Cooking techniques, gadgets and dietary standards have changed since the pioneers first came to the valley — and even since 1950 when the Deseret News published a collection of historical recipes in “Pioneer Recipes” as part of its centennial celebration.
“It is only fair to point out that few recipes are reprinted here as they were originally prepared by the pioneers, but many show a basic authenticity of pioneer flavor,” the book introduction states.
The recipes originate throughout Europe, including Scandinavian countries, England and Germany, along with those from Asia, Russia, and a few from those who served then-recent Mormon missions to South America.
It’s divided into a dozen sections, with at least a couple dozen recipes in each category — along with winners for each.
Advertisements were on the backs of the pages of the stand-up cookbook, and displayed jewelry, electric water heaters, sugar, butter, milk, among other wares.
The electric ovens ad proclaimed, “You get the exact cooking temperatures you want when you cook electrically.”
So, it’s safe to say that there are probably appliances, like electric mixers and apparently electric ovens, that help make creating these easier and it’s also possible to make these with the simplest of kitchen tools.
Be prepared to keep a watchful eye on it. Every recipe tested that needed baking seemed to be done quicker than the suggested baking times. Also, these are generally the original recipes with a few formatting changes and notes where the testing suggested differently.
The contest and compilation of “Pioneer Recipes” was led by Jean Ward, the Woman’s Page and “Mid-Week” editor, and Winnifred Jardine, the long-time food editor.
PIONEER FRUIT CANDY
Second place, candies category
Makes: 24 bars
1 pound raisins
8 ounces figs
8 ounces dates
1 cup pitted prunes
juice of 1 orange
zest of 1 orange
1 cup English walnuts, chopped or broken
Grind together the fruits and orange zest. Blend thoroughly with orange juice and walnuts. Shape into balls or into flat bars.
These goodies should be allowed to stand for 24 hours in order to ripen.
Descendants of the pioneers have found that dipping these fruit candies in milk chocolate makes them exceptionally tasty.
Testing note: I cut the fruit into small pieces and put it all in a plastic zip-seal bag and used a rolling pin to mash and combine it, as I don’t have a food processor. (And the pioneers didn’t have one, either.) The stores I went to were out of figs, so I substituted dried cherries and dried mangoes. Other fruits can be swapped, as I’m assuming the pioneers used what they had on hand.
— recipe by Marba C. Josephson, “Pioneer Recipes”
TWO-EGG SPONGE CAKE
First place, cakes category
2 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cake flour (see note below)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla (or 1 teaspoon lemon extract and ½ teaspoon vanilla)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8-by-8 inch cake pan.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored and combine with egg whites. Gradually beat in sugar.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add alternately with cold water and vanilla to egg mixture. Stir well between additions.
Pour into prepared pan. The original recipe called for cooking for 25-30 minutes; during the test, it was done in 15-20.
Cake is done when it springs back to the touch. Invert pan, allowing the cake to hang free until cool and remove gently from the pan.
Testing note: Cake flour will likely be with the muffin mixes or the flour, depending on the store’s layout. A substitution for cake flour is: 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted at least twice.
— Recipe by Mrs. Lorna Walker, “Pioneer Recipes”
History: This recipe came from a sister-in-law in Oklahoma who had it passed down to her from early pioneers in the Indian country. It is a wholesome recipe, as were most of those used by early settlers in the West. The graham flour she sued was made from wheat taken by each individual to a small mill for grinding.
½ cup white flour
1 ½ cup whole wheat or graham flour
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
4/5 cup milk
1 egg, well beaten
¼ cup shortening, melted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease muffin or gem pans and set aside.
Mix dry ingredients. Add milk to beaten egg and combine with dry ingredients. Add melted shortening. Stir well, then place in heaping tablespoonfuls in the prepared pan. Original recipe called for cooking for 25 minutes; during the test these were done in 12-15.
Serve with hot butter or jam. Makes 18 gems made in the muffin pans.
— Recipe by Mamie Thorne, “Pioneer Recipes”
DANISH BANANA BLACK WALNUT CAKE
History: When Grandmother and Grandfather Ole Nelson arrived from Copenhagen as converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hidden away in their worldly possessions was the start of Grandmother’s walnut tree, brought from Denmark. Desperately poor, they somehow managed to purchase a small tract of land in Box Elder County, a plot that was rocky and full of gravel. With Grandma’s care, the tree flourished, and in later years bore the walnuts she used in the wonderful banana-nut cake her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have all loved.
½ cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/3 cup sifted flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup finely chopped black or English walnuts
2/3 cup mashed banana pulp
3 tablespoons buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease layer cake pans.
Cream shortening thoroughly and add sugar gradually, creaming well. Add the beaten eggs and beat well. Stir flour with salt, soda and baking powder and mix with walnuts. Combine mashed banana and buttermilk and add alternately with the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture. Pour into greased pans. Original recipe called for baking for 45 minutes, but the test with two 8-by-8-inch pans took about 20 minutes to bake.
— Recipe by Mrs. Edward E. Meyer, “Pioneer Recipes”
History: This recipe was brought from England by my grandmother in about 1874. My mother learned it was an economical pudding to serve her large family, especially so — and just as delicious — by substituting the different fruits as they came in season.
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup raisins
½ cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
Flour to make medium dough (during the test, it was about 1 ½ cups-2 cups)
Whipped cream, if desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine brown sugar, water and 1 tablespoon butter. Bring to a boil in saucepan on tope of stove, stirring occasionally.
Combine remaining ingredients, adding sifted flour, salt and baking powder last.
Add this mixture to boiling syrup (see Testing Note below). Bake until brown and dough does not stick to toothpick. Serve warm, with whipped cream, if desired.Comment on this story
Testing note: I poured the syrup in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan and added the dough on top and spread it around the pan to that it was fairly even throughout.
It needed about 15-20 minutes to bake for the toothpick to come out clean. When I mixed the syrup mixture and the dough together fairly thoroughly and baked it, it took about 45 minutes and was like a soft custard or gooey brownie in texture.
— Recipe by Mrs. Harry Sanders, “Pioneer Recipes”
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