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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Popular Meat And Fruit Dishes During The 1800s

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 13 September 2004
Source:
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Wild Animals

A rather delicious treat served by the innkeeper was that of rabbit or squirrel. Squirrels were so plentiful that they were legislated against in Ohio in 1808. Other such delicacies of the times were venison, bear and buffalo.
With the population of the white man gaining by leaps and bounds, soon the larger game of the Ohio country began to disappear, namely the elk and buffalo. In contrast, bears and deer continued for decades.
In 1852, a supper was given in Social Hall at Fremont, which was advertised in the local paper. It stated, "Kessler prepared a supper that must have satisfied the most fastidious. A bear was served up in the best possible style; venison, turkeys, chickens and other game in great profusion, and the other accompaniments of a feast."
Wild hogs were so abundant in Ohio and Indiana that any farmer could shoot them at will in his own woods. Two stories are told as to why they were so numerous. One report reveals that during the War of 1812 hundreds of the animals escaped from the army's commissary department, and that they multiplied in a few years to great numbers.
Another rather plausible story goes that these animals were the offspring of domestic animals that had been left by depressed settlers who had returned to their homes in the East.
The wild hog had rather sweet meat, however, the lard would sour immediately. With an abundance of foodstuffs in which to feed, such as nuts found in great quantities in our virgin forests, they thrived in unlimited numbers.
Long before the extinction of this wild beast, domesticated hogs had come to take their place at the home and tavern table; the same holds true for the ever-present turkeys.

Meat Preparation

The American Indian taught the pioneer how to cure and "jerk" venison. The method of salting and smoking of pork was brought from old England.
Fresh beef or pork was used less in summer time. The absence of this luxury was substituted with the presence of fresh fish caught from the streams.
Rafters of the tavern smoke houses hung full with the choicest of fat hams, shoulders, bacon and strips of "jerked" beef.
The latter was prepared by evenly cutting the fleshy parts of the animal into sheets rarely more than one inch in thickness.
A preservative method was then commenced by dipping these strips into brine or salt, then exposed to the sun and wind and dried before the decaying process set in. In this way, all the nutritive properties of the animal could be sustained.
The entire animal would be consumed, but many prejudices still exist in which the heart, liver, and especially the brains and kidneys, would not be eaten by the pioneer, reason being these were considered the lesser part of the animal.
Mutton was not a favorable treat at the table. William Oliver, an Englishman, wrote in 1842 "mutton is never seen at the table except at the house of some person from the old country or from the eastern states, and the natives cock their noses at it as we should do at a boiled rat. Sheep are kept solely for their wool."

The Reliable Old Milk Cow

The reliable old milk cow came to the rescue of many a pioneer. Products from this domesticated animal included then, as now, cream, butter, cottage cheese, and a whole family of home made nourishing cheeses.
Many taverns had their own spring enclosed with a small upright building constructed of stone or brick, it being named a springhouse. These compact buildings housed the tavern supplies in all weather, except the coldest. Milk, butter and cream were kept in the coolness of the building, and here in the summer the churning was done. Rows of crocks of cream and milk were kept cool in the shallow stream running from the spring.
If the tavern keeper wasn't fortunate enough to have a spring, he used a deep well with a penthouse built over it. He would suspend the buckets of cream or butter into the passageway from ropes for preservation.

Wild Fruits

Staple crops such as potatoes, beans, beets and peas were easily raised in the pioneers' fine gardens. Cabbage was a treat, but its cousins, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, were uncommon.
Tomatoes were taboo to our forefathers and many believed they were poisonous. Originally called "love-apples" or "Jerusalem apples," they were generally used as ornaments on the mantel or other conspicuous places.
Welby's journal refers to the many jam-packed fruit orchards. He had first entered Ohio at Wheeling, journeying over Zane's Trace. His description of the land was that of a wild and uncleared nature for the most part. Upon reaching St. Clairsville he writes:
"The town is well-placed and the buildings good and neat; land thereabouts, a grazing soil, is worth about $20.00 per acre. We bought here out of a waggon-load half a peck of peaches at six cents. The peach and apple orchards are literally breaking down with fruit: every morning we stop at the first orchard to take in as many apples as we want for the day."
William Cooper Howells, in his Recollections of Life in Ohio, writes:
"When the country was new peaches were the easiest fruit to raise. They came forward very quickly, bearing in three or four years from the planting of the stone, and they produced so abundantly, when the frost did not kill them, that they were freely given away to those who would eat or dry them, and sold at twelve cents a bushel to distillers who worked them up into brandy."
Howells states that this common fruit grew to great perfection in the new soil of the new country. He tells us that in 1820 an unlimited crop of peaches was "one of the glories of his early life."
A gentleman was hired to take a four horse-wagon load of peaches to the Steubenville market to dispose of them. Some sold for twenty-five cents a bushel, while more sold for eighteen cents a bushel. The peaches that did not sell were worked up into "peach-leather," a refreshing confection prepared by spreading out a layer of mashed peach-pulp upon a board and drying it in the sun. This venture barely exceeded expenses.
Howells says that "rows of peaches were often alternated with apple-trees and these were coming into perfection in the second decade."
Orchards could hardly be mentioned without the name of Johnny Appleseed coming up. He first arrived in the Ohio country in 1801 with a horse-load of appleseeds gathered from the cider presses of western Pennsylvania.
These seeds were carried in leather bags thrown over the horse's back. His first plantings were on the banks of Licking Creek in Licking County. Working westward, he planted nurseries and orchards everywhere.
Each year he would return with more seeds, which he carried, by horseback, and in many instances, by canoe into many parts of the State. He also carried and planted the seed in Indiana. Here he died and was buried at Ft. Wayne.
After the days of Johnny Appleseed, a man by the name of Nicholas Longworth, a celebrated jurist of Cincinnati, who migrated to the Queen City in 1803, imported skilled gardeners and horticulturists from France. Large varieties of fruits and vegetables were raised in his nurseries. He was most famous for his grapes and strawberries.
The bogs in the northern part of the State, particularly in the Black Swamp area, produced wild cranberries, blueberries and huckleberries. So numerous were these luxuries that people would pick them and load them into wagons. Barrels were also used as gathering devices.
Indians often gathered the berries from the marshy ground on which Toledo now stands and sold them to the housewives and inn- keepers of Perrsyburg.
The Ohio soil also produced wild plums. Thomas Ewing said they were finer than any tame varieties he had ever tasted.
Wild grapes and strawberries were also found in superior numbers. The early Ohio horticulturist found it a simple task to grow cultivated varieties. In the southern part of the State growers began early the cultivation of strawberries which produced fine and plentiful crops.
An article found in a Cincinnati newspaper a few years' later concerning strawberries comments that "few people know what an immense amount of this delightful fruit is sold in this city. About the middle of next week, if the weather be favorable, you will see them sold by the cartload in our market. Probably as many as two or three hundred bushels are sold in a single morning.
"One individual in this neighborhood sells about $3,000 worth in a season. He employs on some days a hundred persons to pick them. In plentiful seasons they are to be had at a very reasonable rate, about an average of ten or twelve cents a quart.
"In addition to the common market in the acme of the harvest you will hear in the warm afternoon the mellow voice of some old Negro singing through the streets, - Strawberries! - strawberries - oh, fine strawberries! - strawberries! - strawberries! - oh, fine strawberries!"


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This page created 13 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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