I don’t do a lot of extensive cooking, but what cook I do get accomplished is usually straightforward and to the point. One of my favorite cookbooks is a collection of recipes from ranches across the country, and even a few from Australian outfits. Most of the recipes are simple and straightforward, so it’s usually a go-to for quick recipes. Plus, several are great for the grill, which is perfect for the summer months when there’s no desire to heat up the kitchen on an already hot day. Over the next several weeks, I have some recipes from Trail Boss’ Cowboy Cookbook that I’ll be sharing. A few will include a little ranch history and fun facts. If you have the book, the ranches will often have an image of their brands included with the recipes.
This recipe for Campfire Biscuits really isn’t practical, unless you happen to be cooking for a crowd. But it does make me appreciate having readily available, fresh ingredients in smaller quantities.
25 lb. sack of white flour
Water from the nearest cattle tank
Roll down the flour sack to expose the flour, make a cone-shaped depression in it with index finger, toss in some salt and several pinches of baking powder. There was no “self-rising” flour available back when trail cooks used this recipe, so maybe baking powder is not needed today. Add a gob of lard and work it into the flour laced with baking powder and salt. Quantities depend on how hungry the crew is. Keep adding water while working up a ball of dough. Remove the ball of dough with the crumbs to be found, then close up the flour sack until next time. Divide the dough up into biscuit sizes. Place the raw biscuits in an iron Dutch oven, place it directly on coals, put the concave lid on the Dutch oven and heap live coals on it and bake until done.
Background: Jim Pease was a cowboy turned boss, and hired this Yankee bum to help dig slush pits for wildcat oil rigs in the Finlay Mountain country. They used miles and horses he got for free in exchange for breaking them for harness. Finlay was a town then on the T & P Railroad. Now its gone. They were a rough bunch, but happy. He could cook other goodies too, like pinto beans and bacon. The crew moved around a lot and worked out of plank wagons carrying Fresnos and plows.
Hudspeth County, Texas
Trail Boss’ Cowboy Cookbook