Civil War Cooking’: Cornbread – All American

civil-war-cookin-happy-thanksgivingCornbread is a uniquely American food and in the 19th it was a menu staple. Corn is a North American product, famously featured in the 1621 Pilgrim accounts as a hearty crop shared by the Native Americans. As the decades passed, corn remained a relatively easy crop to grow and a whole treasure trove of recipes developed for fresh or dried corn. 

How “American” was cornbread in the 19th Century? Newly arrived German immigrants in the 1830’s made this observation: “It looked very tempting. The crust was well done and of an attractive brown color. We took it for cake or pudding; but when  we tried to eat it, we all found it abominable.” (They eventually learned to enjoy the dish!)

Cornbread would’ve been pretty easy to bake in a kitchen, moderately easy in a Dutch oven over a campfire, and when all else failed, a soldier could try “corntack.” The latter item is basically the infamous hardback made with cornmeal.

Looking for a 19th century version of a recipe. Here’s “New England Corn Cake” :

One quart of milk, one pink of cornmeal,  one teacupful of wheat flour, a teaspoon of salt, two tablespoonsful of melted butter. Scaled the milk and gradually pour it on the meal.  When cool add the butter and salt, also a half cup of yeast. Do this at night. In the morning beat thoroughly and add two well beaten eggs and a half a teaspoonful of soda, dissolved in a spoonful of water. Pour the mixture into buttered deep earthen plates, let stand fifteen minutes to rise again, then bake from twenty to thirty minutes. 

7 Responses to Civil War Cooking’: Cornbread – All American

  1. Good stuff(ing), but I think it’s important to note that is corn is North and South and Central American product. Our popcorn comes from a variety grown well south of the equator, in the Chile/Argentina region.

  2. In my family, the women make 2 different versions of cornbread. One is the standard Southern recipe with a “salty” taste. But one of my daughters in law makes what we always called “yankee cornbread” – it’s sweet, almost like cake. Just give me a stick of butter – I’m good with either version. 😉

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