Friday, 14 June 2019

The Serviceability of Metal in a Pioneer Kitchen

          For a Pioneer, the use of metal became a very important part of survival. Skilled tradesmen - "blacksmiths"- would pound iron into a variety of strong, durable, and efficient tools that could be forged into any number of shapes. One area where the use of iron and other metals were especially helpful was in the kitchen. In Pioneer times, the kitchen was often the main room in the settler's home and was the center of activity and vitality. Here was where the family gathered, prepared meals, felt the warmth of the fire, sang songs, and rested. 

At first, all of the tools used in the kitchen and that would be used around the fire were made out of wood. Heavy pots containing the family's meal would be placed on long wooden poles called "lugpoles". If these poles were not changed regularly, the wood would become too dry, and the pole would snap and the settler's meal would vanish into the fire! Because the majority of a settler's diet revolved around meals that needed to be cooked over a fire, the use of metal played an important role in making food preparation and sustenance more sustainable and dependable.  

The efficacy of the Pioneer kitchen was revolutionized when settlers started replacing the use of wood with metal.  Blacksmiths began to create iron cranes in place of lugpoles in place of wood that would quickly become brittle. The crane would be attached to the side of the fireplace wall and hang over the fire, with a hook at the end to hold a heavy pot over the flames. Because the crane was made out of iron, the tool could withstand many years above the fire without being burned or melted. Blacksmiths also began creating "trammels" (a double sided hook that held the pot over the fire and swung on the crane),"trivets" (a metal stand that held the pan over the fire), "andrions" (iron stands that held burning logs), and many more iron tools that greatly transformed the durability and efficacy within the Pioneer kitchen. Soon every pot, pan, and cooking utensil was being made out of metals, and was able to last many, many years of safe use in the colonial kitchen.

In the collection here at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum, we have many metal artifacts and artifacts that would have been used in a Pioneer kitchen. Pictured here is an iron waffle press that would have been used to cook waffles safely over the fire. Pancakes or waffles were a easy, inexpensive meal for settlers, where fruit or sugar was sometimes added on top. In contemporary times, pancakes and waffles are eaten typically at breakfast... but for a Pioneer, they also may have eaten them for dinner or dessert! Settlers would have thickened the pancake batter by adding additional flour before cooking them in a waffle press.

Pioneer Pancakes:

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Makes: 8 pancakes

1 cup (250ml) flour

2 tablespoons (30ml) sugar
1 teaspoon (5ml) baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaton
1 cup (250ml) milk
3 tablespoons (45ml) melted butter

1. Mix together flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl.
2. Beat together eggs, milk, and butter.
3. Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and blend. If you are adding fruit, stir it into the batter.
4. Over medium heat, melt a little butter in a frying pan and pour enough batter to form a 5 inch (13cm) pancake. When the pancake begins to bubble all over and the edges turn brown, flip it and cook the other side.
5. Keep the pancakes in a warm over until you are ready to serve them. 

If you have any interest in learning more about metals, Pioneer life, or the history surrounding the role of the blacksmith and the forge, make sure to mark down on your calendar the 15th and 16th of June from 10am to 4pm for the 4th annual "Smith-In" Blacksmith Festival here at the MuseumMore than eighteen blacksmiths from across Ontario, Quebec, and the USA will come together to share their skills and products with patrons of the museum and fellow smiths.  

Enjoy these Pioneer pancakes at home, and the "Smith-In" festival this 15th and 16th of June!

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