Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weekend Round-Up and The Cowboy's Cookbook Review

Hacienda de la Canoa Tour
Canoa Ranch in Green Valley, AZ was a working cattle ranch from 1820 to the 1970s. At its peak, the ranch controlled more than 500,000 acres. Pima County bought the 4,800-acre ranch property, about 25 miles south of Tucson, in 2001 with the goal of making it a public site and nature refuge. Today historic ranch buildings and numerous archaeological sites remain. Visitors are led on guided tours through the historic ranch that was once home at various points in history to Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans and Americans.It gives visitors insights to the fascinating stories of the people that lived and worked on the ranch. Here is a scenic view of the Santa Cruz River Valley. Note the Santa Cruz River is usually a dry river bed unless there are heavy rains which are likely to occur in late July into August and even into September. 
With a winter stay in cowboy country it's not hard for me to reimagine life back in the 1800's, having just read Sherry Monahan's newest book "The Cowboy's Cookbook". It's  a book to savor with original photos, recipes that were staples of cowboy cuisine and historical vignettes which give context to the dishes from the old west. I have developed a new appreciation for those who cooked in the newly settled west with limited supplies available and certainly not the most optimum conditions.   
Last year I met Sherry briefly at The Tucson Book Festival in March. Here is a link to her book previously published book "Frontier Fare" which I reviewed last March on my blog. Sherry Monahan and Frontier Fare
Sherry's passion for food and history led to her writing her first book "Taste of Tombstone" written in 1998 and in 2009 she began a monthly food column for the magazine True West. Sherry also explores the various history of wines and food parings at  

So it's no surprise that with her newest book "The Cowboy Cookbook" Sherry continues to delve into the history of food in the West, late 1800's, documenting authentic recipes mostly taken from 19th Century newspapers and old Western cookbooks recipes. It is evident meticulous research went into compiling this book with the wealth of information and photos. Sherry sets the tone for the book in the introduction giving the reader some needed cowboy vernacular/slang e.g. huckydummy, lizard scorchers, sinkers, Texas Butter to better understand the time period. 
The book is divided into five chapters: Cattle Trails, Round-Ups, At the Ranch, Cow Towns and Stockyards Cities, and Holidays and Celebrations, Cowboy-Style. Within each chapter are historical information and images, personal stories of those who lived at that time and recipes that were staples of cowboy cuisine. 
Since I am from Laura Ingalls Wilder country one of the chapters At the Ranch I found quite informative. It was an interesting read that parallels what I imagine pioneer life to be like in the Midwest. 
Did you know that President Theodore Roosevelt was a cattle rancher in the late 1800's? He owned Elkhorn Ranch in North Dakota and often went on round-ups and ate cowboy grub. He lived there for several years after the death of his wife and mother and returned to New York after the brutal winter of 1886-1887 that wiped out his entire herd of cattle.
I was fascinated perusing the recipes in this book: Vinegar Pie, Corn Pone, Fried Squash Cakes to name a few. But it was the Sinkers recipe that caught my attention with its funny name. It seemed like a good one for my first try.
 Sinkers (Soda Biscuits)
Cook's notes: Bread items like biscuits were often put in the cowboys' saddlebags so they had something to eat during lunchtime when they were away from the camp. Sherry's adaption for the book came from Texas Denison Daily News, March 3, 1878. 
But here's a true confession, my adaptation- I was compelled to brush melted butter on the biscuits before baking and then topping the baked biscuit off with a spoonful of jelly. Perfection! I used the rim of a 3 inch glass to make 7 biscuits.
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 -3/4 tsp.salt
  • 1-1/2 TB. butter or lard
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Combine flour, salt and soda together in a large bowl.
  • Using  a pastry cutter or two forks, cut butter or lard to form pea sized pieces into the flour mixture.
  • Add in the buttermilk and stir just to combine. Do not over beat.
  • Gently knead a few times. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/2 inch thickness. Place in a greased skillet or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush biscuits with butter.
  • Bake at 425 for 10 minutes.
Sherry is the author of several published books on the Victorian West. For more information on her other books check out her website
Since I recently visited Tombstone these two books are next on my list by Sherry.

1 comment:

  1. I love Sherry's writing and perspectives! Plus she is just one awesome gal! Thanks for the review and recipes, Sue!