Make history exciting for your teen by making these pioneer recipes together.
Historical cooking is one of those fun American history activities you can add to your homeschool. Middle schoolers won’t be bored when you make history interactive, especially if it involves food.
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It’s one of our favorite ways to learn about those who headed west in search of a better life, the pioneers.
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 a simple 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.
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.
Try your hand at one of these delicious recipes that the pioneers enjoyed. It’s one of the best pioneer life activities for kids.
Easy American Pioneer Recipes
Make sure you make these yummy dishes while you’re studying early American history in your homeschool.
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 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 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 or Instant Pot 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, the fruit was picked and either preserved or used in a variety of recipes. One fruit dish was a cobbler, which could be made 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 into a delicious, sweet treat.
If you want to do even more historical cooking, grab one of these cookbooks. They’re full of delicious pioneer recipes and interesting facts about the time period.
- The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories
- Log Cabin Cooking: Pioneer Recipes & Food Lore
- Pioneer Recipes
Cooking recipes like these is just one way to add some hands-on history activities into your homeschool. Here are some others.
- 6 Pioneer Crafts for Teens to Make
- American Pioneer Books and Resources for Middle School
- Pioneer Braided Rug Craft
- American Pioneer Notebooking and Unit Study
When you use hands-on activities like cooking historical recipes, you help bring history to life for your middle schooler.
What is your teen’s favorite pioneer recipe?