Can you see the sun breaking the horizon?
The fire is already going, and you see others in camp stirring about. Perhaps someone is brewing up a kettle of Arbuckle’s axle grease, the old west cowboy’s name for Arbuckle brand coffee brewed strong.
God knows how you found yourself in this situation, but you do appreciate the freedom of the wide-open range. You like a nice plate of hen fruit (eggs) cooked in cow grease (butter) around the fire.
Everyone carries their weight on the trail. They have no choice. Not like those city folks who spend most of their time padding out their bellies. Out here you are lucky if you have a small pack of airtights (canned goods) and some swamp seed (rice) to tide you over after a long day.
Now, it’s not always scraping by. Sometimes meals back at camp can be delicious. There are a number of meals that are simple but memorable. I mean, you can make anything taste better if you top it with a little Texas butter (gravy from beef grease, flour and milk or water.)
This list contains some great recipes that would have been commonplace at the cowboy camp and out on the range.
Cowboy Pie Crust
On the range, the pie crust was the equivalent of the modern-day crockpot. From sweet to savory, it was all piled in pie crust and baked until palatable.
Because so many of these recipes call for a pie crust, I thought we should have a simple pie crust recipe at your disposal.
#1. Take 3 cups of flour and dump it into a bowl.
#2. Add 1 ½ cups of lard.
#3. Using a pastry cutter or two knives cut the lard into the flour.
#4. Work at this for a few minutes until the mix looks like coarse meal.
#5. Add 1 beaten egg and 5 TBSP of cold water.
#6. Add 1 TSP of white vinegar and salt each.
#7. Gently mix the whole thing together.
#8. You can chill it at this point or portion it out and chill it.
Related: What Plants Cowboys Ate in the West
- ½ Cup of Cornmeal;
- ¼ Cup of Molasses;
- 1 TBSP of Sugar;
- 4TBSP of Butter;
- 1 Pinch of Cinnamon;
- ¼ Cup of Apples, Chopped;
- 1 Egg, Beaten;
- 1 Pinch of Baking Soda;
- 3 Cups Milk;
#1. Mix all the ingredients together, excluding the milk.
#2. Heat half the milk to a simmer and add it to the other ingredients.
#3. Cook for 20 minutes in a preheated Dutch oven at 450 degrees.
#4. Heat the other half of the milk and stir it into the main dish.
#5. Cook for another 30 minutes at 300.
#6. This can be served hot or cold.
This pie was a way to make dessert from exclusively nonperishable ingredients but also add some twang to change things up.
- ½ Cup of Sugar;
- 1 TBSP of Butter;
- 2 TBSP of Vinegar;
- 2 TBSP of Flour;
- 3 Egg Yolks;
- 1 Cup of Water;
#1. Mix all the ingredients together and fill a par-baked pie crust.
#2. Bake in an oven at 300 degrees until the custard is cooked thoroughly.
#3. Insert a butter knife and it should come out clean.
Yes, these are bull testicles. Let’s just get that out of the way.The literature says that this cowboy delicacy was 2nd only to donuts. The method is graphic, heads up.
#1. After castration place the testicles in a pot of cold salted water.
#2. Remove the membrane and cut against the grain in ¼ inch slices.
#3. Rinse thoroughly, a few times.
#4. Heat oil in your Dutch oven to 375 degrees for frying.
#5. Dip each slice in buttermilk and then dredge in flour that is seasoned in with salt and pepper.
#6. Fry them, a few at a time, until they float.
#7. Remove and drain excess oil.
Related: How To Make Potted Meat
Pie Plant Pie
Pie plant is such an intriguing name for rhubarb, but it says a lot about what the cowboys thought of it.
- 3 Cups of Chopped Rhubarb;
- 1 cup of Sugar;
- 1 TBSP of Flour;
- 1 TBSP of Butter;
#1. Mix the rhubarb with your flour and sugar.
#2. Place this into a pie crust and break your butter up over the top of it all.
#3. Add another pie crust to cover.
#4. Bake at 300 Degrees till the rhubarb is tender and the crust is cooked through.
- 1 Cup of Sugar;
- 1 TBSP of Butter;
- 3 Eggs Beaten;
- 1 Cup of Flour;
- 2 TBSP of Sweet Milk;
- 1 TSP Cream of Tartar;
- Pinch each of baking soda and salt;
#1. Mix wet ingredients first.
#2. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and pour into an oiled Dutch oven.
#3. This would have been baked in a Dutch oven over a fire until the inside was cooked all the way through.
One Shot Pot
In some parts of the West, this would have been referred to as Slum Gullion. As you put it together you will see it is basically a venison or beef stew.Add a few pounds of diced meat, 3 ribs of celery, 2 cloves of garlic two carrots and 1 small onion diced into a pot with a ½ cup of water and let cook over low heat for about 2 hours or till the meat is tender.
To finish, add one can of tomatoes, corn, and peas each.
You could also add things like macaroni or rice to this.
Cook until the rice or macaroni is tender.
Related: How To Make Beef Jerky
Winter Red Flannel Hash
Of all the dishes on this list, none sound better to me than this great hash that would have been cooked in the winter or spring when beets were fresh. I love the name!
- 1 ½ Cups of Chopped Corned Beef;
- 1 ½ Cups of Chopped Cooked Beets;
- 1 Medium Onion;
- 4 Cups of Potatoes;
#1. Heat beef fat or oil in a Dutch oven over the fire.
#2. Add all the ingredients and stir a bit until the onions start to get soft.
#3. Let the potatoes, beef, and beets sit in place and develop a nice crust.
#4. You can attempt to flip this whole mix or break up and get a nice crust on the rest of the mixture.
#5. Serve with eggs, it’s the only way to go!
The old west cowboys were not bad behind the “piano” or stove as the French chefs referred to it. It is clear they understood heat and the ingredients in their possession. They understood the difference between the tweaking and tasting of savory cooking as well as the chemistry driven, the precision of baking.
I like these stories of frontiersman cooking meals on the range. It is a reminder that cooking is a necessary skill and one that men and women should possess. How silly the idea that one person should hold the key to feeding themselves and others.
Give some of these recipes a try on your next camping trip. If you have the sand, give those mountain oysters a taste and see just how much a delicacy they are.
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