Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 2

FACT SHEET

Cooking in most rural areas of the United States, even late into the 19th century, was done over the open-hearth fireplace with blackened iron cookware and utensils. Boiling, roasting, baking, and steaming were all done over open-hearth fireplaces inside the cabins. Cookware consisted of a few different sized kettles, a Dutch oven, a long-handled fry pan, and iron griddle, and a tea kettle. Cooks usually used iron utensils including skewers, a spit, trivets. They also used long-handled spoons, a dipper and cooking forks. Some dippers and spoons were wooden or made of gourds. Women labored all day inside usually dark cabins that were lit only by oil lamps or candles. Most of the time they worked teary-eyed in a haze of smoke because stone chimneys drew poorly and fireplaces rarely had dampers.

The kitchen occupied one corner of the cabin next to the fireplace. There were a few crude open shelves and a rough wooden trough-like box that served as a sink but without a drain. A wooden side board held a wash basin and pitcher. They carried water from near by streams in and out in wooden buckets. They were also able to collect rain water from the rain barrel that collected water under the cabin eaves when the nearby spring ran dry in summer. Foods were kept fresh in summer by placing them in wooden boxes or a rock housing built over a cool stream or spring.

Most pioneers ate foods made from corn because corn was the easiest to grow and mill. Cakes, breads and puddings were made from cornmeal or buckwheat and were usually of a coarse texture. They made johnnycake, corn fritters, corn pone and sorghum bread. Pioneers also farmed squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cabbage, onions. They found foods in the surrounding areas during different seasons, such as mushrooms and dandelion greens in the Spring and a variety of berries during the Summer. They also harvested wild honey and collected maple syrup for sweetening. They drank apple cider, sassafras, and berry cordials.(Old Pioneer Recipes)

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