Pioneer kitchen






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As I research materiel for this guide I occasionally find recipes and household tips used by the early pioneers. I have decided to include a few here that can be tried out. Some are recipes are for things other than food. We take no responsibility what-so-ever for any unpleasant results if you try these remedies and recipes.


Tea substitutes.

The pioneers of W.A. were mostly British and this apparently accounts for an almost universal addiction to tea. When they ran out of tea they resorted to all sorts of unusual substitutes including (but not at all limited to):

Wasted barley, known as shingow, burned bread known as burnt Tommy and even native ti-tree leaves.


Take one peck of barley or oats, place in an oven and steam off the moisture until dry but not burned.

Grind or roughly bruise the grain.

Boil 2.5 gallons of water and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Add the grain and mash well.

Leave for 3 hours then drain off the water and keep in another container.

Boil 2 more gallons of water, stand for 10 minutes then add the mashed grain and mash well as above.

Leave for 2 hours and drain off the water and store as above.

Repeat this process with 2 more gallons of water.

Leave to stand for 1 hour then draw off half the liquid.

You should now have about 5 gallons of wort collected.

Mix in 7 lbs of treacle (or dark brown sugar) in 5 gallons of fresh water. (Ie. not the wort.)

Add the 5 gallons of wort

Boil this 'sugar water' with 4 oz of hops for 1.5 hours stirring frequently.

Leave to cool until luke warm then add a cup of yeast and stir well.

Cover the tub with a sack and leave to ferment for 18 hours.

Put into a 9 gallon cask and leave for three days before bunging it up.

Leave for 14 days before drinking.

Hard Times Pudding:

3 tablespoons butter or lard
1 cup water
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup currants
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon bicarb
Mix ingredients well and steam for 3 hours.

London Porter

14 pounds molasses
11 gallons water
6 ounces hops
Boil for 2 hours, allow to cool then add 1 teaspoon of yeast. Put in a covered container (today we would use a fermenter) and allow to ferment for 16 hours. Transfer to a cask. Drinkable in 9 days.

Cooked Parrot

1 parrot
1 pot of boiling water
1 rock
Remove feathers and gut the bird. Place in boiling water and add a small rock. When the rock is soft the parrot is ready to eat. (Alternately: Boil for 2 days, remove rock, remove parrot, throw parrot away and eat the rock.)

We take it from this recipe that parrots are a wee bit tough.

Preserving meat

There are a number of different methods that were used to preserve meat before the invention of refrigeration.

1. Preserving in salt brine.

Use 1 part salt to 32 parts water.
Cut the meat into sections of about 10 lbs each.
Put the meat in the brine, add a splash of vinegar and allow to soak for 6 days.
Remove the meat, dry it off and store in old flour sacks.
Store in a cool dry place.

This method is suitable for pork or beef which should keep for about 6 weeks.

You can add a second process to this by:
Making a sugar brine mixture of 4 cups of brown sugar in 4 gallons of water.
Add a splash of vinegar.
Inject some of this into the already salted meat.
Soak the meat in the sugar brine for 3 days.
Remove from brine, soak in warm water then wash in cold water scrubbing off any accumulated scum.
Hang the meat up and allow to drain for 24 hours.
Smoke the meat for 3 days.

Meat treated this way can last as much as 4 months.

Curing should always be done in the part of the year when temperatures are at their lowest.

Cured ham

3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Red Pepper
2 Cups Salt

Mix the ingredients and rub on to the skin of the ham making sure to pay particular attention to the hock. Wrap in paper and then on cloth. Place in a cloth bag and hang hock down. Keep in a dark well ventilated room. It will drip for about two months and will be ready to eat after between 6 and 9 months.

Make your own yeast

Instead of the dried yeast we have available today the pioneers had to come up with their own ways of making their bread rise. As yeast spores are in the air it was usually easy enough to catch them in a mix of some sort and keep part of the mix aside after making bread to use next time.

1. Sourdough.

Cup of plain unbleached white flour
2 cups of rainwater

Mix in a bowl. Cover with a cheesecloth and peg it to the rim of the bowl. Leave in a warm corner of the kitchen out of direct sunlight. Stir once or twice a day. After 2-3 days bubbles should appear on the surface. Add a desert spoon full of water and flour and mix in well. transfer to a clean bowl and repeat this process for 7 days. After 7 days split the mix into 3-4 glass jars each with a small breathing hole in the lid and store in the fridge.

Each glass jar should have about 500ml of mix in. Use half of this per loaf you make. Mix in with the bread dough and leave overnight.

When you are down to the last bottle place in a bowl and add 2 cups of flour and 2 of water. Start the process all over again.

2. Potato mix.

Boil some potatoes for dinner and keep the water aside.
When cooled add some left over mashed potato 1/4 cup of sugar and a cup of flour.
Stir and set in a warm area of the kitchen covered with a cheese cloth.
Watch for bubbling.
Add flour, sugar and water as needed.

This type of yeast acts slowly and needs several hours to make bread rise.

Ye Olde art of butter making

Allow your raw whole milk (Ie. from the cow not from the carton) settle for 2-3 hours so the cream rises to the top.

Skim off the cream using a slotted spoon.

Keep the cream cold until enough has been collected to make the butter.

The cream needs to stand until it begins to sour. If it does not do this then it will not separate properly.

Fill your butter churn half full of cream and start to churn it. As the cream thickens it with start to separate, one part being the butter and the other the butter milk. This can take half an hour or more.

When the butter has been scooped out use a butter pat (a flat wooden implement) to work the butter in a bowl until all the butter milk comes out. Remove the butter milk as it comes out of the butter.

Pour a small amount of very cold water in with the butter and work the butter. As the water discolours remove it and add fresh water. Keep doing this until the water remains clear.

When all the water has been worked out add 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of butter and work it through.

Place butter into butter moulds making sure there are no air bubbles.

Wrap in butter paper and store in a cool place.

Ye new easy way of making butter

Use un-pasteurized, raw cream an electric mixer with a wire whip. Whip for about 5 minutes. Remove butter milk. Wash with water as per the instructions above. Put into old margarine containers and store in the fridge.

Easier still - just buy some at the shop.


Basic wood glue

Unlike today where everything you want is as far away as the local shops, people used to have to make most things for themselves. This is a recipe for making a type of glue, although how effective it is we are yet to test.

First heat some milk until quite warm then remove from the heat and add some vinegar. The milk will separate and you remove the thick white substance and keep it aside.

Next soak some ash from burnt timber in water. Strain the resulting fluid and discard the strained material.

Add the white substance obtained from the milk to the strained ash water and mix the two together until you get a smooth paste. You now have a glue.

How well this works with today?s watered down milk we don?t know but we will test it out eventually.

Wallpaper paste

1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp alum
1 cup cold water
2 cups boiling water

Mix the flour and sugar and add cold water. Mix until there are no lumps. Place in a saucepan on a stove at medium heat and add boiling water. Stir constantly. Boil until mixture is stiff then remove from heat and add alum.

Waterproof glue

6 tbsp water
2 packets unflavored gelatin (1/2 oz.)
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp glycerine

Boil water in saucepan, remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir until dissolved. Add glycerine and vinegar stirring well. Allow to cool slightly and store in a sealed glass jar. Best applied when warm. When glue gets too hard to use in the jar simply place in a pot of hot water.

Waterproof glass sealant

2 tbsp cold water
1/2 oz unflavored gelatin
3 tbsp skim milk
Oil of cloves

Dissolve gelatin in cold water. Boil milk and stir into gelatin. Add a few drops of oil of cloves. Store in a sealed container. Soften as for recipe above. Best applied warm.

Gum Arabic

3 tbsp gum Arabic
1 tbsp glycerin
1/2 tsp water

Mix and store in airtight container.


Remedy to staunch bleeding of a wound.

Use spider web, ointment made from the marshmallow plant and pure fat.

Home made penicillin.

The mould from around the edges of jam jars was smeared onto wounds that were festering. It apparently had quite beneficial effects.

Drawing boils or abscess

A mixture of milk and bread or of soap and sugar was used as a poultice. Glass jars with large bodies and small necks were sometimes heated in boiling water and then placed over the head of the boil but this was a very painful form of treatment.

Common cold remedies

Hot stout and aspro. A rub with camphor oil to relieve congestion.

It is said that cutting out dairy products if you catch the flu will help as milk etc. increase the production of mucus.

2 drops of lavender oil in some luke warm water can be sponged over the neck and chest to help lessen a fever.

Eucalyptus oil is a decongestant and can be inhaled.

Fresh dried thyme leaves added to a bowl of hot water can be inhaled.

Ginger, sage and lemon balm can all be made into weak tea and with honey added may help as a decongestant and fever reducer.

In the early stages of a cold stay in bed and keep as warm as possible.

Salt water gargle can help a sore throat. Other remedies included gargling with Condy's crystals, or gargling with a mix of 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 oz of glycerine and water to make up to 3 oz.

Lemon and honey drinks made with warm water.

For coughs apply a mustard plaster made with mustard and egg whites spread on a flannel and placed on the chest.

Garlic is anti-bacterial.


Brown paper and vinegar placed on the forehead.

A tea made from willow bark, peppermint or chamomile.

Inflamed Eyes

Apply a poultice of scraped raw potato.


Mix fresh ginger, hot water, lemon juice, cinnamon and cloves with hot water and drink.

Chapped hands

Rendered caul fat.


Use neat whisky applied to the tooth and gum (and swallow some just for fun). For those who don't touch the demon drink use a poultice of salt and egg yolk.


A mixture of 1/2 oz of Peruvian bark, 1 oz orris root, 1/2 oz myrrh and 2 oz of pulverised chalk.

Skin Infections

Rub in a mixture of honey, chopped onions, castor oil and flour (or bread).

Bee Stings

Remove the sting and then apply some honey. Also try a paste made from bicarb of soda and water.

Ant Stings

Rub the crushed fiddle head of bracken fern into the bite site.

Mosquito and ant bites (stings)

Run a slice of raw onion on the affected area. You could also try a paste made from baking soda and water or Epsom salts or even just damp salt.

A paste of water and cornstarch can be used on insect bites, also on nappy rash.

Mix lime juice and water and dab on mosquito bites.


Cleaning a table

Scrub with sand and soap, pour boiling water over it and leave in the sun to dry.

Cleaning Windows

Equal parts of methylated spirits and water on newspaper. (this is still used today.)

Removing Ink Stains

If the ink is fresh apply dry salt and add new salt as it becomes discoloured. If the ink is dry sponge with methylated spirits.

Rust Stains in Clothes

Soak in buttermilk.

Other Stains on Clothes

Mix salt and lemon juice and coat the stain. Allow to dry and then wash.

Revive Lace

Dip in water mixed with 2 teaspoons of sugar.

Whitening Clothes

Mix 1 cup of methylated spirits or half a cup of borax with the washing water. Also keep eggshells and place them in a tied cotton bag. Put this in the wash when boiling up the water.

Clarify Muddy Water

Stir a handful of flour into the water and wait 10 minutes.

Waterproof Boots

Rub with raw suet, bees wax or linseed oil.

Cleaning leather

Mix egg whites and sugar and whisk into a meringue. Apply with a cloth.

Make Candles Last Longer

Sprinkle a little salt in the melted wax on top of the candle.

Cleaning Tinware

Wash in soapy suds and wipe dry. Apply dry flour and rub with newspaper.

Cleaning wood panelling

Use warm beer. Rub with a cloth. Air room well as it will smell like a pub.

Making Starch

Grate 4 large potatoes and cover with water. Shake well and leave for 2 hours. Mix the pulp and water well by hand. Remove the pulp and drain off the water. Dip clothing into the starch and leave to dry.

Making soap

9lbs of rendered fat (see below for how to render fat)
5 quarts of rainwater
19 oz of Lye (sodium hydroxide)
1/4 lb of borax (optional)
1/4 lb of rosin (optional)

(A note about Lye: This is a strong base and should be treated with care. Use wooden spoons, glass bowls and NO aluminium when preparing your mixture. Protect your hands with rubber gloves and ensure none gets on your skin or near your eyes. Dissolve lye using cold water and add the lye to the water not the water to the lye.)

Boil for 2.5 hours until thick. When ready it should leave a creamy layer on the spoon used to stir it and should form into a cream cheese like substance when poured onto a cold plate.

Allow to set for 3 days in a wooden box lined with a cloth (to make getting the soap out easier but today you can use plastic wrap) or pour into moulds etc. Cut into blocks and leave it in cut sections in the tray for a further 2 to 3 days.

When hard enough break up into blocks and lay out for between 3 and 7 days to allow further drying to take place before storing away. Keep for a further 2 to 6 weeks (depends on how fast it hardens) before use. If you want to get all technical you can use litmus paper to test the soap. A reading of 10 or over means it isn't ready. The closer it is to 7 the better.

If you want to get more ambitious you can add various dyes and perfumes just after the cooking process and other ingredients like lanolin, glycerin and even oatmeal. Small amounts of salt, lemon juice, sugar ammonia, coal oil etc. have all been used in various recipes.

Technical terms: Tallow = fat rendered from beef. Lard = fat rendered from pork. Tallow makes the hardest soap, lard makes a medium hard soap. Fats can be mixed to change the consistency and even vegetable oils can be added to the mix.

Don't be surprised if your home made soap doesn't produce lots of frothy bubbles. Modern soaps, detergents etc. all have frothing agents added as we seem to relate froth with grease cutting power. The bubbles make no difference at all but if you have to have them you can add some coconut oil or olive oil.

Colouring soap can be done by using a simple crayon, crayons are mostly made of fat anyway. Simply add one to the mix after the boiling process and after the lye has been added and the mix is about right. It's not exactly a pioneer trick, they didn't bother much with colour, but it will work.

Perfume can be added in the same way with essential oils. Again not a pioneer priority but they would have if they could have !

The lye - water - fat ratio in your soap determines how good it will be. Experimentation is really the only way you will get this mix right. laundry soap should have more lye, hand and face soap less.

Adding ingredients at the right time is also important. The following gives an idea of the correct order to add items to the mix. Most items listed here are for more modern versions, water, fat and lye are all you need for 'old time soap':

Heat but don't boil this mixture.

1. Water
2. Sugar - for clear soaps
3. Salt - if used
4. Ammonia - an emulsifying agent.
5. Borax - also an emulsifying agent.
6. Lye
7. Fat (or pre-mixed fats and oils)
8. Lanolin - if used
9. Coal oil
10. Lemon juice

Remove from heat at this stage.

These ingredients now all need to mix properly (coated spoon and cold plate test may help in working this out.)

11. Oatmeal
12. Vitamin E
13. Colours.
14. Extra fat - optional but can improve consistency.
15. Essential oils once the mix has cooled a bit.

Before pouring the mix into your setting tray etc. it must be thick enough not to separate but runny enough to pour.

Oh and one last thing, if you want floating soap you can add a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate to your mix after step 6.

Most of the information on how to make soap was sourced at check the site out for even more info on how to make your own soap.


1 bar of soap (see above recipe)
4 quarts of rain water
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 teaspoon of borax
1 oz bay rum

Boil the water and add soap. Continue to simmer until dissolved. Allow to cool and then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

For Dandruff in Hair

Mix 1 ounce of pulverised sulphur in 1 quart or rainwater. Shake well every few hours. Pour off water and use to saturate scalp every morning.


A bushel of lime
2 lbs of sulphate of zinc
1 lb common salt

Put lime in a watertight container and add sufficient boiling water to cover to a depth of 5 inches.

Mix thoroughly. Dissolve sulphate of zinc and salt in water and add to the lime mixture. Mix until regular consistency attained.

Fatty lamp

A straight stick is wrapped well in cloth strips soaked in animal fat. This is then placed in a tin and sand poured in so that the stick stands upright. More fat is them poured into the sand until it is saturated and the cloth on the stick can then be lit to provide quite a good light. The disadvantage with these lamps was (apparently) the awful smell they produced.

Rendering fat

Fat can be rendered in two ways, the second is probably safer as there is no chance of the fat catching fire.

Method 1.

If possible put the fat through a meat grinder then place in a deep saucepan or large pot and heat. As the fat comes out spoon it into a clean jar with a metal ladle.

Method 2.

Half fill a pot with water and bring to the boil. Then add as much fat as will fit in the pot. Boil for half an hour and then strain. If you have more fat add this to the water and repeat the process. When done place the liquid in a container and chill in the fridge. After a while the fat will rise to the surface and can be collected.

Control powdery mildew

A few drops of Condie's crystals (Potassium permanganate) in a bucket of water used as a wash over the affected area.

Fungal disease in plants

A seaweed spray can be used to help stop fungal diseases in plants.


Deterring ants

Dip a cloth in kerosene and wipe it over the area you want to keep ants away from.

Dry crushed mint leaves, cinnamon sticks and cloves seem to deter ants.

Place table legs in containers filled with water to stop ants climbing up the legs.

To kill ants, mix equal parts of icing sugar and borax to form a paste. Place where ants will find it and leave them to carry it back to their nest.

Blow fly repellent.

Before the advent of fly screens tomato plants hung in windows and doorways were used to discourage blowflies.

Mosquito repellent

A few drops of lavender oil mixed with a table spoon full of almond oil can be applied to the skin.

4 parts glycerine, 4 parts alcohol, 1 part eucalyptus oil used as a rub on repellant.

Pennyroyal Essence left in an open bottle or jar in a room keeps mozzies out.

Add 1 teaspoon full of olive oil to outside water tanks to stop mozzies breeding.

Basil, Lavender, Castor Bean Plant, Scented Geraniums, Citrosa Plants, Lemon Thyme, Citronella Grass, Common Marigold, Thai Lemon Grass, Rosemary, Chamomile, Citriodora planted around the house will help repel mosquitoes and flies.

Cockroach baits

Mix equal parts of icing sugar, boric acid and corn meal.


Repelled by banana peel and powdered rosemary.

Washing clothes, bed sheets etc. add a small amount of vinegar.

Snails and slugs

A cup sunk into the ground half filled with flat beer will capture and kill snails and slugs.

General insect control

A spray made from pure soap and water sprayed on to insects has been found to kill them by dehydration.

and last but not least, a cure for quarrelling.

Steep a sassafras root in 1 pint of water and put into a bottle. When your husband comes to quarrel, fill your mouth with it and hold until he goes away.


Related topics

First Explorers and settlers | Settlement




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