Have you ever wondered what life was like in Abraham Lincoln’s time? Now you can get a taste for life in the 1800’s—literally! Available for purchase at the President Lincoln’s Cottage Museum Store is a brand new selection of confectionery treats made from authentic 19th Century recipes.
Sugar has always been a popular treat for those of us with a sweet tooth. Yet, it is a delicacy with a somewhat tainted past. As the slave trade flourished, so did the demand for refined sugar. Thousands of slaves labored on plantations in the Caribbean to produce sugar, which was then sold in America and Europe. Slaves, less wealthy individuals, and pioneers who settled out on the frontier often had to make due with other natural sweeteners like honey, molasses and maple sugar[i]. During his childhood in Kentucky and Indiana, Abraham Lincoln may have indulged in maple sugar candy.
Years later, in the White House, President Lincoln and his wife Mary dined upon much more sophisticated sweets. Candied flower petals and mint leaves often adorned cakes and salads or were eaten alone. Follow the recipe at the end of the blog post to make your own candied petals!
Another wildly popular treat during the Civil War era was horehound candy. Horehound was a sturdy plant brought to America by settlers. This candy was often eaten by Civil War soldiers fighting for both the Union and the Confederacy. Horehound candy was not only a sweet indulgence, but was used as a cure for stomach aches and sore throats. Another natural remedy for stomach aches was licorice root. Soldiers chewed the root or used it to spice their food and drink.
Still enjoyed today are peanuts and peanut candies. It was not until after the Civil War that peanuts became commonplace in our everyday diets. The man credited with inventing many of our favorite uses for peanuts was George Washington Carver. Born into slavery in 1864 Missouri, Carver pursued his interest in plants while earning an undergraduate and Master’s Degree. Carver is credited for inventing 325 different uses for peanuts, including peanut brittle. Several varieties of peanut candies are available for sale at the President Lincoln’s Cottage Museum Store.
*Items in bold are available for sale at the President Lincoln’s Cottage Museum Store and Online Store.
Recipe: Candied Mint Leaves[ii]
- Fresh mint leaves or flower petals
- Egg whites
- Sugar (either powdered or granulated)
Wash the leaves and petals carefully. Dry on a towel, keeping them unbroken. Dip each one into unbeaten egg whites. Press into the sugar and spread out on a board to dry. Shake off excess sugar. Place in the refrigerator to harden.
Sprinkle in a salad, on top of fruit, on top of a cake, in a punch bowl, or eat like candy.
Ms. Downes is a Historical Interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage.
[i] McCreary, Donna D. Lincoln’s Table: A President’s Culinary Journey from Cabin to Cosmopolitan. Lincoln Presentations. Charlestown, Indiana. 2000. Pp 21.