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Cooking: Bread-The Staff of Life

This story is told of the first meal grinding or corn cracking mill erected in the valley: The proprietor would fill the hopper and go about his business, allowing the water power to turn the mill. The meal would pay out as it was ground, into a suitable container. On a few occasions the miller found little or no meal had accumulated, and suspected theft. Stationing himself secretly on watch, he discovered a large, hungry dog at the spout, eating the meal as fast as the mill could produce it. Some persons even say the lanky animal used to betray himself by bellowing up the spout when the meal did not run fast enough to suit him.

At that, the mill was an improvement on the first mills used in the valley, which were hand coffee grinders used in various homes, for breaking and actually grinding corn and wheat in suitable form for use as flour or meal.

The first grain grinding mill in the valley was completed some time in the winter of 1847 or right early in 1848, by Charles Crismon. It was located on City Creek.

But on April 1, 1848, John Steele wrote: "I could get a bushel of sweepings at the millstones where corn was ground for $5.00 from Brother Crismon, who had his little corn cracker at the mouth of City Creek. After I got it and made a cake, we couldn't bite it for the grit, so we made mush and used it that way."

It was not until the Danish immigrants came to Utah that yeast was used for raising the dough of bread. Mrs. Georgine Dorcas Christensen, a pioneer of the famous Danish Emigration of 1853, says that yeast was brewed by combining salt sponge and a malt for beer as made by the Danish people.

Salt Rising Sponge. 1 cup flour; 2 tsp. salt and 3/4 cup warm water. Stir and let stand in a warm place until it forms bubbles and shows action.

Malt. Cover wheat or rye with water and let stand three days or until the grain is soft and shows signs of sprouting. Drain off moisture and spread the sprouting grain on table to dry, turn often to avoid moulding while drying. When dry, brown in oven. Grind and place in barrels, cover with water and let stand until the strength is drawn from the grain, drain off the water and save; add salt sponge and keep in a warm place. When the beverage shows signs of working drain off into barrels or bottles for family use. The chalky settlings in the barrel are the nucleus for the yeast which is made as follows: 1 potato boiled and mashed, including the potato water. When luke warm add 1 tablespoon salt and 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 cup of malt yeast. Stir together and let stand in a warm place for 2 hours; it is then ready for the making of bread. A cup of yeast was always kept and was used to start the new yeast and the oftener the yeast was made the more successful the bread.

Home-made Yeast. Boil six large potatoes in three pints of water. Tie a handful of hops in a small muslin bag and boil with the potatoes; when thoroughly cooked drain the water on enough flour to make a thin batter; set this on the stove or range and scald it enough to cook the flour (this makes the yeast keep longer); remove it from the fire and when cool enough, add the potatoes mashed, also half a cup of sugar, two tablespoons of salt and a teacupful of yeast. Let it stand in a warm place, until it has thoroughly raised then put it in a cool place; the jug should be scalded before putting in the yeast. Two thirds of a coffee cupfull of this yeast will make four loaves.

Yeast Bread. Take some warm potato water, add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 start of yeast into potato water. Let stand overnight. 1/2 pan flour. Add 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 cup lard. Mix into the remaining flour. Knead well. Let rise. Form into loaves. Grease the loaves well. (Greasing makes loaves square and produces a brown crust.)

Salt-Rising Bread. While getting breakfast in the morning as soon as the tea has boiled, take a quart tin cup or an earthen quart milk pitcher, scald it, then fill one full of water about as warm as the finger could be held in; then to this add a teaspoonful of salt a pinch of brown sugar and coarse flour to make a batter of about the right consistency for griddle cakes. Set the cup, with the spoon in it, in a closed vessel half filled with water moderately hot, but not scalding. Keep the temperature as nearly even as possible and add a teaspoonful of flour once or twice during the process of fermentation. The yeast ought to reach to the top of the bowl in about five hours. Sift flour into a pan, make an opening in the center and pour in yeast. Have ready a pitcher of warm milk, salted, or milk and water (not too hot or you will scald the yeast germs), and stir rapidly into a pulpy mass with a spoon. Cover this sponge closely and keep warm for an hour, then knead into loaves, adding flour to make the proper consistency. Place in warm well pans, cover closely and leave till it is light. Bake in a steady oven and when done let all the hot steam escape. Wrap closely in damp towels and keep in closed earthen jars until it is wanted.

Sourdough Bread was used by men on the range in early days before baking powder or yeast were available. They carried, with their camp outfit, a one gallon crock with a lid that fitted securely down into the mouth of the crock. When camp was pitched and a big fire built, they would get out the crock, also a pan half of flour, make a hole in the center of the flour, and into it pour the sourdough from the crock. Then add soda and a little salt, according to their judgment. The amount of soda was determined by the sourness of the batter. The flour was then mixed in to make a soft dough. This was flattened into a flapjack shape, placed in a hot bake covered with a lid that had been heated on the coals. Then some red coals or bits of burning wood were placed under the skillet, and some on top of the lid to keep it at baking temperature. When the bread was nice and brown, it was cooked through. The sourdough batter was made originally by mixing flour, a small amount of salt with enough warm water to make a batter thick enough to bask a spoon, placing the crock in the warm earth near enough to the fire to keep it warm. When it began to ferment and bubble, it was set aside. When sufficiently sour, it was used in the bread. Each time a start was left in the crock, more flour and water were added and it was placed in a warm place. In this way, it would be sufficiently sour to be used for the next meal. Sometimes enough bread was baked in the morning to do for the noon meal.

There was no butter available, but the meat for the meal was roasted in a second bake. When the meat was done, the skillet of meat was placed near a big canvas on the ground that served as a table. The men sat on the canvas around the skillet and dipped their bread in the hot fat. This, with molasses and a hot drink, often made the meal.

Whole Wheat Bread. Recipe brought to America by Phoebe E. C. Hale in 1850:1 egg; 1/3 cup brown sugar; 3 tbs. molasses or honey; 1 tsp. soda; 2 cups whole wheat flour; 1 tsp. salt; 11/2 tbs. melted butter; 2 cups buttermilk; 1/2 cup raisins; 1/2 cup nutmeg; 1 tsp. baking powder. Bake one hour in hot oven.

Graham Bread. 1 quart potato water or milk; 1/2 cup sugar; 1 tbs. salt; 1 large tbs. lard. One piece of white dough size of a small loaf or 1 cup yeast and enough graham flour to make a soft dough. Soften dough with luke warm potato water and add other ingredients. Let rise for 2 hours. Mold into loaves with dampened hands and place in well greased pans. Let rise 15 minutes or until the oven is ready for baking. Bake in hot oven until slightly brown and then for one additional hour at a moderate oven heat. 1 quart buttermilk, 1 tsp. soda; 1 tsp. baking powder; 1/2 tsp. salt; graham or whole wheat flour to make a medium stiff dough. Drop large spoonsful of dough in well greased dripper 11/2 in. apart and bake in hot oven. Eat hot with generous supply of butter and honey or jelly.

Mrs. Anderson's Jule Kage. 2 yeast cakes; 1/2 cup water; 1 tbs. sugar; 1 pint milk, scalded and cooled; 11/2 cup sugar; 3 or 4 eggs, beaten; 1 tsp. salt; 1 cup melted butter; 1 pkg. seeded raisins; 3 tsp. cardamon seed (or spice); citron if desired; about 10 cups flour. Dissolve yeast cakes in water and add 1 tbs. sugar. Combine yeast mixture with milk, 11/2 cup sugar, eggs, salt and butter. Add 3 cups flour; cardamon seed or spice, raisins and citron and mix well. Add more flour to make soft dough, up to 7 or 8 cups. Let rise until double in bulk, knead down, form into 3 loaves, brush top with beaten egg yolk diluted with milk. Bake at 350F. moderate oven 45 to 60 minutes.

Mrs. Robert Winn's Currant Bread. Recipe brought from Old Wales by her grandmother Margaret Reese in 1856. Used as substitute for Christmas cake. 1 yeast cake; 1/4 cup lukewarm water; 2 sieves flour (9 cups) 1 lb. shortening; 1 lb. raisins; 1 lb. currants; 1 1/2 cup sugar; 1/2 cup molasses; 5 halves candied lemon peel, cut fine; 1 tbs. nutmeg; 1 tbs. salt; 3 cups water (about). Soften yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Rub shortening into flour. Add remaining ingredients, including yeast mixture, except water. Mix well, then add enough warm water (about 3 cups) to make soft but not sticky dough. Let rise overnight (about 7 hours) then form into 4 small loaves. Let rise again (about 2 hours) and bake at 300F. (moderate for 11/2 hours.

Cleo Udy's Steamed Boston Brown Bread. Recipe from her 83 year old grandmother. 1 cup white flour; 1 cup yellow cornmeal; 2 cups graham flour; 1/2 tsp. salt; 2 cups sour milk; 1 tsp. soda; 1 tbs. boiling water, 1 cup molasses; 1 cup raisins or chopped dates. Sift flours and corn meal with salt, and add the sour milk; dissolve soda in boiling water and add molasses. Beat until foamy and add to flour mixture. Add raisins or dates. Fill greased cans two full and steam 3 hours.

Pone. Upon one quart of corn meal (white is best) pour just enough boiling water to scald it through; stir it thoroughly, let it stand until cold, then rub into it a piece of butter the size of a walnut, and add a little salt. Beat two eggs until light, without separating, add them to the meal, mix well; add one pint of sour milk or buttermilk, beat until smooth. Dissolve one teaspoonful of soda in a tablespoonful of boiling water, stir it into the mixture, turn into a greased baking pan and bake in a quick oven for 35 minutes.

Making Butter. When enough cream had accumulated and had been set aside in temperatures ranging from 56 to 58F., the family churn was properly scalded and the thickened cream poured into it. Then the dasher with its round broomstick handle that extended through a hole in the lid was pushed up and down until the soft globules of butter formed. These were then carefully lifted out into a large wooden bowl and without being washed, since that would destroy certain elements necessary for its preservation, were worked with a flat wooden paddle until all the buttermilk was removed. Two teaspoons of salt were added for each pound of butter.

Many of the pioneer families were fortunate enough to own a mold into which the butter was pressed after the mold had been thoroughly soaked first in hot and then cold water. A paddle was used to remove the excess butter. The handle was then pressed down firmly until the pound came out in perfect form. Sometimes the molds were round and ofttimes they were fashioned with designs of acorns, pines, sheaths of wheat and even buttercups.

Dutch Cheese was made by placing a pan of clabber milk on the back of the stove to warm. When the whey began to form it was stirred and then put in a colander where it was again stirred until most of the whey had been separated from the curds. After it had drained and cooled it was served with cream, salt and pepper and sometimes a little chopped onion.

Mormon Soda Biscuits. 3 cups flour; 1 tsp. salt; 1 tsp. sugar; 1 tsp. baking soda; 3 tbs. shortening; 2 cups sour milk. Sift together the flour, salt, sugar and soda. Cut in the shortening using two knives or fingers. Slowly add the milk until a soft dough is formed. Roll out mixture on a floured board and cut with a biscuit cutter. Bake in a very hot oven for 15 minutes.

Baking Powder Biscuits. 2 cups flour; 4 tsp. baking powder; 2 tbs. shortening; 1/2 tsp. salt; 3/4 cup milk. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add shortening as you would for pie crust. Add milk slowly to make soft dough. Roll or pat out with hands on floured board to thickness of one inch. Cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on greased tin and bake in hot oven for 15 minutes.

Yorkshire Biscuits. Make a batter with flour sufficient and 1 quart of boiling hot milk. When batter has cooled to luke warm add 1 cup yeast and 1/2 tsp. salt. Set to rise and let it become very light. Then stir in 1/2 tsp. soda, 2 eggs and 1 tbs. melted butter. Add flour enough to make the dough into small round cakes. Let rise 15 minutes and bake in slow oven.

Mrs. Ethington's Old Muffins. 2 cups uncooked oatmeal; 11/2 cups sour milk; 1/3 cup sugar; 1/4 cup melted shortening; 1 egg, well beaten; 1 tsp. soda; 1 tsp, baking powder; 1/2 tsp. salt; 1 cup flour. Pour sour milk over oatmeal and allow to stand a few hours or overnight. Combine sugar, shortening and egg and add to oatmeal mixture. Sift together remaining dry ingredients and blend. Bake in greased muffin tins in hot oven for 20 minutes. Makes 18 large muffins.

Buckwheat Cakes. First, be sure that you get perfectly pure buckwheat, free from grit. The adulteration with rye injures the quality.

Put one quart of cold water into a stone jar with a small neck, add to it one teaspoonful of salt and three cups of buckwheat flour. Beat well until perfectly smooth; then add 1/2 cup of yeast or half a compressed cake, and mix well; cover the top of the jar with a saucer or plate; let stand in a moderately warm place (65 F.) until morning. In the morning, dissolve a half teaspoonful of saleratus or soda in two tablespoons of boiling water, add this to the batter, beat thoroughly and bake on a hot griddle.

Mother Hansen's Fry Cakes. 2 eggs; 6 tbs. milk; 2 cups flour; 3 tsp. baking powder. Beat eggs until very light. Add sugar, salt, nutmeg, shortening and milk. Add flour and baking powder which have been sifted together. Mix well and drop by teaspoonsful into deep hot fat and fry until brown. Drain on unglazed brown paper and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Johnny Cake. 2 cups buttermilk or clabber; 2 cups cornmeal 1/2 salt; 2 tbs. molasses; 3 cups buttermilk; 2 eggs, well beaten. Sift together the dry ingredients. Slowly stir in the molasses and buttermilk and mix well. Add the beaten eggs and beat hard for 2 minutes. Pour into shallow wellpans and bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.

Johnny Cake. 2 cups buttermilk or clabber; 2 cups cornmeal; 1/2 cup flour; 1 tsp. soda; 1 tsp. salt; 1 tbs. molasses; 1 cup cracklings (crisp bits of fat after the lard has been rendered from them). Put soda in the sour milk and while it is foaming stir in the other ingredients. Pour batter into dripper to bake, then cut in large squares to serve.

Potato Pancakes. 4 large potatoes; peel, wash and grate; 3 eggs, beat until light; 1 tsp. salt; 1 tsp. pepper; add eggs and seasoning to potatoes. Use no baking powder or flour. Fry in hot drippings (ham, bacon or sausage). Have pan very hot as for hot cakes.

Mrs. Clifford N. Scoreby's Swedish Pancakes. 2 eggs beaten; 1 cup milk, pinch salt; add flour to make a thin batter. Pour out thinly to cover greased hot skillet. When slightly brown turn, then fold up into quarters or shape like a piece of pie and put on plate. Unfold and add butter, syrup or jam.

Source: Our Pioneer Heritage
© Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Documents and images are exerpted by permission from the LDS Family History Suite CDROM from Ancestry.

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