Pioneer Cooking by Linda Hubalek

Man, your mouth is going to water today! Historical author Linda Hubalek is talking about how the pioneers got by and may have some lessons for us so make her welcome.

In this unprecedented time, when we are all home due to the virus affecting the world, we have to prepare meals for ourselves and our families. Luckily, we still have electricity and the appliances that keep and prepare our foods.

Can you imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have electricity right now? Talk about shutting down the world!

Being a writer who has spent a lot of time researching history, I think we still have it easy in 2020 compared to pioneer ancestors.

Consider the work it took to prepare a meal back in 1870 on the frontier Plains compared to today. Here are photos from the to share with you the work which had to be done before you prepared your meal. And I’ve also added recipes from my book: EGG GRAVY: Authentic Recipies From the Butter in the Well series.

Want to make a cake and need two eggs?

First, you had to raise the chickens who will produce the eggs for you!

And you wouldn’t have a box cake mix on hand either. Here are recipes to make an Angel Food Cake, and Sunshine Cake to use up all those egg yolks.


Whites of 11 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup cake flour

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift sugar and flour together seven times. Put cream of tartar and salt in eggs and beat very light, fold in sugar and flour, add vanilla. Put in a cold oven and bake slowly for 1 hour. (Make your cake flour by sifting 4 cups flour and 1 cup cornstarch together four times.) 


1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

1 cup sweet milk

11 egg yolks, beaten light

3 cups flour, sifted three times with 2 tps. baking powder

Bake in tube pan 45 minutes. Use any flavoring desired.


Need milk to drink or butter to use in a recipe?

Go milk a cow!


Pour ripened cream into butter chum and chum for about 30 to 35 minutes until the butter is about the size of wheat grains. Draw off the buttermilk and add cold water. Slowly chum for a few minutes, then draw off the water.

Put the butter in a wooden bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons of salt per pound of butter. Let stand a few minutes, then work the butter with a wooden paddle to get the last of the liquid out and the salt in. Press in crocks or butter molds and store in a cool place.


Bacon for breakfast?

Today, we pull a pound of bacon from the refrigerator and cook it in a skillet or the oven. In the past, you had to raise the pig before you butchered the animal for the meal.

Sugar Cured Meat

After butchering, cool the meat thoroughly and cut into family-sized chunks. Rub each chunk with coarse salt and set aside for 24 hours. Tightly pack the meat in an earthen vessel-a syrup barrel is good-putting hams and shoulders in the bottom and bacon slabs on top.

Heat 4 gallons of water. Let the water boil and then cool a little before adding the following ingredients. For each 100 lbs. meat, weigh out 10 lbs. salt, 4 lbs. brown sugar and 2 ounces saltpeter. Let mixture cool thoroughly and pour over meat. This amount should be sufficient to cover the meat in the vessel.

Put on a wooden or china cover over the top and weigh it down with a stone to keep meat under the brine. If it isn’t enough brine to cover the meat, add more. Put vessel in a cool place and let stand for six weeks (ham) and only one week for the bacon slabs. If hams are large, leave in for eight weeks. Take the meat out of the brine, then hang and smoke it.

Feel better about cooking a meal now?

After this brief memory back to the 1800s, I hope you enjoy having the convenience of cooking meals for a while, even if we have to wear a mask and gloves to shop at a grocery store.

Please stay safe and stay well!

Linda Hubalek

Drawing for FIVE winners

Five readers will win an ebook copy of (The Mismatched Mail-Order Brides Book 2) by commenting on what you’d serve as a meal if you had no electricity today. 


BOOK 1 is FREE! It sets the story theme for the Mismatched Mail-Order Brides series. Either click HERE or on the cover and grab your copy!



Linda Hubalek has written over forty books about strong women and honorable men, with a touch of humor, despair, and drama woven into the stories. The setting for all the series is the Kansas prairie, which Linda enjoys daily, whether by being outside or looking at it through her office window.

Her historical romance series include Brides with Grit, Grooms with Honor, and the Mismatched Mail-Order Brides. Linda’s historical fiction series, based on her ancestors’ pioneer lives, include Butter in the Well, Trail of Thread, and Planting Dreams.

When not writing, Linda is reading (usually with dark chocolate within reach), gardening (channeling her degree in Horticulture), or traveling with her husband to explore the world.

Linda loves to hear from her readers, so visit her website to contact her or browse the site to read about her books.



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45 thoughts on “Pioneer Cooking by Linda Hubalek”

  1. Well, I guess I could go out to my imaginary chicken coop, catch a chicken (I won’t describe what I’d have to do), then fry it up, make some biscuits from ingredients in the larder, check what vegetables I might have in the root cellar, etc… It would be a fine meal.

  2. Linda, I’ve been cooking more this last month than ever–and remembering my grandparents had to do this version every single day, three times a day. Life’s not so bad right now, is it? Fun blog!

    • Thanks, Tracy. I remember to my parents talking about growing up in the Depression and what they had to do for WWII. Staying at home with electricity and internet is not hard, as far as I’m concerned, when thinking back to the crisis during their lifetimes.

  3. I would have a fire started and fix foil meals with I Can modify to suit the eaters’ needs.

  4. I might make a stew with my root vegetables and if I had a piece of beef or a chicken, in it would go.

  5. When I was growing up we did kill hogs and dress out the meat. We would cure the hams and hang them in the smoke house. We also made some sausage for breakfast. So I guess I would slice of me some bacon from the slap and cook it in an iron skillet over an open fire and then fry me some eggs from the chickens that I raised.

  6. What an eye opening blog and many reasons to be thankful that self-quarintine and lack of a few hat we feel are essential supplies are hard to get. I had to think if we went without electricity for a few days, much less a few weeks or months, we wouldn’t even be able to get the essentials we’d need like salt, flour, sugar, yeast, and such. City folks would be flocking to the country where they would at least have the chance of killing something to eat. The theft and looting would be unimaginable. It reminds me of a book I read by Darrel Sparkman, Crysalsis, I read it when this whole pandemic was barely starting. It’s like The Walking Dead but without the zombies. I’ve yet to read one of your books and would love the opportunity. A giveaway is an awesome way to find a new author to add to my go to authors list. Stay safe in this crazy time. Now I have to decide if salt and flour hording is on my list of things to do after we get through this pandemic…

  7. Hopefully, I’d be able to hire a cook….else, we might starve.

    Since home confinement began, we’ve never done so many dishes.

    P.S. Your post was fascinating and timely.

  8. We go camping quite often and cook over a fire. Fried potatoes, fried eggs. Biscuits and fried dough with homemade butter on it. Thank you for sharing your time with us all.

  9. Wow it really makes you think about how easy we have it. Living on a farm I have helped butcher all you have listed and have personally milked a cow, goat, sheep and mare in my lifetime and made a LOT of butter too. Don’t enter contest as I have her books!! Thanks

  10. I would make chicken salad (from canned chicken) I actually just did that yesterday. We do have chickens but laying hens and for tick control. We tried to eat one once and it was the most disgusting chicken we have ever tried! Our milk cow is due in a month or two so we have to wait a while for fresh yummy milk!

    • I remember my mom “preparing” a live chicken to eat. I didn’t like the first part, but it was kind of fun to burn off the pin feathers…except for the smell.

  11. I cook over a campfire at home all year long until the pit is covered in snow. I would make a hobo dinner. Carrots, celery, potatoes, onion, and ground beef. Then I would put Sweetcorn on the grill to serve with the hobo dinner. Apple crisp would be put on the grill too for dessert. Yum! Loved your blog.

  12. Holy cow, that’s a lot of eggs! I made a lemon cake from scratch a couple weeks ago for my son’s birthday. Every recipe I found online begin with the first ingredient as a lemon cake mix, which I didn’t have on hand and couldn’t go to the store for. Thankfully, I had an Amish cookbook in the house and that caught me what I needed. It’s not very historical, but if we couldn’t use our oven or microwave around here, we’d be having hot dogs and s’mores on the fire pit out back.

  13. Since my husband is a history teacher and civil war red actor, he has several Dutch ovens for cooking over a fire. I would make beef stew.

  14. I love reading stories set in pioneer times (my favorite) but I know that I was born in modern times for a reason. That pioneer spirit is just not in me. I can’t even imagine having to do all the things they did just to survive day to day. If I had no electricity today, I’d probably be serving a grilled steak and potatoes and salad for dinner.

  15. Living in the country having no electricity also means no water because the electric pumps won’t be working. That would be more of a problem than making dinner. People can use bottled water but watering livestock becomes a critical issue since we no longer have windmills and don’t have a solar pump. When the power has been off for several hours I have made a pork roast in my cast iron cookware in our fireplace. Having to keep the fire just right made me appreciate electricity. We do still do our own butchering making bacon, ham and sausage. Definitely need the electricity to keep them safely stored in the freezer.

    Don’t enter me in the drawing. I am not an e-book reader.

  16. Hi Linda! Sorry about the late welcome. Your post is so interesting and sure gets a person thinking. With no electricity, I’d have to cook on a campfire or on a gas grill. The grill works fine for most things. When I was in the tornado in 1989, we cooked on a grill a lot. There is always a way to make do. You just have to find it.

    Wishing you tons of success.

  17. In 2004, we went 7 days with no electricity, thanks to a hurricane!!! Believe me, FL in summer with no A/C is no joke! So, for breakfast it was peanut butter and crackers or poptarts with water. We had sandwiches for lunch or go out to Cracker Barrel (cause they had power!!) for one hot meal a day.

  18. Welcome to PP today. This really had to be a different time without electricity and stores like we have now. I think we are a bit spoiled. When I lived on the farm, we raised our own meat and chickens etc. Some were pets and they lived in a different part of the farm. I think it was moms way of helping keeping pets vs. food separate for five kiddos. We did a lot of cooking outside. Part of 4-H and part because we could. So I would make a stew, with whatever meat could be found. Chicken, rabbit etc. (Coyote does not taste real good) I would add veggies from our garden. I could whip up a batch of cornbread that can also be cooked over the fire. And water. And we are set.

    • I was in 4-H too, and growing up we had a freezer full of our own beef and chickens, frozen fruit, etc. It was work, but it was a great way to grow up (on the farm) and provide for our family. Of course, my folks would have considered it work feeding the family of six, but I liked it.

  19. Hello Linda! Thank you for the tasty post! Since I don’t cook, I’d just grab a protein bar or peanut butter on a slice of bread.

  20. I have cooked on a wood stove and open fire/coals. One of our standards when camping was a stew or chili, biscuits, and peach cobbler, the last two baked in dutch ovens. With my Girl Scout troop, we cooked cake in orange rinds and hobo packets (wrap meat potatoes, carrots, seasoning in foil and put it on coals to cook. The wood stove is a Vermont Castings Defiant stove, not a full kitchen stove (which I would love to have). When heating with the stove, I generally keep a kettle on for tea or other hot drinks. I have done stews, soups, roasts, pancakes, breakfast meats, and eggs among other things. We had a bad storm one winter and lost power for about 7 days. We were warm and ate like kings. We have canned vegetables and jams, made sauerkraut and wine, dried veggies and fruits, and made jerky.
    Stay safe and healthy.

  21. I cannot tell you the number of times growing up on my Grandparent’s farm that I say them kill an animal for food. They did not go to a fancy slaughter place but did it all themselves, and nothing was wasted. I watched my Grandmother cook some of the things over an open fire because there was too much for indoors. So, drawing from my Grandmother’s example, I would cook some biscuits, fry up some ham and we would have ham biscuits. It sounds so simplistic, but there have been many a time that was what we had for breakfast or supper. I have also helped her to churn butter. I admit, I like my conveniences and have often wondered if I would survive if they were taken away.

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