8 Long Lasting Pioneer Recipes You Need To Learn By Heart

In today’s fast-paced world of convenience foods and instant meals, it’s easy to forget the humble origins of our culinary traditions.

The pioneer era, emphasizing self-sufficiency and resourcefulness, produced a treasure trove of delicious and practical recipes that are still relevant today.

Whether you’re a history buff, simply looking to expand your cooking repertoire, or aiming to be more self-sufficient, this article will share some long-lasting pioneer recipes you need to learn by heart.


Hardtack is a simple, unleavened bread. It was a staple for pioneers and soldiers alike.

Made using flour, water, and salt, hardtack was a stable and portable source of sustenance, and its long shelf life made it an essential part of any pioneer’s provisions.

How To Make Hardtack

To create hardtack, mix 2 cups of flour, 1 ½ tsp of salt, and ¾ cup of water to make dough.

Roll out the dough, and cut it into small, biscuit-sized pieces.

Related: 1800s Pioneer Items You Should Still Have At Home

Bake the pieces until they are hard and dry, and store them in an airtight container for future use.

Hardtack is very hard and should be soaked in water, milk, or soup for at least 5-10 minutes before eating.

Dried Fruits And Vegetables

Pioneers often relied on drying fruits and vegetables as a means to maximize the usage of their harvest and ensure long-term storage during off-season periods or when fresh produce was scarce.

Drying removes moisture from the produce, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and extending its shelf life.

Apples, peaches, berries, corn, beans, and tomatoes were among the favorites to be preserved through drying.

How To Dry Fruits And Veggies

For pioneers, this process involved cutting the fruits or vegetables into thin slices and allowing them to dry in the sun.

Today we are blessed with dehydrators, which speed up the process and make it much safer and more accessible. If using a dehydrator, instructions on this process can vary greatly.

However, you can create dried fruits and veggies in the oven. To dry fruits and veggies in the oven, preheat it to 120-140°F.

Lay thinly sliced pieces on a baking tray and bake at a low temperature for 6-12 hours, flipping them every 30 minutes. After drying, let them cool for 24 hours, then pack tightly into airtight containers for storage or freezing.

Properly stored in a cool, dry, dark place, dried fruits can last 6-12 months. Aim for a consistent temperature of 59°F for optimal extended storage life.

Salt-Cured Meat

In an era without refrigeration, preserving meat was a crucial skill. Salt-curing involved rubbing salt onto fresh meat, typically beef or pork, to initiate the curing process.

The salt draws out the moisture, which creates an environment unfavorable for bacterial growth and spoilage.

⇒ Dangerous Meat Processing Mistakes You Are Probably Making Right Now

Salt-cured meat provided pioneers with a reliable source of protein that could sustain them during long journeys or when access to fresh meat was limited.

How To Make Salt-Cured Meat

You will need ½ – ¾ tsp of salt per pound to spread evenly over the meat. Ensure you cover all areas evenly and entirely with salt.

Take your salt-covered meat, pop it in the fridge (a luxury our pioneer ancestors lacked), and leave it alone for at least to 24 hours. Larger pieces of meat can safely be salt-cured for 48 hours or longer without issue.

Once the meat is cured to your liking, rinse off any excess salt and pat it dry. You can then wrap it tightly in cheesecloth or butcher’s paper and store it in a cool, dry place like a pantry or cellar. Hanging the meat is another option for storage.


This nutrient-dense, high-energy food was widely consumed by pioneers, hunters, and indigenous peoples.

It was made by drying lean meat, typically buffalo or beef, and pulverizing it into a powder. The powdered meat was then mixed with melted fat and sometimes combined with dried fruits.

Pemmican could be stored for months or even years without spoiling, making it an ideal source of sustenance during long journeys or harsh winters.

How To Make Pemmican

Slice 1½ lbs. shoulder roast into thin slices, adding a generous amount of salt and pepper. Set the oven to 150°F.

Lay the thin slices of meat flat on the cooking rack and keep the oven door slightly ajar to prevent moisture. Dry the meat for at least 15 hours or until it has a jerky-like texture.

Once dry, remove the meat and allow it to cool completely. Grind the dried meat in a food processor until it becomes a fine powder. Repeat the process with any fruit you wish to add.

Next, you will need fat. Many people like to use bison kidneys, which can be purchased already diced into small pieces.

Related: How To Make Delicious Lard With 2 Years Shelf-Life (+ 5 Tasty Recipes)

Place approximately ½ lbs. of kidneys (or whatever meat you are using) into a cast iron pan and cook slowly on low heat, draining the fat when enough and bubbling ceases.

Pemmican can be safely stored for over a year in an airtight container that is kept from heat.

Pickling And Fermenting

Pickling and fermenting were popular methods of preserving vegetables, providing pioneers with a taste of freshness throughout the year.

Vegetables like cucumbers, cabbage, beets, and green beans were submerged in vinegar, water, salt, and spices and fermented over time.

This process not only extended the shelf life of the vegetables but also enhanced their flavors and added beneficial probiotics.

How To Pickle Almost Anything

Who doesn’t love a good dill pickle? You can preserve almost anything through pickling and enjoy it year-round. In fact, pickling is a great way to prevent waste if you are growing fruits and veggies at home.

To pickle almost anything, simply gather your choice of spices, mix them with your fruits or veggies, and pack them tightly into a mason jar.

In a saucepan, bring equal parts water and vinegar to a boil. You can also add sugar and salt to the brine if you wish. I usually add around 1-2 tbsp of salt and sometimes use sugar – you will learn what you like through trial and error.

Remove the liquid from the heat and pour it over the packed veggies, sealing the jar tight.

Related: How To Pickle Watermelon Rind The Amish Way

The best part of pickling is that you can use a variety of spices to create bold, exciting flavors. My favorite mix includes coriander seed, mustard seed, black peppercorns, garlic, onion, and fresh dill. I also like my pickles extra salty, but you can add, remove, or adjust ingredients to create your own delight.

Pioneer Jerky

Beef was a big part of the pioneer diet, and if you have ever purchased a whole or half cow, you know how much meat it can provide.

At a time in history when throwing meat in the freezer was not an option, jerky was one of the easiest, most effective ways to store beef for extended periods.

How To Make Jerky

Slice the meat into thin strips, approximately ¼ to ⅛ inch thick. In a bowl, combine salt, pepper, and any additional spices or seasonings you prefer.

Rub the mixture onto both sides of the meat strips, ensuring they are evenly coated. Allow the seasoned meat to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat a smoker or charcoal grill for indirect heat cooking. Place the marinated meat strips on the grates, making sure they are not touching each other.

Smoke the meat at a low temperature, around 150°F to 175°F, for several hours until it reaches the desired level of dryness and smokiness.

Once fully smoked and dried, remove the jerky from the smoker or grill and let it cool completely. Store the smoked jerky in airtight containers or wrap it tightly for long-lasting preservation.

Molasses Cookies

Molasses cookies were more than just a sweet treat for pioneers; they provided a taste of comfort during challenging times.

The cookies were baked in wood-fired ovens or over open flames. Once baked, the molasses cookies were left to cool, allowing them to develop their signature chewy texture.

Thanks to the molasses and spices, these cookies had a natural preserving effect, helping them stay fresh and enjoyable for weeks or even months.

How To Make Molasses Cookies

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them lightly.

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of molasses, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of melted butter or lard. Stir well until the ingredients are thoroughly blended.

In a separate bowl, sift together 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 4 cups of all-purpose flour.

Related: A Forgotten Wild Edible: Pine Bark Flour

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture, stirring until a dough forms. The dough should be firm but pliable.

Roll the dough into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter, and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Leave enough space between the cookies to allow for spreading during baking. At this point, you can also flatten each ball slightly with the bottom of a glass or your fingertips.

Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for approximately 10-12 minutes, or until they are set and slightly firm to the touch.

To ensure a long shelf life, store the molasses cookies in an airtight container, such as a tin or a glass jar, in a cool and dry place.

Smoked Fish

Pioneers were resourceful individuals who relied on various methods to ensure the long-term preservation of food. One such method was smoking fish.

The process of smoking fish allowed pioneers to take advantage of their fresh catches and ensure a steady supply of protein for months.

How To Make Smoked Fish

Rinse and pat dry the fish fillets, sprinkling both sides with salt. Let the salted fish fillets rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight.

Preheat your smoker or smokehouse to a low heat setting. Arrange the salted fish fillets on smoking racks, leaving enough space between each fillet for smoke circulation.

Smoke the fish for several hours until it becomes opaque and easily flakes apart, maintaining a low heat throughout the smoking process.

Once fully smoked, remove the fish from the smoker or smokehouse and let it cool completely. Store the smoked fish in a cool, dry place in airtight containers for long-term preservation.

Learning and preparing these long-lasting pioneer recipes connects us to our culinary heritage and equips us with practical self-sufficiency and food preservation skills. These recipes, and many others, have stood the test of time and continue to be relevant today.

Sustainable living and resilience are becoming increasingly important again. If you want to learn more about long-lasting foods that will help you survive a local emergency or a country wide disruption, check out The Lost Superfoods. This guide has over 126 forgotten survival foods and is a vital book to place in your survival stockpile.

Through its pages, you’ll discover a wealth of knowledge on traditional foods that provided nourishment during challenging times.

Do you know any pioneer recipes that have been passed down through generations? Share your favorites with us in the comments, and as always, stay safe.

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