An Extremely Cozy Cup of Tea

Hot drinks are winter classics for a reason, and perhaps nothing is quite as cozy as a warm cup of tea. Especially one like this, lightly sweet, brightly citrusy, and full of winter spices.

This very simple, and yet, kind of fancy, spiced tea recipe comes to us from the April 1948 issue of The Workbasket. This magazine focused on craft projects for fun and profit, but also encouraged its readers to form clubs. Each issue had a section of suggested club meeting programs, including recipes for refreshments.

The Workbasket, a small magazine, printed on newsprint. Features a woman and a knitting project on the cover, a line drawing.

I scaled this recipe down to a suitable size for a single family, instead of a club’s worth of ladies, and I must say I’m pleased with the results. Full disclosure: I am the only one around here who likes it. Cloves are a dealbreaker for the other member of my household. (“This tastes like medicine,” was his official, albeit, wrong, assessment of the final product.) Next time, I may cut it down further to two cups or so. That could put me into, “What do I do with this remaining half orange?” territory, though.

I think it’s really nice. It hits a lot of the same notes as hot cider for me (“That is inaccurate,” said Bob, who doesn’t know from spiced tea, I tell you), without the sugar bomb of drinking massive quantities of fruit juice.

Hot Spice Tea Recipe (Family-Sized)

A plate with cinnamon sticks, orange and lemon segments, a small pile of cloves, and tea bags.

Here’s the recipe:

  • juice of two oranges, one lemon
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I’d use even less next time)
  • 4 bags of black tea
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • 1-inch cinnamon stick
  • 6 cups water

Add water, cloves and cinnamon to a pot, heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, add tea bags, steep for 5 minutes. Heat fruit juices and sugar until sugar dissolves. Remove spices and tea bags, add fruit juice, ta-da!

Hot Tea for a Big Group

This is not the year where most of us will need a recipe to serve a crowd. However, someday, you may need tea for all the members of your housewives craft club, or alternately, your local political activism crew, in which case, the original quantities are:

  • juice of three oranges, 1 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup sugar (I’d still cut it down a little)
  • 2 1/2 TB. black tea
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves, 1-inch cinnamon stick

Snuggle in with a Cup of Tea

This general procedure strikes me as quite adaptable. You could leave out the cloves (fine, Bob!), add a hunk of fresh ginger, or any other spice you like. You could experiment with different fruit juices and different teas. As long as it’s hot, spiced, and snuggly, it will do the trick.

Vintage Spiced Cream Pie Recipe

A picture of a slice of spiced cream pie on a plate. Text: 1953 Recipe for Spiced Cream Pie

Are you looking for a pie recipe that is somehow both traditional and fresh this Thanksgiving? Then have I got the pie for you. This vintage pie recipe fits in nicely with fall flavors but stands out from the crowd of apple and pumpkin.

This is an old-school sour cream and raisin pie, and it’s better than it sounds. It appears in 250 Superb Pies and Pastries, a 1953 recipe booklet, but the recipe is probably much older. It has serious prairie vibes.

A worn vintage pie recipe booklet "250 Superb Pies and Pastries" with a cherry pie and two cups of coffee on the cover.
You’ve got to be confident if you put “superb” right in the title.

The flavor settles somewhere between an oatmeal raisin cookie and custard, and it’s quickly become a favorite. Try it and see!

Looking for more old-fashioned pie recipes for Thanksgiving? I’ve got you covered.

This recipe appears in my upcoming pie booklet, available for free to any and all who subscribe to my email list.

5 Unique Vintage Holiday Pies will help you establish yourself as a pie-baking expert and shine at any winter potluck. These mid-century recipes are tested and modern palate-approved, with clear instructions to make things easy as…well, pie.

It’s coming out the first week of December, and every recipe is a winner. Subscribe to get your copy as soon as it’s out.

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There are too many jam puns to choose from…

This year, I’ve had the great fun of participating in the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge. Each month, I undertake a themed food preservation project with the goal of learning something new. We’re already halfway through! Here’s what I’ve made so far:

  • January: Citrus–Cara Cara Orange and Meyer Lemon Marmalade
  • February: Fermentation–Failed Fermented Carrots (oh, so bad!) and Amish Friendship Bread (oh, so good!)
  • March: Herbs–Compound butters (sage and smoked salt, rosemary and shallot)
  • April: Use Up Preserves–Barbeque sauce, raspberry jam bars, various tomato dishes (I also took a canned goods inventory, and discovered that we need to be more diligent about eating tomatoes, because at that point I wasn’t through the 2017 ones).
  • May: Berries–Strawberry Balsamic Jam
  • June: Jam–Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (I then went into July with Rhubarb Rosemary, Strawberry Peach, Brown Sugar Peach, and Strawberry Maple Butter)
  • July: Stonefruit–Aforementioned peachy jams, canned cherries, cherries in bourbon
Two jars of jam on a potholder
Small batch strawberry balsamic. Yowza.

The Highlights

Other than learning new things, the most enjoyable part of the challenge is seeing what people all over the world do with it. The themes are pretty broad, so people are creative. I never would have thought to do compound butters without other people doing it, for instance, and now I’m in love.

Favorite recipes so far include:
Strawberry Balsamic Jam (I made this twice. One small batch was not enough).
Sour Cherry Preserves with Bourbon
Rosemary Shallot Compound Butter (There is no recipe. Mince about a tablespoon of shallot. Crush about the same amount of dried rosemary. Beat it into maybe a quarter cup of softened butter. Store in the freezer. Use to saute sugar snap peas, lose your composure.)

In the coming months, I’ll tackle: Tomatoes, Pickles, Relishes, Chow Chows, or Piccalili, an October Wild Card, Apples, Pears, Quince or Persimmons, and Holiday Giving. Some of these will be easier to do something new (what have I ever done with quince?) than others (what else can I do with a tomato, at this point?).

The only problem is I’m running out of jam jars.

Easy Grapefruit, 1940’s Style

Winter citrus is great.

This winter, I’ve been trying to dig deep into all the things that are special about winter. One of those is citrus fruit, which comes into season in Florida and California during January and February.

I’ve been enjoying Imperfect Produce, which rescues “ugly” fruits and vegetables that don’t fit grocery standards, and sells them cheaply to consumers. On impulse, I added a grapefruit to my weekly box of perfectly delicious, but sometimes weird-looking, produce.

This grapefruit was banished because of its discoloration.


Every couple of years, I get seduced by how pretty grapefruit is, and buy one. It’s not my favorite citrus, but it’s grown on me over the years.  I decided to try something I remembered seeing in several vintage cookbooks: Broiling it.

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Maker Monday: Winter Salad

Recipes for salad seem a little silly.

But this one was really delightful, so I’ll share it.

Summer salads are lush and lovely, but winter invites minimalism. Lettuce forms the base of this one, but spinach, cooked greens, or massaged kale would be good, too. A crisp apple and crunchy broccoli stems co-star in an unlikely, but delicious, pairing.

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