Potatoe Cake - Original 1796


This is an original recipe from 1796:

Boil potatoes, peel and pound them, add yolks of eggs, wine and melted butter, work with flour into paste, shape as you please, bake and pour over them melted butter, wine and sugar.

a quote from 1759:

“Remember that beans, badly boiled, kill more than bullets; and fat is more fatal than powder. In cooking, more than anything else in this world, always make haste slowly. One hour too much is vastly better than five minutes too little, with rare exceptions. A big fire scorches your soup, burns your face, and crisps your temper. Skim, simmer, and scour, are the true secrets of good cooking.”

Eighteenth Century Cookware Care

The care of eighteenth century cookware was extremely important to successful cooking. Wooden buckets should always have water in them. This swells the wood and keeps the buckets from leaking or falling apart. Wooden bowls should be seasoned with oils to keep them from becoming dried and cracked. Wipe the inside with a cloth that has been dipped in unsalted fat and allow the bowl to absorb the oil.

Cast iron pots were “seasoned” with fat and hung over a fire or placed in an oven for two hours, wiping the pot twice more with fat during this time. Salt was used as a natural abrasive for removing stuck-on foods. Pots that appeared “rusty” or had a metallic taste were re-seasoned.


This Indian bread was prized for travel by the Native tribes and the early French. A very plain but filling bread is produced.

1 c. fine corn meal (Indian corn)
3/4 c. boiling water
1/4 c. cranberries
pot of boiling water

Mix cornmeal with 3/4 c. boiling water. Form into a round, flattened loaf. Cranberries were added for extra flavor, a common practice during berry season. Rinse hands in cold water and rub outside of loaf to give a shiny appearance. Drop loaf into pot of boiling water. The pot or kettle should be large enough so that the loaf does not touch any of the sides of the pot. Boil for one hour or until loaf floats.

A second method for making Gagaitetaakwa was to bake it, buried under the ashes, with a roaring fire above, until it is baked thoroughly.


1 muskrat
2 medium onions
salt and pepper

Skin and remove the musk gland from the “rat”. Immerse in a kettle of water. Chop and add both onions. Salt and pepper to taste. Parboil until a scum is no longer produced. Drain off water, leaving onions with the muskrat. Add more water and parboil again until tender. Remove and fry as you like in a skillet.

Muskrat was and still is by some, considered a delicacy by the French inhabitants of the Great Lakes. This small game animal lives in marshy areas and has a strong but tasty flesh. The musk gland must be removed before cooking. If the gland is left, the muskrat will taste as if it were allowed to rot. “Rat” cooking is still alive today, notably along southeastern Michigan.


6 to 8 lbs. venison
1/2 to 1 lb. salt pork

Tie salt pork to venison and place in roasting pan. Roast over an open fire for 18 minutes per ound of venison. (can be oven roasted at 325* F.) If salt pork is not available, baste the meat with butter throughout roasting time.

French and English soldiers often traded with the local Indian tribes for deer, bear and turkey.

RATION STEW - 1774 - 1779

Also known as “Green Death”, this stew was served to the military during the revolution.
This was a staple for the common soldier - easy to prepare, did not spoil quickly and anything could be added that was on hand.

1 lb. salt pork
1/2 lb. dried peas and/or rice
fresh or dried vegetables according to season

Brown salt pork and cook in pot of water for one-half hour. If using dried peas, let them soak in water ahead of time until they swell. Dried peas take longer to cook than do fresh peas, so they should be added to the pot at the same time as the salt pork. If using rice, add it directly to the boiling water to avoid clumping. Fresh or dried vegetables should be added later. Simmer until done - about 2 to 3 hours. Herbs and spices such as parsley, thyme and rosemary could be added.

While common soldiers ate Ration Stew, the officers had:


2 lbs. beef
1/2 c. corn (Indian corn)
1/2 c. peas
4 medium potates
2 T. flour

Debone and dice beef. Brown the meat thoroughly. Peel (if desired) and dice potatoes. Place beef, potatoes and peas in pot and cover with water. Dissolve flour in 1 cup water and add to pot. Allow to simmer for about 45 minutes or until gravy begins to thicken. Add corn and cook for 20 minutes more.

RATION SOUP - 1796 - 1815

The cooks preparing this standard fare for the common soldier were told to add hard or dry vegetables as to the vegetables in season. Also, the meat, or part of it, could be removed from the soup and replaced by more water! It was written that when one pound of meat was removed, ten gallons of water were added and if it was too thick - they were instructed to add more water!

1 lb. beef
5 pints water
vegetables of the season
1/2 lb. bread, sliced

Place the 5 pints water and beef in a vessel. Bring to a rolling boil and skim off foam. Moderate the heat; add salt to taste. Add 1 lb. vegetables of the season such as potatotes, beans, turnips, carrots, peas. Simmer 1 to 2 hours. A few minutes before the end of simmering, add sliced bread. Reduce for 5 to 6 hours. Add water to broth to replace losses before serving.


This was common to the soldiers of the 18th century. July, 1759, a French captain noticed that the Iroqouis warriors had been consuming a great deal of British provisions. They knew that the English army had nothing to eat but flour cooked in cakes under ashes.

1 lb. flour

Mix flour and salt (if they had some) with water until a thick, damp dough is made. Mold in the cup of your hand making a flat cake.

Place the ahses of your fire atop a rock, if possible. Bake for half an hour or until blackened. Remove, cool and eat.

The soldiers usually had a abundance of spoiled meat. This meat was used (for instance) by soliders in the Lake Ontario region to catch the eels that were plentiful. The spoiled meat was placed in in a cloth bag with a rope tied to it. After a time in the water, the bag was hauled to shore and the eels removed.

Stewed Eel

1 eel
2 oz. vinegar
1/2 pint milk
1 oz. flour

Remove the skin and backbone from the eel. Cut into 2-or-3 inch sections. Allow to simmer in water for 1/2 hour. Discard the water and replace with fresh water.

Add vinegar and stew another 1/2 hour. Drain again. Combine milk and flour in small vessel as a cream sauce, add to the eel and bring to a boil for 2 minutes and serve.

Some eels were cooked without the removal of the backbone or cutting into pieces calling this process - “eel jumping in the pan” which is a characteristic action of eels cooked that way.

In 1760, the use of fishing nets allowed the soldiers to catch fish (whitefish, sturgeon, bass and eel) to supplement their daily rations.

Pork Chowder

1 lb. salt pork
1/2 lb. dried peas
2 onions
2 lbs. fish
1 T. flour

Soak peas overnight to soften. Mince pork and fish. Brown pork in kettle. Add fish, onions, peas and water to pork. Simer for about one hour. Blend flour and a small amount of water into a paste and add to thicken the chowder. Season with what they had to use.

Since British soildiers were not allowed to hunt they had to trade with the Indians to obtain venison , turkey or bear.

Since rice was a regular part of the British soldier’s ration and was issued once a week - they were able to make:

Venison with Rice Stew

4 lbs. venison
1 large onion
2 1/2 qts. water
2 c. rice

Mince venison. Simmer venison and onion in water until meat is tender, about 3 1/2 hours. Add salt, pepper and rice. Cover and simer for 25 to 30 minutes. Stir and let simmer, uncovered, another 20 minutes or until rice is tender. When done, most of the water should be absorbed.

Soldiers in the Great Lakes region also supplemnted their rations by eating:

Boiled Fish

Whatever fish was caught - sutrgeon, bass, whitefish

Clean fish well. Remove skin and all scales, but leave the head. Boil in water until the flesh falls off the bones, removing the scum that collects on the sdurface of the water. The fish should be cooked 5 to 10 minutes per pound. When done, season with salt and pepper.

Either eaten as is or served with:

Fish Gravy

1 T. butter
1 T. lard
2 T. flour
1 c. boiling water
2 T. vinegar

Melt butter and lard in pot, add flour; blend until smooth. Add boiling water gradually, stirring until gravy thickens. Add vinegar and mix well.

This gravy was also served in English and New England taverns for years before 1759.

While the soldiers were eating fish and fish gravy - the officers were enjoying:

Passenger Pigeon Pie

Because of the ease of catching these docile passenger pigeons using nets and being clubbed to death, these birds which had flocked in such large numbers became extinct. Due to that, Cornish hens had to be substitued.

In 1773, a Colonel in Oswego was quoted as - "eating a hearty supper of Pidgions and Kildear (small shore birds).

6 pigeons
1 T. butter
2 oz. fat (salt pork or bacon strips)
1 1/2 T. flour
2 c. broth
pepper and salt
3 onions

Place pigeons in Dutch oven with fat (bacon strips were best but not always available). Place in hot fire and cook 5 minutes. Heat 2 c. stock; add flour and butter. Stir until smooth. Slice onions. Add onions and birds to broth. Allow to simmer over a low fire for one hour. Remove and debone the birds, place in a pie dish and add sauce. Cover with pastry crust and bake in hot fire for 10- to 12 minutes.

Crust was made from:

2 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. lard
4 1/2 T. cold water
1/4 t. salt (if they had it)

Rub lard and salt into flour thoroughly until dough comes together and forms a ball. Wet with cold water and roll. Using just enough flour to prevent sticking on board to roll. Kep in cool place until ready to use.