December 18, 2017

Civil War Era Cookie Recipe: Ginger Nuts

Civil War Cookie Recipe Ginger Nuts

"He lives, then, on ginger-nuts, thought I; never eats a dinner, properly speaking; he must be a vegetarian then; but no he never eats even vegetables, he eats nothing but ginger-nuts. My mind then ran on in reveries concerning the probable effects upon the human constitution of living entirely on ginger-nuts." 

- Herman Melville, Bartleby, 1856

I was originally going to make Lydia Marie Child's Cider cake but ended up deciding against it. I thought these Ginger nuts would be a tasty accompaniment to the warm cider I had. Ginger-nuts are described in period sources as "little cakes," and seemed to be popular treat. Even William Alcott, the very health conscious father of  Louisa May Alcott, considered ginger nuts to be one of the "least objectionable" pastries. They could be cut out with cutters or formed into "nuts" or lumps and baked that way as is detailed in  The Complete Biscuit and Gingerbread Baker's Assistant (1854.) They are still popular in New Zealand but seem to have lost favor elsewhere.

The ginger and molasses taste went perfect with warm cider but would be as equally good dipped in tea. I only baked mine for 10 minutes because I knew we were going to eat them soon. The longer you bake them and the time they are in storage will determine the hardness. The full recipe would make about 200, 2 inch biscuits!  This was definitely a recipe designed to be baked once and to be used as needed for the rest of the year.

Surprisingly, even my family liked them and they are oddly addictive. I thought the hardness would deter people from eating them but they softened up in a day and were chewy although I know they will harden again in the next week or two. And even though we had a lengthy conversation about them not being dog biscuits, my sister's puppy still stole one from the table when I was not looking. This is definitely a recipe I will make again and it's a perfect reenactment snack. Being similarly hard would make this a good item to send to the soldiers during the war. 

Civil War Cookie Recipe Ginger Nuts

Civil War Cookie Recipe Ginger Nuts

Ginger Nuts


- 3 1/3 Cups Flour (And more, this recipe eats flour)
- 3/4 Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Molasses
- 1 1/4 sticks of Butter, softened
- 1 Ounce Ground Ginger
- 1/4 of a Nutmeg, Grated
- Cinnamon to Taste


Makes about 4 dozen cookies. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar, softened butter, molasses, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add flour until it forms a thick paste (about 3 1/3 cups). On a heavily floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 of an inch and cut shapes. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on desired hardness. This recipe makes about 4 dozen 2 inch biscuits. 

Civil War Cookie Recipe Ginger Nuts

December 8, 2017

"A Man Could Propose to This Pie" WWII Era Recipe: Pecan Pie

WWII Era Recipe: Pecan Pie

Recipes for the earliest versions of pecan pie date back to the 1880s but the dish didn't reach its height of popularity until the 1940s when sugar rationing made this sugarless dish a good alternative to other pies. Older recipes tend to favor molasses while newer ones tend to favor corn syrup. The Karo corn syrup company helped popularize it in the 30s and 40s. 

Pecan pie has strong southern associations due to the cultivation of pecan trees there. It is currently the official dessert of the state of Texas, which is fitting, because the earliest recipes that are most similar to pecan pie today started popping up in the 1880s in Texas.   

I chose to make the Grandma's Old Fashioned Molasses version because, ahem, I'm giving it to a man--I mean--because molasses is the best nutritional substitute for sugar according to Sweets Without Sugar (1945), a book dedicated to wartime sweetener substitutes. (We'll see.)  I also used margarine as my shortening to keep in theme with WWII era substitutions. 

WWII Era Recipe: Pecan Pie WW2

WWII Era Recipe: Pecan Pie WW2


- 2 Eggs, Beaten
- 1/2 Cup light Corn Syrup
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/16 teaspoon Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Shortening, melted
- 1 Tablespoon Flour
- 1 Cup Chopped Pecans
-  1, 9 inch unbaked Pie Shell

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line your pie pan with crust, a little on the thicker side. Mix eggs, corn syrup, molasses, vanilla and salt. Add melted, but cool-to-the-touch, shortening. (Or else you'll have omelette in your pie.) Mix in your nuts and pour the mixture into your pie crust. Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool completely, then serve with whipped cream and cherries.

WWII Era Recipe: Pecan Pie  World War Two

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