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Friday, November 19, 2010

Family Recipe Friday - Cooking During The Great Depression

Family Recipe Friday is a daily blogging prompt used by many genealogy bloggers to help them post content on their sites. Family Recipe Friday is an opportunity to share our family recipes with fellow bloggers and foodies alike. Whether it’s an old-fashioned recipe passed down through generations, a recipe uncovered through your family history research, or a discovered recipe that embraces your ancestral heritage share them on Family Recipe Friday. Here is my contribution:
If you were going to live and survive the Great Depression, you set your pride asside and did what you could. To say, "I would never eat a possum", just means you haven't been that hungry. You eat what you have to eat. They were eating wild game, road kill, weeds, and making do with whatever they could think of to safely eat. My Grandfather would literally pick up road kill if he was the one that ran over it (he would know it was fresh). It was too important to waste! Some would use ground acorns to make a fake, or ersatz, coffee. Due to the tannin it would be bitter. Some learned how to peel the acorns, place in a bag and sit it in a creek for a few days. Then they dried it and ground it to make the "coffee". This was less bitter and acidic.

Some made Egg Drop Coffee. If you didn't have a percolator insert you could use egg to hold the grounds down in the water! Using 1 egg to every 8-10 cups of coffee, 1 Tbsp coffee for every cup. Take the coffee grounds for as many cups of coffee that you want to make up to ten cups and put them in a cup. Crack open the egg and smash the egg shell and put the egg into the coffee in the cup egg shells and all. Take a spoon and mix up the egg and the coffee mixture so the coffee grounds are mixed up with the egg. If the mixture is dry you can add enough water to make a wet mix with. Boil enough water to make the amount of coffee that you are making grounds for. Add the egg mixture into the water when the water is at a full boil. Stir the mixture until the egg and coffee grounds are well mixed into the water. Let the water with the coffee and egg in it sit quietly for a couple of minutes and then pour a cup.

Back then, it was important to get as many calories as possible with as little food as possible. They needed those calories for energy and to keep themselves from losing more and more weight. If you don't have a good intake of protein and calories you get physically weaker and weaker and can't do the simple tasks to take care of yourself. Once you fall into that cycle you will starve to death. So it was essential to get as many calories out of your food as possible.

These days, we have the opposite needs. We eat such calorie rich foods and such large helpings that we suffer from obesity. Their problem was to keep enough weight on so that their body didn't start shutting down and having enough energy to work to survive and keep moving.

We drain and rinse our browned hamburger meat to lower our calorie intake. They would have thought throwing the hamburger grease away was a sin, a waste, throwing away something that might literally keep someone alive!

My Mother-in-law tells me that if there was any scraps left after a meal, her Grandmother would set them aside for the hobos. They had a train track virtually across the street in a small Southern town. So I guess they did see a lot of begging hobos and she would give them their food scraps.

If you lived in the rural areas you could catch wild hogs, feed them corn for a year and eat them once the wild taste was out of the scavenging animals. You went squirrel and rabbit hunting. Your dogs had jobs like a hunting dog, coon dog, gun dog, retrievers, etc. You caught possums and held them awhile to cleanse and fatten them before killing them. Same with raccoons. You ate doves, black birds, wild turkeys, etc. Notice that everything takes a lot of labor and energy! If you had vegetables and fruits it was because you grew, harvested and prepared them to cook. If you had meat it was because you hunted or grew it, butchered, processed and cooked it. You cut the wood for the wood stove. You drew the water from a well. Just eating was labor intensive so it was essential that you be ABLE to do this work in order to eat. If you were elderly, disabled, invalid, too young, handicapped, and didn't have help, you died. If you didn't have enough to eat to produce working energy, you died.

Black Bird Pie

3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup very warm water (almost hot)

Mix little biscuit dough. Knead 'til tough and dry - roll with rolling pin 'til very thin and cut into 2-inch strips.

Clean birds. http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/martin/wildrecipes/infdov.php
25 birds well covered with water
3/4 lb. sausage (link) - optional

Cook until tender (at least 2 hours or 1 hour for chicken). Salt and pepper to taste. When birds are tender, keep broth at a rolling boil and drop in pastry - piece by piece, shaking pot constantly to keeep pastry pieces separated. When all is in pot, place cover on and let cook for approximately 10 minutes. Let set for about ten more minutes. Then eat.
Source: NC Cooperative Extension


Some caught possums and kept them 1-4 weeks in pens and fed them on cornmeal and milk to clean them out (they eat anything) and fatten them up. To prepare the possum, put 1/2 cup lime in about 1 gallon of boiling water and scald quickly, and pull off hair while hot. Scrape well--remove feet, tail, and entrails--like you would a pig. Cut off ears, remove eyes and head. Pour hot water over it and clean thoroughly. Put one cup salt in sufficient cold water to cover possum, add 1 pod red pepper and let stand overnight. In the morning remove salt water and pour boiling water over it. Cook in enough boiling water to boil up over possum but not enough to cover. Cook until skin can be pierced with a fork easily, and let stand in water until ready for baking. Peel sweet potatoes and boil them until tender in slightly-salted water (to which 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of sugar have been added). When ready to bake, place possum in pan with skin side up. Surround with the sweet potatoes. Strip with bacon, sprinkle with thyme or marjoram, and brown in the oven. Baste with the drippings often.
Sources: Various Internet sources. Just do a Google search on "Possum" or "Opossum Recipes"

Dutch Oven Squirrel

4-6 dressed squirrels, cut in pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tbsp. lemon
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp sage
one onion
2-3 stalks celery
6-7 small carrots
1 tsp sugar

Add all ingredients to a large pot or dutch oven. Cover with water and cook on low heat for 3 hours. Remove squirrels. Blend vegetables to thicken gravy. Add squirrels and gravey back to pot. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve.
Source: Wildgamerecipes.org

Great Depression Salad

Young leaf lettuce
4 Tbsp Bacon Grease
4 Tbsp Vinegar
1 tsp Sugar

Clean lettuce leaves and place on salad plates.
Heat the bacon grease (about 4 Tbsp) and add equivalent vinegar and a tsp of sugar. Let heat through. Then pour over lettuce leaves.
Source: My family, but I also saw this on the Internet

Baked Rabbit

1 or 2 wild rabbits
All-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sage
1 med. onion
Salt and pepper
6 slices breakfast bacon

Dress rabbits and cut up, place meat in a large bowl of salt water, let stand 1 hour. Pat dry. Sprinkle pieces with small amount flour; salt and pepper to taste.
Place 3 slices bacon on bottom of Dutch oven. Add rabbit, sprinkle sage over meat. Add onion slices to top of meat. Then add 3 more strips of bacon on top of meat. Pour water to cover and bake 2 1/2 hours at 375 degrees adding water as needed. Meat will be brown and crisp outside, juice and tender inside.
Source: Wildgamerecipes.org

Scalloped Corn

1 can corn
3 eggs
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups sweet milk
1/2 cup soda cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Beat eggs separately, put 1 teaspoon of butter in baking dish and 2 tablespoons butter melted butter into cracker crumbs. Add yokes of eggs, milk, salt and sugar to corn, fold in whites of eggs. Bake in casserole dish for fifty minutes in moderate oven.
Source: CoveredBaptists.Probards31.com

Variety Cake

1 cup sweet stuff like sugar, honey, or jam
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup dried fruit (e.g., raisins, cranberries)
1/3 cup shortening
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed up pumpkin
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda (optional)
1/2 cup nuts (your choice)

Combine the sweet stuff, water, dried fruit, shortening, spices and salt. Bring to a boil. Cool mixture and add pumpkin. Mix together flour, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Stir in texture ingredient. Pour the wet stuff over the dry stuff and gently mix. Dump into a greased baking pan. Bake 1 hour @ 350 degrees.
Source: CDkitchen.com

Meatless Loaf

1 cup rice
1 cup peanuts crushed
1 cup cottage cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients together. Bake in a loaf pan for 30 minutes or until loaf is good and set.
Source: CoveredBaptists.Probards31.com

Chipped Beef on Toast

1 jar of chipped beef
Milk Gravy

Place 1 piece of chipped beef on a piece of toast and pour gravy over it.
Source: My family, but I found it on the Internet too

Rice Pudding

½ cup long grain white rice
½ cup sugar
1 can evaporated milk, diluted to make one qt [must use evaporated milk]
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
Cinnamon to taste

Grease a glass 9" x 13" Pyrex dish with solid shortening. Preheat oven to 300F. Place all ingredients except cinnamon in pan. Generously sprinkle top with cinnamon. At least once during the baking, stir cinnamon crust into the rice and sprinkle top again with cinnamon. Let bake until rice is tender, or approximately 1 ½ hours. Let cool and serve either warm or cold.
Source: CoveredBaptist.probards31.com

Spice Cake

2 cups sugar
2 cups strong coffee OR water OR apple juice
1/2 cups shortening
2 cups dark raisins OR diced pitted prunes
1 apple, peeled and shredded
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup nuts, chopped (your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using a medium saucepan, simmer together the sugar, coffee, shortening, raisins and apple for 10 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, all the spices and the nuts. Pour the cooled sugar mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix well. Pour batter into a greased 13x9x2" baking pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes OR until cake tests done.
Source: Grouprecipes.com

Corn Chowder

2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
2 (15 ounce) cans whole kernel corn
1 large white onion, diced
3 cups diced potatoes
2 (12 fluid ounce) cans evaporated milk
1/3 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, combine broth, corn, onion and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until potatoes are just tender. Stir in evaporated milk and butter until butter is just melted. Season with salt and pepper and serve at once.
Source: Allrecipes.com

Hard Times Coffee

Mix well 2 qts. wheat bran and 1 pt. yellow corn meal. Add 3 well beaten eggs and 1 cup sorghum molasses. Beat well, spread on pan and put in dry oven, on very low heat. (Wood stoves were kept warm at all times.) Take great care to stir often while browning. A handful is enough for two people.


5 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 to 1 2/4 cups water

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine ingredients. Add water until you can form a firm ball. If the dough gets sticky, add more flour. If it gets too dry, add more water. Roll out on a well-floured surface, using liberal amounts of flour to keep dough from sticking to roller. Roll to approx. 1/2" thickness. Cut dough into 3" x 3" squares and poke with holes. Place on cookie tin and put into preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes (until lightly browned).
Source: Angelfire.com

Blackberry Tea

Pick the blackberry leaves and dry them. When you want to make tea, just crumble a couple of teaspoons of leaves to one cup of boiling water. Steep for five to ten minutes, and you have blackberry tea.
Source: Angelfire.com

Sweet Potato Biscuits

16 oz.cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup water or 2% milk
2 1/4 cups southern buttery biscuit mix
1/4 tsp allspice (if desired)

Peel and cook sweet potatoes, set aside to cool. Mix together sweet pototes, Brown Sugar Biscuit mix , and water or milk. Combine ingredients thoroughly. The mixture should be moister than regular Biscuits. Flour table. Roll biscuit mix to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with 1 1/2 inch cutter or a wine glass. Place on a greased sheet pan. Bake in a preheated oven @ 350 degrees for 17 min. This mixture does not allow the biscuits to rise much. Its good to have a timer to let you know when they are done, so not to over cook. Serve with Fresh Butter or Land of Lakes sweet Cream. Also very good with Sauage Patties.
Source: Chuck McMurray, Chesapeake, Va on Cooks.com

Creamed Peas On Toast

1 can green peas
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
buttered toast
salt & pepper

On stove in small pot melt butter and add flour slowly to thicken it. When it is almost like a paste add the milk and stir. Continue stirring on low heat until the mixture thickens. Add the drained can of peas and stir for a few more minutes. Pour hot mixture over a buttered slice of toasted bread, add salt& pepper to taste.
Source: Recipezaar.com

Creamed Chicken Over Biscuits

1 cut up chicken
1 1/2 qt. water
1 tsp. salt
1 onion
2 stalks celery
3/4 c. flour

Cook chicken, water, onion, celery and salt for 1 hour or until tender. Lift chicken out of broth and debone. Set aside. Thicken broth with paste of 3/4 cup of flour and water. Add cut up chicken and serve over biscuits.

Potato Soup

4 large potatoes, rinsed, peeled, cubed
salt & Pepper
4 Tbsp plain flour

Cook potatoes in water until overdone and falling apart. Take some of the broth in a coffee cup. Add the flour and wish with fork until smooth. Pour into the potatoes and stir. Add Butter and serve.

Yankee Rice

Cooked white rice

Add some milk, sugar, butter, cinnamon to white rice and serve warm.

Poke Salad

Pick the young leaves of a poke plant and boil them in salted water for about 20 minutes. Drain and discard the water. Boil in fresh water again for 20 minutes. Drain and discard the water. Boil a third time in fresh water and drain. The greens should be ready to eat. Butter is good on them.
Source: http://sharonscrapbook.blogspot.com/search/label/poke%20or%20polk%20salad

Dandelion Greens

Pick the newest dandelion leaves, wash and boil like any other green. Serve with salt and butter.

Dandelion Salad with Cooked Dressing

4 slices bacon, cut in small pieces
approximately 2 c. chopped new dandelion leaves
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced or chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. cream or milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1/4 c. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour

Toss together chopped dandelion, chopped onion and fried bacon pieces. Set aside. In skillet warm butter and cream until butter melts. Beat egg and then add salt, pepper, vinegar, sugar and flour. Blend the egg mixture into the slightly warm cream mixture. Increase heat and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Pour hot dressing over the greens and toss gently. Add eggs before tossing. Serve at once. Gather the dandelion leaves early in the spring before the plants flower or they will be bitter.
Source: Seedsofknowledge.com

Cream of Dandelion Soup
4 cups chopped dandelion leaves
2 cups dandelion flower petals
2 cups dandelion buds
1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 cup chopped wild leeks (or onions)
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups water
2 cups half-n-half or heavy cream
2 tsp salt

Gently boil dandelion leaves in 6 cups water. Pour off bitter water. Boil gently a second time, pour off bitter water. In a heavy-bottom soup pot, sauté wild leeks and garlic in butter or olive oil until tender. Add 4 cups water. Add dandelion leaves, flower petals, buds, and salt. Simmer gently 45 minutes or so. Add cream and simmer a few minutes more. Garnish with flower petals.

Welsh Rarebit

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Dash of cayenne
3 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 cup butter
3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
Sliced tomatoes

Combine flour, salt, dry mustard and cayenne. Add 1 cup milk gradually to form a paste. Mix in remainder of milk and Worcestershire sauce. Melt butter in a couble boiler. Add milk mixture. Cook and stir over hot water until thickened. Add cheese and stir until melted. Lay tomatoes slices on top of toast. Spoon rarebit over toast and tomato slices. Option: You can substitute beer for the milk.
Source: recipegoldmine.com

Sources & Resources:
The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia By William H. Young, Nancy K. Young


Nancy said...

This post is almost like a recipe book itself! Wonderful information. Thank you.

Welcome to Geneabloggers. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

Nancy from My Ancestors and Me at http://nancysfamilyhistoryblog.blogspot.com

TCasteel said...

The majority of us (including myself) have lost the ability to cook in this way with the concept of the grocery store and everything butchered and neatly packaged for our ease.
It was only one or two generations ago where you went into the backyard and caught your dinner. Now most can hardly even imagine doing so.
Thank you for this very interestiing post!

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