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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oak Flour


 
   Sometimes when you're out prowling the woods for something to eat you can spend so much time looking that you tend to overlook the food that's right under your feet.

   Stanley and I knew every patch of oak trees within walking distance of Schulter and quite a few that weren't. Groves of oak tress are the best places to hunt squirrels and they are the best places to find den trees for coon and possum. Needless to say we tromped around on acorns just about every time we went to the woods.

   I'm not sure where the idea came from but for some reason we thought acorns were poison to people. I don't know why because we knew that squirrels, rabbits and deer ate them and normally we were willing to at least take a bite of any plant those three ate just to see if it tasted good. Anyway, it wasn't until I was about 15 that I decided to test that theory. Mr. Ritter had explained to me that the way to test woods food was to take a small piece and see if it was really bitter or made you mouth feel numb or anything. If it didn't then take a small bite and wait a few hours to see if there was and effect. Believe me, there were some that definitely had an effect!

   I finally started trying a few acorns just to see what they'd and no that wasn't very smart but most things I did back then would fit that description. I found out after a few trials that you can eat the acorns for the White Oak tree just like you would any other nut. They taste kind of like a hickory nut. I tried some of the others we have growing down home and found that red, black and post oak all make you tongue and lips feel a little numb. Black Oak even made me a little sick to my stomach but since I had taken such a small bite it wasn't too bad.

   Anyway, on to the recipes. The first time I tried this I just cut up the acorns and added them to cold water then put the water on the fire to boil it and see if I could get the bitterness out. Need to add one thing here. Getting the nuts out of the shells can be a real pain in the you know what. Acorn shells are soft, not hard like pecans or walnuts so they are really hard to crack. I started out just smashing them with a rock, that works but it's messy, I ended up splitting them with my pocket knife. Since those days I have heard of other ways including using a garlic press and I'm sure there are others that are a lot easier. Also, make sure you don't waste your time gathering any acorns with small holes in them unless you want to try some oak worms to add a little extra protein. You might need to boil the acorns mutable times to get all the tannin out. Just keep dumping the water out and adding more until the water is clear. After the water is clear you can drain them and set aside to let dry. They don't need to get completely dry, just enough to cut without sticking to the knife blade. Chop them into pieces, you can skip this step but it seems to me like the next step works better if they are chopped. Next you mash them into a paste. I used a mortar and pestle for this. Next spread them in a thin layer on a pan and let them dry. You could spread them on a piece of hide and let them dry in the sun, or a flat rock and dry them over a slow fire. I cheated and used a cookie sheet and the oven set at the lowest tempiture. However you want to do it TAKE YOUR TIME! You can't hurry this step, they have to be perfectly dry.

   Another way you can fix them is by cold water leaching. Chop them up after shelling and put them in a bowl filled with water. Set this in the frig for a day. The water should turn a tan color. Keep replacing the water until it is clear then process the acorns the same as the first method.

   Once you have them dry you can use a flour sifter to removed any larger pieces. You can store the flour the same as any other as long as you're sure it is DRY. I found out the hard way that if you don't get it dry you're not going to be able to store it for more than a few days without it becoming moldy so not matter how you dry it, open fire, oven or dehydrator make sure you finish the job.

   I've only used acorn flour for making bread but I have heard of honey cakes  and even a pizza crust being made. What ever you want to try keep in mind that acorn flour won't rise like regular flour, or at least I never could get it to so I mainly just made soda bread. Since I don't live in an area where we have oak trees I haven't been able to try it for anything else.

 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Critter on the Half Shell


 


   I saw my first Armadillo in Oklahoma when I was 13. I had seen and even caught one in Texas before, but even then they were moving north and by 62 they had finally made it to Deep fork Bottoms.

   The first one I caught in Oklahoma was at the golf course in Okmulgee. My Uncle Floyd new the guy who was the grounds keeper there and we stopped by to talk to him one day. While we were there he was complaining to Uncle Floyd about Armadillos digging up the course. As we were walking across the course he yelled "there's one of the little SOB's" I looked where he was pointing ands sure enough there went one hopping across the lawn. I didn't even think twice, just took off chasing after it. For such a small animal them little dudes can really move. They do a kind of half jump, half run that really covers the ground but I finally got close enough to jump on him. I was really proud of catching that thing and went running back to Uncle Floyd and his friend to show him off. The golf course gave me a quarter for catching him which made my day a lot brighter but then Uncle Floyd took him and lay him on the ground and then took his pocket knife and stabbed him in the back of the head. That kind of took the fun out of catching him cause I kind of thought I'd take him home for a pet.

   I caught about three more before the idea of eating one popped into my pea brain. I knew that people in Texas ate them but when I started asking around I couldn't find anyone around home that had ever eaten one or even had any idea of how to fix one. I have learned several recipes since then but for the first one I thought I'd try it just like you would roast a turtle.

   I dug a small fire pit and lined it with rocks. Then I built a good size fire and kept adding wood till the rocks were good and hot. I removed the head, tail, and cut the entire belly off the armadillo and removed the guts. After rinsing him off good in Salt Creek I put some cat tail roots, wild onions and wild garlic in the chest cavity along with salt and pepper. I soaked some cat tail leaves in the creek and wrapped the body completely. After the fire had burned down I scraped most of the ashes out of the pit and lay him on his back on the rocks. I added more wet leaves to cover him and a layer of dirt on top. I left him there for about four hours while I wondered around and did a little squirrel hunting.

   I will admit that the meat was not what I expected. It wasn't gamey at all and but letting it cook as long as I did it was falling off the bone tender. The wild onions and garlic  added a lot of flavor but I'm not sure the cat tail roots added anything. They weren't bad by themselves but they are never going to take the place of potatoes.

   You can do the same thing if you happen to get a hold of a Dillo. You can cut the body completely away from the shell if you want then just lay it back in the shell, add salt, pepper and whatever veggies you want. Wrap the whole thing loosely in tin foil and put it on the grill. I think it comes out the best if you cook it with the lid closed at about 250' for about four hours. If you have a gas grill add a pan of wet wood chips to add a little smoky flavor (I like hickory chips).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cat Tail Bread

   It's not all that hard to find something to eat out in the wild, it depends mainly on the season and how picky you are. Around Oklahoma there's always squirrels, rabbits, fish, snakes and if you can't managed to catch at least one of those and you're hungry enough there's always bugs and worms (don't knock em till ya try em). The hardest thing to come up with, to me anyway, has always been bread. Course now, I like bread and enjoy having it with pretty well every meal so I set out to try and learn how to make it.

   When I first started trying this I didn't know anyone that knew how to do it so I had to fall back on  on my trusty mountain man books to see if I get any ideas. Now, as usual, the books have a lot of over-view but very few details. About the only thing I was able to find out was that native Americans used to pound cattail roots into a paste and made a kind off an unleavened bread (and No, I didn't have any have any idea what that meant until much later in life).

   The first time I tried this I gathered a bunch of cattail roots from McKenna's pond early in the season. My camping area was up stream from Skyrocket (the local swimming hole) and the pond was close to the creek. There is a lot of black shale around there so I stacked up a couple of pieces on each side of the fire pit and put one long one across the top to use as a griddle. I got a good fire going to heat the rock while I mashed the roots. I peeled the roots and lay them on another piece of shale and tried mashing them with a branch from an Oak tree. It looked like it should have worked, but didn't. Seemed like every time I tried to hit the root I would just catch the side and shoot it of the stone. I finally found a piece of granite that I could use and was finally able to get everything smashed into a paste. The first time you try this you will surprised at how much mositure are in those roots. The resulting paste comes ends up looking just a little on the slimy side but in for a penny.

   Once your griddle is hot (rock in my case) pour the paste on, kind of like a pancake. Flip it once the bottom side has browned.

   Now I'm not going to lie to you. Was it hot, yes. Was it filling, yes. Did it taste good, let's just stick with hot and filling. It's hard to judge some things with our moadern tastes, Maybe if we had grown up never tasting any other bread we would really like the taste but for me, I ate it and if it was all I had I'd eat it for every meal but it would not be my first choice.

   After a few more tries I did find ways to make it a little better. If you happen to catch the cattails when the heads are full of pollen you can knock the pollen out and mix it in with the paste. It will thicken it and adds more flavor. It even adds a yellow color which looks more like pancakes when it's coked.

   The best way I've found to add flavor is to mash some berrys into the paste. The first time i tried this it was using dewberries. I've also tried black berries, possum grapes and sand hill pumbs any of these will turn it into something that you can actually look forward to.

  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Down Home Stories: Random thoughts while having morning coffee

Down Home Stories: Random thoughts while having morning coffee:    Coffee is the elixir of life, at least as far as I'm concerned. I don't even remember when I first started drinking it. I know Stanley ...

Random thoughts while having morning coffee


   Coffee is the elixir of life, at least as far as I'm concerned. I don't even remember when I first started drinking it. I know Stanley and I drank coffee all through school, or at least most of it. I remember when I lived with my Uncle Bill I had it before school, that was in the second grade. I guess you could say I've had a few cups.
   I'm not a coffee coinsure but I have had some that I liked and some that I didn't. Some in very fancy restaurants and a lot in diner's and dives. I've had the first cup out of a fresh pot and cups from a pot that had been sitting on the burner for hours. Everything from coffee that cost over a hundred dollars a pound to three dollar a pound poor folk blends and over the years I have had a few that tend to stand out in my memory.
   I've noticed that where the coffee is made is just as important as what kind it is. The big industrial pots that they use in truck stops makes a pretty decent cup as do the small single cup dispensers. One thing I have to point out here is that I'm only talking about "real" coffee. To me that means just plane ole boiled coffee. Even though I have tried several cappuccinos and even a few latt├ęs I just never really cared much for them. Not that I'm saying they're not good but when I order coffee I just want to use two words, hot and black. That must be my red neck roots coming out. Anyway, back to where you make it.
   I believe the world's greatest is made over a campfire. There were a few time when we were younger that we even had a real coffee pot even though it seemed like everyone we ever had was beat to death and the strainer was almost always loose on the stem. It didn't really matter though, they would hold water and we could always get them propped on a couple of rocks over the fire. Of course you don't really need a real coffee pot; anything that will hold water and take the heat will work just fine. I remember as a kid in Arizona we were out at the hobo jungle and had a guy show us how you could boil water using a paper sack. Would have never believed that if I hadn't seen it.
   The way Stanley and I mostly made it was to just fill up whatever pot we had from the creek, dump a handful of coffee grounds in, through a couple of egg shell in (if we had them) and put it on the fire. I'm not sure exactly what the egg shells were supposed to do but that's the way Uncle Henry always did it.
   Anyway, that's the how of making coffee but as I said it's the where that's the most important. I found out long ago that for some reason a pot made over the campfire down by Salt Creek hanging out with a friend seemed to taste better than the finest brew sold in the fanciest restaurant. Even though most of our morning consisted of me wandering around bleary eyed trying to figure out which way was up and Stanley bouncing around like a squirrel on steroids. I got even with him at night though. I may not have been as much of a morning person as he was but when it came to sitting around that fire having a cup at night I was wide awake long after he had called it a night.
   The odd thing was there was a place where I for sure was a morning person and a late night person at the same time. Morning in the desert is a time you have to be up. You want to already have your coffee ready and find a place to lean back and relax when the sun first comes up. Maybe it's because most of the firewood you find in the desert is mesquite that makes your morning coffee taste so good. Maybe it's because the only sounds you here are the calls of the doves and the quail. It could be just the joy of being alive in such a beautiful place. Night in the desert is another time to enjoy a cup and a meal. Not quite as nice as the morning but if you're in the right spot it's really neat to sit back, relax and watch the first stars come out. If you're lucky you'll get to see a few eyes moving around at the edge of the fire light. Raise a cup and toast the coyotes, coons and skunks that seem to be drawn to the fire.
   Another place that sticks out in my mind is the big trees of the northwest. For those of you who have been in the redwoods or the old growth forests you'll know what I mean. Sunshine is always nice but I prefer those cool misty mornings that deaden all sounds. It has always surprised me at how quite it can be in those forests especially after growing up in the woods down home where between the birds singing and critters prowling through the leaves it's seldom quite. Leaning back against one of those huge trees and watching the mist drift through its easy to let your mind drift. Between the quiet and the half seen columns of the trees disappearing into the mist you can picture yourself inside some giant cathedral with a line of silent monks passing through the trees. Or if you're like me and love Tolkien the monks become elves and you can imagine what Mirkwood might have looked like.
   There's one other thing I guess I should add here. Over the years I've also had lots of coffee in various hospitals. I would not count those as some of my fondest memories but I will say that the hospital in Moses Lake, Wa. does have the best of any I have found. Enough said.
   The cup of coffee that does and will always stand out above all others in my mind was the one I had in a very small cave. It wasn't the first I'd ever had in a cave but since this one was made of snow it added a different spin on it. I sat huddled over a candle holding a cup full of snow, waiting for it to get hot enough to add the last of my instant coffee. I had a little stand I could sit the cup on but I held it as much to try and warm my hands as to try and make the coffee. There was a blizzard blowing outside the cave that I had been lost in for over twelve hours while trying to find my way back to the cabin. I have no idea how cold it was but I do know the temp was forty below zero with no wind when I had left the cabin. The tips of my fingers were ghost white when I took my gloves off and I was scared to death that frost bite was going to make me lose them. I should have used my stand to hold the cup because my fingers were so cold that by the time the snow melted I had burnt them from holding the cup without even knowing it. When I saw I was burning my fingers I scraped out a shallow trench where I could sit the candle in the bottom and balance the cup over the flame. Once the water was hot it took me six tries to unwrap my instant. I dropped the package the first three times because I was shaking too hard to hold it. I was finally able to dump the coffee in the cup but I couldn't hold anything to stir it with. I cried with frustration the first time I tried to pick up the cup and take a drink because I was shaking so hard I sloshed almost a quarter the cup before I could get it to my mouth. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was just sitting and watching that coffee boiling in the cup while I held my hands in my arm pits and wait to stop shaking so much. I was able to blow the candle out to keep what I had left from boiling away. When I was finally able to take the first sip it was the absolutely the best coffee I had ever tasted. I seemed like the warmth spread from my mouth to my toes and back up. Yes it was just instant coffee and to be truthful just a cup of warm water might have had the same results but as far as I was concerned I would never have a better cup of coffee no matter how long I lived. Thinking back on it after all these years, I think I was right.   

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Down Home Stories: My Friend

Down Home Stories: My Friend:   Just found out that a good friend has been diagnosed with lung cancer and the doctors are saying he has less than six months to live. ...

My Friend


 Just found out that a good friend has been diagnosed with lung cancer and the doctors are saying he has less than six months to live.

   What do you say at a time like this? You can try to be cheerful and offer the same ole platitudes, the doctors can be wrong, you're a fighter and you can beat this, don't dwell on it and just enjoy every day of life.

   Those might sound good and they may be the things you would say to a stranger but for me anyway they are not how I feel about a friend. I will try my best not to be negative around him but it's going to be very hard to keep a positive attitude knowing I'm going to lose a friend. Everyone loses friends but to know ahead of time, to mentally count the days to try to cram everything you can think to do into each day always wondering if this one will be the last.

   I can't help but think of the plans we've had for camping trips or just days of sitting around visiting. I feel guilty for not visiting as much as I should have, putting it off just because I didn't feel good that day or just didn't fell like driving that far.

   I am willing to spend as much time as possible and to help in any way I can during the time he has left but how will I know that I'm not forcing him into doing something, including just visiting, that he may not want to do. I don't want to take a chance on making him feel obligated to do things to make me happy. I feel totally inadequate and helpless but do not want to do anything just for the sake of making myself feel better.

   My plan is check on him as often as I can. I will be there if he needs anything. If there's something he wants to do I will do everything I can to make it work. If he needs to talk I will listen and if he chooses to be alone I will respect that. I will try my best to be the friend he deserves.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Down Home Stories: Fall Hunt

Down Home Stories: Fall Hunt:    I went out for a nice enjoyable deer hunt down home when I was about fourteen. That was only my second hunt. I had gone the year before...

Fall Hunt


   I went out for a nice enjoyable deer hunt down home when I was about fourteen. That was only my second hunt. I had gone the year before but never even got a shot at one so I was really determined to bring home some meat this time. Since you could only hunt deer with a shotgun in Okmulgee County I had to borrow a twelve gauge from Thomas Knuckles dad. He was always nice about loaning me guns as long as I could supply my own shells. That year the only one he was able to loan me was a double barrel which was a really nice gun except that it was awful heavy and kicked hard enough to rattle your teeth. I all ready had a hunting license so I stopped by the store and picked up my deer tag and a box of twelve gauge slugs.
   There are a couple of ways to deer hunt, one is to stalk which is just sneaking through the woods trying to spot a deer and get close enough for a shot. I tried that most of my first hunt. I wasn't nearly as good at sneaking through the woods as I thought I was. In my little pea brain I was moving through the woods like Daniel Boone when in fact it was more like I was stumbling through like a crippled elephant. The other way is to still hunt which is just finding a god spot to see a trail either on the ground or in a deer stand and wait for a deer to walk by. I tried that a couple of times but I just didn't have the patience to sit there long enough. I could stay a little longer in a tree stand just because climbing up to one was a pain in the butt and once I was up there I hated to climb back down.
   The first day I was all the way up by Salt Creek before the sun came up sitting next to a big cottonwood watching a spot where I knew deer crossed the creek. I knew they came down out of the woods to feed in a field on my side of the creek and I was hoping that by getting there early I would see one headed back across. Of course since I had run into several trees, tripped over a couple of roots and damn near fell into the creek (forgot to bring a light) on my way to the sitting spot lowered my chances of seeing anything.
   I sat there for about an hour after the sun came up not being real still. It was pretty well impossible for me sit still in one spot back then. Being able to stay in one spot without moving for hours would be a lesson it would take me years to learn. I did stay there as long as I could but finally I had to get up and move around even if had the patience to stay longer, deer season is in November and it was getting cold just sitting there.
   I spent the rest of that day trying to do my sneaking and moving slow through the woods. I did get to see a couple deer, unfortunately they were both does and since it was a buck only season I just watched them hop away. Later that evening I was back at a well worn trail at the bottom of the hill Stanley and I always camped on. I had seen deer on that trail several times during the summer and I was sure it was one of the main ones that they took from the woods down to the creek each evening. I went up the hill a ways and found a good spot where I could sit and still see the tail. I made myself sit there as still as I could until dark but all I saw that day was a dozen squirrels and one fox, no deer.
   I spent the next three days wondering all over those woods and the only sight I had of a buck was his white butt bouncing through the woods heading for the next county. We had a storm move in the following day and since I didn't really want to be roaming around in the freezing rain I took that day off. The storm pretty well blew through that night and I was up and ready before daylight. I only had two more days to find a deer and I was getting desperate. I was up on the hillside leaning against a big oak tree when the sun came up that morning. It wasn't going to be a fun day. Everything was coated with a thin film of ice from the storm and it was so cold I had to keep my hands in my pockets so they would be warm enough to hold the gun. Of course my impatience started work within an hour and I ended up spending most of the day trying to find a spot where I would be able to see more of the trail and moving around trying to stay warm. The one thing I couldn't find anywhere along that hill was a tree stand. Since so many people hunt deer in that country there are always deer stands scattered around. Most of them were just a few boards or branches laying across a couple of limbs. A few of them even had boards nailed to the tree to help climb up. Not finding any along that trail should have told me that maybe it wasn't the best place to hunt but I had myself convinced that there had to be deer moving along that trail.
   I was moving back toward the creek when I noticed a big red oak tree that was growing right next to the trail. The thing that caught my eye was the two branches that grew out over the tail about thirty feet above the ground. Now that would be a great place for a deer stand I thought. The limbs were about six to eight inches in diameter and grew out at an angle from the tree both at the same level. If I had of had a few boards are even some sturdy branches I could lay them across those limbs and be able to see a long way down the trail. But, I didn't have any boards. I didn't even have a hatchet to cut and branches and buy them time I gathered the stuff to make a stand the season would be over. I had about two hours left to hunt and as I stood there staring at those limbs I had an idea. Notice I said idea, not thought.
   I figured I could climb up that tree and just sit on the limb. It looked to me like they were close enough for me to put my butt on one and my feet on the other. I'd have to be careful because the day was still cold enough for most of the tree limbs to still have a coating of ice on them. I did have some rope with me (in case I needed to hang a deer) and I figured I could tie it to the gun and pull it up after I was set. I did my normal big tree climbing trick and found a broken limb that I could lean against the tree and climb up it far enough to get a hold of the first limb. There was a little more ice on the top of the limb than I had thought and I came real close to falling before I could even get started but with a little work and a lot of luck I made to the limbs. The limb I ended up standing on was on the opposite side of the tree from the ones I wanted to be on and the hardest part was stepping around the tree. The tree was too big to reach around and there was a tense moment when I had one foot on each limb and tried to figure out how I was going to get both on the same side. It took a minute but I was finally able to get around on the limbs I wanted to be on at which time my foot slipped and down I went. Not all the way to the ground though, I think it might have been better if I had, but no, I went down with a leg on each side of the limb. I just kind of lay there for awhile thinking I was going to die, or being afraid I wouldn't, worrying that I was going to really ruin this hunting spot if I puked all over the trail.
   The pain finally eased off enough for me to sit up and get my leg over the limb and I found out that I had been right on at least one thing, with my butt on one limb and my feet on the other I had a really good view of the trail. It took a few more minutes to pull the gun up on that rope and I was finally set except for one small problem. I was sitting on the limbs right next to the trunk so I could lean against the trunk and wait for the rest of the pain to go away. The problem was that I couldn't see all that far down the trail from there, I needed to move out a little farther. By the time I got wiggled over to where I see well my feet were sticking almost straight out and were more pushing against the limb instead of being on top of it. It wasn't really all that comfortable stretched out like that and the cold from the ice seeping threw my britches did help much but since I only had about an hour and a half left to hunt I figured I could put up with it.
   I sat on that limb for the next hour literally freezing my butt off, starting to wonder how I was going to get down out of that tree (see, idea, not thought) when I saw something that I thought was moving down the trail. Whatever it was it was a ways off and with me trying to look through the branches it was hard to tell if it was something big moving on the trail or was I just seeing a squirrel moving through the trees. After a couple of more minutes of staring I realized that not only was it a deer moving down the trail toward me but that even better it was a deer with horns!
   I brought my gun up and got a bead on him as soon as he walked into a clear spot and discovered a minor problem. I was sitting right over the trail which meant the deer was walking straight toward me. I was higher than him but still, all I could see was mostly his head. He would dip his head every once in awhile and I'd see his back but from where I was sitting I wasn't going to be able to get a shot at him. I was afraid to take a chance of just trying to shoot him in the head because that was going to be a hard target to hit but there was no way he was going to turn to the side. I was beginning to think that all I was going to get to do was just sit there on that limb and watch him walk right under me without ever getting a shot. Out of desperation I came up with a plan. I carefully pulled the gun back and aimed it straight down between my legs. I figured that as long as he kept going the way he was he would walk directly under me and I'd be able to shoot him in the back.
   The plan worked really well right up to a point. He came walking down the trail without ever looking up. I held my breath as he passed under me, aimed at his back and pulled the trigger. That's the point where things went a little wrong. For one thing I had a double barrel shotgun with both barrels loaded and in my excitement I pulled both triggers. The butt plate on that ole gun was just a steel plate and it kicked when you shot it and if you shot both barrels at the same time it kicked twice as hard. Leaning over and shooting straight down didn't help either.  As soon as it went off it kicked my shoulder up which caused my feet to slip off the limb I was pushing against. My feet went down between the limbs and I dropped the gun trying to grab the limb to keep from falling, but I missed. I whacked my forehead on limb in front which made my butt slip off the limb I was sitting on and down I went.
   One good thing was that I landed on the deer when I fell. Thankfully it was on his back and not his horns. The most important thing was that after I finally got my breath back and was able to look around I found that dropping the gun hadn't hurt it at all. I was in a panic thinking I was going to have to go back and tell Mr. Knuckles that I had broken his gun.  I did get the deer, a nice little two point all though I was never one hundred percent if he died from me shooting him (I only hit him once even though he was less than thirty feet away) or from me falling on him.     


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Down Home Stories: Sleeping

Down Home Stories: Sleeping:    I met a guy not long ago that kind of threw me for a loop. We got to talking about things and I happened to mention that I was looking fo...

Sleeping

   I met a guy not long ago that kind of threw me for a loop. We got to talking about things and I happened to mention that I was looking forward to doing a little gold prospecting this summer. He seemed really excited about that and said that him and his wife had been thinking about trying that their selves I told him about a few places up here that he might want to check out, just regular prospector talk. It took a few minutes to sink into my pea brain that every time I mentioned a different place the first thing he would ask about was what town was the closest and did I know anything about motels that were close. When I told him that the only way to prospect a lot of the places was going to require camping out, that's where the loop came in. This guy was in his late 50's and not only had he never been camping but according to him, he'd never slept anywhere but in a bed in his entire life!

   I guess there must be other folk like that, city folks maybe, but to someone who has been camping out since I was around three it does seem strange. After talking to him I got to thinking and trying to remember some of the places I've slept over the years. There are the regulars, curled up on a blanket beside a creek, river or lake. I know we used to think that sleeping under a pickup was about the same as having a tent. I can't even begin to remember all the trees I've spent the night under or the number of shelters I've spent the night in. I've made shelters out of tree limbs and brush, roofed with pine boughs. There have been lean-tos covered with everything from tree bark to Johnson grass leaves. There were caves, both large enough to stand up and move around and the ones that were just big enough to slide into feet first. I've even spent a few nights inside a fallen hollow log watching some pretty good storms pass by.
   I've slept under rock overhangs trying to keep dry during a rain storm or trying to catch a few hours sleep out of the desert sun. There have been nights spent sitting up or leaning back against a tree and warm summer nights just laying out in the middle of a field. I can remember almost every night I've ever spent in abandoned buildings from the old saloon in a ghost town in Nevada to the old miner's cabins in Alaska. There was even an old honky-tonk in Schulter where I spent a few nights when I had problems at home during my teen years.

   I saw a film about Chimps building a kind of nest and sleeping in trees so of course I had to try that. It really wasn't bad until a storm blew in and the tree started hard enough to almost toss me out of my "nest", I developed a lot more respect for baby birds after that night. I spent several nights in snow caves during some bad storms and found them to be downright comfortable as long as you pay attention to how you dig them, having one cave in on you in the middle of the night will definitely get your attention!

   I built a really nice shelter out of drift wood on the Oregon one time. It was snug and water proof and I enjoyed staying in it until the night I got the fire too close to the roof and set it on fire. Thankfully it was raining that night which is the only thing that saved me from burning up a few miles of beach.

   Snow caves are great places for a night if you happen to find caught out in a blizzard and the snow is deep enough to dig into. Even the cloudless nights up in Alaska when it hits thirty or forty below a snow cave will be relativity warm in a nice sleeping bag and just a miner's candle. I did manager to spend one night in an igloo. It only took me about five attempts to actually get one that would stay up. Those things are a lot harder to build than it looks. Another way to keep warm at night (at least in Oklahoma where it seldom gets more than about ten below) is to burrow into a pile of leaves. I have spent a few hours raking up all the leaves I could and piling them against a log the burrow into the middle of them. I've spent nights like that just as snug as a bug in a rug and woke in the morning to find the whole pile covered in ice. The only bad part about spending the night in cold weather is having to get up in the morning.

   I found a nice overhang in a cliff up in northern Arizona one time that came in real handy when I got caught out in one of the big desert thunder storms. The best thing about it was the fact that there were pictographs on the walls. I'm not an archeologist but even I could tell that they were very old. I was careful to build my fire at the edge of the cave in order not to have smoke blowing inside. I didn't know if the smoke would cause and damage to the drawings but I sure didn't want to take a chance. I spent that night wondering what the person that made them might have used the cave for. Back when they must have been made that part of the country was a lot different than what it was while I was there. There was a lot more water and the country was a lot greener then. The ledge in front would have been a great spot for a hunter to watch the valley below or maybe it was a sacred place only visited by the local Shamans. I will never know but it was special place to me.

   One of the scarcest places I've ever spent a night was in a hammock tied to two carabineers driven into a couple of cracks in the rock and about six hundred feet up the side of a cliff in northern California. That was my one and only attempt at real rock climbing. I didn't get much sleep that night.  

   Now days I tend to spend my camping nights in a tent on a cop with an air mattress. Laying out on the rocky bank of a creek for the night just isn't as comfortable as it used to be as Stanley and I found out the last time I went down to visit him. Those rocks just don't seem to make as good a pillow as they used to!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Down Home Stories: Just a quick thought on breakfast

Down Home Stories: Just a quick thought on breakfast: Breakfast    Here's a breakfast idea that lots of people down home like. In fact, this is so good and I'm sure that so many people nationwi...

Just a quick thought on breakfast

Breakfast

   Here's a breakfast idea that lots of people down home like. In fact, this is so good and I'm sure that so many people nationwide enjoy it I'm surprised I have never seen it advertised at Denny's or seen any mention of it on any of the cooking shows. I'm sure ya'll know I'm talking about that ole trusty stand-by, Brains and Eggs.

   All you need to enjoy this delectable treat is one good size calf brain, half a dozen eggs, milk, six green onions, a little oregano, basil, dill weed, salt and peeper. Crack the eggs in a medium bowl and add one -half cup of milk along with the other ingredients. Whisk them all together just like you were going to make scrambled eggs. Wash the brain in cold water and chop it into chunks about half-inch square. Add the brain to the egg mix and stir until it mixed throughout.

   Add a couple of tablespoons of oil (lard if you're from down south) to a ten inch skillet (cast iron works real well) Once the oil is hot pour in the egg and brain mix, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the eggs are kind of dry looking and the brains have been cooked through. Dish em up along with a pile of fried taters and cover them both with fresh white gravy with a couple of scratch made biskets.

   This is a breakfast that will stick with you through a whole day of baling hay or a hard day of tromping through the woods! Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Down Home Stories: Frog Legs

Down Home Stories: Frog Legs:    The thing we always liked best about frog legs was being out at night hunting them. The fact that they taste really good was just frost...

Frog Legs



   The thing we always liked best about frog legs was being out at night hunting them. The fact that they taste really good was just frosting on the cake. We hunted frogs pretty well every time we were out fishing and we'd use our fishing poles to catch them. You just tie a three prong hook on your line and once you spot a frog you sneak up to him, reach out and lay the hook beside him and jerk it across his back. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred you will snag him with the hook. You just have to pay attention while you're sneaking around the water watching for frog eyes to shine in your light because snake eyes also shine and you don't really want to be snagging a big cottonmouth when you're wanting frog legs.

   The easiest way to fix the legs is to just add a little salt and pepper to them and fry them in hot oil. You can do them under real quick by holding their back feet and whacking their heads against a tree or rock. To clean them just make a slit through the skin across the back right above the legs. You can peel the skin off with your fingers but it's a lot easier if you have a pair of pliers. You just get a hold of the skin and pull down and the skin will come off just like taking his pants off. Cut the legs off just above the hips and remove the feet. Fry them in about an inch of hot oil about three minutes on each side. They seem to taste a lot better cooked this way if you're camping out. Of course we always thought that even eggs had a lot better taste when you fix them out in the woods.

   You can also get fancy with them. Season them with salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Add two tablespoons of butter to a ten inch fry pan and when it melts add two teaspoons of lemon juice. Cook the legs a couple of minutes on each side the add a quarter cup of red wine and finish them off as the wine reduces. Add a small cold salad and you will have the same dish they serve in some high class restaurants.

   Another good way to fix legs is to use them as part of a wilderness fish stew. Most everyone who has everyone any camping has a version of these. Stanley and I had two different versions. One was purely from what we could gather from the woods and the other one was if we happened to be close to someone's fields or gardens where we could "liberate" a few extra goodies.

Wilderness Fish Stew:

   At least six pair of frog legs

   What every kind of fish you can catch. If you can get good sized one then filet               them and cut the filets into chunks about an inch square. If their small, like perch, just cut the heads and fins off, gut and scale them and use them whole.

   Half a dozen wild onions

   Three wild garlic including tops

   A handful of dandelion greens

   Cat tail stalks cut in two to three inch strips (use the bottom foot or so. Peel the outer leaves and just use the core)

   A handful of black mustard greens

   Salt and pepper to taste

   Put one quart of water in a pot and bring to a boil then dump everything in except the   frog legs and fish. Let everything boil for about half an hour then add the legs and let them boil for about ten minutes before adding the fish. Keep it boiling for another twenty minutes then move to the side of the campfire and let it cool down for about fifteen minutes. If you happen to be around where you can gather a few things for some one's fields or gardens without getting shot you can add some corn for taste and some okra to thicken the stew.






Thursday, March 22, 2012

Down Home Stories: Wildlife Sightings

Down Home Stories: Wildlife Sightings:    Seeing wildlife has always been a special treat for me. It doesn't have to be anything out of the ordinary, just seeing a deer in a field...

Wildlife Sightings

   Seeing wildlife has always been a special treat for me. It doesn't have to be anything out of the ordinary, just seeing a deer in a field on the way to work or a hawk swooping over the road seems to brighten the day.

   One of the first wildlife sightings that I can remember happened when I was ten or eleven and we were camping at Coons Bluff on the Salt River out in Arizona. That used to be one of the family's favorite camping spots back then and I loved it. The river was on one side, running crystal clean and cold, just perfect to swim in during the hot summer days. On another side was the desert stretching away toward the Superstition Mountains with all the snakes, lizards and spiders needed to make a perfect camping spot for a ten year old boy. To the north in a half mile strip along the river was a thicket of willow and mesquite trees full of birds. I can remember waking up to the sounds of quail and doves and will forever associate those sounds with the desert. My favorite part of Coons Bluff was to the south and the huge sandstone cliff that bordered the edge of the campgrounds. The cliff was at least a hundred feet high which was huge to me and pretty well straight up. It was impossible to climb and believe me, I tried, but there was a gully that a nimble footed kid could climb all the way to the top and as soon as the camp was set up and I was able to sneak away from Mom it's the first place I'd head. I had to be careful because Mom didn't like the idea of me climbing there (for good reason) and would give me hell every time she caught me doing it, plus I had to worry about my tattletale sister who would snitch me off every time she saw me headed toward the gully. Even with all that, the cliff still drew me like a moth to flame and I would still manage to get to the top at least once a day.

   At the bottom of that gully was where I saw my first Gila monster which I immediately captured and took back to camp to show off. For some reason no one else seemed to think carrying one of only two poisonous lizards in the world back to camp was as cool as I thought it was. When Mom and Carolyn saw it they both started screaming and pointing and my step dad wanted to kill it! I ended up having to carry it back to the gully and turn it loose which was a real bummer because I thought it would make a really neat pet. About three quarters of the way up that gully is also where I saw my first rattlesnake. I wanted to catch him and show him off to everyone but he crawled under a big rock and I wasn't able to drag him back out even though I broke three sticks trying. I guess after the reception I got with the lizard taking him back to camp wouldn't have been a good idea anyway.  

   Beyond the top of that gully was where I had the wildlife sighting that will live in my memories the rest of my life. I had been sleepy the night before and went to bed long before anyone else did so I was the first one up the next morning. This was my chance to get some prowling in while there was no one around to tell me where I could or couldn't go and there was no question about where I was going. It was still the cool of the morning so I didn't see a single snake or lizard on the climb up that gully. I took my time and checked every nook and cranny but there just wasn't anything stirring around. I wasn't worried too much, I figured as soon as I got to the top into the sunshine and out of the shade I would be able to find some good stuff. The top of the cliff was pretty flat with just a few mesquite trees, cactus and clumps of grass growing from the cracks in the rock. One thing I loved doing up there, and got into trouble for it many times, was to sit on the edge of the cliff with my feet hanging over and just admire the view; the whole camp ground was spread out below me kind of like looking down at a model train set. I could see the Superstition Mountains off to the right and the river winding back into the hills to my left. There were a few good size ledges going down the cliff face that looked kind of like a giant staircase. I always wanted to be able to climb down those ledges but they were far enough apart that I figured if I tried it I'd end up stuck half way down and would really be in trouble then. This morning I settled down, my feet hanging over the edge, feeling the warmth of the morning sun and was enjoying the view when I decided to drop a few rocks down to the first ledge. There wasn't any reason to do that other than just being something to do and to listen to the sound of them bouncing off the ledge. I dropped the first one off and as it hit the ledge I saw something move from the corner of my eye. I thought it might be a snake and tried to spot where movement had been. I didn't see anything for a minute then a shape began to appear. It was kind of like those pictures where there's just a bunch of lines but the longer you stare at it the more you see the picture imbedded in the lines. Even after I realized what I was seeing I kept staring at it for a few more minutes having trouble believing what I was actually looking at.

   There, less than eight feet below me was a mountain lion!  I knew exactly what it was because I'd seen one in the zoo but there were no bars between this one and me. I was to scared to even move! It was just laying there on the ledge soaking up the sun and staring up at me. I felt like I should jump up and start running but the same time I was so excited I didn't think I'd be able to stand much less run. I will admit that he was just about the prettiest thing I had ever seen. His fur was just about the same color as the sandstone he was laying on and you had the feeling of power even though he was just laying still. I'm not sure how long we sat there starting at other before he stood up, but when he did it scared me even more. My heart did a couple of flips and I thought for sure I was going to wet my pants. He stood there for a minute then started walking down the ledge passing right below me. He never even looked at me after he started walking but I never took my eyes of him for a second. I wasn't sure how he was going to get to the top of the cliff but I was afraid I might be sitting in the spot he would need to climb up. He walked past me to my left and for the first time I noticed that the ledge angled up going that way which brought it closer to the top of the cliff. Once he was at that end he jumped to the top, but to me it didn't look like he had actually jumped, it was more like a flowing movement, one second he was on the ledge and the next he standing on the top about ten feet away from me. I hate to admit it but when he hit the top I'm pretty sure I did wet my pants just a little. I thought for sure that he was going to attack me now that he close and there wasn't a thing I could do about it. My brain was yelling to get up and run but my body just kind of melted down and refused to move. He just stood there on the top of that cliff and stared at me for a couple of seconds then turned and walked off into the desert.

   I watched him until he finally moved behind some rocks and disappeared into the desert. I still remember the relief and the disappointment I felt when he was gone. I just couldn't believe I had really seen a mountain lion. It surprised me at how hard it was to stand up when I finally decided to head back to the camp. It felt like my legs were made of rubber and I know it took me twice as long to climb back down through the gully than normal. I had to tell everyone at camp what I had seen but other than Mom I'm sure any of them really believed me. I'm pretty sure she did because later, when no one was looking she gave me a hug, told me she worried about me and ask me not to climb the cliff alone any more.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wild Eats: Redneck Gourmet, Squirrel and Dumplings

Down Home Stories: Redneck Gourmet, Squirrel and Dumplings: 6 good size squirrels, cleaned and washed, Fox or Grays will work. 3 ribs of celery, course chopped 1 large onion, chopped 3 carrots, ...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Down Home Stories: Family Style Snake

Down Home Stories: Family Style Snake:                                                                  As I have said before, most of my snake eating has been while I was campin...

Family Style Snake

                                                             
   As I have said before, most of my snake eating has been while I was camping out and the most I ever had to feed during those times were two. The main way I fixed the snakes during those times was just draping it over a stick and roasting it over the fire. I have been to a few snake roundups where folks cooked up a lot of snakes to feed the crowd but even there it seemed like the main way they fixed it was to either BBQ it or add it to chili. You can also just fry one when you're at home just like fried chicken and serve it with mashed taters and a side of veggies or even have one instead of bacon to go along with your eggs for breakfast. All of the above are great ways to fix one but if you want to be the hero of your family and friends and you happen to live in a spot where you can get your hands on a nice Timber Rattler, try this one.

   First off you're going to need a nice size Timber Rattler. Timber Rattlers are the largest venomous snakes in the United States and are mostly found from eastern Oklahoma to New York. We just happened to have a place outside of Henryetta called Tiger Mountain down home that was crawling with them. For a family meal you're going to need one at least four feet long and five would be even better. One that size should be at least three to four inches thick across the body. You will have better luck if you hunt for one on the south facing slope of a hill and be sure and watch for rock out cropping because the like to lay on the top of them to soak up the sun and they tend to make dens back under them. They are also a powerful snake so if you don't have a snake pole, make sure you have a stout stick to hold its head down. When you spot one, if he's coiled up just rake him out with your stick and push your stick down on top of his head. Don't beat on him with your stick cause all you're gonna do is burse the meat. Once you have his head down you need to cut it off pretty quick before he flops around too much. If you want to and you're as crazy as Stanley and I used to be, let him start crawling away and just grab his tail and give him a good hard flick, kind of like snapping a whip. That will break his neck most of the time which is a lot quicker and cleaner than trying to saw off his head with a pocket knife. Either way you kill him don't worry if he keeps flopping around for awhile, that's normal.

   Once you get him gutted and skinned (save the hide, it makes really nice belts and hat bands) you're going to want to coat him with a good dry rub. If you have a rub that you like you can always just use it, I kind of like this one:

     DRY RUB:

     1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

     1/4 cup smoked paprika

     3 tablespoons black pepper

     3 tablespoons coarse salt

     2 teaspoons garlic powder

     2 teaspoons onion power

     2 teaspoons celery seeds

     1 tablespoon dried dill

     1 tablespoon dried oregano

     1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

   Once you get him rubbed down good, coil him up on a plate, cover him with some plastic wrap and stick him in the fridge while you make some sauce to dip him in.

     SAUCE:

     2 cups of ketchup

     1/4 cup of cider vinegar

     1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce

     1/4 cup packed brown sugar

     2 tablespoons of molasses

     1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

     1 tablespoon of your dry rub

     1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

   Use a pot that wide enough and deep enough for you to loosely coil the entire snake and still be able to completely cover him with oil. Heat the oil to about 375 degrees and deep fry the whole snake until the internal temp is around 165. Remove and let the excess oil drain.

   The most impressive way to serve is to set the bowl of dipping sauce in the middle of a large platter and surround it with a mound of french fries then coil the snake around the outside edge. Everyone can either dip their pieces in the sauce or just put a piece on the plate and pour the sauce over it, either way is good. For those of you who live out west, this works just as well on diamond backs. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Down Home Stories: Down Home Stories: Corn

Down Home Stories: Down Home Stories: Corn: Down Home Stories: Corn : A lot of countries have taken ingredients and not only made them their own but have done so to such an extent that...

Tarzan Time

   Ever notice that boys walking through the woods find it impossible to just walk? They always have to high kick a tree, jump up and grab a limb to either swing on or try to do a chin up. Heaven forbid if there are vines growing in those woods because that is one hundred percent sure to bring out the Tarzan gene in every boy (and some girls) which makes it totally imp0ossible to walk by a vine without trying to climb on it or swing from it.
   There are some good swinging vines down home but there are a whole lot more that aren't and for anyone that had small brains like Stanley or myself, telling the difference between them seemed to be just out of our reach. Now the ones that hung straight down the trunk of a tree weren't too bad as all you could do with them was to get a running start and swing up a foot or so then you would head right back to the tree. Since you never got your feet to far off the ground there wasn't much that could wrong other than hitting the tree if you didn't turn loose in time. Of course there are ways of getting into trouble with vines besides swinging on them. There was a big red oak growing on the hill behind Charlie Condrens place with what I was sure was a coon den at the top. The problem with that tree was the same as a lot of oak trees; the first branch was a good fifteen feet above the ground and since I was only about five foot three back then you can see the problem. I wasn't one to give up when there was a den tree to check out thought and it so happened there was one good size grape vine running up the side of the trunk. Grape vines put out these little shoots as the grow that burrow into a tress bark and hold them up but if you can get your fingers behind the vine you can rip them out enough to be able to climb up it just like a rope. I yanked this one out until it was loose up past that first limb and figured I'd have no problem climbing up it until I could get into the limbs and then be able to shinny my way on up to the den. I've always said that one of the main problems Stanley and I had back then was not being able to think out a plan more than five seconds which is the reason we tended to run into problems about six seconds into whatever it was we were trying. Well this time I had just the opposite problem. All I could think about was getting to the top of that tree and seeing what I might find in that den so I wasn't paying much attention to anything else. Pulling yourself up a vine, hand over hand is hard but if you can get your feet against something it's a lot easier cause you can use your feet to kind of walk up the tree while pulling on the vine which is the way I always did it. I started out pretty good. The vine was thick enough to get a good hold of and the bark was rough enough to give good traction. I was up high enough to just reach the bottom limb and was thinking of how neat it would be if there were baby coons in that den. Just as I put my hand on the limb the vine pulled loose from the bark and I dropped down a few inches. Because I had my feet against the tree I was now stretched out flat. I had just enough time to think "Oh" before the vine broke. Thank god that limb was only about fifteen feet off the ground. I only bounced twice when I hit and that second bounce moved me just enough to keep the broken end of the vine from poking me in the eye when it came down on top of me. It took a few minutes of laying there gasping for breath before I could even finish my though and I'm sure I don't need to tell you the second word. I learned something that day (again) "make sure the vine isn't dead before you try climbing it". I have to admit that both Stanley and I learned that lesson many times over the years, the problem was that it just never sunk in and it surprised us every time.
   The best Tarzan vines were the ones that hung down from tree limbs and the best of the best were on trees that grew close to a creek or the river. These were so good because you could really get a really good swing going especially if you got a running start. Our goal was swing at least as high as the limb they were attached too. We never quite made it but it sure wasn't from lack of trying. Another good thing about the ones that were close to a creek or river is that it didn't hurt quite as much if the vine broke, as long as there was water in said creek or river! Now, the smart thing to do when swinging on an unknown vine would be to talk someone else into trying it first. That way if the vine wasn't strong enough to hold a person you could be the one standing back laughing instead on the one laying on the ground with the wind knocked out of him. The problem was that most of the time it was just Stanley and me and since we were just a little bit competitive about some things each of us always wanted to be first. Of course we didn't always end up flat on our backs when a vine broke. There was the time Stanley got the vine first, pulled it back as far as it would go and took off running. He would have made a really impressive swing if only the vine hadn't broken just as he was starting to take off. He just kept right on running with that vine trailing back over his shoulder right off the edge of the creek bank. I'm not sure, and he wouldn't tell, if he tripped at the edge or was trying to dive into the water to make the landing softer but he ended up doing a back flip and hit the water feet first still holding the vine, then he just fell over backwards. I guess it was a god thing he didn't manage to complete a dive because the water was only ankle deep. He had to crawl back to dry land and we had to hang out there for a couple of hours until his ankles, knees and hips quit hurting enough for him to be able to walk back home. He also bit his tongue and had a gash in the back of his head from hitting a rock when he fell. I don't want you to think he was stubborn or anything but he did make another wild Tarzan swing the very next day.
   I can't say too much about Stanley's' almost swing because about two weeks later I was down on Salt Creek doing a little squirrel hunting when I tried one that came out pretty well the same. I was a really hot day and I decided to take a swim in the creek to cool off. Normally on days like that I'd just wade out in the water far enough to lay down and just float around but that day while I was floating I noticed a good size grape vine growing up a cottonwood tree that was leaning out over the creek. There use to be a rope swing down at Skyrocket (our main swimming hole) that I loved to swing on and drop into the creek and this vine looked enough like that rope that it was just too hard to pass up. I remembered what had happened to Stanley on his creek swing so I gave that vine a couple of hard yanks to make sure it was strong enough to hold me. I even cut the bottom off the vine so there wouldn't be any chance of tripping myself. I figured that if I got a good running start I'd be able to swing out as far as I could, let go of the vine and land just about in the middle of the creek where I knew the water was deep. My take off was perfect if I do say so myself. Off the bank I went and up and over the creek I flew laughing my butt off the whole way. I went so high that looking straight ahead all I could see was the sky and was just thinking about turning loose when the vine broke. No warning it just broke. To say the least it was a kind of sinking feeling but I still figured I'd be Ok after all, I knew the creek was deep enough that the worst that was going to happen would be landing on my back in the water and I was right, kind of. If Mr. Short (our math teacher) had of been there I'm sure he could have explained my miscalculation but since I was never very good at math I will tell you what happened and you can figure out the math. I didn't take into account how far or how high I would get and I also didn't even think about how narrow that creek was so instead of landing on my back in the water; I went all the way across the creek and planted both feet into the opposite bank. Not on top of the bank although I only missed it by about six inches and fell straight down. I was right about the water being deep enough but since the only part of me that actually hit the water was my head and shoulders that wasn't much to brag about, the rest of me was stuck in the mud. I also had a really hard time getting back home that day and had to wear an Ace bandage wrapped around my ankle for the next two weeks.
   You would think that after a few results like these we might have figured out that maybe, just maybe trying to swing through the trees might not have been such a good idea but you would be wrong. Some folks are just slow learners.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Down Home Stories: Corn

Down Home Stories: Corn: A lot of countries have taken ingredients and not only made them their own but have done so to such an extent that most people believe th...

Corn

   A lot of countries have taken ingredients and not only made them their own but have done so to such an extent that most people believe they have been using them for thousands of years. Tomatoes for example, are one of the main ingredients for Italian foods and they are known far and wide for the many ways they use them. Granted, they do some wonderful stuff with them but some people forget that tomatoes come from the new word and before the fifteen hundred's there were no great tasting sauces made from them. When a lot of people think of potatoes they think of the Irish forgetting that potatoes also come from the new world. Feasting on pigs cooked in a pit using hot stones is a trademark of many of the pacific islands but until European sailors dropped pigs off on those islands to provide a food supply for their voyages the main protein for those feasts would have been fish. Most of the spices that the French use so well in their food came from Java and other members of the "spice islands" and there are so many foods in America that came for other countries a person could write a book just listing them but one of the things that we had and kept in the new world was corn.

   There are a lot of amazing things that corn can be used for and I wish I could say that Okies came up with them and for all I know maybe they did but the only thing we used it for down home was some pretty good eats. Ingredients

   Corn Bread: It seems like there's as many different ways of making corn bread as there are people making it. Everyone has their favorite recipes including adding different spices. I had a couple of cousins that came close to a knockdown, drag out fight over adding sugar. This is what I tended to think of as "regular" corn bread like Grandma used to make.

• 1/2 cup butter

• 2/3 cup white sugar

• 2 eggs

• 1 cup buttermilk

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1 cup cornmeal

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch square pan.

2. Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

   Sawmill Gravy: I ordered this from a cafe in North Carolina one time and they brought out sausage and white gravy, not what I was expecting. Granma used to make this for me and sawmill gravy was what she always called it.

In a large saucepan over medium heat melt 4 Tbsp. butter

Add 4 Tbsp of fine ground cornmeal mixed with salt and pepper and whisk to blind

Continue to whish while slowly adding milk until all the ingredients are blended.

This is one of those meals where all I ever did was watch Grandma make it. I never made this on my own and I hope I have this recipe right but my memory isn't what it once was so if I've missed anything I apologize. One thing I remember about these is that you could take the left over's, cut them into pieces about 3" by 3" and fry them into a kind of corn bread for supper. I know a couple of times she added onions and sausage to the mix which I really liked.

   Corn Dodgers: The recipe for these is the same as for regular corn bread except you add a little more corn meal to make a thicker dough, roll the dough into ball about the size of goofballs' and deep fry them. Now I'm not going to lie to ya, these things turn out to be very similar to corn meal rocks but they are really handy to carry along while you're wondering in the woods or working in the fields. You need some pretty strong teeth to eat them but they do taste pretty good. P.S. it's kind of fun to set one of these out and watch the squirrels try to eat it.

   Some of the best corn we ever had when we were kids was other people's corn. We used to sneak up to Bill Longs corn field and pilfer a couple of ears each then we'd take them down to river and soak them in the water for five or ten minutes. After that it was just a matter of laying them still in their sucks directly on the coals of the campfire until they were cooked. You have to be careful peeling the shucks cause they would be really hot but if you're careful you can peel them down to the end and use them as holders. Add a little salt and pepper and you got some great eating and they always seemed to taste so much better than your own corn.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Down Home Stories: A Hearty Meal

Down Home Stories: A Hearty Meal: I traded for a Dutch oven from the second hand store in Henryetta and discovered a whole new way of burning things. The first thing I tri...

A Hearty Meal

   I traded for a Dutch oven from the second hand store in Henryetta and discovered a whole new way of burning things. The first thing I tried to cook in it were biskets because all the books about mountain men all said that was one of the main things they made. I guess always being close to starving to death and short on supplies was motivator for learning how to cook because there was no mention of any burnt or otherwise ruined meals in any of the books I saw.

Here is one of the meals that I was finally able to get cooked correctly with a not to bad flavor.

One roast, three to four pounds. I used deer meat for this one although hog works well also.

A dozen Jerusalem artichokes cleaned and quartered (cat tail roots will work if you do this in the spring when the plants are young and the heads are still firm.












A half a hand full of Black Mustard greens











A hand full of Dock












A dozen wild onions











Half a dozen wild garlic bulbs










Salt

Enough water to cover three quarters of the roast.

Cat tail stems (In season) cut the first five or six inches above the root, remove the outer and chop the stems like you would celery.












Ten inch Dutch oven

You'll want to start with a good sized bed of hot coals off to one side of the campfire (oak or hickory make the best coals). Add all the ingredients to the pot, cover and set in the coals. Cover the lid with at least an inch or more of hot coals. You will need to cook this for most of a day (at least 6 hours, depending on the fire). Keep the fire built up to the side and scrape new coals around and on top of the oven as needed. Be sure and check the water adding more as needed to keep it from boiling dry (my first mistake).

The roast will be ready to serve when it's tender enough to pull apart with a couple of forks.