A Florida pioneer woman spent a large part of her day in the kitchen cooking and baking for her family. She spent hours over a wood burning stove or fireplace creating delicious meals. Most families grew their own crops and raised their own livestock for their meals, while other cooking ingredients such as spices and extracts were often bartered for with the local storekeeper. Cooking and eating in the South was always a flavorful experience.
Cooking in the days of the pioneer women was done over a wood-burning stove or in the fireplace. For fireplace cooking, Dutch ovens were a popular choice for baking bread and cakes, roasting meat, and heating stews and soups. The Dutch oven was a large, round iron pot with a handle and a lid. Some foods, such as potatoes and corn, were simply cooked by burying them in the ashes and placing hot coals on top of them. During the cold months, the fire would burn all day to warm the house, but during the warm months, the fire would be started only for cooking and extinguished immediately after.
Wood-burning stoves were another option for cooking during this period. The food was heated on the stove top by a fire set in the fire box. Once the appropriate temperature was reached, the fire had to be carefully maintained to regulate the temperature for cooking. The temperature was controlled by adding wood to the fire and by opening and closing the air vents. The top of the stove contained a warming closet where leftovers could be stored and kept warm. Most women cooked with cast iron pots and skillets because they believed that they created more savory meals. To keep the stove clean, the ashes and soot had to be cleaned out of the stove every two to three days.
from Page, L.G., & Wigginton, E. (Eds.). (1984). The Foxfire book of Appalachian cookery. Chapel Hill & London: The University of North Carolina Press.
Recipes From The South:
Old-Timey Cracklin’ Bread
Cracklin’ bread was a pioneer favorite. It was a slight variation on the popular food cornbread. It added bits of leftover lard to make a scrumptious treat. It was usually served at the beginning of hog-killing season.
1 pint Cracklin’s
1 quart cornmeal
1 pint buttermilk
1 teaspoon soda
Big pinch of salt
Crush cracklin’s with a rolling pin. Make a dough of cornmeal, buttermilk, soda and salt. Heat the cracklin’s and stir them into the dough, which must be stiff enough to mold well. Mold the bread with your hands into small, oblong pones about 3 inches wide. Bake in a hot, well-greased pan. (Dabney, 1998) p. 105
Cornmeal Batter Cakes
Because corn was such a popular crop in Florida, it was used in many foods prepared for the family. A popular breakfast item was cornmeal batter cakes.
1 cup cornmeal ¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon soda 1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten 2 teaspoons bacon drippings
Sift meal, soda and salt together. Add beaten eggs, then buttermilk. Stir until smooth. Add bacon drippings and mix well. Drop a tablespoon of batter onto a hot greased skillet. Let brown on bottom. Then turn quickly and lightly brown on other side. Serve with butter and syrup, or with vegetables as cornbread. (Dabney, 1998) pgs. 106-107
Linda’s Corn Pudding
A popular corn dish served at dinners was fresh corn pudding.
4 cups fresh sweet corn kernals (about 6 ears)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
½ cup butter or margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs with sugar and flour. Add corn and milk and then stir in the melted butter or margarine. Pour into greased 1 ½ quart soufflé dish. Bake for 55 minutes or until pudding is set and browned on top. (Dabney, 1998) p. 260
Sausage with Apples
As the winter approached, families in the South feasted on fresh meat. The cold month of November brought hog-killing day. On this day, the men of the family butchered a hog while the women cooked delicious dishes with the fresh meat.
1 pound bulk sausage
1 teaspoon garden sage
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Mix pork, sage, salt and red pepper and fry until lightly brown. Take apple, core it, and slice it into rings. Put in sausage drippings and fry at low temperature for six minutes, turning as needed. Spread the brown sugar over apples and keep frying until they are tender. Place apples on platter with sausage for serving. (Dabney, 1998) pgs. 182-183
“Life Everlasting” Sawmill gravy
With all of the biscuits and ham cooked in the South, they were in need of some tasty gravy! There are many different recipes for gravy, all made to best suit their dish. The following recipe for gravy was often used for biscuits and gravy.
3 heaping tablespoons ½ teaspoon salt
white cornmeal 2 ¼ cups milk
1 tablespoon bacon drippings A dash of pepper
In a frying pan, combine cornmeal, bacon drippings and salt. Stir until brown. Add milk and let boil until gravy thickens. Stir forcefully to keep gravy from lumping. Add pepper to taste. (Dabney, 1998) p. 208
Potatoes were a popular crop in Florida, and they were also used in many recipes.
4 cups cold mashed potatoes
1 finely chopped onion
¼ cup flour
8 tablespoons butter
Beat the eggs and mix thoroughly into the mashed potatoes along with the onion and flour. Form into biscuit-size patties about 1-inch thick. Spread butter on each side of patty and fry at medium temperature until golden brown on each side.
Dabney, J.E. (1998). Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking. Nashville,Tn: Cumberland House.