Civil War-era Culinary Delights: Unearthing Recipes from the Past

Introduction: Marching on Full Stomachs

The Civil War holds an exceptional place in history, and while battles and strategies often take the spotlight, there’s another vital aspect that deserves our attention—food. Napoleon Bonaparte once declared, “An army marches on its stomach,” underscoring the pivotal role of sustenance during this tumultuous era. The stories of the Civil War would be incomplete without considering the provisions and recipes that nourished both sides of the conflict.

Feeding the armies was no small feat. One officer observed that it required an abundance of food and drink to keep the forces on the move. Furthermore, non-combatants like government officials, spies, and civilians also needed sustenance. In fact, food shortages during the Civil War led to riots in the South. When supply lines remained intact, soldiers enjoyed decent meals, although not exactly gourmet. One Union soldier described his typical fare as “a piece of meat and a potato, a chunk of bread and a cup of coffee with a spoonful of brown sugar.” However, when supply lines were disrupted, soldiers had to scavenge for their own meals or go hungry.

Undoubtedly, food and the recipes used to prepare it played a vital role during the American Civil War. So, without further ado, let’s embark on a journey through some fascinating Civil War recipes and discover what people from that time were savoring.

Civil War Recipes: A Glimpse into the Past

In our exploration of Civil War recipes, we encounter a unique writing style that differs from modern cookbooks. These historic recipes often lack precise temperature guidance since fires did not come equipped with knobs back then. Despite their vagueness, these recipes provide a captivating snapshot of the culinary practices during the Civil War era.

One intriguing recipe is the enigmatic pumpkin bread. Although it simply states that the bread must contain both pumpkin and flour, it offers no guidance on proportions or baking instructions. This vagueness invites the reader to use their imagination and culinary intuition to recreate this delightful treat.

Other recipes, such as variations of the Brazilian Stew, were likely relished in army camps, while delicacies like the Ice Orangeade found their place exclusively on the home front. These recipes shed light on the diverse dining experiences during the Civil War.

See also  Homemade Butterscotch Moonshine: A Delectable Treat for Every Occasion

Pumpkin Bread

To prepare a delicious pumpkin bread, start by boiling a good-sized pumpkin until it transforms into a thick mixture. Pass it through a sieve and combine it with flour to form a substantial dough. This simple yet delightful bread will transport you back to the Civil War era.

Peas Pudding

For a savory treat, try making peas pudding. Begin by placing three-quarters of a pint of split peas in a basin and tying a cloth over them to allow room for expansion. Boil them in water for about two hours, then untie the cloth and add a beaten egg, a little butter, salt, and pepper. After retying the cloth, let it boil for another twenty minutes. The result is a well-flavored and perfectly shaped pudding.

Brazilian Stew

The Brazilian Stew is a dish that calls for shins or legs of beef. Cut them into slices or two to three-ounce pieces, resembling the size of an egg. Dip the meat in vinegar and place it in a kettle with sliced onions—no water necessary. Let it simmer over a slow fire for three to four hours. Season with pepper and salt, and serve it hot. For an extra touch, consider adding sliced or quartered boiled potatoes. Just remember to maintain a moderate temperature for the best results.

Ice Orangeade

Quench your thirst with a refreshing Ice Orangeade. Combine one and a half pints of orange juice with half a pint of water. Stir in half a pound of powdered loaf sugar. Thinly slice the yellow rind of six deep-colored oranges and place it at the bottom of a bowl or tureen. Pour the orange juice mixture over the rind, cover it, and let it infuse for an hour. Strain the liquid into a freezer and follow the steps for making ice cream. Once frozen, transfer it to a mold, preferably in the shape of a pineapple, and freeze it again. Serve this delightful treat in glass cups alongside your favorite sweet cakes.


Indulge in the simplicity of biscuit-making with this recipe. Take one quart of flour and mix it well with three teaspoons of cream of tartar. Add two tablespoons of shortening and dissolve one teaspoon of soda in warm water. Gradually add enough water to the mixture to form a moldable dough. Feel free to double the recipe for larger families.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned beef and cabbage, a cherished classic, made its way into the army’s provisions. Begin by boiling the salted beef in clean, cold water for three and a half hours, carefully skimming the surface every fifteen minutes. After at least two hours of boiling, add cabbage to the pot—enough to fill it. If necessary, remove a portion of the water to make room for the cabbage or divide the meat into several kettles. Boil gently for another hour and a half until the cabbage is tender. This satisfying dish can be enjoyed by both soldiers and civilians alike.

See also  Unlocking the Peter Luger Magic: Crafting Your Own Homemade Steak Sauce

Apple Pie

A timeless favorite, the apple pie holds a special place in Civil War culinary delights. Begin by making a plain crust and lining a deep dish with it. Fill the dish with sliced apples and generously grate nutmeg over them. Lay a few thin shavings of butter on top, then pour a teacup or two of molasses onto the filling, depending on the pie’s size. Cover it with an upper crust, ensuring the syrup stays trapped inside. Bake it for two and a half hours until perfectly golden. In the early stages of apple growth, it is advisable to leave the peels intact, as they hold a significant portion of the fruit’s flavor.

Modern Adaptations

If you’re eager to experience Civil War-era flavors in a more contemporary manner, we have some modern adaptations of classic Civil War recipes for you to try. These updated recipes have been clarified for ease of preparation in modern kitchens, allowing you to savor the taste of history.

Hardtack Crackers

For a taste of soldiers’ rations, try making hardtack crackers. Mix two cups of flour, half to three-quarters cup of water, one tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat, and six pinches of salt. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Knead the ingredients together into a stiff dough, then flatten the dough to a quarter-inch thickness on a non-greased cookie sheet. Cut the dough into three-inch cracker squares using a pizza cutter or a knife. Create four rows of holes with a bamboo skewer, making four holes per row. Bake the crackers for 30 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 30 minutes. Allow them to cool completely before enjoying.

Mrs. Cornelius’s Molasses Apple Pie

Paying homage to a Civil War classic, here’s Mrs. Cornelius’s Molasses Apple Pie recipe. You’ll need five peeled and sliced green apples, one teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon, and one cup of molasses. Line a pie pan with uncooked crust and fill it with the sliced apples. Sprinkle the nutmeg and cinnamon over the apples, and pour in the molasses. Cover the pie with a lattice crust and bake at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes. Once cooled, serve it alongside a scoop of ice cream for a delightful treat.

Captain Sanderson’s Boiled Pork and Bean Soup

Embrace the comforting flavors of Captain Sanderson’s Boiled Pork and Bean Soup. Soak one pound of dried navy beans in cold water overnight. Dice one pound of pork shoulder or butt and boil it in water for approximately one hour until tender. Save the stock and set it aside. In a soup pot, add bacon fat, diced onions, garlic, and leek. Once the liquid turns clear, add thyme and apple cider vinegar. Incorporate the soaked navy beans and the reserved pork stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, then add the cooked pork back to the pot. Cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until the beans reach the desired tenderness. Season with salt and pepper, and slightly mash the beans for added texture. Serve this hearty soup with johnnycake or buttermilk biscuits for a complete meal.

See also  Brewers Yeast: An Exciting Bread-Making Experiment

Green Tomato Pie

Expand your pie repertoire with a unique Green Tomato Pie. Slice one quart of green tomatoes and simmer them in half a cup of water until they have absorbed most of the liquid and become tender. Add half a cup of seedless raisins and continue cooking until well combined. Drain any remaining liquid, reserving the juice. Transfer the cooked tomatoes and raisins into a nine-inch pie pan lined with uncooked pie dough. Sprinkle a mixture of one cup of sugar and two tablespoons of flour over the filling, along with grated lemon rind. Dot the surface with butter, add lemon juice, and pour in a generous splash of brandy or whiskey. If the pie can accommodate it, add a few tablespoons of the reserved tomato juice to moisten the filling. Top the pie with a solid crust, making slits for venting. Place the pan in an oven preheated to 450 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the crust turns golden brown.

Salt Pork Cake

Explore the unique flavors of a Salt Pork Cake. Grind one pound of fat pork and stir it into one and a half pints of boiling water mixed with dissolved baking soda. Add four cups of brown sugar, half a teaspoon of salt, six cups of flour, one tablespoon of cloves, two tablespoons of cinnamon, two pounds of raisins, one cup of nuts, and one pound of dates. Stir until cool and bake at 325 degrees for 75 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick. This recipe yields several loaf pan cakes, making it perfect for sharing.

Share Your Culinary Adventures

We hope these captivating recipes take you on a delicious journey back in time. If you decide to try one of these Civil War recipes, we would love to hear from you. Please share your experiences and any modifications you made in the comment section below. And if you have a favorite Civil War recipe of your own, feel free to share it with us. Happy cooking!

Hook’d Up Bar and Grill