Old-Time Weights and Measures

English Weights and Measures

September 25, 2017
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

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Reader Comments

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Older recipes, such as before

The Editors's picture

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!

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