If you have ever tried any recipe from the Great Depression era, you know how cheap and easy they are to make.
The reason behind that is that during that period, a challenging decade for many Americans, people struggled to make a living and therefore be able to shop for food. In addition to that, many food items were either rationed or too expensive.
That’s when people turned to what was available, relying on the cheapest foods to make up fulfilling new recipes that will last them throughout the week or can even be canned and stored, all while still getting as much nutrition from meals as they could.
Some of these recipes from the Great Depression turned out really good and stuck out in a way that still makes them worth trying even nowadays.
⇒ The ‘Superweed’ That Saved Large Communities During The Great Depression
The first recipe I have ever tried from that time was the famous poor man’s meal. It turned out so good, that it became my family’s most requested dish. Since then, I’ve been wanting to explore other similar recipes.
The one I chose to make today, falls under that category and is called the Great Depression casserole.
Most of the recipes from the Great Depression were highly adaptable, and so is this one. When I first decided to try it out, I found many variants of it, it almost confused me.
Eventually, I realized that it mostly depends on what is available in your pantry. You mainly need some vegetables. You can use whichever ones you have on hand.
I stuck to the basics and used items that were abundantly available even in that period, which are onions, potatoes, and carrots, covering the source of carbs and vitamins in my meal.
The recipe also calls for a type of meat, preferably a budget meat that was commonly used during those times, such as hot dogs, baloney, or sausages. I went for the hot dogs. And of course, rice, which remains optional, to stretch the recipe and make it fulfilling.
Related: Bean and Rice Survival Soup – Easy and Adaptable Recipe
Some versions of the Great Depression casserole called for beans, but I preferred to skip them this one time and try to do without. You can use them in your recipe if you have them available.
The vegetables I used here are known to have a long shelf life, lasting anywhere from 2 to 5 years. As an addition, I am also using tomatoes, which are high-acid food that can be safe indefinitely if canned well.
Another thing to note is the cooking method. You can choose to use the stove, by cooking all ingredients in a saucepan first, before transferring them to an oven dish with some cheese on top, and baking it for 10-20 min for the cheese to melt.
I chose to make a small batch, just enough for 2 to 3 people, but feel free to double the ingredients and adjust to your needs.
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 medium potatoes, sliced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- ½ cup uncooked rice
- 4 pieces of hot dogs, cut into thin slices – you can substitute the hot dogs with pork sausages or baloney. I just used what I had available
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp of garlic – I love garlic and use it in pretty much everything. You can skip it if you want.
- 1tsp of pepper
- 1tbsp of sugar (optional)
- 2 cups of tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes
- ½ cup of grated cheddar cheese (optional)
1. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease a medium casserole dish. Use a larger one if you decide to double the ingredients.
Related: 25 Survival Uses For Leftover Bacon Grease
3. Cut your vegetables and the hot dogs into slices.
4. Add in your first layer, the onions. You can toss them in a pan first for a couple of minutes. I chose the easy method and did not.
5. Layer the sliced hot dogs.
6. Wash the rice and sprinkle it on top.
7. Now, cover everything with a layer of sliced potatoes.
8. Add a final layer of carrots. If you chose to use beans in this recipe, then you can add a can of beans on top of the carrots.
9. Pour the tomato sauce over to give the rice enough moisture to cook. I ended up needing 2 cups and a half instead of just two. Make sure it covers all the ingredients.
10. Add the seasoning. For me, it was the salt and garlic. You can add pepper or any seasoning of your choice.
11. Cover your dish, to prevent it from drying out. Then, put it in the oven for one and a half hours.
12. After an hour and a half, I took it out and topped it with some cheddar cheese, then returned it to the oven for about 15 minutes. This step is completely optional.
This was one of the easiest meals I have ever had to make. Cooking time aside, it took me less than 20 min to prep. You can even decrease the cooking period if you opt for the stove method.
The meal should still be juicy when you take it out, especially if you plan on storing it. If you prefer to not, you can cook it for some additional time for it to dry out a little bit.
Related: 15+ Foods You Might Have Been Storing The Wrong Way
When I took the casserole out, it smelled amazing. I let it cool for a bit, before trying it out. It honestly tasted better than I had expected.
Canning And Storage
If you make a small batch like me, you are most likely to consume it in one go, but just in case you went with a larger one, you can either store it in the fridge for short periods or can it, to keep for longer.
For either, you need mason jars, with lids and rings. Or, if you chose to can it, you need a canning pot or a pressure cooker, depending on the method chosen.
Start by washing and sanitizing your jars, then pour your mix into them. Fill the jars, leaving 1-inch headspace from the top of them. That should be right up to the neck of the jar. like shown in the picture.
Make sure you firmly secure the jars before storing them.
Once canned, the jars should now have a shelf life of 12 months. If you wish to increase the period, you can, by not adding any meat to the recipe, until you plan to consume it.
Meats are low acids food with shorter shelf storage and skipping that, can alone extend the storage period from 12 months up to 24 months.
I’m sure we will also get to make some wild recipes thru our great depression that we soon will be or already in.
That’s if we survive these demons that are at hand.
Sorry I accidently hit the thumbs down instead of thumbs up
Yes indeed. I was surprised to find a recipe for woodchuck in the NYTimes.
Cook the NY Times instead, that way we could be rid of it.
needs hot sauce
Then add some sliced jalapenos into, or your favorite hot sauce during or afterward. Personally, I’d sub kielbasa, brats, or browned ground beef for the hotdogs, but that’s the beauty of this.
raven: we make our own in the same way they have in the state of Tabasco for thousands of years. Wash, chop, and ferment chilis as you would anything you want vinegar from. When done, strain, save the solids as a relish (refrigerate), and mix with up to 50% tomato juice, can. If you like it strait vinegar, just bottle and store in the pantry. Very acidic and should keep for years.
I like that this is a basic casserole that you can riff off of. It’s good as-is, or if you don’t have potatoes handy, toss in a can of corn. You can go with green beans, Ranch Style, Baked, pinto, black, navy, or red beans. Whatever your tastebuds want and you have on hand.
No tomato sauce, add water enough for the rice. No hotdogs…go with pork belly, sausages, ground beef, or even slice pork chops or chicken breasts.
Making myself hungry.
How about SPAM? It has a long shelf life. Key ingredients needed for the body to survive is carbs and protein for sure. You can fix the long shelf life foods as you wish but make sure you have those two ingredients when the SHTF. It sounds and really looks good, I’ll can mine for long life, you never know with today’s times of uncertainty.
Spam and/or store brand canned meat is great.
I also would like to mention here, before I forget_ everyone, especially diabetics or anyone subject to have any inflammation such as nerve/ muscle, arthritis, gout, etc should have a supply of TART (emphasizing because ordinary Cherries won’t do well) cherry juice and capsules on hand. The caps are great but work slower. When I feel an attack coming on, I chugalug a bottle of juice about every 4 hours. And in between take the caps. Since this site pertains to preparedness, I thought it would be a good thing to share.
While the changes are good for now when (if) you can afford the different meats/ingredients, the main theme of this recipe is affordability and lack of ingredients. Great Depression meals were very simple and basic because there simply wasn’t anything else to add. It took a lot of imagination to make the same ol’ things taste different so they didn’t get ‘food fatigue.’ One lady told how when she was a kid, they usually had only one meal a day and it was either corn/cornbread, beans/cornbread, potatoes/cornbread. They MIGHT get breakfast of oatmeal/biscuits. Then for special occasions they’d have some pork or chicken with their meal. My mother was born in 1940 at the end of the depression but my aunt can recall the hogs that were slaughtered to feed them through the next year and beef was pretty much non existent on the menu. Chicken was on Sunday if the preacher was coming for dinner. They did live on a farm with chickens and pigs and a dairy cow to add to the garden veggies so they ate fairly well. One thing she did say was that fried potatoes (fried in lard) were served at EVERY meal BUT, only 2 meals were cooked (breakfast and lunch) supper was whatever was left over from the other two IF there was anything left.
how much canning time to process quart jars of recipe
The standard for Pressure Canning Quart jars is 90 minutes.
If you add meat, 90 minutes is not enough time. Need to check the pressure canner booklet to ascertain correct number of minutes for meat.
Quarts with meat 90 min. Pints 75 min. Waterbath roling boil for 3 hours (keep boiling water near by you’ll need to fill the pot a few times)
Louise, since it has meat in it, it would need to be pressure canned on High, quarts for 90 minutes, if you have a digital pressure canner. If you’re using a regular canner, it needs to process at 240 degrees F for the same amount of time. At up to 1,000 feet above sea level, use 10 pounds of pressure. At above 1,000 feet above sea level, use 15 pounds of pressure. If you don’t have meat in it, it would be safe at same temperature and pressure for only 50 minutes.
This is ridiculous! Some of the answers on the scanning thread are going to get people sick! If it is not a highly acidic food like tomatoes, you need to canned them for 90 minutes at the proper pressure for your elevation. Do some research and check out the USDA guide to canning. My God, people some of y’all are completely on knowledgeable about canning. Don’t try to share information when you don’t know. Just because it doesn’t have meat in it doesn’t mean you can water bath it! This is just scary shit you guys are putting out here.
Canning, not scanning.
Yeah, I remember some church in a neighboring town made jambalaya and sold it a few days later. They didn’t know it, but the refrigerator was acting up. Scores of people very sick and one man died of food poisoning. Source was the cooked rice at room temp for too long.
William gave the by the book answer. 90 minutes qt. And 75 minutes pints. Pressure according to altitude. I’m over 6000 ft so 15 lb pressure. 1000 ft is 10 lb pressure.
I live in Michigan, and we have woodchuck, rabbits, and squares eating and digging up our back yard. Woodchuck Casserole sounds very special and healthy. Thanks for the recipe and ideal.
Must be your ‘auto-correct’. I don’t know of any ‘squares’ that eat or dig up the yard. Even most of my gardener friends are not squares although some are squirrel-y .
My grandfather (mom’s dad) used to get my dad to taste something he had cooked before telling him what it was. After getting indigestion from groundhog, my dad said he wouldn’t try anything else from pappaw’s kitchen without knowing what it was first.
Those comments regarding woodchuck reminded me of that.
A world of knowledge about preparing wild game and anything else perished when my pappaw died. He made us rabbit, squirrel, groundhog, deer, bear, trout, hog brains & eggs, fatback, poke salad, homemade tamales (tamales with chili he called a full house), green beans, corn, tomatoes, okra, cornbread and a few other things… all of which was savory when he was done with it.
We butted heads a lot when he was alive (both of us too stubborn), but I miss him now.
If your going to can do you put it in the jars uncooked
Cooked or raw both work. Pressure for the full time either way.
I must object to the option of canning ANY other way but pressure!!! You have mixed deadly ingredients that will NOT be safe in water bath. Especially with ANY meat products! Please don’t tell people this…you always have good articles but this is wrong
I agree, Laurie. the only way that a water bath method could be used would be if it was pre-cooked and without any meat.
Mark Ballard, NO!!!! You’re wrong too! The only way it can be water bathed is if there are high acid foods like tomatoes!!!! ALL OTHER FOODS, MEAT OR NO MEAT MUST MUST MUST BE PRESSURE CANNED!!! WTF is wrong with you people??
I pressure can but most of Europe still water bath. Water bath takes 3 hours where pressure canning is safer and takes less time.
It is absolutely not safe to waterbath any foods that aren’t acidic.
Sounds good. Leaving out the rice since I’m allergic.
My parent’s grew up in The Depression, I can say from eating my Mom’s cooking the ingredient that makes this dish authentic is hotdogs. Even after my Dad became a corporate V.P. our dinners at home were straight from the Depression. I loved this stuff as a kid. Baloney at the fancy deli these days is called mortadella and goes for 75.00/lb, sheesh. My favorite sandwich as a kid was sliced baloney on white bread, back then Fritos were bigger and saltier and came in a wax paper bag for a nickel, pile your Fritos on top of the baloney and crush ’em down with the bread, never ate better.
Why do Vienna sausages taste like old socks these days?
viennas, Love them. They tasted the same back then. We just did not know that at the time. we were to hungry to notice.
My favorite kid sandwich, was bread, peanut butter and slami. So good. but maybe not so much today. lol…
I noticed. Libby’s are horrible now. I grew up eating either Thrifty Maid or Libby’s. I got some Libby’s a few times in the last year and each time, it wasn’t right. Not spoiled, Just a different recipe I don’t like at all. And I’ll eat anything. One of my ancient ancestors was a raccoon.
White bread, Braunschweiger (Liverwurst) spread thick, Fritos on top, mustard on bread!. Yummy.
As a child, my favorite sandwich was baloney, Mustard and pickle relish on white bread!!!!
Love beans n freah bear meat. Forearm is fatty and perfect in a pot of pints.
I raise rabbit. That is a lean white meat. Use like chicken breast. Personally I prefere Cajun spices with rabbit. Favorite is a slow cooking stew. Start with onion, garlic, celery, and carrots. And some salt, pepper, and Cajun spices to taste. Lightly brown rabbit legs and add to veggies, add enough water- chicken broth- or chardonnay to keep it bubbling and moist. When the meat is well done recheck seasonings.
My kids loved a big batch of Mac n cheese with peas and whatever meat was available. Ham, diced up hot dogs, canned tuna, .. they ate it. Just if using a Mac n cheese mix, stir in some diced cheddar cheese as a minimum for better flavor flavor.
Canning anything not acid I pressure qt jars 90 minutes at 15 lb, pints 75 minutes ate zero 15 lb. Vegetables and meats. That is by the Ball Book. I live at about 6,300 ft elevation.
Pickles, tomatoes if quite acid are fine waterbath.
My grandmother and mother made this basic recipe for 70 years, cooking ALL vegetables from the garden in a big pot as they became available all summer and fall. Sometimes they added rice; other times macaroni or noodles. Poured in quart jars and pressure cooked. When taken off the shelf to heat like stew or put in casserole, whatever bits of meat were available then were added and if we had cheese, it was melted on top.
Cannot raise potatoes well here. Nor can we raise Asian rice. Indian Rice Grass is OK, but the soil has too much clay, but, it can grow for 20 years. It’s a desert adapted wild rice and likes sandy loam.
We already make something like this, but use beans. If you leave out the meat and high carb crap, and add more tomatoes (and roasted chilis!) waterbath as you would anything mildly acidic. niio
I often keep something on the heat all winter. Just add it. If its really good I may cN a few quarts and start over.
I have meaty elk bones frozen to start with for fall cooking. Wishing I had a freezer, a friend on a nearby rez has a nearly full freezer she needs to empty by hunting season. Her grandson fills her freezer with deer and elk. She’s wanting to get it emptied. Alone she doesn’t cook that much meat each year. I’m grateful for the bounty. I .as start cooking up the bones and make soup or just jars of meaty broth for soup and gravy base. It sure would good used in a casserole too.
Depression era? We’ve been eating this or a soup variant since forever. My parents were depression teens so I guess I just thought that was how to use up whatever is leftover in the fridge. Ours gets cooked i up twice a day and extras added to bulk it out and make it go further so it evolves over the week and mostly it ends up like a very thick soup. Mine always starts with bones from a roast or something since we kill our own meat.
The eternal infamous farmhouse stew pot. Harvest right through planting, it never gets empty but never stays full. Every day is different with a new meat or veggie. Do we eat it with rice, pasta, or toast? Corn chips are always good except when Mom made her own crackers. How much cheese goes on the plate is one’s own thing. Dessert was made with what fruit is in season and being canned or prepped for the freezer. Need something to hold you over to dinner? Are your arms broken? There’s the pot; eat! niio
The USDA guidelines for pressure canning do not allow for adding rice, noodles, or thickeners to the canned meal. The thickness of the product prevents it from reaching the safe temperature. Therefore, I would cook the rice separately and serve the casserole over it.
still not answered !
if you are going to can do you mix the RAW ingredients, put into jars and process OR do you cook as directed and then proceed to can the cooked ingredients from the casserole ?
Cook everything first. Canning sterilizes and preserves, but doesn’t fully cook.
Canning cooks our chicken, pork and beef chunks perfectly fine.
With enough St. John’s Wort added to it, it could just be the Great Casserole.
Perfect kind of recipe for a solar oven! Thanks!