During my vast research for historicals set in early America I came across a wealth of plant lore and recipes. An avid gardener, I love to grow herbs, heirloom flowers and vegetables. To see, smell, touch and taste the same plants known to my ancestors is a rich connection to those who’ve gone before me. A common thread in my work, whether writing straight historical or paranormal romance is my passion for the past.
The following early American recipes are lifted from a slim volume I picked up at the nearby Museum of Frontier Culture located outside of historic Staunton Virginia in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley where my family has lived for several hundred years. By ‘frontier’ they mean colonial. At one time, the valley and mountains were the colonial frontier, the setting for my new release colonial Native American Romance Novel Red Bird’s Song.
The Good Land: Native American and Early Colonial Food by Patricia B. Mitchell
1 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. salt
1 egg, ½ cup milk, 1 tsp. melted butter, or margarine or oil
1 cup chopped and well drained cooked vegetables (such as carrots, corn, green beans, lima beans, mushrooms, peas, or a combination of).
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg and add milk and butter. Add to flour mixture and beat until smooth. Add vegetables. Drop by tablespoons into shallow hot fat (or oil) in skillet. Fry for four minutes or until brown on all sides. Drain on absorbent paper.
“Pumpkin was one of the plentiful Indian crops for which the English soon ‘developed a necessary liking.’ The food has been described as the ‘fruit which the Lord fed his people with til corn and cattle increased.’
This old verse illustrates the early dependence of settlers in the New World upon pumpkins: “For pottage, and puddings, and custards, and pies. Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies. We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon; if it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon.”
They cooked the fruit into a ‘gruel’ flavored it with butter, vinegar, and ginger. I would open the pumpkin and remove the seeds, then cut the flesh into pieces before cooking, but that direction isn’t included as it’s assumed you know that. Peeling is easier after it’s cooked.
“One quart milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice, and ginger in a crust, bake for 1 hour.”
If that recipe isn’t clear enough, here’s an old Mennonite pumpkin pie recipe. It assumes you grew your own pumpkins, of course, but you can substitute canned.
1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups scalded milk, 3 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp. salt, 1 Tab. cornstarch, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1 tsp cloves
Pastry for one 9 inch pie crust.
Pour mixture into unbaked crust. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and continue baking for 30 minutes.
*I reduced the milk by 1/2 cup. *I use good sized eggs
Blurb from Red Bird’s Song:
Taken captive by a Shawnee war party wasn’t how Charity Edmonson hoped to escape an unwanted marriage. Nor did Shawnee warrior Wicomechee expect to find the treasure promised by his grandfather’s vision in the unpredictable red-headed girl. George III’s English Red-Coats, unprincipled colonial militia, prejudice and jealousy are not the only enemies Charity and Wicomechee will face before they can hope for a peaceful life. The greatest obstacle to happiness is in their own hearts. As they struggle through bleak mountains and cold weather, facing wild nature and wilder men, Wicomechee and Charity must learn to trust each other.
Charity swiped angrily at a tear. She’d run away, if she had anyone to run to. It wasn’t right they were all dead.
On impulse, she jumped to the ground. “I’ll go anyway,” she muttered. “Eat nuts and berries and live in the woods.”
“Will you go alone?” a low voice asked.
Sucking in her breath, she whirled around. Less than twenty feet away, grasping his musket, stood a tall young brave. Stripes of red and black paint blurred his striking features. His dark brown eyes riveted her in place. This warrior was like no other and the most savagely handsome man she’d ever seen. God help her. She should flee now, but could only stare, open-mouthed.
She swept her disbelieving gaze over the loose black hair brushing an open buckskin vest that revealed his bronzed chest and shoulders molded into contours of muscle. An elkskin breechclout left a great deal of his hard thighs exposed. Despite the dread hammering in her chest, a fiery blush burned her cheeks. But it was the sheathed knife hanging on his left side and the lethal tomahawk slung on his right that snapped Charity from her near-trance.
In a rush of memories, she recalled the stories of her father’s death under the scalping knife and neighbors who’d suffered the same violent fate. No Indians had been spotted in their settlement since the Shawnee grew hostile and war had erupted nine years ago, but the warfare had ended. Hadn’t it?
Clenching ice-cold fingers, she dug her nails into her palms. “What in God’s name are you doing here?” she forced past the dry lump in her throat.
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