Preserving Old Recipes | Treasuries of Family Traditions

preserving old recipes
An old family heirloom recipe for home-made BBQ sauce. The many food stains suggest that this was a well-loved recipe and one that deserves archival preservation!

There are some things in life that need to be preserved, cared for, and passed on to future generations. Family photographs come instantly to mind, especially when one reads about an individual who saved only one thing from a flood or a burning house—their family photo album.

Yet some things in life are more challenging to preserve. How do you capture the smell of your grandmother’s house at Thanksgiving? How do you pass along to your kids the flavors of the holidays they grew up enjoying? How do you recreate that moment of joy when you bring out your loved one’s favorite dish on a special occasion?

Its easy, actually, if you’ve taken the time to preserve your old family recipes!

preserving old recipes
Illustrated here are acid-free hinged lid boxesshort top boxes, and archival index cards, all of which will help protect and preserve your old family recipes for generations to come.

Archival Methods, a company that supplies museums, galleries, archives and artists with informed advice and high-quality archival products, is just as interested in making sure that your family recipes receive the same level of personalized care. Those old family recipes are important because, like photographs, they can transport us back in time to our loved ones’ homes where many happy memories were made.

preserving old recipes      preserving old recipes

Recipe books frequently get a lot of wear and tear. It is time to transfer these heirloom recipes to archival pages and enclosures to ensure that generations to come can cook up the feasts that have pleased the family for decades.

preserving old recipes
Old family recipes come in many shapes and sizes, and archival preservation solutions can accommodate them all.

Preserving Old Recipes | Protect the Originals

Recipes written and used by a loved one hold a lot of significance, perhaps more than you’ve ever really considered. In many cases multiple generations have enjoyed the same recipes, passed down from one family member to another over the years, decades, and centuries.

Paper, however, is delicate. If not cared for properly these unassuming treasures will yellow, get torn, and the handwriting or ink may fade. Another danger that recipes experience is food splatter. So keep these keys to the past safe by protecting them with the right archival materials and practices.

preserving old recipes

Archival print pages come in a variety of sizes and pocket formats to allow you to preserve all shapes and sizes of family recipes.

If your recipes are written on small cards, sheets of notepaper or cut out of an old newspaper or magazine, you can easily keep these originals together and safe in an archival binder. Even if your recipes are all over the map in terms of size and shape, archival print pages are available in a number of sizes and formats. These pages will hold your recipes in safe and secure pockets that will help you get organized and, in addition, these durable, translucent, archival polypropylene pages will also protect your originals from the various splashes and spills that happen in every kitchen.

preserving old recipes
A full-sized print page for storing full-sized recipes.

If you have larger or full-sized 8 1/2 x 11″ recipes, you can easily store them in print pages or 3-ring page protectors, which will display Grandma’s beloved apple pie recipe while keeping it safe from your everyday kitchen mishaps. Both of these types of pages fit nicely into collection-grade ring binders or a binder-in-a-box which make the perfect gifts for those hard-to-please family members or friends.

preserving old recipes      binder-in-a-box, preserving old recipes

Archival binders and slipcases and a binder-in-a-box – each available in a number of colors to match your tastes and decor – are perfect for storing your family recipes. 

preserving old recipes
Old family recipes can also be individually protected and preserved in archival polyethylene bags, all of which can be stored in acid-free boxes to help preserve them for generations to come. 

By preserving and using old recipes you are maintaining an active link to your family’s history, and enjoying the results at dinnertime or your next holiday party!

Preserving Old Recipes | Go Digital

If you’re the type of person who prefers to keep backups of precious original materials that have been in the family for years, you may wish to digitize your recipes. This will also allow you to access your recipes directly from a tablet or smartphone instead of using your precious family heirloom originals.

preserving old recipes
A couple of family recipes straight off the scanner. A sheet of inexpensive black construction paper was placed on top of these recipes before the scanner cover was closed, as this color contrast really sets the recipes apart. If you really wanted to make your scanned recipes fancy you could use different colored construction paper “backgrounds” for each “type” of dish: yellow for chicken dishes, green for vegetarian dishes, red for desserts, etc. Viola, instant cool, for the price of a package of construction paper.

You can upload your recipes to a computer a few ways. If you have a scanner you can simply scan the recipes into the computer. If you don’t have access to a scanner,  you can take pictures of your recipes using a digital camera or your smartphone.

Once in your computer or tablet you can organize your recipes in many of the programs you may already be familiar with, from basic Word docs to more elaborate programs described in an article in PC Mag that will allow you to create and store your own or your family’s recipes, as well as those you find online. You can sort and categorize them based on food type, cuisine style, or when it was first prepared. You can even attach images of the dish to each recipe, depending on which program(s) you’re using. Lastly, as also described in the PC Mag article, you can even create categories of recipes on Pinterest to share with family and friends.

archival DVD, archival storage, preserving old recipes
High quality DVD-Rs are important to use if you choose to preserve your recipes as digital files. Run-of-the-mill DVD-Rs one might find in a typical office supply store are relatively cheaply made and not “built” for long-term storage and data integrity as they can degrade, delaminate, and otherwise cause havoc with your digital files. (Please click on image for more information.)

Whichever digital platform or program you use, though, it always pays to back things up—for your own peace of mind and to share these treasures with others. When it comes to old family recipes (and other digital family records), it is recommended that you use high-quality, long-lasting DVD-Rs rather than the cheap disks you often find at office supply stores. These cheap disks can delaminate or degrade over time, and the whole point of preserving your cherished family recipes is to keep them intact for your own use and that of future generations. To that end, you may also want to consider storing all of your new recipe DVD-Rs in archival CD/DVD sleeves to prevent them from getting scratched, or to make things even simpler place them in an archival CD/DVD storage kit, which contains all the components you’ll need to protect and store all your DVDs, CDs, and other disk-based records.

While everyone has their own method for protecting family treasures, consider these suggestions to protect your important family recipes so that you and the generations to come can make your loved ones’ favorite dishes whenever you want!

Cooking Up Other Ideas for Preservation

If you have any additional questions or would like more information on the archival storage and presentation materials that are right for you, please contact us here at Archival Methods. We’re always there to help with any archiving, storage, or presentation questions you may have.