From gruel to oatmeal cookies, here’s a roundup of historical and contemporary recipes spotlighting oats. What’s your favorite way to prepare this healthful grain?

Read more about oats in the Fall 2023 issue’s In Season.

Historical oats

First, light a fire. Here are some ways to prepare oats from the mid-eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. The first half-dozen recipes come from the 1747 Hannah Glasse cookbook: The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, which far exceeds anything of the kind ever yet published.

To Make Plum Gruel
Take two quarts of water, two large spoonfuls of oatmeal, sir it together, a blade or two of mace, a little piece of lemon peel; boil it for five or six minutes (take care it do not boil over), then drain it off, and put it into the sauce pan again, with half a pound of currants clean washed and picked. Let them boil about ten minutes, add a glass of white wine, a little grated nutmeg, and sweeten to your palate.

To Make Water Gruel
You must take a pint of water, and a large spoonful of oat meal; then stir it together, and let it boil up three or four times, stirring it often. Do not let it boil over then strain it through a sieve, salt it to your palate, put in a good piece of fresh butter, brew it with a spoon. When the butter is all melted, then it will be fine and smooth, and very good. Some love a little pepper in it.

To Make Oatmeal Flummery
Get some oatmeal, put it into a broad deep pan, then cover it with water, stir it together, and let it stand twelve hours, then pour off that water clear, and put in a good deal of fresh water, stir it again in twelve hours, and soon in twelve more, then pour off the water clear, and strain the oatmeal through a coarse hair-sieve, and pour it into a saucepan, keeping it stirring all the time with a stick till it boils and is very thick; then pour it into dishes; when cold turn it into plates, and eat it with what you please, either wine and sugar, or beer with sugar, or milk. It eats very pretty with cider and sugar.

To Make an Oatmeal Hasty Pudding
Take a quart of water, set it on to boil, put in a piece of butter and some salt; when it boils, stir in the oatmeal as you do the flour, till it is of a good thickness. Let it boil a few minutes, pour it in your dish, and stick pieces of butter in it; or eat with wine and sugar, or ale and sugar, or cream, or new milk. This is best made with Scotch oatmeal.

To Make White Caudle
You must take two quarts of water, mix in four spoonfuls of oatmeal, a blade or two of mace, a piece of lemon peel, let it boil, and keep stirring it often. Let it boil about a quarter of an hour and take care it does not boil over; then strain it through a coarse sieve. When you use it, sweeten it to your palate, grate in a little nutmeg, and what wine is proper and if it is not for a sick person, squeeze in the juice of a lemon.

To Make Brown Caudle
Boil the gruel as above, with six spoonfuls of oatmeal, and strain it; then add a quart of good ale, not bitter; boil it, then sweeten it to your palate, and add half a pint of white wine. When you don’t put in white wine, let it be half ale.

From Marion Harland’s 1903 Complete Cook Book

Soak overnight. Even the varieties which are advertised “to require no soaking, and but fifteen minutes’ cooking,” are improved by this process. Turn a deaf ear to the charmer who would persuade you to the contrary. “Steam cooked” is often a delusion and a snare. Put your oatmeal into the inner vessel of your farina kettle, cover deep in cold water, put on the lid and set at the back of the range at bedtime. In the morning add boiling water, salt to taste, and draw to the front, filling the outer kettle with hot water. Cook steadily for an hour and as much longer as you can. My own taste is for oatmeal boiled to a jelly. It is as far superior to the ordinary preparation of the cereal as creamed cauliflower is to Dutch cabbage. Send to table and eat with cream. Never throw away oatmeal “left-overs.” Cook again, and yet again, always in a double boiler.

Contemporary oats

None of the following contemporary oat recipes require a “farina kettle.”

Scottish Oat Cakes
Stephen S. Jones, director of the WSU Breadlab, prefers his oats in this traditional Scottish staple. Try this recipe from The Spruce Eats.

Oat Milk
Make your own oat milk with this recipe.

Classic Meatloaf
Oats are not-so-secret ingredient in this recipe from Quaker Oats.

Best Oatmeal Cookies
This recipe
also comes from Quaker Oats.

Cosmic Overnight Oats
A breakfast recipe from Washington State Magazine editor Larry Clark, featuring Cosmic Crisp® apples


Read more

Oats (In Season, Fall 2023, Washington State Magazine)

Oats then and now: A Q&A with an expert