Almost all of my western romances revolve around cattle or cattle drives, one way or another. Having grown up in western Nebraska, cattle were everywhere, a common sight along the interstate or highway. Roll down the car window and get a whiff? Ah, we used to say. Smell that money.
But cattle need cowboys. And cowboys need to be fed. On cattle drives, the chuckwagon cook spent his days feeding an outfit of fifteen or twenty hungry men. His wagon became their home away from home, a place to gather in the middle of nowhere. It was here a man could get warm by a fire, swap a tall tale or two, and fill his belly before hitting his bedroll for a short night’s sleep.
He’d wake again to the smell of strong coffee. His meals were three squares of beef, sourdough biscuits and coffee. Maybe a dessert of raisin pudding, a popular standby. Or dried apples.
Cowboys loved sourdough and so did the cook. He started the sourdough before leaving the ranch, mixing flour, salt and warm water in a crock twice as big as the mixture. He added a little sugar or molasses to help it ferment, and voila! Sourdough starter. Cared for right, (warmed in the sun to aid fermentation and replaced what he used with more flour, salt and water) a cook could keep sourdough going for eternity.
Pretty amazing if you think about it. Versatile, too.
Since today is National Apple Pie Day, how about a cowboy’s version of apple pie on the range? I’m happy to share an authentic chuckwagon cook’s recipe for Dried Apple Cakes.
- 3 cups dried apples, chopped
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- –Dry Baking Mix as follows–
- 2 cups flour
- 1 Tb. Sugar
- 1 Tb. Baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup lard or shortening
- Sift or mix dry ingredients. Cut in lard or shortening until mixture resembles fine meal.
- 1 1/2 cups Sourdough Starter (recipe below)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 cup butter
Cook dried apples in the water until tender. Drain and save the juice.
Measure 2 cups juice, adding water if needed.
Mix 1/4 cup sugar with the above recipe of Dry Baking Mix.
Stir in Sourdough Starter to moisten flour. Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Pat or roll to a 12 x 18 inch rectangle.
Sprinkle with apples. Roll, starting at short end. Cut into 12 slices. Put remaining sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and the 2 cups apple liquid into a large deep skillet.
Bring to a boil. Gently lower slices of apple-sprinkled dough into hot syrup.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 – 40 minutes. Makes 12 servings.
- 1 quart lukewarm water
- 1 pkg dry yeast
- 2 tsp sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose four
Put water in large crock. Add yeast, sugar and flour. Cover with a clean cloth. Let rise until mixture is light and slightly aged, about 2 days. As you use the sourdough, replace it with equal amounts of flour and water.
What is your favorite apple recipe? Have you ever worked with sourdough before?
Tell me if you love (or hate!) apples and you can win an e-book copy of UNTAMED COWBOY, Book 1 of my C Bar C Ranch series.
Carina Lockett is driven to build a legacy for her young daughter, and she doesn’t need a man to help her do it. But when her precious child is lured away and held for ransom, she must swallow her pride and ask for Penn McClure’s help.
Penn McClure has no intention of playing cowboy for any woman, especially one as strong-willed as Carina. But driving a herd of cattle to Dodge City is no easy task. And he has a score to settle with the man waiting for them at the end of the trail.
Along the way, he discovers Carina is pure female–and that her legacy has become his own.
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