Old-Time Weights and Measures

English Weights and Measures

Old-Time Measures Bushel of Apples

Ever heard of a firkin, hogshead, and coomb?  Convert old-time English weights and measures to modern-day equivalencies with this chart from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

60 pounds apples = 1 bushel
52 pounds beans = 1 bushel
24 pounds beets = 1 bushel
56 pounds carrots = 1 bushel
55 pounds flour = 1 bushel
54 pounds onions = 1 bushel
45 pounds parsnips = 1 bushel
50 pounds potatoes = 1 bushel
60 pounds string beans = 1 bushel
60 pounds sweet potatoes = 1 bushel
48 pounds tomatoes = 1 bushel
196 pounds turnips = 1 barrel
1 gill = ½ cup
1 pottle = 2 quarts
1 coomb = 4 bushels
1 wey = 40 bushels
1 last = 80 bushels
1 firkin = 9 gallons
1 anker = 10 gallons
1 runlet = 18 gallons
1 tierce = 42 gallons
1 hogshead = 63 gallons
1 puncheon = 84 gallons
1 butt = 126 gallons

Reader Comments

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You neglected to mention this measurement. Remember the song lyric "I love you, a bushel and a peck..."?
Anyway, it's 1/4 of a bushel.

Song lyrics

Pretty sure that song was written within the last year or two, but you're right. A peck was left out of the list. Can't imagine how it got away from them, given how complete the list is.

Song lyrics

Sorry, the song "Bushel and a Peck" was written in 1950 and introduced in a Broadway show called "Guys and Dolls" the same year.

conversations for coconut

My grandmother's wonderful carrot cake recipe calls for a "box of coconut". How many cups/ounces is in a "box"? I have never seen coconut in a box and haven't been able to find any information by researching it.

Box of coconut

I found this article because I thought I remembered seeing a blue box of coconut at my grandmother's house back in the 50's. It has 3 and 1/2 ounces of shredded coconut in it: Hoboken Historical Museum, Pastperfectonline.com, Baker's Angel Flake coconut.

For a pie filling, it calls

For a pie filling, it calls for a "chunk of butter". I have searched online for days now, and can't find any measurement for this. It is from the times when people also used pinch of salt as well.

A chunk of butter for pies

In Great Britain, recipes often call for a knob of butter. Presumably, that's the same as a chunk. It means to use your judgment, but anywhere from about one TBLSP to three TBLSPS should do the trick. It's up to you how buttery you want it to be.

I have a recipe that calls

I have a recipe that calls for a cut of sugar. Any ideas what that might be? I know sugar at the time was sold in loaves that had to be cut, broken, or smashed.
I have some old sugar nippers and a sugar saw. Of course they each do different sizes.

My grandmothers recipe for

My grandmothers recipe for Ice Box Fudge calls for
" 1 cake Dot (or Dat) Chocolate. Does anyone know what
the current measurement would be. My mother would use
Bakers unsweetened chocolate but I don't remember the


Is this recipe handwritten?

Is this recipe handwritten? We wonder if it might be "1 cake dark chocolate." And we assume that means 1 square of dark chocolate, such as those found in a box of Bakers chocolate.

1 cake Dot Chocolate

According to the Internet, Bakers sold "Dot Chocolate" in 8 oz packages, since you are making fudge I would guess it would be 8oz of Bakers semi-sweet baking chocolate.

When adding a knob of butter

When adding a knob of butter to the mashed potatoes, that would be two tablespoons.

Knobs of butter

Wish I'd seen your answer before giving mine. I almost wrote 2 TBLSP = 1 Knob, but have heard that it's a slightly fluid amount. Not living in the UK, my knowledge about such things is not what it could be.

In Irish cookery, to add a

In Irish cookery, to add a knob of butter to the potatoes, that would be two tablespoons.

My recipe calls for 1 1/2

My recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of soften butter. Using the guide on the side of each stick of butter, it says 1/4, 1/3 the 1/2 for a whole stick of butter. Does this mean I am to use 3 sticks of butter?

Yes, you will be using 3

Yes, you will be using 3 whole sticks of butter.

Hi! Just saw your question.

Hi! Just saw your question. I've come across recipes that call for a "saucer" of an ingredient, which I've read several places is a heaping cup. Not sure if that's what you're referring to but I thought I'd add it here in case it helps you or anybody else trying to decode older recipes.

I have a number of recipes

I have a number of recipes from crete that call for a 'bowl' of something - flour, liquids, etc... and I've no idea how big a 'bowl' they mean! Any insight? I've tried googling/binging the matter but this one's stumped me.

We scoured our sources and

We scoured our sources and came up empty-handed, Melanie. Can you compare the recipes to others that are similar and figure it out that way? Or perhaps try a Greek cooking forum.

I found a recipe that

I found a recipe that directed me to add 2 thoughts of cajyan pepper....what is a thought.....maybe a dash?

Hi Janel, We have never heard

Hi Janel,
We have never heard of a "thought" measurement. Very interesting! You are probably correct, dashes or pinches make sense.

TwoThought of cayenne pepper

My grandmother always told me it meant to think twice before you add Cayanne pepper in your ingredients

What is a fist full. I have a

What is a fist full. I have a recipe that calls for a fist full of flour. What is the equivalent?

Older recipes, such as before

Older recipes, such as before the late 1800s, often used imprecise measurements. (Fannie Farmer helped to standardize U.S. cooking measurements in the late 1800s.) Many times, a cook would learn a recipe by watching someone else, rather than by reading a cookbook. Experienced cooks knew intuitively how much to add, or found that precise measurements weren't needed in many cases. A pinch, a dash, a fistful or handful, etc., might be common in these recipes. Sometimes cooks today will also use these terms when exact amounts aren't required and it is up to the cook's discretion.

Our best estimate for a fistful of flour is between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup, depending on the size of your hand.

Hope this helps!

"Fist of sugar" in a pie recipe

Thank you, I greatly appreciate your clarifying "a fist of sugar" for a Swedish pie recipe I printed off from Pinterest. Thank you again.

Wow, I guess I better be

Wow, I guess I better be careful on trading bushels as it's not an even swap!

You know I've come across some of these terms here and there, never looked 'em up but always wondered what they were.

Interesting ... thanks!