Our Civil War Recipe Section

Soldiers on the march or in camp rarely have time or inclination to write down recipes and cooking tips. These recipes are from the "home front" and intended to show what cooking, eating and food technology was like in mid-19th Century America. From open-fire hearth cooking to the early days of the stove as we know it today, it was a revolutionary period like none other in kitchen history.

98 Recipes to Catch a Buzz in the Civil War

Desperate times often lead to desperate drinking. But even at home and at peace, all but the most hard-core Temperance believers enjoyed a tipple or two or three as they have throughout time. Beer was often a safer drink than water for the lower classes (and  almost always safer than milk), given the state of water purification technology of the day. Wine was beloved by the higher reaches of society, and whiskey had already caused a rebellion of its own. Pour a dram of your favorite and look at what came before.

Sweet Herbs for Hearth and Health: The Civil War Kitchen Garden

They are flavorings and preservatives, the spice of life or the magic ingredient to turn bland into sumptuous. Herbs were the medicines of the poor throughout time, easily grown in any soil or gathered in wood or hedgerow. Indispensible to the chef and the physician alike, herbs were being relegated more to the kitchen in this period as medicine moved more in a chemical direction. Botany hung on in the kitchen, weak in the Northeast where Puritan values still held sway but strong in the African-influenced South and the Creole  hotspots like New Orleans.

Land of the Lost Ketchups: Civil War Ketchups

Does "tomato ketchup" seem like a redundancy to you? As in, what on earth else would you make ketchup out of--rutabagas? While we have yet to find that specific receipt, in the Civil War period there were more sorts of ketchup than you can shake a stick at. Specifying what sort of ketchup you wanted was a very good idea when you were more likely to be served one made of mushrooms than any other sort. We look here at these variants that are largely forgotten today, and some of the theories about the origin of the word itself in all its glorious castup, ketchup, and even dogsup varieties. A sauce made of fish originally? Could be....

  Tuber Time: The Potato During the Civil War

Here we take the well-traveled vegetable from its origins in the Peru of the Incas, across the sea to Europe and back again to the Americas of the more northerly continent. By the Civil War era they were entirely at home in their new environs and contributing mightily to the diets of rich and poor alike. Mixed with meats, other vegetables, or on their own they were sliced, diced, minced, mashed and otherwise manipulated to serve perhaps a wider variety of uses than they do today. No French fries mind you, although things suspiciously resembling potato chips were on the scene much earlier than is usually acknowledged.

 
  Plasters, Poultices & Paregoric: The Civil War Medicinal Cookbook

This is the one we almost didn't write, for fear of misuse and resultant karmic if not legal burdens. But write it we did, that you may marvel at some of the unbelievably vile concoctions that passed for medicines in the days of the Civil War. Be advised that times were different then and laws as well: a respected physician could compile a book of recipes for medicines with lines like "Starting with an ounce of finest Turkish opium" and violate no statute or raise a single eyebrow. Oh, and the "epidemic" of opium addiction suffered by wounded veterans hooked on smack in Army hospital tents? Turns out it never happened. Read on.

 
  From Pig to Pork Chop: How Our Ancestors Brought home the Bacon

Like the previously described potato, the pig takes a long and interesting journey through time, preparation techniques, recipes and even importance in the development of social structures. The Civil War wreaked more havoc on the swine population than it did on perhaps any other, including our own. The free-roaming bacon factory of the prewar years would lead a totally different life afterwards, and in greatly smaller numbers. But....bacon!

Thanksgiving Dinner Civil War Style

This is perhaps the least historical of our cooking articles, which we hope will be excused by the fact that they did not have "Thanksgiving dinner" or even a fixed day of observing Thanksgiving in the Civil War period. But fans of historic cookery have over the years requested a compilation of period dishes they could use for their own households, so we have done the best we could. From Pease porridge to, you guessed it, roast turkey, we bring you a bill of fare (with recipes of course) to fulfill the wish.

Christmas Goose, Ham and Other Dinner Choices (Now with Figgy Pudding!)

As with Thanksgiving, Christmas in the Civil War era was a simple day primarily for religious observance. The evolution from that to the "Xmas Season" we know today got a big jumpstart during that time. The change came in part from writers like Charles Dickens and cartoonists like Thomas Nast (who gave us Santa Claus!) And it came at least to some degree from the longing of soldiers in dismal winter camps for a moment of happiness and plenty in the middle of long dark winters far from home.

 

 

 



 

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