:

– It’s inexpensive.

– It stays open on the counter when you’re working on a recipe, and the plastic sleeves protect against splashes.

– It’s easy to add new recipes.

– If you find errors, it’s easy to switch it out with a corrected version of the recipe.

But, a binder doesn’t seem as professional as a commercially printed book. So it really depends on your budget, how many recipes you want to include, how many copies you’ll need to print, the time you have available, and the end product you’re aiming for.

If you decide to have the book printed, there are many cookbook templates found online, and many printing services, with varying costs. You may want to simply go with an ebook, where people can look up the recipes online.

Organizing your book: The standard cookbook headings are things like “Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Main Dishes, Desserts.” But being a family book, you might want to divide the recipes up by the person who contributed them — a heading for Cousin Bill, another for Grandma Jones, Aunt Beth, etc. If your family is known mainly for sweet treats, you may devote the whole book to cookies, cakes, pies, sweet rolls, etc.

The recipe format: Most professional books list all the ingredients at the beginning of the recipe, in the order that they will be used. After more than 20 years of writing, editing and proofreading recipes as a career, I can say this format is easier to proofread for missing ingredients or directions. And it’s easier for cooks to see what ingredients they need before they begin cooking. When the required ingredients are interspersed with the directions, cooks can get halfway through the recipe and realize that it calls for cream or tartar or sesame oil or some other ingredient they don’t have on hand. Oops.

If there’s a back story that goes with the recipe, include it either at the beginning or at the bottom of the recipe. “This is slush was served at so-and-so’s wedding,” or “This was Grandpa’s favorite meal,” will make the recipe more meaningful.



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