Apple Pie Recipe Without Apples used by Confederate Soldiers


Recipes used to be called ‘receipts.’ Confederate soldiers were often low on supplies and had to make do with ingredients found nearby.

I found an intriguing recipe called “Apple Pie Without Apples” in an 1863 book, Confederate Receipt Book. I had to make this one.

The main ingredient is crackers. Civil War soldiers ate hard tack, which John D. Billings describes in his book, Hard Tack and Coffee, as “a plain flour-and-water biscuit.”

Billings, a Civil War soldier, had two of these crackers while writing his book that published in 1887. (It doesn’t say if the hard tack was baked during the war.) When measured, he found they were 3 1/8 inches by 2 7/8 inches and almost ½ inch thick.

This apple pie recipe uses crackers. The soldiers would have used hard tack because that was available.

blog-127Place crackers in a small bowl. (Not having hard tack on hand, I thought Triscuits might be an acceptable substitute.  I used 20 of these crackers. Regular crackers would also be fine.) Soak these in water until soft. For our modern crackers, this takes about five minutes. I can’t imagine how long soldiers soaked the hard tack.

Empty excess water. Mash the softened crackers.

Add 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, ¼ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and ½ teaspoon nutmeg to the crackers. Mix together.

Spray ramekins with cooking spray. Spoon mixture into ramekins until about 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

My husband tried it first. “It’s strange. It doesn’t taste like apple pie.”

I had to agree. This recipe does not taste like apple pie. I didn’t really care for it.

Soldiers probably didn’t have cinnamon too often in camp but this spice would definitely enhance the flavor. In the next batch I added a teaspoon of cinnamon along with the nutmeg.

Both my husband and I agreed that cinnamon improved the “appleless” pie. Though it was a strange and unfamiliar dessert, I’m happy I tried it. It would make a fun dish at Civil War reenactments.

For the Confederate soldier starving for his mother’s apple pie, eating this dessert probably gave him a nostalgic taste of home.

-Sandra Merville Hart


A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

Billings, John D. Hardtack & Coffee, University of Nebraska Press, 1993.



Biscuit Recipe Used by Confederate Soldiers


by Sandra Merville Hart

Confederate soldiers were often low on supplies and food rations. They had to make do with ingredients found nearby.

Confederates published a fun book of recipes in 1863 called Confederate Receipt Book. I tried one of the biscuit recipes.

In reading the recipe before starting, one thing that struck me was that they used cream of tartar. Other food recipes called for tartaric acid. I hadn’t used that in biscuits and wondered if it was a readily-available ingredient for Southern soldiers.

A little research showed that many plants, including grapes, have tartaric acid, which is an organic acid. The process of making wine creates cream of tartar. It is a leavening agent.

Since food supplies were often scarce for Southern soldiers, it makes sense that they used whatever they had on hand and adapted it.

blog-110Measure 4 cups of all-purpose flour into a mixing bowl. Add 3 teaspoons of cream of tartar and mix thoroughly.

Add 2 tablespoons of shortening. Use a fork to cut the shortening into the flour mixture. It won’t look much differently after combined because it’s not a lot of shortening. Most modern recipes call for ½ cup or ¾ cup of shortening (or butter) but I wanted to try the Confederate soldiers’ recipe so I didn’t alter it.

Dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda into about 1 ½ cups of warm water. Stir and add to the dry ingredients to make a dough. If more water is needed, add a little at a time until the dough is the right consistency.

You may notice, as I did, that there is no salt in this recipe. I didn’t add any.

I imagined that soldiers baked their biscuits in a skillet. I greased the skillet with shortening—not cooking spray because the men in Civil War camps didn’t have that.

I baked my biscuits in a 425 oven for twenty minutes and then increased the temperature to 450 for another 4 or 5 minutes because they were taking longer than normal. I usually bake food at 425 if the recipe calls for 450 because it’s easy to burn. Next time I will bake these biscuits at 450 for 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned.

blog-117They rose nicely in the oven, almost doubling. They looked great. The consistency was really nice, but I missed the salt. It would have tasted better with a teaspoon of salt in the flour mixture.

I wondered at first if salt was often in short supply. Maybe that was the reason for omitting salt from biscuits.

Then another possibility occurred to me. Salting meat was a way of preserving it before refrigeration. If the meat was already salty, the soldier probably didn’t need it in the biscuits, too.

Most Civil War soldiers didn’t know much about cooking at the beginning of the war. Mothers, wives, and sisters usually did the cooking and baking back at home. The men adapted pretty well . . . and even published a few of their recipes!


Amazon page for Sandra Merville Hart



A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

“Tartaric Acid,”, 2017/02/06