Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pioneer Recipes

by Anna Kathryn Lanier

Cooking in the Old West was often an adventure in itself.  Though iron cook-stove were available by the 1860’s, most households in the west did not have them.  First, the massive size and weight made them hard to ship over the crude wagon trails.  Most cooking, from boiling to roasting and baking to steaming were therefore done open-hearth with cast iron kettles, Dutch ovens and frying pans. 

Corn was a mainstay for the pioneer and the common staple found its way into much of food placed on the table: johnnycakes, corn fritters, and corn pone. Sweet potatoes, squash, cabbage, turnips, wild berries, mushrooms and dandelion greens were also common pioneer foods.

Here are some recipes our pioneer forefathers and mothers would have enjoyed:

Baked Squash

3 butternut or acorn squash
6 teaspoons butter
6 teaspoons brown sugar

Cut squashes in halves. Clean out seeds and fibrous membrane.  Place one teaspoon of butter and brown sugar into each half.  Dash each with salt.  Arrange squash halves in a shallow baking pan with water to a depth of ½-inch.  Cover pan with loose foil. Bake in 400° F. oven 45-50 minutes.

Butterscotch Bread

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter

In a large mixing bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in brown sugar and nuts. In a separate smaller bowl blend eggs, milk and melted butter.  Stir into dry ingredients just enough to moisten.  Pour into batter into a greased loaf pan.*  Bake in 350° F. oven 45-55 minutes. Cool on rack.

*I made this recipe and it’s very good, but my loaf pan was only a 2-pound pan and the batter spilled over the pan while cooking and the bread didn't cook right. I realized I needed to use a larger pan. I would recommend either using a 3-pound pan or two 2-pound pans.

Dried Apple Pie

Soak 2 cups of dried apples in water overnight. Drain off water and mix apples with ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon each of allspice and cinnamon.  Line an 8-inch pie pan with a crust, and add the apple mixture. Dot with 3 tablespoons butter and cover with a second pie crust.  Make a few slashes in the top for ventilation and bake in a 350° oven for about 1 hour or until crust is golden brown.

Cabbage Salad

2 cups grated cabbage
1 cup chopped apples
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped turnip
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup vinegar
1/3 cup water

Toss all ingredients lightly.

I've posted on old west cooking before.  Click HERE and HERE to read those blogs. Some of the recipes are repeated on this blog post.

PS. I'm teaching THE HERO'S JOURNEY via TITANIC at Hearts Through History campus in August.


Whether you’re a plotter or a panster, knowing The Hero’s Journey will help you with your story’s plot. Using Christopher Vogler’s guidelines, I will lead you through your own The Hero’s Journey, including a special journey via the TITANIC and other romance movies.

Find out more HERE.

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester 


  1. I recommend your Hero's Journey class to anyone who wants to improve their writing. I enjoyed your workshop when you presented it to Yellow Rose RWA.

    As for campfire cooking, give me an air-conditioned home with all my appliances and sanitation. I am simply not a camper. I do love reading about pioneer life, though, and appreciate your post very much.

  2. It is a wonder those people did not starve to death all the time under those cooking conditions, or die of food poisoning. I am with Ms. Clemmons - I want air conditioning and a clean kitchen to cook in.

  3. Hi, Caroline and Stephanie. Thanks for stopping by. I do agree, you gotta love the modern appliances and AC, especially in the hot Texas summer!

  4. I liked the mix of cabbage and apples and I always wondered how to make a pie from dried apples. Now I see it has to do with soaking them over night.
    Your class sounds very helpful.
    I wish you the very best.

  5. OH YUM those recipes sound so good. Hubby would love the butterscotch bread for sure. Thanks, Anna Kathryn. :)

  6. I love to read recipes, and recipe books. Probably, many of do, too.
    But when it comes to much cooking, I don't do a lot. I don't cook meat, so we live on salads and pasta dishes, and vegetable soups, etc.
    The apple cabbage salad sound great--except for those turnips. Nope, no turnips. Mother grew those and loved cooked turnips. She never succeeded in making her three girls like turnips.
    Thanks so much for the information..I loved it.


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