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By Luella Fischer
When settlers traveled hundreds of miles out West in hopes for a new life, it was often Missouri soil that was first caked to the soles of the brave American pioneers who endured a life far from what we know today.
Some settled near the banks of the Missouri river. Others made their home in Missouri wine country, and some claimed territory along the Ozark hills. Some even traveled farther west in the search of the unknown. Regardless, the hardships endured by the pioneers, and their everyday life will always be a rich and compelling part of Missouri’s history.
Brave and courageous Missouri families had to develop skill sets required for survival. Among these skills were the important methods used to preserve and prepare meat, fruit, and other food on the frontier.
Staples gathered for the journey out West and typical in a Missouri pioneer woman’s kitchen included flour, bacon, coffee, baking soda, cornmeal, molasses, vinegar, salt, eggs, sugar, tea, dried fruit, and dried meat.
Food was often canned and prepared ahead of time. Luxuries were few, and available food was used for a variety of recipes. Nothing was ever wasted. Pioneers relied on nature for wild game, berries, fruit, and soil to produce vegetables, like corn, onions, lettuce, and potatoes. Common drinks of that era include sassafras tea, buttermilk, apple cider, fruit wines, and spirits.
Food and work were also the center of social gatherings, such as barn raisings and canning vegetables.
It was far from an easy life. As settlers traveled west, Missouri continued to serve as an important meeting place for supplies. Elm Creek, St. Joseph, and Independence were well known along the Oregon Trail for settlers to meet in covered wagons and purchase meat and coffee.
Although the era of the American Pioneer lies in the past, we can learn from the strong and willing spirits of our ancestors. New beginnings await us if we are brave enough to bare the unknown road ahead. Travel back in time, and try the recipes common in the days of Missouri pioneers.
The pioneers often made pies from leftover meat, cooked with carrots, potatoes, turnips, onions, and seasoned with salt and pepper.
- 1 cup corn meal
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 pound of bacon
- In a bowl, mix the corn meal with the salt and sugar.
- Add water and mix until you get a nice paste. Form the paste into patties, and set aside.
- Fry bacon. Remove bacon, and fry the cakes in the bacon grease until golden brown.
- Wrap the patties in brown paper and then again in brown wax paper.
The pioneers used vinegar for a variety of things, often to add vitamin C to their diet.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a 12 ounce glass of water.
- Stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar to taste.
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.