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. 

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, author, speaker, and researcher. Past and present, everyone has a story. What will we discover and discuss?
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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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