Colonial Cooking and Food Kelly Chen 7C1 ID4
The New England Colonies In the New England colonies, the soil was very rocky which made it very hard for the colonists to grow anything. The colonists there called this soil scrabble. They had short growing seasons and long cold winters. Fishing was a means of survival in the winter. New Englanders learned to make breads, stews, puddings, and jams from the Native plants. The Native plants were corn, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and beans. Tomatoes were also a native plant, but many colonists thought that it was poisonous and refused to eat it.
The Middle Colonies The Middle Colonies had long growing seasons and rich soil which gave them a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as peas, pears and apples. They also grew wheat, rye, and other grains. This area became known as the bread basket because of all the wheat it grew It also supplied the New England and Middle colonies with grains for bread and biscuits. Middle colonists had a love for sweets and their desserts included baked cookies, pastries, pies, and candied fruits and wild nuts.
The Southern Colonies The Southern colonists mostly owned large plantations where they grew cash crops such as tobacco, rice and indigo. Here they grew crops for trading. From these trades, they received spices and sugar to flavor their food. The colonists learned how to grow rice from the slaves who were brought over from West Africa. Some other crops they grew in the kitchen gardens included: apples, pears, cherries, peaches and plums. Grapes, raspberries and strawberries grew in the wild and were often used in desserts.
Who Was the Colonial Cook? In colonial homes, the woman of the family ran the household. In the wealthier households, the women of the homes did not do the cooking. They simple supervised, the servants and slaves who cooked and prepared the food. A slave cook had to cook for her master’s family and her own family. Although most of the cooks were women, some men were also cooks and bakers.
Children’s Chores Colonial children started helping their parents gather and prepare food when they were 5-6 years old. The children searched the forests for wild mushrooms, mustard plants, dandelion greens, and celery. They also picked nuts and wild fruit from bushes and trees. The children also removed the kernels from ears of corn and threaded fruits and vegetables to dry. This is exactly how colonial kids looked! Well… maybe they looked just a little different than this…
The Colonial Kitchen In many colonial homes, the kitchen was the center of daily life. In the southern colonies, some of the kitchens were separate from the house because it was too hot. The largest part of the kitchen was the fireplace which often took up the entire wall. In some homes, the kitchen fireplace was the only source of light and heat.
Tableware Early settlers had very little tableware. Family members ate from trenchers. (trenchers are blocks of wood with the centers cut out do that it could hold food) Two people shared a trencher and family members shared wooden cups. Early colonists also made spoons out of sticks or shells. Forks were not used by colonists until the late 1700s.
Corn Corn was introduced to the colonists by Native Americans and it was used in almost every meal. However corn was also used as money to pay their taxes. In the early 1600s, Massachusetts colonists used corn and beans to vote. A kernel of corn stood for a yes and a bean was a no vote. Vote yes! Vote no!
Beans Beans were an important food in colonial cooking. The colonists dried the beans and stored them for winter. When there wasn’t a lot of meat they used beans in stews. Beans have a lot of protein and took the place of meat in many dishes. Pinto, lima, snap, kidney, wax, and pea beans grew well in the New England colonies. Boston, Massachusetts was known for baked beans. Fun fact!: Boston became so well known for its baked beans that people called “Beantown.”
Bread One day each week was set apart just for baking bread. On this day, colonial women baked enough bread to last for an entire week. Bread was eaten at almost every meal. As towns developed. Bakeries became common and colonists were able to purchase breads and biscuits from these bakeries.
Meat Deer, moose, elk, rabbits and squirrels are native to North America. Passenger Pigeons were a popular meat for colonists, but they became extinct. They colonists fished and caught cod, mackerel, sturgeon, lobsters, and crabs. The colonists also brought farm animals from Europe such as cows, pigs, horses and chickens. Much of this meat was preserved for winter.
Sweets Ingredients for desserts such as butter, eggs, and sugar were expensive and limited in early colonial days. Most of the time, dessert was saved for special occasions. Pies were a very common dessert. When they lacked ingredients, colonists invented new desserts. Colonial cooks mixed fruit with cornmeal dumplings and made a dessert called slumps and grunts. The colonists also sometimes rolled the fruit in a layer of dough in order to make cobblers and pandowdies.
Colonial Sugar Cookies Recipe 1/2 cup sugar1 cup unsalted sweet butter -- softened1 cup sugar2 egg whites1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon cream of tartar1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg1/4 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon vanilla3 1/2 cups flourBeat egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar until thick and lemon colored. Reserve.Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg whites.Mix in egg yolk mixture, baking soda, cream of tartar, nutmeg, salt andvanilla.Mix in flour gradually.Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.Heat oven to 375 degrees.Roll out dough on floured surface. Cut into shapes.Bake on greased baking sheet, 8 to 10 minutes.Either sprinkle with colored sugar before baking or bake plain and use apowdered sugar glaze.
Sources used: Books Colonial Cooking by: Susan Doiser The Colonial Cook by: Bobbie Kalman and Ellen Brown Website http://www.lovelyrecipes.com/recipe.php?recipeid=4720