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The Pioneer kitchen

August 5, 2013
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Sometimes when I look at the life of pioneer women I wonder how they ever endured their life. Of course if that's all you've even known, it's not a question of enduring, you just did it. From the trials of life in a new and unfamiliar world, to raising their kids in a dangerous world, they did it all.

Recently I came upon an article about pioneer women and their kitchen needs. Gadgets that were used and necessary in the kitchen included: apple parer, cherry pitter, sausage grinder, nutcracker, potato masher, butter mold, pickle tongs, salt cellar, waffle iron, soup digester, egg coddler, batter bucket, pudding pan, sugar kettle and thermometer. This is just a generic list of things that were necessary for women to run a kitchen. So many preparations went into making a meal that cooks had a gadget for just about everything. Homemade bread needed a bread slicer. Chopped ice required a mallet. Spices needed to be ground with a mortar and pestle. Coffee had to be roasted and ground and the list goes on and on.

Think about a simple thing like making cookies. To bake, a woman first started her stove, but certainly not with the flick of a switch. In cold weather the fire remained lit throughout the night. In the morning it would be stoked up with new wood. In warmer months, the fire went out at night and was then started in the morning with kindling wood and newspapers.

Stoves had one side for burning wood, while the other was used as an oven. The surface was used as a stovetop. The heat for the oven and stovetop had to be regulated, hence the terms in old cookbooks like, "bake in a slow, moderate, or hot oven."

The white sugar used would have to come from a cone, or loaf. The sugar would have to be trimmed off with a sugar nipper or hatchet, then pounded and sifted through a fine sieve.

Butter for the cookies would have been churned from fresh milk, set in pans until cream rose to the top. The cream was skimmed off the top and then churned. When curds began to form, the mixture was strained, salted, and shaped and ready to use for baking.

That's it for cookies, quite a lot of preparation for a batch of cookies it would take us about 5 minutes to mix up!



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