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If you were to try to follow a recipe from the 1800s you might be more than a little confused. Back then many cooks relied on estimation to create their dishes, and so when pressed to write things down the amounts of ingredients and even cooking temperatures were often quite vague. Even though we no longer rely on measurements “handfuls” of ingredients or temperatures like a “slow” fire, there’s no reason we can’t enjoy some of the flavors that people back then did.

Oklahoma ranchers cabin 1900
Via: Frank E. Downs/NYPL

Pea Picker’s Cornbread

Cornbread was a staple in the New World since wheat was not always available. Poor crops and the absence of supplies on long overland journeys meant that corn flour often replaced wheat flour in every regard. Corn desserts were not uncommon and cornbread was a favorite. And, it still is a favorite to this day in many households even though we can get bread at the store anytime we want.

cornbread in a cast iron skillet

This Southern pea picker’s cornbread was recorded in the 20th century but has it’s roots in earlier times. And, this is very important, it doesn’t contain any added sugar since sweet cornbread was considered Yankee style. Get the recipe right here.

Soda Bread

Soda bread is often associated with Ireland and it was a popular recipe for immigrants to make. It conveniently also requires no yeast or starter to get a decent lift in the oven, making it a great recipe to make without planning ahead of time…impromptu bread if you will.

loaf of soda bread

Even though it doesn’t take a long time to make, this bread is truly delicious. My favorite is to have just plain butter on it so that flavor really comes through. Get the recipe right here.

Vinegar Pie

Fruit pies have been the pies of choice for centuries in many parts of the world. But, when people couldn’t get fresh fruit as in a bad harvest year, during times of poverty, or while traveling to new lands improvisations had to be made. Cream-filled or custard pies became a nice treat.

vinegar pie

Custard-like vinegar pie was popular during the Great Depression for the same reasons, but pioneer cooks also made this treat on the frontiers where orchards had not yet been planted and in a time when canned goods were not readily available. Get the recipe right here.

Salt-Rising Bread

Another bread that requires no yeast is salt-rising bread which uses a fermented starter made from potatoes or corn. This style of bread is particularly associated with rural areas and sometimes with the Amish.

salt rising bread

It can be tricky to make, but the pay off is worth it. This bread has a deeper flavor than other wheat breads with a slight umami or cheesy flavor thanks to the starter. Get the recipe right here.

Amish Apple Scrapple

This is another recipe that’s often known as an Amish recipe, but in truth people from all over made this recipe from the mid-1800s well into the 20th century. The traditional way to make this recipe is with the offcuts of meat, but for simplicity and ease we used sausage in this recipe instead.

Amish apple scrapple

This breakfast scrapple recipe bears resemblance to fried cornmeal mush and is a hearty way to start the day. Get the recipe right here.

Corn Chowder

Chowders of all kinds were common in New England with the pilgrims. Of course clam and lobster chowders are well known today, but when there wasn’t seafood available corn chowder was a popular backup choice.

corn chowder

This corn chowder recipe has corn, potatoes, and just a just bit of bacon flavored with pepper and bay leaves. Get the recipe right here.

Corned Beef Breakfast Hash

Another old recipe that originally hails from England and Ireland is corned beef hash. The reddish beef is cured with salt grains (or “corns”) and then boiled to remove the salt and nitrites. Then in it’s hashed from the slices or chopped beef is fried up with potatoes and/or eggs.

Corned beef hash

This was a way to use up leftovers and to also make an all-in-one pan meal. Plus breakfast hash also has the desirable side benefit of being extremely tasty. Get the recipe right here.