Corn Mush Recipe

The author of 1877 Cookbook Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping included meal suggestions. A spring breakfast meal suggestion is: fried ham; Graham bread: fried mush; scrambled eggs; radishes; potatoes boiled in jackets; coffee; tea; and chocolate. What time would you have to get up?!? 😊

The cookbook includes recipes for some of these. Today I’m sharing one for corn mush from Mrs. W.W. Woods, the 1877 cook.

Mrs. Woods gave no ingredient measurements so I looked at a few modern recipes to give me an idea how much water to boil.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray cooking spray or grease a skillet or loaf pan.

Boil 3 cups of water in a large saucepan. Stir in ½ teaspoon of salt.

A LITTLE BIT AT A TIME, add 1 cup of cornmeal to the boiling water. Prevent lumps by sifting the cornmeal through your fingers. Stir constantly over medium high heat until all the cornmeal is added.

Remove from the burner. Because it’s difficult to boil the mush thoroughly enough to cook it without scorching, Mrs. Woods put her kettle directly into the oven and baked it for an hour. Since she recommended stirring the mixture using a 2-foot paddle with a 2-inch blade that was 7 inches long, it’s safe to say she made huge batches at a time. My “paddle” was an ordinary wooden spoon! 😊

I transferred the mush to a sectioned-skillet for baking and it still took about an hour. I then chilled it in the fridge for frying later. (Baking and chilling the mush in a loaf pan makes it easier to slice for frying.)

Once chilled, beat 2-3 eggs in one bowl. Bread crumbs should go in a different bowl.

While the Crisco or lard heats, dip the mush slices into the egg mixture and then the bread crumbs. Fry until golden brown.

I enjoyed the baked corn mush as a nice side dish. The fried mush was delicious—I liked it better than I imagined I would. Frying the mush enhanced the flavor. I liked it both baked and fried. To save the calories, I’d eat it baked.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

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

 

Welsh Rarebit Recipe

I found this recipe in my 1877 Cookbook Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping and was surprised to discover this is really a type of open-faced grilled cheese. Modern recipes used a creamy cheese sauce. This old-fashioned recipe actual talks about both types.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Toast 4 slices of bread. (I used rye bread for myself and white bread for my husband.)

Cut the crusts off the toasted bread. Spread butter over the toast. Add a layer of cheese. (I used American cheese, but vary this for your favorites. Shredded cheeses will also work.)

Spread a thin layer of mustard on top of the cheese. Place the prepared slices on a pie plate or cookie sheet. Heat these in the oven until the cheese melts.

Serve immediately.

This is a tasty, fun way to put a spin on grilled cheese sandwiches.

The 1877 cook gave a second option of toasting the bread and adding melted cheese, which seems to be the more modern version. She gave no recipe for this, so I’ll give mine.

Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and then stir in a tablespoon of flour. Pour in ½ cup of cream (makes a thick, creamy sauce or use milk for a thinner sauce.) Stir constantly until it begins to bubble. (It can scorch easily.)

Remove the pan from the burner. Then add about 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese. I added a little American cheese because cheddar doesn’t melt smoothly.

Stir until smooth and spoon over toast.

I liked this second option even better. The creamy cheese was another variation on the classic sandwich—and very filling.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

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

 

Lemon Snaps Recipe from 1877

When my sister asked me to bring lots of cookies to her Super Bowl party, I took that as an invitation to try a few old-fashioned recipes. Mrs. E. L. C. of Springfield is the 1877 baker who shared this cookie recipe.

Though the original baker left out a few important details, I’m happy to say that I only had to make this recipe once—and the cookies were a hit! Or since this was for a Super Bowl party, maybe I should say they were a touchdown. 😊

Dissolve ½ teaspoon of baking soda into 2 teaspoons of hot water. Set aside.

Cream together 1 cup of sugar and 10 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the prepared baking soda.

Mrs. C. simply said to flavor with lemon. I added the zest of 2 lemons, the juice of 1 lemon, and ½ teaspoon of lemon extract to the batter.

Since this was for a Super Bowl party where one of the teams wore yellow, I added yellow food coloring to the batter.

Mrs. C. was another one who advised adding “flour enough to roll thin.” I used 1 ½ cups of flour, blending into the wet ingredients a little at a time.

Lightly flour the counter and rolling pin and then roll out the batter. Cut into desired shapes.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. The cookies flatten while baking so allow room between them. Bake cookies at 350 degrees about 9 – 11 minutes.

Delicious! Wonderful lemony flavor really came through. Guests loved the texture and flavor. If you like lemony desserts, this is the cookie for you.

I’d definitely make these again.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

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

 

 

Molasses Cookies Recipe from 1877

When my sister asked me to bring lots of cookies to her Super Bowl party, I took that as an invitation to try a few old-fashioned recipes. The 1877 baker who shared this cookie recipe is Miss J. O. DeForest of Norwalk.

Miss DeForest advised bakers to add “flour enough to roll out.” No measurements. One of the problems with following older recipes is that they leave out important details. In trying to figure out how much flour was needed, I had to make the batter twice. Perhaps I grumbled a little, as I dumped the first batch in the garbage, that the reason Miss DeForest left out the measurement is that she couldn’t figure it out either. But, since I was alone in my kitchen, only my stand mixer and I know that for sure. It’s more likely that this baker was like my grandmother—an excellent cook!—who never measured anything.

Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 3 cups of flour. Mix or sift together and set aside.

Mix 1 ¼ cups of sugar and ½ cup butter until blended. (I used a mixer.) Stir in ¼ cup of molasses.

Whisk 1 egg and then mix it into the batter.

Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, to the wet ingredients.

Lightly flour the counter and rolling pin and then roll out the batter. Cut into desired shapes.

Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Bake cookies at 350 degrees until lightly browned, about 11 – 14 minutes.

The cookies had a great texture. Even with only ¼ cup of molasses, that sweet tangy flavor really came through. If you don’t like molasses, you won’t like these cookies. This is not a common flavor these days, and most guests at the party flocked toward the other types. My husband liked them a lot.

Honey, molasses, and sugar were all used to sweeten foods in earlier centuries. As a little girl, I remember that my grandfather considered molasses a big treat.

I’d make these again—just not for another Super Bowl party.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

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

 

 

Sand Tarts Recipe from 1877

“Bring cookies to my Super Bowl party,” my sister told me. “Make a lot of them.”

She left it wide open for me to try old-fashioned recipes. I found this sand tarts recipe in an 1877 cookbook. I’d never eaten—or even heard of—this type of cookie so I compared it to a few recipes online. Modern recipes used confectioner’s sugar, with a few other changes as well. My purpose is to follow Miss Clara G. Phellis’s recipe as closely as possible.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I made this recipe once using confectioner’s sugar, but the mixture was too dry to roll out. I tried again with sugar and it worked fine.

Add 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon to ½ cup of sugar. Mix together and set aside.

I used a stand mixer to cream ½ cup of butter into 1 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl until blended well. Whisk 1 egg and add it to the mixture. Then add 1 1/2 cups of flour a little at a time, mixing until all the flour is incorporated into the mixture.

(My dough was too dry so I had to add another egg, which made it slightly wet. If this happens for you, add flour, a little at time, for a final mixing.)

Roll out the dough in a thin layer and then cut the cookies into squares.

Bake on a cookie sheet at 325 degrees for 9 minutes.

While the cookies bake, use your mixer to whip two egg whites until creamy—but not stiff.

Remove the cookies from the oven after about 9 minutes. Put a dollop of meringue on each cookie or pipe it on. Then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Add slivered almonds on top and return to the oven for a couple of minutes to lightly brown the meringue. (Bake longer for a crisper cookie.)

I liked it very much. The cinnamon sugar was a nice touch. Guests liked the soft texture of the cookie and the light cinnamon flavor.

Modern cookie recipes don’t use the meringue. Instead they are rolled in confectioner’s sugar and dropped onto the cookie sheet.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

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

 

Rye Coffee

As the Civil War continued, food became scarce for folks in the South. Southerners also had a hard time obtaining coffee. They seemed to be just addicted to the beverage—especially soldiers—as people are today so they searched for substitutes. Rye was one of the substitutes.

In an early scene in my Civil War romance, A Musket in My Hands, the protagonist, Callie, does not have coffee beans to make her pa a cup of coffee. Instead she offers to fix him a cup from rye that she’d boiled and dried.

Though I am not a coffee drinker, I wanted to prepare rye for coffee. There is a recipe in Confederate Home Cooking.

Finding rye berries was the greatest challenge. A specialty food store near me sells them.

I’ve never seen or tasted rye coffee so this was a learning process. The recipe mentioned “parching” after drying, so I reached out to Southern cooks for help with this term. Parching means roasting, which makes sense. (Thanks, Charlotte and Debra!)

I boiled ¼ cup of rye on a medium high heat for 10 minutes. By experimenting, I discovered that longer than 10 minutes begins to split the grain, which the recipe advises against.

Boiling softened the grain, expanding it over double the original size. The water was a clear, brown broth.

The rye was drained and then set aside while I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper. The oven was preheated to 275 degrees to dry the rye.

After spreading a thin layer of rye over the parchment paper, I set the cookie sheet into the oven, stirring the rye every five minutes. After 10 minutes, most of the grain was dry. After 15 minutes, it was removed from the oven.

While the oven preheated to 450 degrees, the rye was transferred onto a fresh piece of parchment paper on the cookie sheet.

Because the oven was so hot, I kept a close eye on the roasting process, checking the rye every 2 minutes. After 10 minutes, I removed them from the oven.

Many homes in the Civil War era had coffee grinders. I don’t own one so I ground the roasted rye with a rolling pin. Worked pretty well.

Then I experimented with how soldiers in camp might have made the coffee. Using 1 teaspoon of ground rye in each case, I tried the following:

1) Poured boiling water into a cup with the rye and let it steep about 5 minutes.  (left side of main photo)

2) Boiled water with rye—strongest coffee flavor. (middle)

3) NOT the way soldiers made coffee but applicable for folks today—a single-serving coffee maker. (right side of main photo)

All of these tasted like coffee to me. Granted, I am not a coffee drinker, but I agree that this probably worked well as a coffee substitute for soldiers. Though #2 made the strongest coffee, the others tasted almost as strong.

Tasting the beverage made me wonder if roasting it 2 minutes less would enhance the flavor. I will try roasting for only 8 minutes next time.

This was a fun experiment! I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Mitchell, Patricia B. Confederate Home Cooking, 2014.

Corn Oysters Recipe

Around the time of the Civil War, corn fritters were commonly called corn oysters because the fritters resembled fried oysters.

Callie, my female protagonist in my Civil War romance A Musket in My Hands, made corn fritters several times while masquerading as a soldier in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. When I found this recipe shared by Mrs. H.B.S. in Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, I looked forward to trying it.

I cut the corn off two ears of corn. It yielded 1 ½ cups of corn so I modified the recipe in the book for this amount of the vegetable.

Stir ¾ cup milk into 1 ½ cups of fresh corn. Add ¼ cup flour, 1 teaspoon butter, and 1 beaten egg. Salt and pepper to taste—I added ¼ teaspoon of each.

A cast iron skillet or griddle works well for frying the fritters. Heat the skillet over medium high heat and then lower to medium while cooking. Melt about 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet.

Use a tablespoon to drop batter into the skillet. The batter is very runny and it flattens out like a small pancake. Watch carefully as it browns quickly. Then flip it over. This seems to be an acquired art as I tore several fritters while turning them.

But boy, are they tasty! I loved the fresh corn and lightly fried flavor.

This is a quick, easy recipe. The longest part of the preparation is slicing corn off the cob—and that does not take long. I will make them again.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

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

 

Spoon Biscuit Recipe

There is a scene my Civil War romance, A Musket in My Hands, where spoon bread is a great treat for Confederate soldiers in the Army of Tennessee. A spoon bread recipe from Confederate Home Cooking uses cornmeal, not flour as this biscuit recipe from Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping cookbook does. The bread recipe also begins with scalding the milk, which the Buckeye Cookery cook (Mrs. A.B. Morey) does not mention for making the biscuits.

Flour was pretty scarce in most of the South after the Civil War started. By 1864—when my story begins—corn meal was a staple for most of the breads for Southerners.

Pour 2 cups of buttermilk into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir in one teaspoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt.

Melt 2 tablespoons of shortening and stir into the mixture.

Then Mrs. Morey advises adding enough flour to achieve a stiff batter. This was 2 ½ cups of flour for me.

These were dropped by spoon into a gem pan. These pans resemble modern muffin pans. I sprayed my mini muffin pan with cooking spray and dropped the thick batter into the small slots.

Bake the biscuits at 400 degrees until lightly browned, about twenty minutes—longer if using larger muffin pans.

The biscuits were good but somewhat bland. It seemed that this type of bread was probably spread with jellies, jams, and fruit butters such as apple butter. I tried it with apple butter and liked it much better. Though my husband liked them plain, I’m thinking of making sausage gravy to go with the leftover biscuits from this batch. Yum!

I had extra batter so I baked the spoon biscuit dough in a small loaf pan. This made a thick, hearty loaf of bread.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

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

Mitchell, Patricia B. Confederate Home Cooking, 1991.

 

 

 

Rice Pudding Recipe

There is a scene my Civil War romance A Musket in My Hands  where rice pudding is a great treat for sisters who have disguised themselves as Confederate soldiers in the Army of Tennessee. This recipe from Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping cookbook published in 1877 would have been similar to the pudding served to Callie and Louisa.

Add a teaspoon of salt to two cups of water in medium-sized kettle. When water boils, add one cup of rice (not instant) and simmer until dry. (This took about a half hour for long grain brown rice.)

Stir a teaspoon of corn starch into 2 cups of milk. Pour this into the cooked rice. Return to a boil.

Separate two eggs.

Beat ½ cup of sugar into the egg yolks and stir into the rice mixture. Remove from heat.

Grate the rind of 1 lemon. Stir this into the rice along with the juice of 1 lemon.

Spoon the mixture into custard cups, leaving room at the top for meringue topping.

Pour an inch or two of water into a large baking dish and arrange the custard cups inside.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Toward the end of that time, add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the reserved egg whites and beat with a mixer until white and stiff. Remove the pudding from the oven and spread the meringue over the top. Return the pudding to the over to lightly brown the topping.

I allowed these to cool before eating. I like rice dishes and I liked this dessert. The tangy taste of the lemon is there but did not overpower the dish. The sweet taste was not overly sweet. My husband also enjoyed the pudding.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

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

Corn Cakes Recipe

Since Callie, my female protagonist in my third Civil War romance A Musket in My Hands , made corn cakes so often while disguising herself as a Confederate soldier, I could not wait to make them. This recipe from Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping cookbook published in 1877 would have been similar to Callie’s—except as a soldier in the Confederate army, she lacked some of the ingredients.

The recipe calls for equal amounts of corn meal and buttermilk. I quickly saw that this mixture would not be thick enough to make into a patty for frying so I doubled the corn meal to two cups.

Combine two cups of cornmeal with one teaspoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt. Beat one egg and add to the cornmeal mixture. Stir in one cup of buttermilk.

Melt a tablespoon of shortening in a skillet on a medium high heat. Take a portion of the cornmeal batter and form it into a cake. Carefully place it in the hot skillet. You can fry about 3 at a time, depending on the size of the cakes.

Lower the heat to medium. These cook quickly so flip them over after a minute or two to brown on the other side.

My batter made 6 corn cakes. Yum! They are filling but not enough to feed a soldier hungry from a long march, like the characters from my novel.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

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