Pioneer Recipes and Cooking, Why We Should Study Them (2024)

Recipes / 8 Comments / October 20, 2015 / 4 minutes of reading

Pioneer Recipes and Cooking, Why We Should Study Them (1)

Lately,I have been studying the American pioneer recipes that were cooked on their westward trek. Many of the methods and recipes that they utilized could work very well for us in a TEOTWAWKI situation. The list of foods that they carried are a surprisingly close match to what many of us store today. Their list included such items as beans, corn, wheat, rice and dried fruits and vegetables. These are the foods that are the mostinexpensive for us to store today and still provide the nutrition that we require.

In addition, they carried dried and salted meat. The salted meat was often in the form of bacon. Of cause, they supplemented this by hunting and foraging whenever they could, which are both much more difficult than most people realize.

The bacon they used was different from today’s. Their bacon 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 often unsmoked, and 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.

Because of shortages of both money and food, many pioneer recipes used “alternative versions” of favorite dishes. They substituted, improvised, and invented while cooking. Molasses was often used for sugar. Vinegar could be used to imitate lemons. Boiled, mashed beans mixed with plenty of nutmeg and allspice made a good pumpkin pie. One frontier cook made “orange marmalade” by boiling carrots in sugary syrup flavored with ginger.

Here are a few of the Pioneer Recipes for you to try. You’ll notice all the ingredients are shelf stable. If you’ve been storing food for very long, you probably already have most or all of them on hand.

Pork Cake

  • Half a pound of salt pork chopped fine
  • Two cups of molasses
  • Half pound raisins chopped well
  • Two eggs
  • Two teaspoonfuls each:
  • Clove, allspice and mace,
  • Half a tablespoonful of saleratus or soda
  • Flour enough to make a stiff batter.

Cook until a fork stuck into it comes out clean.

1876 Cottage Cheese

  • Allow milk to form clabber (unpasteurizedmilk allowedto turn sour, until the milk thickens or curdles into ayogurt-like substance)
  • Skim off cream, once clabbered.
  • Set clabbered milk on very low heat and cut in 1 inch squares.
  • Place colander into clabber.
  • Dip off whey that rises into the colander.
  • When clabber becomes firm, rinse with cold water.
  • Squeeze liquid out and press into ball.
  • Crumble into bowl.
  • Mix curds with thick cream.

Mormon Johnnycake

This wasa form of cornbread used by the Mormon immigrants,

  • 2-cups of yellow cornmeal
  • ½-cup of flour
  • 1-teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-teaspoon salt
  • Combine ingredients and mix in
  • 2-cups of buttermilk (add vinegar or fresh lemon juice to powdered milk to make buttermilk) and 2-tablespoons molasses.

Pour into a greased 9 pan and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Root Vegetable Pasties


  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 potatoes, cooked and mashed
  • 3 carrots sliced
  • 2 turnips, cooked and mashed
  • Whatever herbs, spices, salt and pepper you have on hand.

Mix the vegetables, adding anything else you have, for example meat or cheese.

Make enough pie or pasties dough to make two pies. Cover ½ of a pie with the vegetable mixture and fold the other ½ over the top. Now seal the pasties by wetting the edge of the dough and pressing it with the times of a fork. Poke a couple of holes in the top to let the steam out and cook until golden brown.

You can make smaller pies if you have a large family, so they can take what they can eat and you have no waste. During these times, you will be saving every scrap of food you have, so think smaller portions for a no waste meal.

Vinegar Lemonade

  • Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a 12 ounce glass of water.
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar to taste.

This was a good source of vitamin C

Pioneer Recipes and Cooking, Why We Should Study Them (3)

Red Bean Pie

Beans were a staple of the pioneer recipes. Beans could be easily stored and they were inexpensive.

  • 1-cup cooked and mashed pinto beans.
  • 1-cup sugar.
  • 3-beaten egg yolks.
  • 1-teaspoon vanilla.
  • 1-teaspoon nutmeg.

Place the combined ingredients in an uncooked pie crust.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.

You will notice that all these pioneer recipes use very basic ingredients and are cooked from scratch. Any of these recipes could be cooked outdoors with Dutch ovens, solar ovens, or other methods, including a wood stove. I believe that understanding how to use pioneer recipes will give us the ability to utilize whatever foods we have available and still make them tasty.

If you don’t own any cast iron, yet, recommended is a Dutch oven and a skillet. In this set from Lodge, you get both.


See also Making Scrapple and Sausage
Pioneer Recipes and Cooking, Why We Should Study Them (2024)


Why is it important to study recipe? ›

By cooking new recipes, you'll not only learn how to make delicious meals, but you'll also gain some valuable cooking skills. This is especially true if the recipe is challenging. If you can successfully make a complicated dish, then you know that you can pretty much do anything in the kitchen!

Why are recipes important in cooking? ›

With a properly written recipe, its ingredients and serving size are exact and measured accurately. Based on this information, a nutrient analysis can be done to evaluate the nutrition content of the dish, which is important information for some.

Why is it important to read the entire recipe before you start cooking? ›

When you read recipes before cooking, you'll know what ingredients you need to make the dish you're planning to serve. This step also helps you plan your grocery shopping list to ensure that you don't leave any essential items off your list - it saves time and money at checkout.

How did pioneers cook their food? ›

The first pioneers in most places ate by campfires. By necessity, foods were cooked by very simple methods. Dutch ovens, frying pans, boiling pots, and roasting spits were typically employed. As settlements grew, so did the range of cuisine.

What is the most important part of a recipe? ›

  • Yield.
  • Knowing the yield in advance helps one to know if more or less food is needed – whether or not to make more or less of the food.
  • Yield.
  • List of Ingredients & Amounts.
  • List of Ingredients & Amounts.
  • Step By Step Directions for Mixing & Handling.

Why is it important to follow a recipe exactly? ›

You'll experience the cooking differently than if you simply shrugged and omitted ingredients or changed how you use them according to experience or whim. Walk in the shoes of the recipe's creator. You'll learn something every time.

Why is it important to follow a recipe correctly? ›

Knowing how to read a recipe is a big step in making you a better cook. It saves time, helps avoid confusion, and boosts confidence in the kitchen. Try these tips and you won't get stuck or surprised halfway through making your meal.

What is the first thing you should do with every recipe? ›

1: READ THE RECIPE COMPLETELY BEFORE BEGINNING. The first step in following a recipe is to be sure to read through the ingredients needed as well as the instructions for what you will be doing before you ever begin mixing your batters or doughs. (This is one of the first steps in Mise En Place.)

What is pioneer cooking? ›

Since cabins were simply one room structures, the kitchen was located outside with an open fire pit. All of the cooking was over the fire. Water had to be heated on the fire for washing dishes, cooking, doing laundry and bathing. The water was hauled from nearby creeks or from a well.

What did the pioneers do? ›

The pioneers were the first people to settle in the frontiers of North America. Many of the pioneers were farmers. Others moved west, wanting to establish a business. There were doctors, blacksmiths, ministers, shop owners, lawyers, veterinarians, and many others.

How did pioneers keep meat fresh? ›

Most early settlers used a smokehouse, hanging hams and other large pieces of meat in a small building to cure through several weeks of exposure to a low fire with a lot of smoke. The process began around November. The meat would keep all winter and most of the summer.

What is reading through the recipe an important first step in preparing to cook? ›

Read Through Entire Recipe

Some recipes will list ingredients that need to be divided and the portions used at separate times in the cooking process, so reading the recipe all the way through first will assure you will not make a mistake during preparation.

Why is knowing the parts of the recipe important in recipe reading? ›

Reading a recipe from beginning to end is a big deal. The instructions may have some hidden ingredients (like water, for example), or split the ingredients within the list in an expected way (like using one egg for batter and one for an egg wash).

Why is it important to read ingredients? ›

They help us make informed decisions towards choosing good nutrition and health. Knowing how to read food labels also assures that we get more value for our money and protects us from incorrect claims on the product packs. The list provides an overview of the product's "recipe" or constituents.

Why is it important to read the list of ingredients? ›

The ingredient list is the single best tool at your disposal to determine if a food product is a good choice or not. In fact, it is the only way to determine if the item is made of real food or if it contains added sugars, vegetable oils, and additives.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Last Updated:

Views: 5966

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (73 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Birthday: 1994-06-25

Address: Suite 153 582 Lubowitz Walks, Port Alfredoborough, IN 72879-2838

Phone: +128413562823324

Job: IT Strategist

Hobby: Video gaming, Basketball, Web surfing, Book restoration, Jogging, Shooting, Fishing

Introduction: My name is Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner, I am a zany, graceful, talented, witty, determined, shiny, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.