No matter how long it’s been since Grandma’s cooked for you, we bet you’ll never forget that “little something” in every dish she made. In addition to a pinch of love, she may have used a mystery ingredient or two.
Many of us have seen the “green-and-white box full of white stuff” sitting on the kitchen counter or in Grandma’s pantry. Chances are, your grandmother was (and still might be) using lard. Why, you ask? It’s shelf-stable, richer than butter and used to make the flakiest pastries around—think biscuits and pie dough.
If you have a collection of recipes from Grandma, chances are you may have seen “sweet milk” in an ingredient line. Back in the day, this referred to cows that had just been milked and the sweet taste their milk had. Alternately, once the milk “turned,” or curdled, it was called “sour milk,” or what we know today as buttermilk.
Molasses is a byproduct of the process of making cane sugar. You may see both light and dark molasses at the grocery store, but most of us are familiar with dark molasses for its color and thick texture. If you’ve made gingerbread cookies with your grandma during the holidays, I bet she was using this (it gives gingerbread cookies their signature rich, brown color).
Cool fact: Molasses is added to granulated sugar to produce brown sugar!
While currants are not a popular ingredient nowadays (we tend to use raisins instead), some grandmothers are fond of the dried grape. Similar to raisins, currants are good for snacking and add flavor to baked goods and jams, jellies, and preserves.
This oval-shaped dried spice, found in the spice aisle (whole or ground), can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. My grandmother preferred whole nutmeg and would grate it into the dish. You’ll know its familiar taste and aroma if you’ve had eggnog during the holidays or jerk chicken during a summer barbecue.