While traveling across the plains, members of the Martin Handcart Company had used their last rations of flour and had begun to starve before reaching the Salt Lake Valley. As the company of pioneers finally entered the valley, Brigham Young recounted their challenges and sent the local members home early from their worship meetings.
He said, “You know that I would give more for a dish of pudding and milk or a baked potato and salt, were I in the situation of those persons who have just come in, than I would for all your prayers, though you were to stay here all afternoon and pray.”
Pioneer Day commemorates Latter-day Saint pioneers trekking into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. It is a state holiday in Utah, but it is also celebrated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to honor pioneers across the globe who helped establish the church in their local areas. Here are some recipes you could make to celebrate Pioneer Day.
One of Brigham Young’s favorite foods was buttermilk donuts. These simple recipes only require flour, egg, buttermilk, sugar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and butter.
You could also make Joseph Smith’s favorite dish: Johnnycakes. You can have a member of your family shake heavy whipping cream in a mason jar to make homemade butter as you mix up cornmeal, baking soda, molasses, cream of tartar, salt, butter, egg and honey.
You might choose to indulge in fried apples and sprinkle crumbled bacon on top of them like the pioneers did. Or perhaps you will choose to make a local specialty to celebrate your local pioneers — the options are endless.
Although sauerkraut season begins in September, it is available year round in grocery stores. Be bold and try sauerkraut and noodles for lunch. Using a pioneer era recipe posted to the pioneer food blog Plain But Wholesome, take an egg, egg shell water, salt and flour to mix up some quick noodles before you fry them with sauerkraut and bratwurst.
For a lighter lunch, make a cucumber salad — freshly sliced cucumbers with vinegar, onion, sugar, and salt is sure to please. Serve it with a side of hardtack: a simple biscuit that pioneers ate on the trail.
You might choose to make everyone’s favorite cheesy potato dish: funeral potatoes. This could even work as a side to bring to a family barbecue.
Or whip up a quick dish of Hawaiian Haystacks or make fried scones with honey butter.
A humble dinner of baked potatoes with salt, pudding and milk would be symbolic. As Brigham Young told church members when the Martin handcart company first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, “Prayer is good, but when baked potatoes and milk are needed, prayer will not supply their place.” Using coarse salt and butter, you can make the perfect baked potato.
You could try making hasty pudding, a favorite of the pioneers. Or if hasty pudding isn’t your preferred dessert, John Taylor’s applesauce cake might strike your fancy — Emily Partridge Young recorded this recipe in the Salt Lake 18th Ward cookbook.
Other dinner options include chicken velvet soup, skillet hasselback sweet potatoes or pioneer side pork with Mormon gravy. After a long day of celebration, you might want to call in for pizza, pie and root beer. If you do raise a glass of root beer, you could choose Brigham’s Brew.
Whatever you choose to make on Pioneer Day, it is a day to reflect on the sacrifices that Latter-day Saint pioneers made for religious freedom and to celebrate the pioneers in your local community.