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by Tobacco Farm Life Museum intern Elizabeth Popovic

Cooking on the Farm


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Cooking on the farm in the Southern United States was a lengthy process. Meals would take hours, if not the entire day, to make. Women, and often children, would spend much of their day working in the kitchen. Through passed down family recipes, this old-fashioned way of cooking has stood the test of time. In 1997, the Tobacco Farm Life Museum created a cookbook composed of recipes that have been in rural Southern families for generations. This online exhibition includes three recipes featured in our Museum's cookbook. Through these three recipes, we share not only how these dishes were cooked but also how farm families gathered the tools and ingredients to make them.You can choose to view the exhibit from beginning to end or choose slides to view individually on the Index page. The Info button includes the sources used on each slide, which can be used for further exploration of each topic. There are optional interactive questions throughout the exhibit to test your knowledge of the tools you will see.


12 Gas Stove . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

11 Corn Fritters Recipe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

10 Corn Fritters Introduction . . . . . . . . . .

09 Wood Stove . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

08 Stove Quiz Question . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

07 Cast Iron Griddle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

06 Cast Iron Fireplace Pot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

05 Cast Iron Quiz Question . . . . . . . . . . . .

04 Collard Greens Quote . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

03 Collard Greens Recipe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

02 Collard Greens Introduction . . . . . . . . .

01 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


24 Enamel Cookware . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

23 Pone Bread Quote . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

22 Electric Stove . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

21 Electric Stove Quiz Question . . . . . . . . .

20 Pone Bread Recipe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

19 Pone Bread Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . .

18 Cast Iron Frying Pan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

17 Cast Iron Pan Quiz Question. . . . . . . . . .

16 Corn Fritters Quote . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

15 Corn Shuck Broom. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

14 Corn Shuck Broom Quiz Question . . . . .

13 Cornshucking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


28 Thank You . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

27 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

26 Dry Goods Tins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

25 Dry Goods Quiz Question . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Collard greens, also known as collards or 'greens', grow throughout the Southern United States. They are most prevalent in the Deep South and the eastern plains of North and South Carolina.Traditional preparation of collard greens usually follows three steps. First, they are 'crapped', or cut at the base of the stalk. Then, they are 'looked', or searched for worms. Finally, they are cooked on a low boil until tender, usually with fatback, neck, or back bone added.

Collard Greens

Cookbook Recipe

Estimated Cooking Time: 1 to 1 and a half hoursYou Will Need:

  • 1 and a half to 2 pounds of collards
  • 8-10 cups of water
  • Your choice of seasoning meat, such as fresh or smoked ham hocks or ham ends
  1. Wash collards. You may have to wash them several times depending on how dirty they are. Set aside.
  2. Bring water to a boil. Add your choice of seasoning meat. Let cook until the meat is tender.
  3. Add collards. Cook until tender, usually 30-45 minutes. If there is not enough water to cover collards, add hot water. Stir occasionally.
  4. When tender, drain collards of any excess juice. Chop well, then drain collards again.

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Etta Mae Stone

My mother taught me to cook at a very early age. I still cook collards the same way, with the exception of using a wood stove. About nine o'clock in the morning we would build a fire in the wood stove. Then we would put a ham bone in a big pot and cover it with water. She would send me to the garden to get two or three big collards. I would wash them very carefully to be sure no worms were left on them and if they had big stems in the leaves I would cut them crosswise. With some boiled Irish potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, and 2 or 3 hoecakes of corn bread cooked on the flat griddle, we had a meal fit for a king and the seven of us did some good eating.

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Before wood stoves came into popular use, or if a family did not have the funds to purchase one, fireplace cooking was common. Fireplaces have been used for cooking since the medieval period, and best practices for their use have come with experience. Most indoor fireplaces have a rectangular shape and use a grate for a better draft. Splayed sides also increased the reflection of heat. Many tools were developed especially for cooking with pots over an open flame. The pot pictured here is part of the Tobacco Farm Life Museum's collection. Pots like these would have been used to cook collards over a fireplace. A crane, which was a large iron bracket hinged to one side of the fireplace, was used to hang pots over the fire. Pothooks were used for the same purpose, and were simple wrought iron hooks, typically shaped like the letter S. A number of these hooks could be linked together to form a chain. This helped the cook to adjust a hanging pot's distance from the fire, which controlled its cooking temperature. Trammels were a tool similar to pothooks, but were easier to use, as the cook could adjust and lock the trammel to reach their desire height.This video provides an example of how a hearth would have been used for cooking, including some tools used in this process.

Cast Iron Fireplace Pot

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Griddles have been in use for centuries, as mention of the tool dates back to the writing of the Old Testament, about 600 BCE. The Book of Leviticus compares bread baked in an oven to bread cooked 'in the pan', which is taken to mean a griddle-like cooking tool. The griddle takes its name from the Scottish word girdle, and typically has a flat surface and rounded edge. The griddle that the Tobacco Farm Life Museum has in its collection is made of cast iron, as many objects in our cooking exhibit are. Cast iron is a type of iron that has been melted and poured into a preset mold, then left to cool and solidify. If a family owned a wood stove, they may have used such a griddle to cook sides like potatoes and corn bread for dinner.Cast iron pans and skillets were popular during the late 19th and early 20th century due to cast iron's cost-effectiveness and relative durability. Additionally, these pans tend to retain heat well, which make it the perfect material for cookware.

Cast Iron Griddle

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As the 1800s began, cooking was primarily done over a hot fire, whether in a fireplace or with kindling outside. This started to change after the first metal, wood-fired cook stove was invented by Benjamin Thompson in 1800. Many in rural areas were slow to use this tool due to either lack of funds or interest. However, by the 1880s, wood provided two-thirds of all residential fuel used in the United States. Whether families used a fireplace or stove, both were suitable for cooking collards.The wood cook stove in the collection of the Tobacco Farm Life Museum is an example of a more advanced wood stove. This stove has an oven located below the stove top instead of above, like earlier models. A grate was included that could be shaken to clear ashes as well as a reservoir to heat and store water for cooking. Use of this kind of wood stove hit its peak in the 1860s, however, it didn't not become widely accessible until the 1880s.This video describes the features of a modern Elmira Fireview cookstove. With the exception of the propane burners, these features would be found on a typical wood stove dating to the late 1800s.

Wood Stove

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Corn fritters are fried dough or batter cakes made of corn. Variations in the Southern United States have common ingredients including corn kernels, flour, milk, and eggs.They can be deep fried, shallow fried, or baked, and may be served with jam, honey, fruit, or cream. The recipe we'll be looking at today uses a shallow frying technique in a cast iron pan.

Corn Fritters

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You Will Need2 count fresh corn, cut off the cob1 egg1/4 cup self-rising flour 1/4 cup milkSalt and pepper to tasteMethod

  1. Stir together corn and egg
  2. Add flour and enough milk to make thin batter
  3. Add salt and pepper
  4. Quickly fry in hot oil
  5. Drain on paper towels and serve hot; fritters will resemble thick pancakes

Cookbook Recipe

Gas Stove

Gas stoves are kitchen appliances that are fueled by combustible gas, such as propane and petroleum. Although it was first designed in the early 1800s, it did not enter popular use until the early 1900s, when piped gas became more accessible. The gas stove shown here is the model included in the Tobacco Farm Life Museum's collection. Such stoves would have been used to cook corn fritters faster and more effectively.By the 1920s, gas stoves started to replace wood and coal-fired stoves in the United States. A major reason for this was the temperature of gas stoves was more easily adjustable. This lessened the need to heat the entire kitchen in the summer. It also removed the long-preheating times and ash clean-up that went with using a wood or coal stove. The gas was originally ignited by a match, although newer models followed with a pilot light, which had its own gas flame. Once the gas was lit, these stoves had a choice of 'low', 'medium', and 'high' heat settings, which allowed for quicker and more accurate cooking. This video gives an overview of the Magic Chef 1000 series gas stove, first designed in 1929.

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Corn is an essential part of the corn fritters recipe, which notes that the corn should be cut off the cob. Before this could take place, the corn would go through a process known as cornshucking. This video shows the technique that farm families could have used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.Cornshucking, or 'husking', is a method that was first practiced by Native Americans and quickly adopted by European settlers. Removing the husk and silks from the corn cob was necessary to prepare the corn for the cooking process. Like Native Americans, North Carolinians would celebrate the end of the harvest season by holding a cornshucking event. Not only did these events serve a practical purpose, they also provided farm families with an opportunity to attend social events.


Living on a rural farm meant that trips to the supply store were few and far between. Farmers often had to create tools using what they had on the homestead. A corn shuck broom is just one example of this inventiveness. Rather than dispose of corn husks after cooking, they could use them as bristles for a makeshift broom.This video comes from the Tobacco Farm Life Museum's Sharing Our Heritage video series. It features a corn shuck broom we have in our collection and details the materials used to create it.

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Corn Shuck Broom

Martha H. Vick

Before the corn kernels were completely filled out, my Grandmother and Mother would make corn fritters. This is a seasonal dish for our families , because they are only made when the first corn is ready...they just don't taste the same if made with mature corn!But when you fry them, you better watch out...the corn kernels will pop just like popping corn and will splatter hot grease wherever they land. It's quite a task to fry them to a golden brown without getting burned by the hot grease splatters, but the results are worth the effort!

Although any pan may be used to make corn fritters, this particular recipe recommends a well-seasoned cast iron frying pan. The pan pictured here is part of the Tobacco Farm Life museum's collection.The use of cast iron dates back to the 6th century BCE in China and was first produced in Europe by the 1300s. The first ironworks in the United States were established in 1619 in James River, Virginia. Before the 1900s, cast iron was the preferred material for cooking tools, due to its durability and reliability.This video shows the modern techniques used to create cast iron cooking appliances. Despite its reliance on modern machinery, the cost effectiveness of using cast iron is still present. Alternatively, materials such as forged iron are worked and pounded individually by a blacksmith to achieve the preferred size and shape, increasing the cost and time of manufacture.

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Cast Iron Frying Pan

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Pone is a kind of fried or baked bread common in the southern United States. Its name comes from the Algonquin term for 'baked'. Our recipe calls for meal, but pone may include ingredients such as corn or sweet potato.One version of pone bread was a staple as far back as the 1700s, for Native Americans and settlers alike. It lasted for several days and was eaten cold for breakfast.

Pone Bread


  1. Scald meal with boiling water, in deep mixing bowl. Stir well and add salt, sugar, molasses, and cold water.
  2. Blend in flour, mix well, cover and let stand at room temperature from 10 to 12 hours (overnight, or all day).
  3. In a Dutch oven, a 3 quart iron, Pyrex, or other heavy baking pan, melt the shortening and pour in the batter.
  4. Bake two hours in a 375 degree oven. Turn to 300 degrees and continue to bake another hour, with lid on pan. If oven is not needed, turn it off and leave covered pan in an hour or more longer.
  5. Can be cooled outside, still covered, but some claim it's not as good. This is delicious with any roast or gravy, silced and served cold.

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Estimated Cooking Time: 12 to 14 hours (including standing time)You Will Need:

  • 3 cups meal
  • 5 cups boiling water (1 more may be needed if too thick)
  • 2-3 cups of cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 cups of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2-3 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons shortening

Cookbook Recipe

Electric Stove

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Pone bread is a Southern food staple that has stood the test of time. Over the decades, farmers have made similar recipes on wood, gas, and electric stoves. Electric stoves are the most recent of the three. The electric stove pictured here is part of the Tobacco Farm Life Museum's collection.In 1908, the first electric stoves were sold in the United States. They were not an instant bestseller, due to a variety of factors. These include the cost of electricity to power the stove, the limited supply of electrical power, poor temperature regulation, and the stoves' short lifespan.By the 1930s, the decreased cost of electric power and increased durability of the stove helped to boost its popularity. Resistance wires, made of a nichrome alloy, were included in these stoves, as they controlled the flow of electricity and converted it into heat.

Mrs. Rebecca Burrus

As far back as the oldest Hatteras resident can remember, pone bread has been considered a treat. It was first cooked in fireplaces, in iron pots, with hot coals in the lids, and later, in modern ovens. No camp meeting was complete without several of these, and not many Sundays passed without each home having a pone bread cooked the day before. This bread packs well and keeps for a week or more (if well hid). Most families have passed their own recipes down to their daughters, and some vary in the amount of sugar and shortening used, and the size of the pan, to regulate the thickness. In the days before freezer lockers and short hunting seasons, all thrifty islanders had a barrel of salted wild fowl, which made an excellent stew, and its gravy was enjoyed over the pone bread. Any gravy is good with it, however.

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Enamel cookware is a great option if you are looking for a heavy pan to cook pone bread in. Enamel cooking tools are made of cast iron that is covered with a porcelain surface. The porcelain surface is created by applying a vitreous enamel glaze to its surface. This enamel teapot, included in the Tobacco Farm Life Museum's collection, shows what this glaze may look like.Vitreous enamel is a material made by fusing powdered glass added to a surface at around 750-850°F. The powdered glass then melts, flows, and hardens into its porcelain-like texture. Fusing the glaze and the cast iron together has many benefits, including: preventing rusting, eliminating the need to season the cast iron, and enabling more thorough cleaning. Cadmium pigments are used in the enameling process as they are resistant to temperatures up to 2,300°F and produce vibrant colors. Due to its low maintainence and heat resistance, enamel cookware is perfect for slow cooking and drawing flavor from ingredients. This makes an enamel pan the perfect tool for cooking pone bread. The above video provides a look at the modern enamel casting and firing process.

Enamel Cookware

Dry Goods Tins

From the period of early European settlements through the mid 1990s, food preservation was often done right at home. People used a variety of methods to preserve the food they cooked. Often, this was determined by the type of food they made.Corn could be stored in mutliple forms, and were kept in cribs while still on the cob. After they were shucked, they could be shelled or ground into cornmeal. Pork was kept by 'salting it down', which meant laying the meat on a layer of salt and covering it with more salt. The salt drew the moisture of the meat, which prevented it from rotting.Ingredients like sugar and flour are considered 'dry goods', which means they do not contain liquid. They had a longer shelf life and were relatively easy to preserve. These factors made recipes like pone bread and corn fritters simpler to prepare and cook. Early settlements stored these goods in barrels, with sacks becoming more prevalent as they became available. Smaller quantities could be stored in decorative tins such as this one, featured in the Tobacco Farm Life Museum's collection.

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By viewing our online exhibit, we hope you gained valuable insight into how meals were prepared by rural farming communities. Traditional southern farm cooking took far more time and effort compared to meals made in the modern age. Thus, the tools they used to prepare meals had to be durable and long-lasting. The cooking process also strengthened familal ties, as families worked together to harvest the land's bounty. They would use these ingredients to prepare these meals and pass their recipes down through the generations. The Tobacco Farm Life Museum's mission of preserving the heritage of rural farming for all carries on the community spirit embodied in these recipes. We encourage you to try these recipes and taste a part of history for yourself.If you wish to share family recipes, experiences cooking traditional meals, or feedback on the exhibit, please use the next slide to share it with us on social media! Your stories and feedback are what make this museum a valuable resource for all who share a rural farming heritage.

If you enjoyed our exhibit, be sure to follow us on our social media channels to keep up with what's new at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum!

Thank you!


Cooking - Tools of the Trade - Fort Scott National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service). www.nps.gov/fosc/learn/education/cooktools.htm.The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Fireplace | Architecture, Materials and Benefits.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 20 July 1998, www.britannica.com/technology/fireplace.

DD Staff et al. “What Is the Difference between Forged and Cast Iron?” Difference Digest, 26 July 2023, differencedigest.com/science/what-is-the-difference-between-forged-and-cast-iron/. Gustafson, Jeffrey W., and McDaniels. Metal Cookware From the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century. June 1979, dspace.wlu.edu/bitstream/handle/11021/32322/RG38_Gustafon_SOAN_1979.pdf?sequence=1.View of Geography and History of the Frying Process. grasasyaceites.revistas.csic.es/index.php/grasasyaceites/article/view/745/736.



“Definition of Dry Goods.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 4 Sept. 2023, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dry%20goods.Finley, Terrell. “Food Preservation (From Tar Heel Junior Historian) | NCpedia.” NCPedia, 2007, www.ncpedia.org/culture/food/food-preservation.


Neal, Bill. “Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking.” Google Books, 15 Oct. 2009, books.google.com/books?id=7XRPAwAAQBAJ&dq=POne+dish&pg=PA64#v=onepage&q&f=false.Image Credit: Cassava pone (3153967448).jpg


Hybarger, Courtney. “Cooking in the 1800s (From Tar Heel Junior Historian) | NCpedia.” NCPedia, 2006, www.ncpedia.org/culture/food/cooking-in-the-1800s.


Burrus, Mrs. Rebecca, and Tobacco Farm Life Museum. “Main Dishes.” Family Traditions, Walter’s Publishing, Waseca, MN, 1997, pp. 32.


Bennett, Joy. Hancock Historical Museum. Cooking in the 1920s. hancockhistoricalmuseum.org/i-love-the-1920s/cooking-in-the-1920s/#:~:text=In%20the%201920s%2C%20gas%20stoves,ash%20to%20be%20cleaned%20up.Eater. “How Cast Iron Pans Are Made by Hand at Borough Furnace — Handmade.” YouTube, 21 Oct. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImPWnJ44xio.


Stone, Etta Mae and Tobacco Farm Life Museum. “Main Dishes.” Family Traditions, Walter’s Publishing, Waseca, MN, 1997, pp. 34.


Vick, Martha H., and Tobacco Farm Life Museum. “Main Dishes.” Family Traditions, Walter’s Publishing, Waseca, MN, 1997, pp. 32.


Roupe, Diane. “The Blue Ribbon Country Cookbook: The New Standard of American Cooking.” Google Books, 1998, books.google.com/books/about/The_Blue_Ribbon_Country_Cookbook.html?id=UA77GAAACAAJ.


Sharing Our Heritage. “Corn Shuck Broom.” YouTube, 23 Dec. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K-bjqlWLvE.


Eater. “How Cast Iron Pans Are Made by Hand at Borough Furnace — Handmade.” YouTube, 21 Oct. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImPWnJ44xio.The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Cast Iron | Definition, Composition, History, and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 12 July 2023, www.britannica.com/technology/cast-iron.


Kothut, Rick, director. How to Shuck Corn Quickly and Easily. YouTube, YouTube, 19 Sept. 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuN0wljMeuw.North Carolina Historic Sites. “Cornshucking History.” Cornshucking History | NC Historic Sites, historicsites.nc.gov/cornshucking-history.


Hampton, Howard, and Bill Reno. Public Power: The Fight for Publicly Owned Electricity. 2003.Smith, Andrew F. The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford UP on Demand, 2007. pg. 576.Sobey, Edwin J. C. The Way Kitchens Work: The Science Behind the Microwave, Teflon Pan, Garbage Disposal, and More. Zephyr Press, 2010.


Albright, Alex. Collards | NCpedia. 2006, www.ncpedia.org/collards.


Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Enamel" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.“Cleaning and Care.” Lodge Cast Iron, www.lodgecastiron.com/discover/cleaning-and-care.Krystal, Becky. “Regular Vs. Enameled Cast Iron: How They Compare for Cooking and Cleaning.” The Washington Post, 26 Apr. 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/food/2021/04/26/cast-iron-enameled-seasoning-care.


Hybarger, Courtney. “Cooking in the 1800s.” NCpedia, Spring 2007, www.ncpedia.org/culture/food/cooking-in-the-1800s.