Back in 1950, Doris Day song with the lyrics”
“I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck
A hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap and I'm talkin' in my sleep”
Seventy years later we could sing
I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck and plate of enchiladas
Enchiladas and of enchiladas, a barrel o’ salsa
and a heap of chiles from the Fresh Chile Co.
But how much is a bushel, a peck and a heap? We have dry measures and fluid measures, US measures and Imperial and likely many others from around the world.
Fluid measure are easy. We can use measuring cups with hand lines on them to determine volume when we need to. I need a cup of milk or a quarter cup of orange juice.
It gets more challenging with dry measures. In the kitchen we have different cups for dry measuring that are designed to measure dry volumes by filling our cup to the top and using a straight edge to level our ingredient. That’s great in the kitchen, but it gets trickier at the farmers market where different fruits and vegetables weight different amounts.
Ask for a bushel of corn. Fresh corn should weigh about 35 lbs. But what does dry corn weigh? A bushel of tomatoes will weigh about 53 lbs. But is that a bushel of big slicing tomatoes or tiny grape tomatoes? Produce is usually sold by weight because sizes are different and volumes and weight differ. By the way, a bushel basket150.42 cubic inches if you get curious about volume.
Just for fun:
Dry Measures Fluid Measures
2 pints = 1 quart 1 cup + 16 Tbsp or 8 oz
8 quarts = 1 peck 1 pint + 2 cups or 32 Tbsp or96 tsp or 16 oz
4 pecks = 1 bushel 1 quart + 2 pints or4 cups or 64 Tbsp 32 oz
10 pecks = 2-1/2 bushels = 1 barrel 1 Gallon + 4 quarts or 8 pints or16 cups or 128 oz
What if you order a bushel of jalapenos and a bushel of Big Jim chiles. They are different sizes and different weights. It might be better to buy them by weight for a weight price rather than make the two volumes come out even. If you ask how much chile is in a bushel, all we can say is, “it depends.
Fresh Chile Co. does the measuring for you and sells their chile pepper by the pound. Their jarred chile sauces, salsas and blends are sold by volume in pints. The jars also list the weight of the product in the jar. Currently many cookbooks are listing weights and volumes for ingredients for recipe ingredients which does make measure more accurate by using kitchen scales.
Standard measures began with European royalty centuries when a country’s standards tended to change when the monarch changed. This year’s standard foot was the length of the ruling monarch’s foot and so on for all measurements. We still have different measurement systems in different countries and on different continents. In the electronic age we are fortunate to be able to call up a conversion program on our computer or cell phone.
While almost everything has been quantified and standardized, there are still variables. When you are sent to the store what does the instruction “get a mess of beans” really mean? And will you be in a heap of trouble if you don’t get the right amount of that mess?