Pioneer women carried something very special with them across the plains—their family recipes. These recipes reflected the settlers’ heritages from Scandinavian pioneers in Minnesota to French Basques in Nevada. So, frontier Christmas suppers also varied based on the heritage of the different pioneer families.
However, there were some general Christmas foods that appealed to everyone—such as current bread!
This currant bread recipe was brought over by settlers who crossed the Atlantic from Wales (my husband’s ancestry!) in 1856, where it was traditionally served at Christmas. Wild currants grew in some places and could have been dried to use in winter.
1 yeast cake
1/4 cup lukewarm water
9 cups flour
2 cups shortening
1 pound raisins
1 pound dried currants
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
3 halves candied lemon peel, cut fine
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups water
Soften yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Cut shortening into flour. Add remaining ingredients, including yeast mixture, except water. Mix thoroughly, then add enough warm water (about 3 cups) to make a soft but not sticky dough. Let rise overnight (about 7 hours), then form into 4 small loaves. Let rise again (about 2 hours) and bake at 300° F. for 1 1/2 hours.
Pie was another favorite frontier Christmas food. This pie filling and shell is from 10 Pioneer Recipes That Survived The Oregon Trail, https://homesteading.com/pioneer-recipes/
Swiss Apple Cherry Pie
• 4 large apples
• 6 tablespoons butter
• 2 1/2 cups pitted sour pie cherries, fresh or canned
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pare, core, and slice the apples. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and brush on the bottom of pastry shell. Arrange a layer of apples on bottom of pastry shell. Mix dry ingredients and sprinkle portion over the layer of apples. Arrange a layer of red cherries, then sprinkle with some of the dry ingredients; then a layer of apples and dry ingredients; a layer of cherries and dry ingredients; and end with the layer of apples. Top with dots of remaining butter. After top crust is added to pie, rub crust with cream or evaporated milk and sprinkle with the mixture of 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Bake at 425° F. for 30 to 40 minutes.
To make the pie shell
• 2 1/2 cups sifted flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup lard or shortening
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1 tablespoon vinegar
• Cold water
Cut shortening into flour and salt. Beat egg lightly in a 1 1/2-cup measure; add vinegar and fill the cup with cold water. Add just enough liquid to the dry ingredients to hold the dough together—about 4 tablespoons—set aside the rest of the liquid for the next batch of pastry. Roll it out into the pastry and use as desired. Makes two 9-inch pie shells.
I’d love to hear your results if you try either of these recipes. You may comment on this post below!
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