Being able to procure your own meat, to grow your own vegetables, to organize a pantry with all the essentials and to work with your hands are all activities worth knowing and mastering. But how about your own comfort, how about satisfying your sweet tooth when times are harsh? The following pioneer dessert recipes stood the test of time and they will please even the pickiest of eaters.
If your prepping strategies need to cover the wishes of your kids, you will have to go overboard to make them feel comfortable during a time of crisis. Making a few of these pioneer deserts will improve the moral of your kids and you will both be able to relax and enjoy something sweet. Eating beans, rice and jerky on a regular basis will trigger appetite fatigue and you will need to mix things up to adapt to a restrictive diet. The following pioneer deserts are ideal because they are natural and delicious, and most importantly, they are simple to make.
Pioneer desert recipes: Idiot’s delight
Also known as Idiot’s cake this simple but tasty food was one of the pioneer desserts that gained rapid popularity amongst Civil War soldiers. This deep-dish, dark brown float of biscuit-like objects in a thick cinnamon-raisin sauce was often found in packages soldiers received from home. Since it was easy to put together from a readily-available ingredient, it was said that even an idiot could make it, hence the name of the food.
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla
- 1 cup Raisins
- 4 cups Water
- 1 tbls. Butter
- 7 tbls. Butter
- 1/2 cup White Sugar
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 1/2 cup Milk
- 1 cup Flour
Boil together the first 5 ingredients. Make a batter of the second 5 ingredients. Drop the batter in a greased pan by spoonfuls. Pour first mixture over it and bake in a moderate oven until golden brown.
Related article: Civil War era foods you can still make today
Pioneer dessert recipes: Hard Candy
This was a popular candy back in the day because it was easy to make and you didn’t require too many ingredients to put it together. The candy could last for a long time and you could find bowls full of it in every household.
- 5 cups of confectioner’s sugar
- 2 cups of granulated sugar
- ½ cup of water
- ¾ cup corn syrup
- 3 teaspoons lemon extract (you could also use mint or orange flavors)
- Food coloring if available
You will also need a baking sheet, a wooden spoon, a candy thermometer and a 3-quart saucepan.
Start by coating the baking sheet with ½ inch layer of confectioner’s sugar and make sure the sugar is spread evenly. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to carve a wide, serpentine line in the sugar down the center of the sheet without reaching the bottom. Next, pour the granulated sugar, corn syrup and water into the saucepan and cook the mixture over medium heat.
Once it starts boiling stir the mixture a few times and cover for 5 minutes to cook off any sugar crystals that might form. Get your thermometer and measure the temperature until it reaches 300°F. Once the temperature was reached, remove from the heat and add the flavoring (and food coloring) of your choice while constantly string.
Pour the mixture into the glass measuring and then pour it into the indentation you made in the confectioner’s sugar, taking care to stay within the lines. Draw more lines if you have excess mixture, but make sure the new lines don’t touch the old ones. Once you’re done make sure your sprinkle more confectioner’s sugar on top of the lines of candy. Now comes the tricky part! You have to carefully watch the candy as it cools and when it’s safe to touch you need to cut it into bite-sized pieces. If you let it cool for too long, you will not be able to bend it or cut it properly due to its hardiness.
Pioneer dessert recipes: Horehound candy
This was another wildly popular pioneer desert that had a double role, both as a sweet treat and as a medical aid. This threat was made from Horehound; a sturdy plant brought to America by settlers. Horehound candy was not only a sweet indulgence but was used as a cure for stomach aches and sore throats.
- white or common horehound
- Horehound tea or extract
To make it at home, you will first need to make horehound tea or extract by boiling the leaves and flowers of the plant in water. You can make horehound tea by pouring one cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of dried horehound leaves.
Mix the horehound tea or extract with the sugar and boil until it reaches 300°F. Once it reaches the hard crack stage of candy making, allow it to cool for a few hours before braking it into small chunks of candy.
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Pioneer dessert recipes: Martha Washington Candy
Although the name of this pioneer dessert is highly debated and some say that Martha Washington herself made it, one thing is sure; this pioneer desert is delicious. It was widely popular in the early 1900s and it remained popular even today, although the name and recipe suffered modifications in time.
- 6 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 ½ cups finely chopped pecans
- 2 ½ cups flaked coconut
- 14 ounce can sweeten condensed milk
- ½ chopped, dried cherries
- 24 ounces chocolate chips
- 12/ pound, melted butter
You will also need a mixing bowl, a boiler, a mixer and a spatula to make this pioneer dessert.
Start by mixing together the confectioner’s sugar, butter, milk and vanilla. Use the mixer until you form a creamy batter. Now mix the cherries, pecans and coconut making sure that the cherries are dry. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto waxed paper and freeze for at least one hour. Make sure you remove the candy from the freezer after one hour and reform the spoonfuls into round balls. Place them back in the freezer and start melting the chocolate using the boiler.
Remove the candy balls from the freezer and start the delicate operation of rolling the balls in the chocolate. Make sure all the sides are covered and once you’re done, refreeze for 10 minutes to allow for the chocolate to harden.
Pioneer dessert recipes: Vinegar Candy
This is one of the earliest pioneer desert recipes that I know of and it was often made when vanilla wasn’t available, but vinegar was. It’s one of the recipes I’ve learned from my grandmother and even though she was living on a shoestring budget, she always managed to make some candy for us kids. People may be skeptical when it comes to this pioneer desert, but I can assure you that it doesn’t have a strong vinegar taste, but rather a pleasant sweet and sour effect.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup vinegar
Grease a large pan or cookie sheet. Melt the butter in a sauce pan, then add the sugar and vinegar. Stir over medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved, then turn the heat up a bit. Boil gently and constantly stir until the mixture reaches 300°F. This is the hot end of the hard-crack stage for candy and it’s the time when you have to pour the mixture into the greased pan. Let it cool and break the candy into pieces. My grandmother used to keep vinegar candy in airtight containers and it would last for years.
Related reading: Household uses of vinegar worth knowing
Pioneer dessert recipes: Divinity Candy
This is another favorite candy of mine and it brings back a lot of memories. I remember my mother always packed some for me and my father when we went camping. There was nothing more pleasant than to discover we had something sweet in our bags.
- 2 eggs (whites only)
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans
- 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup of water
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
You will also need a mixing bowl, a candy thermometer, a 3-quart saucepan, a mixer, a spatula and some waxed paper to make this pioneer dessert.
Preparation: Start by separating the egg whites from the yolks and once you are sure no yolk is present in the whites, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Pour the water, corn syrup, granulated sugar and salt into the saucepan and cook until the mixture starts boiling. Stir occasionally and make sure you cover the saucepan to boil the forming sugar crystals (3 minutes should do it). Use the candy thermometer to measure the temperature and once it reaches 240°F, remove the mixture from the heat. Pour the mixture into the beaten egg whites and don’t forget to add the vanilla.
Use your mixer to mix it all together until you form a thick paste and it begins to harden. It usually takes 10-15 minutes and you will still have a malleable composition. Mix the pecans once it starts to harden and drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto waxed paper. Once it’s completely hardened your divinity candy is ready.
A last word
The pioneer dessert recipes listed here cannot be considered healthy recipes according to the modern standards since they contain a good amount of sugar, but we have to keep in mind that they are much better than commercial ones. They do not include preservatives and some of these pioneer desserts can last for a long time, making them ideal for a prepper’s pantry. Making these pioneer deserts is a good way or remembering the past while assuring a good legacy for when times will not be generous as they are today.
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