By Luella Fischer
Penny licorice, store-front windows, hardware, food, and other necessities defined the general stores that served small communities and acted as the one stop shop beginning in the early 1800s. Today, several old-fashioned general stores that began over a century ago still stand and are open to the public. Nestled in small towns across the state, these stores take us back in time; some offer old-fashioned candy, soda, ice cream floats, footwear, and antiques for purchase.
During general store’s heyday, most customers purchased items that they could not grow or raise on their farm and wouldn't be able to otherwise obtain. Most stores offered barter, trade, cash, and credit. It was common for farmers to trade vegetables or eggs for cloth or leather.
Most general stores were heated by wood in the winter and contained basements or cellars for food storage. In 1896, the postal service began rural delivery routes and more roads were being built, creating an increase in businesses. By the 1930s, larger grocery stores were opening and causing some of the small-town community general stores to close.
Be sure to visit Missouri’s remaining stores to enjoy a soda in a glass bottle or chocolate pecans or cherry licorice from a wooden barrel. Celebrate with old-fashioned recipes at home, and escape to the past where penny candy was a treat and the small town atmosphere started and ended with the swing of a general store door.
Homemade Root Beer
- 6 cups white sugar
- 1 1/3 gallons cold water
- 1 2-ounce bottle root beer extract
- 4 pounds dry ice
- In a large cooler, mix together the sugar and water, and stir to dissolve sugar completely.
- Stir in the root beer extract.
- Carefully place the dry ice into the cooler, and cover loosely with the lid. Do not secure the lid, as pressure may build up.
- Let the mixture brew for about an hour before serving. Leftover root beer can be stored in one gallon milk jugs.
Best Ever Caramels
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup butter
- 1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
- Grease a 12-by-15-inch pan.
- In a medium-size pot, combine sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk, whipping cream, and butter.
- Monitor the heat of the mixture with a candy thermometer while stirring. When the thermometer reaches 250F°, remove the pot from the heat.
- Stir in vanilla.
- Transfer mixture to the prepared pan and let the mixture cool completely.
- When cooled, cut the caramel into small squares and wrap them in wax paper for storage.
Luella Fischer enjoys writing and has a passion for cooking and Missouri history. She is also the author of a children’s book series and directs a Missouri Farmers Care agriculture education program where third graders have the opportunity to make bread, plant seeds, and experience food and agriculture hands-on.