The food that the American Pioneers knew was simple and hearty. Often, dishes were cooked in one pot over the fire, using whatever was available. Since they didn’t like to waste anything, women often prepared soups and stews for the family because it was an easy way to use up scraps.
Days were long and full of hard physical labor, so meals also had to be filling to keep everyone going.
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Cooking methods may have changed over the years, but you can still bring history to life in the kitchen by recreating some dishes from the American frontier.
Both bacon and corn cakes were eaten by the settlers, so why not combine the two?
- Bacon (as much as you’d like in the johnnycakes)
- 1 ¼ cups cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½-1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups boiling water
- 2 TBSP bacon drippings
- Cook the bacon until crispy. Reserve the grease to use for cooking. Once the bacon has cooled a bit, crumble it up so you can add it to the johnnycake batter.
- Combine all of the dry ingredients. Gradually add the boiling water to the dry ingredients, mixing with a spoon until moistened. The consistency should be thick (instead of runny) but should still be able to slide off the spoon. You may need more or less boiling water to achieve this consistency.
- Add the crumbled bacon and mix well.
- Heat bacon drippings in a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan. You don’t want the cakes to stick.
- Spoon the batter into the pan, using one large spoonful for each cake. Once the edges begin to brown and become firm, flip over to cook the other side. If needed, you can add a couple of
drops of oil to the top of the cake before turning it over. Cook until the other side is done. You can press them down a bit to keep an even thickness. Move them to a platter.
- Top with butter and syrup (if you’d like) and enjoy!
5 Additional Pioneer Recipes
Apple butter was made by cooking apples in a large pot outside. Today, use your slow cooker to make your own.
For years, people have been salting and curing meat to make it last longer. To get a sense of how they did this, make your own beef jerky. You can dry it in a food dehydrator or right in your oven.
When in season, fruit was picked and either preserved or used in a variety of recipes. One fruit dish was cobbler, which could be made out of many types of fruit. Try this blackberry one.
The settlers made all their own cheese and butter. See what the process was like by making this ricotta cheese.
Pop some popcorn on the stove and use some molasses to turn it in to a delicious, sweet treat.
Log Cabin Cooking: Pioneer Recipes & Food Lore by Barbara Swell
Pioneer Recipes by Bobbie Kalman
Looking for more American Pioneer learning activities?
- 6 Covered Wagon Learning Activities
- 6 Pioneer Crafts for Teens to Make
- American Pioneers: Books & Resources for Middle School
- Lewis and Clark Animal Discovery Journal
- Pioneer Life – 8 Learning Activities for Kids