Recipes of Pioneer Homemakers

Reader Contribution by Sam Moore
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From 1851 is a sketch of a device to fan flies from the table while rocking. (From the January 11, 1941 “Centennial” issue of The Prairie Farmer.)

These recipes appeared in The Prairie Farmer magazine over the years and were gleaned from back issues and published in their “Centennial Number” of January 11, 1941. They bear little resemblance to today’s recipes that give precise amounts and specified cooking times and temperatures. I guess back then farm women knew how to cook and mainly just wanted new ideas to add a little variety to the monotonous round of meals they served day after day.

Wisconsin Mince for Pie–1841. Take the usual quantity of meat and substitute beets for apples, but in only one-third the quantity of the latter. Boil the beets, pickle them in vinegar 12 hours, chop them very fine, and add the vinegar they were pickled in. Add 1/8 of grated bread and spice to suit you. (And that’s it! I don’t understand the “1/8 grated bread”–1/8 of what? A loaf, a cup, a handful? No clue–possibly it’s a misprint.)

Flannel Cakes–1849. Take 2 eggs for a quart of sour milk, a tablespoon of melted butter, one of sugar, and a half a one of salt. Put all together without beating the eggs. Mix into a batter stiff enough to drop off a spoon like an oyster. Then have some saleratus dissolved in water, and stir in slowly until your batter begins to rise. Be careful not to put in enough to turn the color. If the milk is only sour enough to thicken, a teaspoon of saleratus is enough for the quart. If it has fermented, it may require two, and your cakes will be nicer. Have a griddle hot and bake like buckwheat. (Saleratus is sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda.)

Boiled Brown Bread–1852. Take 3 cups Indian meal, 2 cups rye meal, 1/2 cup molasses, 1-1/2 pints sour milk, 1 tablespoonful saleratus, 1 teaspoonful salt; boil 4 hours in a tin kettle. (By Indian meal, I’d guess they mean corn meal. I never before heard of boiled bread, wonder what its consistency was like.)

Crackers–1853. Take four pints of flour sifted, mix with it thoroughly three teaspoons of cream of tartar and half as much soda, well pulverized, six ounces of melted butter, one pint of water, adding more flour if necessary to make a stiff dough. Mould thoroughly, and roll into sheets an eighth of an inch thick. Prick and cut into squires, and bake in a quick oven 10 to 15 minutes.

Mock Strawberries–1857. Ripe peaches cut in small pieces with soft, mild eating apples in the proportion of three peaches to one apple, mixed with sugar and left to stand for 2 or 3 hours, make excellent mock strawberries.

Dried Whortleberry Pie–1863. To two quarts of dried whortleberries add one pint of dried plums. Look over carefully and add sugar to taste, and stew as for the table. Bake between two crusts for one hour. (By whortleberries, they probably mean blueberries or a red version called bilberries.)

Pickled Nasturtiums–1866. Pick them when young on a warm day. Boil some vinegar with salt and spice, and when cold put in the nasturtiums. Or they may be put into old vinegar from which green pickles or onions have been taken–only boil it up afresh. (According to Mother Earth News, both the petals and the leaves of a nasturtium plant are edible with a radish taste.)

Peach Leather–1870. Crush peaches, and force through a sieve by rubbing, until nothing but the skin and pit remain in the sieve, the juice and pulp having passed through into a receptacle. The skins and pits are thrown away, and the pulp poured and spread evenly on large sheet iron pans which have been greased. These are placed in an oven to dry. When sufficiently hardened, it is peeled from the pan and packed away for future use. It can be used as a sauce for pies, cakes, etc., just as well as ordinary dried peaches.

Apple Cream–1872. Boil 12 apples of rich flavor until quite soft. Rub pulp through a hair sieve, add half pint of white sugar, yolks of three eggs, well beaten, whip up the egg whites to a stiff froth, and mix two tablespoons of sugar with them. Put apples and yolks into a pudding dish and heap the beaten froth over, making it higher in the center. Bake in a hot oven 10 or 15 minutes–long enough to brown the white nicely. (Wonder what a hair sieve is.)

Cucumber Catsup–1875. Gather the cucumbers when full grown, but before they turn yellow. Peel and grate them. Let the pulp remain upon a colander until the juice drains off. Then rub through a coarse sieve to remove the seeds. Half fill bottles with this pulp, fill up with vinegar and keep well corked. This retains, in a marked degree, the odor and taste of fresh cucumbers, and is excellent with cold meats. When served, salt and pepper are added.

Don’t you just pine for the life of a pioneer farm wife?

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