The Black Pioneer Cookbook has over 60 recipes that were handed down to present-day residents of Alton, Illinois by their ancestors. They range from Muscadine Jam and Egg Custard Pie to Raccoon, Sweet Potato Biscuits, and Vegetable Gumbo.
Alton is about 18 miles north of St. Louis, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. It was a town of about 2,000 people in the 1830s when the first anti-slavery meeting was held there.
Alton also became on the Underground Railroad around this time. Slaves would cross the river fleeing from Missouri, which was a slave state to Illinois, which was a free state.
Eventually, a Black community developed in Alton. This was a thriving community of Black farmers, ministers, business people, and politicians that coexisted along with a strong anti-slavery community. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than the alternative.
The Committee on Black Pioneers at the Alton Museum of History and Art compiled recipes from these early Black residents into the Black Pioneer Cookbook. I was definitely inspired by this book. You will be too.
If you want to learn more about these recipes, I encourage you to check out the rest of the Black Pioneer Cookbook page. All of these recipes are here with the wine pairings.