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Pioneer Cooking: Now THAT's Different!

Pioneers had to live off the land. There were no grocery stores or fast food chains. To survive, they often had to eat items that we don't consider food stuffs today. However, there are still some people who take pride in being able to "live off the land." Sometimes these people are called foragers because they forage for their meals.

Here are some modernized recipes for unusual ingredients to share with your kids.

Important note: Never, ever put anything in your mouth without being absolutely certain what it is. There are mushrooms and berries that look tasty and inviting, but that can kill you as a labeled poison!!!

Cattail Flapjacks

2 c. cattail pollen
4 t. baking powder
2 eggs
1½ c. water
2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 c. milk
1 T. sugar
bacon drippings

Mix all ingredients and fry in a greased pan like regular pancakes.

Cattail Buds

To prepare cooked cattail buds to use in a recipe or to eat hot as a vegetable, remove the sheaths from young cattail flowers and plunge the spikes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook over high heat for 15 minutes. Drain and serve hot, to be eaten like corn on the cob; or cool until the spikes can be handled and , using the inverted bowl of a spoon, scrape the flesh (buds) off the spikes and spread them on paper towels to rid them of excess moisture. Four to five dozen spikes will yield about two cups of cooked buds.

Cattail Sprouts

The sprouts taken from the roots in the spring before they begin to grow upward should be scrubbed, peeled, and rinsed. They are then ready to slice raw into salads, or you can boil them unti ltender in salted water (about 15 minutes) and either season them and serve as a vegetable, or cool and season them with a vinaigrette or other dressing as a cooked vegetable salad.

Cattail Shoots

Young cattail shoots, gathered before the plant is more than about two feet high, are the famous “Cossack asparagus.” Peel off the tough outer sheath and you have uncovered a crisp whitish-green core, which may be as much as a foot or eighteen inches long. Serve the core in strips as a nibble, or cut it up for salads, or cook the shoots for 15 minutes or so in boiling salted water and serve them with butter as a vegetable.

Corncob Syrup

Take a dozen and a half red corncobs. Break into pieces. Put in a kettle. Cover with water, enough to cover the cobs when you press them down. Boil for a full half hour. The liquor will be red now. Strain it. You should get three to four cups. Now add 2½ to three cups of sugar and stir it good. Start kettle boiling again. Use a spoon or ladle to learn when syrup is as thick as you like it. Now skim it and you're through.

Corn Cob Jelly

Boil about a dozen red corn cobs in three pints of water for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. If necessary, add enough water to make three cups liquid. Add one package pectin and bring to a full boil. Add three cups sugar and boil two or three minutes.

Green Corn Pudding

Take 12 ears of green corn; scrape the substance out with a spoon. Add yolks and whites, beaten separately of 4 large eggs, 1 t. sugar, the same of flour rubbed into a 1 T. of butter, salt, and pepper (to taste), and a pint of milk. Bake 45 minutes at 325 F.

Wilted Dandelion Greens

Pick a pan full of small spring dandelion leaves (no buds), wash and drain. Take ½ lb. of sliced bacon and cut into one inch pieces and fry crisp. Now, to the bacon and drippings add ½ c. vinegar, ½ c. water, and ½ t. brown sugar. Heat contents of skillet to a near boil and immediately pour onto greens and allow hot skillet to cover a few minutes to steam. Add chopped hard boiled eggs, if desired.

Dandelion Root Coffee

Water to fill coffee perculator to 8-cup mark
½ c. dried, roasted, and ground dandelion roots
pinch of salt

Put water in perculator and put ground dandelion roots in basket. Sprinkle salt on roots. Brew as you usually brew coffee, perking until you have the strength you like. Serve hot, with sugar and milk or cream. Makes 8 cups. [Note: During the American Civil War, coffee was a commodity that became very scarce, especially in the south. This was a frequent substitute for the soldiers on the march.]

Pickled Green Walnuts

100 black walnuts
18 pepper corns
1 c. sugar
1 gallon water
1 gallon vinegar
1½ pints salt
12 mace blades
72 cloves

Gather green walnuts when they are very young and tender, then pierce them through with a large needle. Soak in salt water solution for 2 or 3 days, change brine every day. Allow to stand three days. Drain and cover with new brine solution. After three more days, drain and expose to sun for three days. Pack into jars and cover with solution of vinegar, sugar, and spices which have been boiled together, and pour over walnuts while hot. They will be ready to eat in about 30 days.

Possum and Chestnuts

Skin opposum, remove glands and entrails. Scrape clean and scald in boiling water. Rub inside and out with salt and pepper and set in cool place. Stuff with chestnuts, apple sauce, and bread crumbs in equal proportions. Cover with slices of sweet potato, one cup boiling water, one-half cup lemon juice. Bake in butter and baste often until tender.

Old Fashioned Coon (Racoon)

Put one dressed coon in salt and soda water and let stand over night. Take out of water next morning and wash two times and put in kettle and boil until tender. Put in bread pan and put pepper and sage on it and bake. Serve with sweetpotatoes.

Stuffed and Baked Racoon with Apples

1 medium raccoon
4 lg. onions
4 strips salted pork
2 c. beef stock

5 lg. tart apples
2 T. butter
1 t. cinnamon
1 c. dry bread crumbs
1 t. salt
½ t. pepper

Skin and clean the raccoon. Wash well and remove most of the fat. Place in a large soup kettle, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Peel, core and dice the apples into a mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the cinnamon, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Mix real good. Take the raccoon out of the cookign juices and cool. Stuff the raccoon and sew up the cavity. Place the raccoon, breast down o ntherack of a roasting pan, with the legs folded under the body and fastened with string. Drop the salt pork over the back of the raccoon and fasten with toothpicks. Place the onions beside the raccoon on the rack. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes to brown the meat. Reduce the heat to 325 F and add the 2 cups of beef stock. Cook for one hour, basting as often as possible. Transfer to a heated platter surrounded by whole onions.


Take a possum and parboil until tender. Take out of water and put in bread pan, then pepper to taste. Take three large sweet potatoes and boil until tender. Lay these around possum in bread pan, put in oven and bake until brown. Serve warm.

Ground Hog

When ground hog is dressed, be sure to remove the kernel from under the front legs to keep from making it taste gamey. Cut up and slat to taste. Roll in flour, put in hot fat, and fry until brown. Then put in inset pans in pressure cooker with ½” water in bottom of cooker. Cook for 70 minutes with 15 pounds of pressure. Possum can be cooked the same way with good results.

Wild Duck

2 mallard ducks
salt & pepper
4 bacon strips

Season ducks with salt and pepper, inside and out. Then stuff with apple stuffing and bake.


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