Pioneer Recipes & Cooking: Why We Should Learn From Them

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 most inexpensive 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 (unpasteurized milk allowed to turn sour, until the milk thickens or curdles into a yogurt-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 was a 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
Red Bean Pie

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  An Excellent Brunswick Stew for Preppers

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8 thoughts on “Pioneer Recipes & Cooking: Why We Should Learn From Them”

  1. My grandma made water she called noodles . Flour, in a large bowl 2 eggs beat till frothy in 2nd bowl or cup. Make a well in the flour, drizzle the egg over flour while stirring with a fork. You will end up with crumbles. You want pieces around the size of a nickel. While she was doing this she would have broth set to a boil. Sometimes she would have chunks of chicken carrots and onion in it . While it was at a rolling boil she would scoop out her noodle, shaking out as much flour as possible and sprinkle them over the boiling broth. She let it cook for about 5 minutes and served it with homemade rolls. I love my grandmas chicken soup. They never had much money but she could make a feast out of a little of nothing. I learned a lot from her on how to make do.

  2. More! I love these recipes. Anything I can learn from our ancestors is worth the time it takes to learn… more please…

    1. I checked all the links in that article and they are working correctly. I’m not sure why there was a problem on your end.

  3. Can someone help me please? I’d like to store beans since they are affordable. But beans get hard as they age and water won’t soak in when you cook them so are they even worth storing? Even for red bean pie? Thank you.

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