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Log Cabin Cooking-Introduction, Where to Cook & Measurements

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Imagine yourself packing up your cherished belongings, leaving behind all but the most essential items needed for survival. It’s 1835, you’re saying goodbye to friends and relations…maybe forever. You and your family are loading the wagon for an adventure into parts unknown; hoping to outrun the Cholera, food shortages, and have some land to call your own. Maybe you’ll land in the mountains, perhaps the prairie,. One thing’s for certain, your survival will depend on hard work and resourcefulness. And life might be better.

As you settle in after your long journey, most of your time and energy goes into food gathering and storage for the coming winter. Good thing for all those work bees you’ll be attending with your new neighbors. Bean Stringin’s, corn shuckin’s, cider makin’s, hog slaughtering, and apple parin’s. What’s going to keep you alive now is independence and self-sufficiency tempered with a strong sense of community. That and maybe some tasty food to warm your innards! You have two iron pots too cook with and the only receipts (recipes) you have are the food rhymes you heard your mama sing as she cooked. Never mind, you have a keen eye, a good sense of smell, and you’ve been cooking since you were old enough to throw rocks at chickens!

A century and a half has come and gone. We hunt for food at the supermarket, and we’re busy with work and play instead of food growing and preserving. But if there’s even a little bit of pioneer spirit sill in you, take leave of your cookbooks and kitchen gadgets and try your hand at some make-do pioneer cooking. The recipes we tell here make use of ingredients that would have been available on the American frontier 150 years ago, but you can thrown in anything you think would taste good.


Fireplace Cooking

Hearth cooking was the only way for early pioneers to prepare their meals until cook stoves came into popularity in the late 1800's. The fire provided heat and light, as well as a place to prepare food. Kettles were hung on poles built into the fireplace. Other foods were prepared in the coals or on pots over the coals. The lucky family had an oven for bread baking built into the hearth. A fire was built in the oven and allowed to burn down, then the ashes were swept out and the bread was put in to bake.


Cook stove Cooking

The early stoves had no temperature gauges, so housewives regulated temperatures by size and type of wood. Hardwood makes a steady hot heat that burns at the same temperature for a long time. To maintain a constant temperature, medium-sized pieces of wood were added in steady quantities as the food cooked.


Armed with only a teacup, spoon, a keen eye, and a good memory, early American pioneers had to be resourceful when it came to measuring ingredients for cooking. Here is a list of rough equivalents that aided the pioneer cook in “eyeballing” the correct amount of ingredients needed. In the spirit of frontier resourcefulness, many of the recipes included here are “inexact, “ requiring the cook to become intimate with taste, textures, and appearance of food in various states.


1 Tbs. (heaped) = size of a hickory nut

2 Tbs. (heaped) = the size of an egg (1 stick)

4 Tbs. (heaped) = one teacup (2 sticks)

1 lb. butter = 2 teacups well packed (4 sticks)

Flour, Meal, Sugar, Coffee

5 Tbs. sifted flour or meal (heaped) = one teacup

1 Tbs. sugar (heaped) = one oz

7 Tbs. granulated sugar (heaped) = one teacup

1 lb. granulated sugar = 2 teacups (level)

1 lb. sugar = 2 ½ teacups (level)

1 lb. coffee = two teacups (heaped)

1 qt. meal = 3 ½ teacups (level)

1 lb. sifted flour = 4 teacups (level)


8 oz. = one teacup

1 gill = teacup

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