20 Civil War Food Recipes

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Civil War food was very different from the types of food we eat today.Food during the Civil War was not high quality and did not taste good. Confederate soldiers usually didn’t receive much food at all especially as the war dragged on.Most cooking occurred on an outdoor fire.Since the focus was on health and nutrition, not culinary delight, and there were around 2 million soldiers to feed, the food tended to be bland, basic and simple. Each soldier’s daily rations included:

1. Three-quarters of a pound of pork or bacon, or one and one-quarter pound of fresh or salt pork
2. Eighteen ounces of flour or bread or 12 ounces of hardtack
3. One and one-quarter pound of cornmeal

Due to war-time food shortages and a lack of both refrigeration and large-scale food processing, most meals were simple, easy to prepare dishes made from basic ingredients that could be grown in a garden or purchased and stored easily.When the army was fully supplied, the soldiers ate fairly well, though not too fashionably. Here is how one Union soldier described his typical meal, “We each get a piece of meat and a potato, a chunk of bread and a cup of coffee with a spoonful of brown sugar in it.” When the supply lines were interrupted, however, soldiers had to scavenge their own food or do without.

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For these reasons, food (and consequently the recipes used to prepare it) played an important role in the American Civil War.Here are 30 popular Civil War-era recipes(some of them have been clarified and updated so that they can be easily made in a modern kitchen):

1.Union Hardtack Recipe

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat
  • 6 pinches of salt

Mix the ingredients together into a stiff batter, knead several times, and spread the dough out flat to a thickness of 1/2 inch on a non-greased cookie sheet. Bake for one-half an hour at 400 degrees. Remove from oven, cut dough into 3-inch squares, and punch four rows of holes, four holes per row into the dough. Turn dough over, return to the oven and bake another one-half hour. Turn oven off and leave the door closed. Leave the hardtack in the oven until cool. Remove and enjoy!

2.Confederate Johnnie Cake Recipe

  • two cups of cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Mix ingredients into a stiff batter and form eight biscuit-sized “dodgers”. Bake on a lightly greased sheet at 350 degrees for twenty to twenty five minutes or until brown. Or, spoon the batter into hot cooking oil in a frying pan over a low flame. Remove the corn dodgers and let cool on a paper towel, spread with a little butter or molasses, and you have a real southern treat!

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3.Mrs. Cornelius’s Molasses Apple Pie

  • 5 green apples (peeled and sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup molasses

Line pan with uncooked pie crust, fill pie with sliced apples, add nutmeg, cinnamon, and molasses. Cover with lattice and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Let cool and serve with ice cream.

4.Hardtack Crackers

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat
  • 6 pinches of salt
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the ingredients together into a stiff dough, knead several times, and spread the dough out flat to a thickness of 1/4 inch on a non-greased cookie sheet. Using a pizza cutter or a knife, cut dough into 3-inch cracker squares. With the flat end of a bamboo skewer, punch four rows of holes, four holes per row, into each cracker. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, turn crackers over on the sheet and return to the oven and bake another 30 minutes. Cool completely.

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5.Mary Todd’s White Cake

Mary Todd’s White Cake was Abraham Lincoln’s favorite cake. She first made it for him while they were courting. She continued to serve the cake during all their married life including their White House years.The Recipe:

  • 1 C butter
  • 2 C sugar
  • 3 C flour
  • 1 C milk
  • 1 C finely chopped almonds
  • 3 t. baking powder
  • Whites of 6 eggs
  • 1 t vaniila

Cream butter and sugar, sift flour and baking powder together 3 times, and add to butter and sugar, alternating with the milk. Stir in the almonds and beat well. Then fold in the stiffly beaten whites and the vanilla. Pour into well greased and floured pan. Can be large tube pan or 2 9x 1 1/2 inch round pans. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour or the cake tests done. The tube pan can take longer. Turn out on wire rack and cool. The tube pan makes a large cake. Than frost with white icing.
Frosting for Mary Todd’s Cake

  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 egg whites, beaten stiff with pinch of salt
  • 1/2 C diced candied pineapple
  • 1 C water
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 C crystallized cherries, cut in halves

Boil sugar and water until syrup spins a 5-inch thread. Fold in slowly to the well beaten whites adding a tablespoon at a time until 4 have been used. Now add the remaining syrup slowly pouring it in a thin stream. Beat by hand until all is used and the mixture stands in peaks. Add the flavoring and fold in pineapple and cherries. Spread on the cake.

6.Mincemeat Pie

  • Six pounds of currants
  • three pounds of raisins stoned
  • three pounds of apples chopped fine
  • four pounds of suet, two pounds of sugar, two pounds of beef
  • the peel and juice of two lemons, a pint of sweet wine, a quarter of a pint of brandy, half an ounce of mixed spice. Press the whole into a deep pan when mixed well.

Another way – Two pounds of raisins, three pounds of currants, three pounds of beef-suet, two pounds of moist sugar, two ounces of citron, one ounce of orange-peel, one small nutmeg, one pottles of apples chopped fine, the rind of two lemons and juice of one, half a pint of brandy; mix well together. This should be made a little time before wanted for use.

7.Pie-Crust for Meat Pies

Take one pound of dried flour and rub into it six ounces of lard, six ounces of butter, a small quantity of salt, and a half teaspoon of baking powder. Mix all these ingredients well together, and then use as much water as will make them into a nice stiff paste. Roll it out, let it stand for about ten minutes and then roll it once more before putting it on the meat. The pie should be baked in a moderately quick oven.

8.Pigeon Soup

01665rTake eight good pigeons; cut up two, and put them on with as much water as will make a large tureen of soup, adding the pinions, necks, gizzards and livers of the others; boil well and strain; season the whole pigeons within with mixed spices and salt, and truss them with their legs into their belly. Take a large handful of parsley, young onions, and spinach, pick and wash them clean, and shred small; then take a handful of grated bread, put a lump of butter about the size of a hen’s egg in a frying-pan, and when it boils throw in the bread, stirring well until it becomes a fine brown color. Put on the stock to boil, add the whole pigeons, herbs, and fried bread, and when the pigeons are done enough, dish up with the soup.

9.Captain Sanderson’s Boiled Pork and Bean Soup

  • 1 pound dried navy beans
  • 1 pound pork shoulder or butt
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 leek (diced)
  • 1 garlic clove (diced)
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat

Soak beans overnight in cold water. Dice pork into 1-inch pieces and boil in water about 1 hour, until tender. Save the stock. In a soup pot, add bacon fat,onions, garlic and leek. Once the liquid is clear, add thyme and vinegar. Add soaked navy beans and the pork stock. Simmer for 30 minutes and then add pork back to pot. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Then slightly mash the beans. Serve with johnnycake or buttermilk biscuits.

10.Beef or Mutton Soup

Boil very gently in a closely covered saucepan, four quarts of water, with two table-spoonfuls of sifted bread raspings, three pounds of beef cut in small pieces, or the same quantity of mutton chops taken from the middle of the neck; season with pepper.and salt add two turnips, two carrots, two onions, and one head of celery, all cut small; let it stew with these ingredients 4 hours, when it will be ready to serve.

11.Roast Leg of Mutton

Put the leg into an iron saucepan with enough cold water to cover it, let it come to a boil gently, parboil it by simmering only; have the spit or jack ready; and take it from the hot water and put it to the fire instantly; it will take from an hour to an hour and a half if large, and less time if small.

12.Green Tomato Pie

  • 1 qt. sliced green tomatoesSoldiers-Campfire-001
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup seedless raisins
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • Grated rind of lemon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 wineglass brandy or whiskey
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice

Pour water over tomatoes and let simmer 5 minutes or until tomatoes have absorbed most of the water and seem tender. Add the raisins and cook a little longer. Drain off any remaining liquor, saving the juice and dump the tomatoes and raisins into a 9 inch pie pan lined with uncooked pie dough. Sprinkle with the sugar and flour mixed, and the spices. Dot the surface with butter. Add the grated rind and lemon juice. Now pour over the whole “a spilling wineglass” as they say in Kentucky, of brandy or whiskey. If the pie will hold it, add a few tablespoons of the tomato liquor to moisten the tomatoes well. Top with a slashed solid crust. Set the pan in a hot oven, 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and leave for 1/2 hour longer or until crust is brown.

13.Egg Balls

Boil four or five eggs till they are quite hard. Take out the yolks and beat them in a mortar, with salt and cayenne pepper. Make this into a paste with the white of egg. Roll the size of small marbles. Roll them in a little flour and fry them in butter, taking care they do not break.

14.Force-meat Balls

Cut half a pound of veal and half a pound of suet fine, and beat them in a mortar. Have a few sweet-herbs shred fine; dried mace beaten fine; a small nutmeg grated; a little lemon-peel cut very fine; a little pepper and salt, and the yolks of two eggs; mix all these well together, then roll them in little round balls; roll them in flour and fry them brown. If for white sauce, put them in a little boiling water, and boil them for a few minutes, but do not fry them.

15.Baked Cod-Fish

Clean the piece of cod, and make a stuffing of bread-crumbs, parsley, and onions, chopped small, pepper and salt, a piece of butter moistened with egg; put this stuffing into the open part of the fish, and fix it in with skewers; then rub the fish over with beat egg, and strew crumbs of bread, pepper, and salt over it; stick also some bits of butter on it; set in a Dutch oven before the fire to bake; serve with melted butter or oyster-sauce.

16.Traditional Sallie Lunn

This light sweet bread was named for the Englishwoman who first made it.

  • 1 cup milkcdcf00b70a680f45f9807efebcd21e4f
  • 2 Tbsps shortening
  • 1/2 oz active dry yeast
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

Heat the milk and shortening to scalding point and then allow to cool. Pour the milk into a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place to rise for about 1-11/2 hrs. Knock down the dough and put in a greased pan and allow to rise for a further hour. Bake in a moderately hot over (375 F) for about 45 min.

17.Cornbread

The cornbread we eat today only bears a passing resemblance to that eaten during the Civil War. Add a little sugar to this recipe if you wish.

  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsps milk
  • 3 Tbsps butter, softened

Combine the cornmeal, flour and salt in a bowl. Add the eggs, milk and butter and mix well. Pour into a 9×9 inch buttered baking pan and bake in a moderate oven (375 F) for 15-20 minutes.

18.Brazilian Stew

Take shins or legs of beef; cut them into slices or pieces two or three ounces in weight, or about the size of an egg; dip them in vinegar, and throw them into a kettle, with a dozen onions sliced, but no water. Let it stand over a very slow fire from three to four hours; then season with pepper and salt, and serve hot. Some boiled potatoes, sliced or quartered, will be a great addition; but the principal thing to be observed is that the fire be a moderate one.

19.Raspberry Jam

Jam was a rare sweet treat that kept well on long journeys.

  • 2 pounds firm, ripe raspberries
  • 2 pounds sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Rinse the fruit and place in a large saucepan, add the lemon juice and simmer until the fruit is soft and pulpy. Add the sugar and boil for about 3 minutes. Test the jam after this time by lifting a little out of the pot with a wooden spoon; if a blob of jelly forms the jam has reached setting point. This recipe should make about three jars.

20.General Robert E. Lee’s Orange Lemon Cake

  • 2 cups of sifted cake flourCW-Union-encampment
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar
  • 10 eggs separated
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • pinch of salt

Combine first three ingredients and sift together 6 times. Set aside. Combine egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on high until thick and lemon colored. Reduce speed to medium and add in vegetable oil. Add flour mixture and mix till well blended. Stir in lemon rind and juice. Beat egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter. Pour your batter into 4 wax paper lined and greased 8 inch round pans.
Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove cake layers from pans and peel off waxed paper. Cool your layers completely. Then add the frosting.Orange Lemon Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup of butter softened
  • 2 tablespoons of sour cream
  • 2 16 oz packages of powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup grated orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons orange juice

Beat the above ingredients together very well with mixer. Spread a thin layer of icing between each layer and use the bulk of icing to cover the cake.


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7 Responses

  1. Bryan says:

    These recipes have some severely glaring problems that leads me to question all their authenticity. “Crisco” did not exist until 1911. Vegetable shortening of ANY KIND AT ALL could not have existed until 1901, when hydrogenation of fats was invented. Thus, ANY mention of “Crisco” in a recipe means that IT CANNOT BE A CIVIL WAR RECIPE. Thus, such a recipe must be a fraud. If we want to quibble and claim “vegetable fat”, there were no solid “vegetable fats” available in North America during the Civil War. The only solid “vegetable fats” I am aware of that have ever had any widespread culinary use are cocoa fat and coconut “oil”. Neither of these were widely available at the time. Thus, both Crisco and “vegetable fat” are fraudulent ingredients in any “Civil War” recipe, and any recipe that contains them should not be trusted as being actually from the Civil War. As for liquid vegetable fats, while they were known, none of them were commonly used by either North or South in the Civil War.

    With such a glaring and obvious mistake in several recipes, none of the rest of them can be trusted to actually be Civil War recipes.

    • James says:

      I disagree..look at the beginning of the article…”(some of them have been clarified and updated so that they can be easily made in a modern kitchen)”

  2. Steven D. Henry says:

    There was no fat, be it butter, lard, sweet oil, in hardtack whatsoever. Cracker flour, salt, water thats it!

  3. reddogparch says:

    Bacon grease works just as well, Stop splitting hairs!! Enjoy life and learn some manners!

  4. Joe Lovell says:

    You might want to check: The 1865 Customs of Service for Non-Commissioned Officers & Soldiers: A Handbook for the Rank and File of the Army for at least the federal rations.

    Another good source is “Hardtack and Coffee” by John Billings.

  5. Patty says:

    Thnkx so much for this! I havent been this thrilled by a post for a long time! You have got it, whatever that means in blogging. Well, Youre deetinifly somebody that has something to say that people need to hear. Keep up the good work. Keep on inspiring the people!

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