Friday, April 1, 2011

Colonial Cookbook

When the show, Survivor, was in its first season on television, my son, Justin, was a fan. The premise of the show is that people who are unfamiliar with some far-off, exotic location are dropped off there and must adapt to their surroundings and learn how to survive. Food, is of course, of utmost importance to the contestants: what to eat; which items are edible; and how to get enough to have energy for the tasks. While reading our cookbook for review today, I saw a great parallel. The first people to settle in America from England were "survivors"! Yes, they had many concerns and tasks to accomplish, but much of their time and energy revolved around food: what to eat (and plant, successfully); which native items were edible; and how to get enough food to have energy to work and fight illness. They were blessed with knowledgeable help; Native Americans gave them information and assistance.These "survivors" became known as Colonists. Their diet ended up being a blend of flavors brought from their mother country and delicious new tastes, provided by friends from their newly- adopted home.

The Old Farmer's Almanac Colonial Cookbook from Yankee Books (Dublin, New Hampshire) is a 1982 reprint of an almanac first published in 1792. The reprint, by Yankee, is seven wonderful chapters from that 1700's almanac of authentic Colonial foods, "adapted for preparation in the modern American kitchen." The ISBN is 0-89909-008-7. Their address given in 1982 is: Yankee Books, Box C3CC, Depot Square, Peterborough, NH 03458. Other books they've published that you might be interested in: The Old Farmer's Almanac Heritage Cookbook; Yankee Church Supper Cookbook; and The Innkeepers Cookbook.

I've given as much information as I have on this book to help you hunt it down, because I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The authentic Colonial foods are a history lesson in themselves. There are several recipes that require cornmeal, pumpkins and beans. Seafood is also a popular ingredient. The recipes reflect the fact that foods had to be cooked outside or at a hearth and had to be easily kept. Food was precious and nothing went to waste (lots of chowders, soups and porridge). Breads were made with "emptyin's", a type of sourdough starter that they kept in a crock pitcher, or Thirds Brown Bread which was made with liquid hop yeast (hop-flavored malt extract, yeast, potatoes and sugar mixture). They ate Whitpot, a hot cereal (cornmeal) cooked and dotted with butter. They made their own soda crackers with soured milk. If you like cornmeal, you're in luck! There's Spoon Bread, Hasty Pudding, Johnny Cake, Crackling Bread....the dinner rolls even have cornmeal and oats in them! These were hearty, money-saving foods for the Colonists, and great whole grain recipes for today's diet. I especially like the recipes called, "Hardscrabble Oatmeal Pancakes" and "Snow Griddle Cakes" (which use snow as the leaven!)

The cooking method known as "Bean-Hole" is the earliest "Crock Pot cooking". They put dry beans in a pot, covered with water and boiled it over the fire for 5 minutes. The pork and other seasonings were added and the cast iron lid fitted tightly on top of the pot. In dry ground, they set the pot in a hole dug 2 feet deep by 2 feet wide in which a hardwood fire had been built earlier. The fire had been burned down to coals. Some coals were dug out to place the bean pot, and then used to cover the top of the pot. The pot was left in the hole all day. If you want to do this with your kids when you go camping this summer, the whole recipe is in this great cookbook.

As I've mentioned, the Colonists also brought favorites from their original country with them, so the book has recipes for: Bubble and Squeak; English Meat Pie; Mincemeat; Roast Suckling Pig and Roast Goose. In New England-style there are recipes for Boston Brown Bread; Sally Lunn; Harvard Beets; Original Plymouth Succotash and Brunswick Stew. The menu for the authentic foods for a traditional Thanksgiving feast is included.

I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed reviewing it. I happened upon my copy when a young chef in New Martinsville, WV decided to sell some of his cookbook collection in his yard sale...silly boy!

Here's our sample recipe for today:

Hasty Pudding

1/2 C yellow cornmeal
1 C cold water
1/2 tsp salt
2 C boiling water

Mix cornmeal to cold water. Add with salt to boiling water. Reduce heat and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with cream and maple sugar, brown sugar, honey or molasses. Chill unused mush, slice, dust slices with flour, and brown in butter or bacon drippings. Serve with syrup.


  1. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  2. I just love reading your post about some of these wonderful old cookbooks. Their Hasty Pudding is very similar to what we now call Polenta. I really enjoy and appreciate you sharing your research with all of us at Full Plate Thursday. Hope to see you next time!

  3. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing it with Hearth and Soul Hop :)

  4. Great cookbook!
    Nice blog you have here! Glad to find you on What's Cooking Wednesday.I'm your newest follower! Would appreciate a follow back at
    Thanks! :)

  5. Thanks for sharing at What's Cooking Thursdays!

  6. I am so happy that you brought this wonderful post to share with us at Full Plate Thursday. Thank you so much for coming today and hope to see you next week!

  7. You are amazing with all of this information! Thanks for your research. Thanks so much for linking up to What's On the Menu Wednesday at Dining With Debbie. I hope you will visit often and link up whenever your can.

  8. That is so interesting! I love history and would have enjoyed a copy of this book when I was homeschooling my children and studying history with them.

    Thanks for linking to the party.

    Have a terrific weekend!
    Liz @ the Brambleberry Cottage

  9. Sounds like a very interesting cookbook - it's lovely to learn about food history. Thank you for sharing your post with Let's Do Brunch. The linky is now up for this week if you would like to come along and join in.