I have been doing some more research on pioneer cooking. It always interests me because the recipes incorporate many of the foods we have in our storage. Most of their recipes can be cooked over an open fire or in the kitchen with a cast-iron frying pan or a Dutch oven. The recipes are simple and are easy to alter, depending on what supplies you have available.
If our power grid ever goes out for more than just a day or two, knowing how our pioneer ancestors preserved and cooked food will come in handy.
First, a note about the type of bacon that they carried on the wagons. The bacon the pioneers carried in their wagons was not the one-pound packages of sliced bacon that we are used to picking up at the grocery store. It was more like what we might know of today as “salt pork”. It was a heavily salted side or back portion of pork, fattier and unsmoked, preserved in a barrel of brine. You would get out a piece and cut off the amount of meat you needed. You then placed the rest back into the brine. The bacon would often need to be soaked for a time to remove some of the saltiness before being sliced for frying or cut into pieces for soups or stews.
Here are some old guidelines from the 1800s on how they stored meat. Since they did not have refrigeration, they recommended these methods for use during the summer. I do not recommend you try these methods today. They are not that dependable.
- Cover the meat with sour milk or buttermilk and store in a cellar.
- In areas where the nights are cool, hang the meat in the open from a tree so any breeze can pass around it. Make sure the meat is brought inside at dawn. During the day, wrap the meat in a tarp and store in a shady place. Make sure the blowflies don’t deposit eggs on the meat.
- Keep the meat away from rain and damp nights. Any meat that gets wet must be cooked or jerked immediately.
This makes me wonder how many pioneers got horribly sick or even died due to improperly stored meats. The recipes that follow I do recommend!
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- Fry up some diced bacon to where it is crispy and mix it into your pancake batter. Fry them up as normal and serve with the topping of your choice or whatever you have available.
- Fry 4 slices of bacon in a Dutch oven. Remove bacon. Peel and slice 6 to 8 Granny Smith apples.
- Put apples in a Dutch oven with bacon grease, cover and cook down the apples, but not to mush.
- Serve topped with butter or cream and crumbled bacon. They’re great for breakfast or dessert.
- Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a 12-ounce glass of water.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar to taste.
One reason the pioneers used vinegar was to add vitamin C to their diet.
- Boil one-quarter pound of potatoes until soft, then peel them and run them through a sieve.
- Add one quart of milk, three teaspoonfuls of melted butter, four beaten eggs, and sugar and nutmeg to taste.
- Bake as you would a custard pie.
Rough and Ready Soup
- Crack a shin-bone well, boil it in five or six quarts of water four hours.
- Take half a head of white cabbage, three carrots, two turnips, and three onions; chop them up fine, and put them into the soup with pepper and salt, and boil it two hours.
- Take out the bone and gristle half an hour before serving it.
If you can learn how to make a soup using whatever you happen to have on hand and then store ingredients commonly used in soups, you’ll be more than ready for TEOTWAWKI cooking. Add some simple corn pone and it’s quite a large meal.
One thing you will notice as you study pioneer cooking and their recipes are that many things like stew, soup, and beans took a long time to cook. If you will learn how to use a good quality pressure cooker, you can shorten the cooking time considerably and save on fuel. Once you’re comfortable using a pressure cooker, try using it outdoors on a campfire. The only challenge to this is maintaining as even a temperature as possible, but it can be done.
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When we have to live off our food storage, we will have to adapt to a diet that is similar to what our pioneer ancestors ate. Since we will not have the prepared, convenience foods many people are used to or the variety we are used too, it will benefit us to know how those old-timers cooked. Here are some examples of pioneer recipes.
- 3 Cups cornmeal mash
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 5 Beaten eggs
- ½ Cup melted butter
- 1 Cup molasses
- ½ Cup milk
- Juice and rind of 1 lemon
Stir together and cook over an open fire. This is a good recipe for cooking in a Dutch Oven. Serve with honey or syrup if you have it.
Take your leftover cooked rice and put in a Dutch oven.
- Cover with milk and well-beaten eggs.
- Add a dash of salt.
- Sweeten well with sugar.
- Add raisins or dried fruit and a little nutmeg and vanilla.
Bake slowly until egg mixture is cooked and raisins or fruit are soft.
How to Make Tough Beef Tender
(From 1886 Daily Bee, Sacramento, California)
- Lay the meat out smoothly and wipe it dry.
- Take a coffee cup full of fine breadcrumbs, a little salt, and pepper, a little powdered thyme or other sweet herbs, and just enough milk to moisten to a stiff dressing. Mix well and spread over the meat. Roll it up and tie it up with twine.
- Brown in salt pork fat, then put in half a pint of water. Cover and cook.
- The toughest meat is made tender and nutritious when cooked in this way.
Red Bean Pie
- 1 Cup cooked and mashed pinto beans.
- 1 Cup sugar.
- 3 Beaten egg yolks.
- 1 teaspoon vanilla.
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg.
Place combined ingredients in an uncooked piecrust. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Make a meringue with the leftover egg whites. Spread over baked pie and return to oven to brown
Easy-to-Make Pioneer Bread Recipe
- 2 Cups of flour
- 2 teaspoon of baking powder
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 6 Tablespoon of butter
- 4 Tablespoon of powdered or fresh milk
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, butter, and milk. Add water, a little bit at a time, to obtain a dough that’s not too liquid. Put in a greased pan, cover and cook over campfire over low to moderate heat. It takes about an hour to cook.
Hopefully, these pioneer recipes will give you some ideas on how to cook with your food storage.
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