Pioneer Food and Cooking

What kinds of food did pioneers eat and how did they cook their food?

Whenever you or I get low on food, we can always go to the grocery store to buy more food . Pioneers did not have that option. The early settlers had to hunt animals for food. If they shot big game, they would have had meat such as bear, deer (meat from deer is called venison), and elk to eat. If they trapped small animals, they would have eaten such meat as beaver, raccoon, squirrel, skunk (eck!), and rabbit. Pheasants, geese, ducks, pigeons, and quail made tasty dishes. Often, the pioneers would fish in the local rivers and ponds and eat what they caught. Have you ever been fishing? Did you eat what you caught? While fishing they also might catch a turtle and make turtle soup. (place your cursor over the strips of images to the right to see the animals pioneers ate)

  • Turtles

  • Fox Squirrel

  • Skunk

  • Raccoon

  • Rabbit

  • Pheasant

  • Mallard Duck

  • Crappie

  • Black Bear

  • Bluegill

  • Quail

  • Canadian Geese

  • Whitetail Deer

  • Elk

  • Largemouth Bass

  • Beaver

  • Pigeons

Because the pioneers came traveled long distances to settle here, they brought few supplies with them. Much of the food was cooked over an open-hearth fireplace with a few utensils, perhaps made of wood or gourds, an iron skillet, a pot for boiling, an iron griddle, and a tea kettle.

The early pioneers survived by eating meat, wild berries, and food they found in the forest. But once they had settled, they began to grow crops. The most popular and easiest to grow crop was corn. Corn could be grown almost anywhere and in the poorest of soils. From corn pioneers could make bread and cakes (have you had cornbread?).

Some of the crops pioneers grew were squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, cabbage, pumpkins, and onions. When pioneers had a surplus of crops, they would trade their excess crops for domestic animals such as cows, chickens, pigs, and sheep.

  • Beets

  • Squash

  • Pumpkins

  • Cabbage

  • Sweet Potatoes

  • Onions

  • Corn

Several wars and conflicts happened before and after pioneers began settling this part of Indiana. This video shows what kinds of foods soldiers had and how they cooked while marching. Ration: a fixed amount of food for each soldier in an army.

What do you have to eat at Thanksgiving? Watch this video to find out what pioneers ate at their Thanksgiving meal.

Do you like hot chocolate? On occasion, pioneers did have access to chocolate, but it isn’t like chocolate you have today. It was bitter tasting, but was mixed with sugar to make sweet. So, pioneers did drink hot chocolate…watch the video to see how it was made.

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