A delicious and unique meal was enjoyed by members of the Warren County Genealogical Association at their recent meeting. In honor of the Civil War’s 150th year, the group focused on recipes used during that time.
It was extremely difficult to provide food each day for the marching soldiers, and the quartermaster’s duties were among the military’s most complex. The morale, as well as the physical stamina of each soldier, was directly dependent on what he had to eat each day. This was a time before refrigeration or modern processing techniques were available, therefore, they all had to made the best of what they were given, or could forage off the land.
Genealogical Association attendees feasted on many of the items available during that time, hardtack, gingerbread, fried apples, and fried chicken, to name a few. The dishes were prepared using authentic Civil War recipes by Cheryl Watson Mingle, Alli Mingle and Scarlett Griffith.
Cheryl said, “Possibly one of the most hated of all the foods was the hardtack. It was the one thing that every soldier carried in his rucksack. It was indestructible, and would last forever!”
The guest speaker was Dr. Michael R. Bradley, author of several books on the war between the states period, including “Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign; “With Blood and Fire: Behind Union Lines in Middle Tennessee;” and “Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort and Staff in War and Peace.”
Eleven-year-old Alli Mingle assisted her grandmother in the kitchen with some of the items, with her focusing on the Orange Cake and the Idiot’s Delight.
“I like to cook, but these recipes were somewhat confusing, which made it a little more difficult,” said Alli. “I did make the Idiot’s Delight, because they said it was so easy an idiot could make it!”
(cracklin' is the fat rendered after cooking bacon)
3/4 cup finely diced salt pork
2 cups corn meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, well beating
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons salt-pork drippings
Fry salt pork over a low heat until nicely browned. Drain fat, saving both drippings and cracklings. Sift together corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine eggs, buttermilk, and drippings. Stir into corn-meal mixture, together with cracklings. Spread dough in a greased 11 x 7 x 1 1/2 inch baking pan and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
(Note: If you can't get salt pork you can fry up some bacon, about 4-6 slices. It will create the same effect of taste/amount of cooking fat.)
5 cups flour (unbleached)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 to 1 1/4 cups water
Preheated oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl, combine the ingredients to form a stiff, but not dry dough. The dough should be pliable, but not stick a lot to your hands.
Take this mound of dough, and flatten it out onto a greased cookie sheet (the ones with a small lip around the edge) and roll the dough into a flat sheet approximately 1/2 inch thick. Using a bread knife, divide the dough into 3 x 3-inch squares, taking a 10-penny nail, putting holes into the surface of the dough, all the way through, at even intervals.
Bake approximately 20 minutes, till lightly browned. Take out and let cool.
HARDTACK CORN CHOWDER
6 pieces hardtacks
1 cup milk
1⁄4 pound salt pork
1 large onion, peeled and sliced or chopped
4 large potatoes, sliced or diced
2 cups water
2 cups corn, kernels sliced off cob (about 2 ears)
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon paprika, if available
Soak hardtack in milk. When they are softened, cut salt pork into cubes and brown over medium fire. Add onion and cook until soft. Add potatoes and water and cook until potatoes are soft, or at least tender. Stir in hardtack and milk, then add remaining ingredients. Stir and cook to almost boiling, and serve at once.
CIVIL WAR ORANGE CAKE
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon soda
2 cups sifted flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped raisins
2 orange peels, ground
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugar and eggs. Add buttermilk. Add dry ingredients. Save juice from 2 oranges. Spread mixture in 13 x 9 x 2 inch greased pan. Bake until golden and pulls away from edges. Mix equal parts of orange juice and sugar. Pour over hot cake.
5 tart cooking apples such as Granny Smith, Macintosh, Golden Delicious, or other
4 tablespoons or more butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Wash, core and slice the apples into 12-16 narrow wedges, do not peel. Melt the butter in a skillet or cast iron pan and add the apples. Cover the skillet and cook the apples 5 minutes over medium low heat. Stirring continuously, add the brown sugar and the nutmeg. Stir well. Continue cooking the apples covered for 10-12 minutes or until the apples are tender, check every few minutes while cooking. Add additional butter or water if needed to prevent the apples from sticking.
SWAMP CABBAGE STEW
Cajun seasoning or cayenne pepper (not both)
Cut up salt pork into chunks, fry in cast iron pot. Slice, not chop, onions and cabbage. Fry these in pot with salt pork. Add stewed tomatoes to make a stew. (Remember this will cook down so add water if necessary so it doesn't burn.) Add spices to taste. Add slowly and a little bit at a time, the taste will blend the longer it cooks. Cook at a very low heat for 4-5 hours. Taste at least once every hour so you can tell if you need more seasoning. It is hard to tell exact portions as this is a taste to see if it's right
CIVIL WAR FRIED CHICKEN
1 (2 1/2 pound) frying chicken
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons water
Fat for frying (2/3 cup vegetable shortening, 1/3 cup butter)
Cut chicken into serving pieces. Wash well, and pat dry. Combine flour, salt and pepper. Roll each chicken piece in flour mixture, coating well. Beat eggs with the 2 tablespoons of water. Roll each floured piece in the egg mixture and then again in the flour mixture.
Heat about 1 inch of fat in a heavy iron skillet or an electric frying pan. When fat is smoking hot, lay in the chicken pieces (do not crowd). Cover and cook 15 minutes, or until it is golden brown on one side. Turn chicken; cover and cook until the chicken is a deep brown on the underside, about 15 minutes. Remove cover. Cook about 5 minutes until the chicken is a deep rich brown on one side; turn and fry uncovered for another 5 minutes or until other side is brown.
Remove chicken from skillet and place on brown paper to drain. Cool slightly before serving.
CIVIL WAR IDIOT’S DELIGHT
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cup water
7 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
Boil together the first 5 ingredients. Make a batter of the second 5 ingredients. Drop the batter in a greased pan by spoonfuls. Pour first mixture over it and bake in a moderate oven until golden brown.
This recipe was popular because it used only a few, inexpensive, easy to obtain ingredients and is foolproof. Even an idiot can make it!
2 (32 oz) cooked field or black-eye peas
2 cups rice, cooked
1 medium chopped onion
5 slices cooked chopped bacon
Mix altogether and start on high heat, returning to simmer about 30 minutes to blend flavors. Some folks like to add hot sauce.
Southerners’ served this dish on New Year’s Day hoping to ensure good luck throughout the year.