Cornmeal Gruel Recipe

This is Dr. Davenport’s recipe, found in an 1877 cookbook under “Food for the Sick.”

Dr. Davenport, Milford Center, Ohio, used this recipe thirty years earlier. He shared this “old and very valuable recipe” with 1877 cooks. Gruels were often given to sick or wounded Civil War soldiers.

Boil 3 pints of water.

Stir 2 tablespoons of cold water into 2 tablespoons of cornmeal. Add to the boiling water with a pinch of salt.

Reduce to medium heat and cook for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Let it settle. If the patient is very sick, pour off the water on top and serve this way. The broth is grainy and a bit thicker than might be expected.

It tasted okay.

If this broth will be given to a convalescing patient, toast a piece of bread. They ate hearty breads 150 years ago, so buy a dense bread such as Italian bread. I made my own. I baked some delicious  Bran bread  and toasted two slices for this gruel.

Pour the broth into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of light or heavy cream, 2 teaspoons of sugar, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon of ginger. Nutmeg can be substituted for the ginger. Stir well.

Break the toast into pieces and add to the gruel.

Eat immediately.

The broth has a pleasant, sweet taste. I’m not a cereal lover, but broths with bread added have a little in common with cereals.

Dr. Davenport found these to be a nourishing meal for those on a laxative diet. Hmm. Maybe just eat this in moderation.

I’d love to hear if you try this. Enjoy!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.