With luck and a lot of creativity, they ate well when they could!
After realizing that the blackbirds are eating the oat and corn crops in Little Town on the Prairie, Pa sets about shooting every bird he can. He even goes into town for more ammo at one point! With the excess of meat “fat as butter” as Pa describes them, Ma fries up the birds she can and then makes pies out of the rest.
Meat pies have long been a way to preserve meat for a little longer. Not only do the spices and cooking keep the meat fresher, but the pastry shell helps preserve the contents. It’s easy to imagine this pie as something very close to a chicken pot pie, made in a cast iron Dutch oven or a stoneware pie plate.
In By the Shores of Silver Lake, Wilder describes making sourdough biscuits. Since supplies were often hard to come by on the frontier, helpful leavening agents like baking powder were not always available. One way around this is to use a sourdough starter to make your biscuits and breads, which is not perfect for all baked goods, but certainly works great for biscuits.
Heart-shaped Buttermilk Cakes
As a special treat, Ma made for the girls heart-shaped cakes made from buttermilk, white flour, and fine white sugar “like snow drifts.” Laura is so in awe of hers that she only nibbles at the underside at first so as not to disturb the sugar on top or the beautiful design. You can find the recipe for this Little House in the Big Woods treat here.
Roasted Pigs Tail
Another Little House in the Big Woods delicacy was roasted pig tail. After Pa butchers the hog and Ma processes all the meat and drippings, Pa sticks the tail on a skewer for roasting over the fire. So eager are they to get their hands on this treat that Mary and Laura burn their little fingers trying to eat it!
They had to be inventive, but they made it through even the most scarce of times. How lovely that because of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books we have a record of the foods they ate and how they made them! For more great pioneer recipes click here.