July 5, 2014

Farina Pudding: Civil War Recipe, Served to the Wounded after the Battle of Gettysburg

Farina Pudding Civil War Recipe, Served to the Wounded after the Battle of Gettysburg | Click for the recipe: http://worldturndupsidedown.blogspot.com/2014/07/historical-food-fortnightly-challenge-3.html  | World Turn'd Upside Down
Civil War Recipe Gettysburg

This was a hard challenge to do. I had a feeling everyone was going to pick a Gettysburg food or an Independence Day food so I wanted to do something a little different. I thought of doing something from Vicksburg as it was falling around the same time as the Battle of Gettysburg was occurring in the north. However, as the meals were extremely meager in Vicksburg, I didn't think that a rat or bit of mule would be appetizing in the least or fun to cook.

I was incredibly moved from reading accounts about the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg. Many are familiar with the 3 days of battle but what happened next is truly at the heart of the event. Women poured in from different parts of the country to administer aid and what they recorded was horrific. They noted the smell of rotting horses. The screams and cries of the wounded and family members wandering the fields in an attempt to find the bodies or graves of missing loved ones. They wrote of the many men that they met and the ones they cared for one day who were gone the next. There were over 27,000 wounded men after the battle, more than 7,000 killed and 10,000 missing. The magnitude of the battle is hard to fathom, it is harder still to imagine what remained after the armies left.   

Farina was mentioned in many accounts from nurses and ladies of the Sanitary Commission. They were most likely just adding water or milk to the farina and heating it to make a gruel that would feed many, be nourishing and easy to eat and digest for the wounded. I chose to make a farina pudding as plain farina is so simple it doesn't require a recipe. The recipe I used a farina pudding recipe that I found in a hospital manual.

Civil War Recipe Gettysburg
Civil War Recipe Gettysburg

The Challenge: 

Today in History June 29 - July 12
Make a dish based on or inspired by a momentous occasion that took place on the day you made it. Get creative - you would be surprised by all the interesting things that happened every single day!

The Recipe:  

The Date/Year and Region:
1861-1863 Pennsylvania

How Did You Make It:


-1/4 cup Farina (Cream of Wheat)
-3 cups Milk
-Sugar to Taste

Instructions:  Add milk and farina to double boiler. Boil until it clumps together and pour it into a greased mold being careful as it is very hot. Cool the mold off in a large bowl full of ice. Once cool, turn over the mold to release the pudding and top with sugar.   

Time to Complete:
15 Minutes

Total Cost:
About $4.00

How Successful Was It?:The pudding did not turn out as smooth as I thought it would. It might have had a smoother appearance if I boiled it in the mold. It tasted good but a little bland as hospital food is known.

How Accurate Is It?: I forgot to use a double boiler so it only took a few minutes to cook instead of having to boil it for 45 minutes. Even using a double boiler, I don't think it would take 45 minutes to cook.

An Excerpt from a letter to J. Huelings in Moorestown, New Jersey from a Nurse in Gettysburg on July 16, 1863:

"The atmosphere is truly horrible, and camphor and cologne or smelling salts are prime necessaries for most persons, certainly for the ladies. We think that diminutive bags of camphor, say an inch square, would be a great comfort to the soldiers, relieving them in some measure from the ever-present odors.

 We rode in an ambulance to the hospital of the Second Corps. The sights and the sounds beggar description. There is great need of bandages. Almost every man has lost either an arm or a leg. The groans, the cries, the shrieks of anguish, are awful indeed to hear. We heard them all day in the field, and last night I buried my head in my pillow to shut out the sounds which reached us, from a church quite near, where the wounded are lying. 

We could only try to hear as though we heard not, for it requires strong effort to be able to attend to the various calls for aid. The condensed milk is invaluable. The corn-starch, farina, and milk punch are eagerly partaken of, and a cup of chocolate is greatly relished. A poor fellow with a broken jaw seemed to appeal, though mutely, for special attention. I beat up quickly two or three eggs, adding a spoonful of brandy and a cup of scalding hot milk, which he managed to draw through his scarcely opened lips, and at once seemed revived. The Union soldiers and the rebels, so long at variance, are here quite friendly. They have fought their last battle, and vast numbers are going daily to meet the King of Terrors."


  1. Interesting recipe. I don't recall ever hearing about Farina before. Good for you for participating in the challenge and trying to follow it to historical standards as much as you could.

    7,000 killed...that's a heavy loss of life. Many people seem to think that America's costliest war in terms of life was either the Vietnam War or World War II, but it was the Civil War.

  2. I have to admit sheepishly that I had only read about farina in period books. I did lots of research to make sure I could make the recipe right and tried to see where I could find it.

    I went to work and excitedly told my coworker what I was working on to which she replied "Eww. We used to eat that when I was a kid." When I showed my parents, my dad said the same thing.

    So apparently, this isn't impressive to anyone over the age of 50. :P

    1. Ha! Interesting generational (and possibly regional) difference there. I'd actually like to try it. :)

    2. It doesn't sound half bad. I've read about farina gruel given to invalids. I didn't know what it was though. I too thought everyone would choose Independence Day or Gettysburg. I tried but couldn't get in the kitchen so I went in another direction on another day. I am glad someone thought to honor the wounded soldiers.

    3. It wasn't bad. In fact I'm going to enjoy eating the rest of the box for breakfast. :) I was surprised that not many people posted on Gettysburg or Independence Day. I thought there was going to be a typhoon of posts on the 4th.

  3. It seems very similar to my semolina porridge, just cooked thicker! Interesting, but quite logical; simple meals like that do get repeated around the globe.

    1. It's not something I have cooked before but I might in the future. :)

  4. The 45 minutes for cooking could have been because it was cooked over fire.


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