Old fashioned kitchen measurements like the gill, grain, scruple, and dram (drachma) are little used nowadays, so if the quantities called for in Grandma's dessert recipes seem unclear, just refer to the historical weights and measures tables below.
And if you're still unsure, you can always do what Grandma did, she simply took what she called an "educated guess."
All kitchen measurements are level, unless otherwise specified. Because of the loss or gain of moisture constantly happening in dry ingredients, exact measures are not possible; but for ordinary purposes, and for home cooking and baking, the following kitchen measurements are approximately correct:
About 25 drops of any thin liquid = 1 teaspoonful
1 Pinch = 4-1/2 grains, or less than 1/8 teaspoonful
1 Saltspoonful = 1/4 teaspoonful
1 Scruple = 20 grains, or about 1/2 teaspoonful
3 Saltspoonfuls = 1 dram (drachma), or 27-1/3 grains
4 Tablespoonfuls = 1 wineglass, or 1/2 gill, or 1/4 cupful
2 Wineglasses = 1 gill, or 1/2 cupful
2 Gills = 1 coffee-cupful, or 16 tablespoonfuls, or 8 fluid ounces
1 Tumblerful = 1 coffee-cupful, or 1/2 pint
1 Goblet = 10 fluid ounces
2 Coffee-cupfuls = 1 pint
2 Pints = 1 quart
4 Quarts = 1 gallon
16 Ounces = 1 pound, or 1 pint of liquid
Note: A set of measuring cups (with small lips), from 1 pint to 1/4 cup, will be found convenient in every kitchen, though common pitchers, bowls, glasses, teacups, wineglasses, etc., may be substituted.
Equivalent Measures are level unless otherwise indicated:
1 pinch of salt or sugar = 4-1/2 grains or less than 1/8 teaspoonful
1 tablespoonful of salt = 1 ounce
8 rounded tablespoonfuls of granulated sugar = 1 cupful
2 cupfuls of granulated sugar = 1 pound
1-1/2 coffee-cupfuls of granulated sugar = 1 pound
1 pint of granulated sugar = 1 pound
3-1/2 cupfuls of powdered (confectioners') sugar = 1 pound
2 coffee-cupfuls of powdered (confectioners') sugar = 1 pound
1-1/3 pints of powdered (confectioners') sugar = 1 pound
2-1/2 cupfuls of best brown sugar = 1 pound
1-3/4 coffee-cupfuls of best brown sugar = 1 pound
1 tablespoonful of soft butter, well rounded = 1 ounce
4 tablespoonfuls of soft butter, heaped = 1 cupful
1 cupful of butter, pressed down = 1/2 pound
2 cupfuls of butter, pressed down = 1 pound
1 pint of soft butter = 1 pound
2 cupfuls of lard = 1 pound
2 cupfuls of finely chopped meat = 1 pound
1 pint of finely chopped meat = 1 pound
10 ordinary-sized eggs = 1 pound
9 large-sized eggs = 1 pound
2 cupfuls of milk = 1 pound
1-7/8 cupfuls of rice = 1 pound
3 cupfuls of raisins = 1 pound
2 cupfuls of raisins, packed = 1 pound
2-1/4 cupfuls of currents = 1 pound
2 cupfuls of stale bread crumbs = 1 pound
40 small prunes = 1 pound
28 large prunes = 1 pound
75 apricot pieces = 1 pound
3 large bananas = one pound
Yeast Cake Measurement
Cake Yeast has been sold in different sizes formerly; so, it's easiest to calculate the dry yeast needed based on how much flour is called for in the recipe. For instance...
Up to 4 cups flour, use 1/4 ounce (2-1/4 teaspoons) of dry yeast
4-8 cups flour, use 1/2 ounce (4-1/2 teaspoons) dry yeast
8-12 cups flour, use 3/4 ounce (6-3/4 teaspoons) dry yeast
12-16 cups flour, use 1 ounce (9 teaspoons) dry yeast
About the Kitchen Measurements
Published kitchen measurements were vitally important to 19-century cooks. Most homes didn't have the luxury of weigh scales and some didn't even have a proper set of measuring cups. So, available containers such as cups were used as kitchen measures, and ingredient quantities were often approximated.
If you knew the weight of one ingredient, the weight of another could often be guessed. For instance, if 1 cup of butter, pressed down, equals one-half pound, you could estimate that 1 cup of lard would equal the same weight — close enough for most recipes. And if you knew one measurement, another could be obtained. For instance, 2 wineglassfuls equal 1 gill, or 1/2 cup.
Historical weights and measures tables and kitchen measurements can still be of help in today's modern kitchens when experimenting with older recipes. After all, it's always good to have some "scruples."
Sorry, please excuse my lame pun — just if you might be wondering, a scruple is 1/2 teaspoon.