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 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.
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.
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.
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.