Back in the days of cowboys and cattle drives, the ranch cook and cattle team cook played an important role and wielded enormous power. Because the cook determined whether a cowboy received a decent meal after a hard day of wrangling cattle, cowboys were always on their best behavior with the cook. Not even the lawmen of the day could get such good behavior from cowboys.
In honor of the old Western ranch cook, we present four authentic cowboy recipes that you can fix next time you want to harness your inner John Wayne. Enjoy.
2 pounds of pinto beans
2 pounds of ham hock
2 onions chopped
4 tablespoons sugar
2 green chilies
1 can of tomato paste
Wash the beans and soak them overnight. After you drain them, place the beans in a Dutch oven and cover with water. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the beans are nice and tender.
1 cup of sourdough starter (see below)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon of shortening
3-4 cups of flour
Place flour in a bowl and add the sourdough starter. Stir in the salt, soda, sugar, and shortening. Dough should begin to form. Add flour until the dough is firm. Pinch off some dough, form a ball, and roll it in melted shortening. Place the biscuits in a Dutch oven. Allow the biscuits to rise for about 20 minutes. Then bake until they’re done, about 30 minutes.
In order to make sourdough, you’ll need some sourdough starter. Here’s how to make it.
2 cups of warm potato water
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon sugar
First you need to make your potato water by cutting up a couple of medium sized potatoes into cubes and boiling them in 3 cups of water until the potatoes are tender. Measure two cups of the potato water, and mix it with flour and sugar into a paste. Set the mixture in a warm place to rise. It should double its original size after it’s done rising.
This was a favorite beef stew dish among cowboys of the America West. It was also known as rascal stew or by the name of some unpopular figure of the time. For example, some cowboys called it Cleveland Stew in (dis)honor of President Grover Cleveland displacing cowboys from the Cherokee Strip. If you’re not into eating animal organs, pass this one up. However, if you want to put some hair on your chest, belly up to the table and pound this meal down.
2 pounds of lean beef
Half a calf heart
1 ½ pounds of calf liver
1 set sweetbreads (that’s the thymus gland for you city slickers)
1 set of brains
1 set of marrow gut
Salt, pepper to taste
Louisiana hot sauce
Cut the beef, liver, and heart into one inch cubes. Slice the marrow gut into rings. Place these ingredients into the Dutch oven and cover with water. Let it simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Chop sweetbreads and brains into small pieces and add to stew. Simmer another hour.
Out on the trail, coffee was a staple among cowboys. Piping hot coffee helped a cowboy shake off the stiffness from sleeping on the hard desert ground, and it was also a good beverage to wash down the morning sour dough biscuits. But cowboys didn’t have the luxury of fancy coffee brewers or french presses. They had to pack light, so all they usually had was a metal coffee pot, sans filter, to brew their coffee in. No matter. A cowboy could still make a decent cup of coffee. Here’s how.
- Bring water to a near boil over your campfire.
- Throw your coffee grounds right into the water. That’s right. Filters are for city slickers.
- Stir the coffee over the fire for a minute or two.
- Remove the pot from the fire and let the coffee sit for a minute or two to allow the grounds to settle at the bottom of the pot. Add a bit of cold water to help speed along the settling process.
- Carefully pour the coffee into your tin cup so that the grounds stay in the pot.
- Stand around the fire with your left thumb in your belt loop and your coffee cup in your right hand. Take slow sips and meditate on the trek ahead.
Last updated: October 21, 2015