A Cowboy is an Appetite Ridin’ a Horse – by Pam Crooks

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.

Sourdough Starter

  • 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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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but her newest releases are contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing. Stay up on the latest at www.pamcrooks.com

40 thoughts on “A Cowboy is an Appetite Ridin’ a Horse – by Pam Crooks”

  1. Thanks for the recipe, Pam! I’m tempted to do the sourdough, but since my husband has diabetes, I’d end up eating all of it – which would be great, until it hits my hips.

    My husband’s grandfather was a chuckwagon cook on the Goodnight Loving trail! The family still has the chuckbox!

  2. I love an apple cobbler.

    I’ve never baked sourdough, but I have had eaten sourdough in San Francisco.

    • Back when I was a young bride, it was the trend to make your own sourdough. It was fun to watch it ‘grow’ and such a novelty to keep using it and using it. I still have my girlfriend’s recipe.

      Thanks for stopping by, as always, Denise!

    • My husband always orders sourdough bread at a restaurant if it’s available. It really is good – and well, apple pie is a treat all its own, isn’t it?

  3. I love fried or stewed apples. Also like sourdough bread. Thanks for the recipe. I plan on trying it after school ends.

  4. Even more than apple pie, Julie Butler, I love making applesauce. It’s a family affair for the granddarlings to help pick the apples, then their mothers and I get together to peel and slice. Then I can a big kettle of it. Love seeing all those jars of delicious applesauce in my kitchen. I give almost all of it away to my kiddos.

    Hope you get a chance to try the recipe. It’s a fun one!

  5. I do enjoy a good apple pie myself, but not so sure on the sour dough. My sister made some sour dough bread one time and I didn’t care for it but they tell me it depends on the recipe you use.

  6. Applie crisp with lots of cinnamon was always my favorite, followed by oatmeal cake – both that my Mom would make for dessert! No to the sourdough, but have had the amish friendship bread starters before!

    • Oh, yes, apple crisp is amazing! I always double my oatmeal crust for even more amazing-ness. I’ve had the friendship bread starters, too – that’s not an Amish thing, though, is it? I mean – they didn’t invent it??

  7. I think your sourdough starter is similar to the Amish friendship bread starter we enjoy here. I like apple crisp with an oatmeal buttery topping. I so enjoyed your blog today. The first time a couple years ago driving across Oklahoma or Texas was when I saw a cattle feed lot. I could not believe my eyes. Thousands of cattle in that small space. It was unreal.

    Your books are dear to my heart. As are you. Enjoy your day!

    • I agree, Kathy – I’m thinking the starter is the same as the Friendship Bread Starter, but can be used for other baked goods besides bread.

      Oh, my, yes. The cattle are crammed together in those feed lots. No doubt they miss the wide openness of the range!

      Thank you for stopping by, sweet thing.

  8. We love apples! Every year we go to the local orchard to pick apples. Yesterday I made apple hand pies as our dessert. Guess I should have waited a day.

    • Ha-ha! You can always pick more apples, Jess Elliott! I assume a hand pie is like a turnover?

      Picking apples or cherries in past years is such a fun memory and even more fun thing to do. The fruit is always so fresh (obviously) and good quality. And the varieties are mind-boggling, aren’t they?

  9. Welcome today. Yes, busy active men require lots of food. We saw this when we lived on a farm in CA. All the cowboys ate a lot and respected and appreciated the women who fed them. Yes I kept sourdough going for two years. Our family loved these breads. I personally love apple sauce. Thanks for sharing your recipes.

    • Yay, Lori! A sourdough lover!! How cool you kept it going for two years. That’s absolutely amazing. I don’t really understand the science behind sourdough – one would think it would go rancid after all those years – but those chuckwagon cooks knew what they were doing!

  10. Great article, Pam. Can you imagine cooking under those conditions? Or trying to wash dishes? All of those cowhands had it rough, if you ask me. Even the cook!

    • Oh, I agree, Cathy! I don’t imagine water was very plentiful on the trail, so they’d have to haul it, and who knows if it was clean or not?

      Cooking over a campfire takes a skill that would take a long time to perfect, too. Hungry cowboys would not stand for burnt food. They’d send Cookie packing in a hurry if their meals were inedible. That’s why a good chuckwagon cook was as valuable on the trail as the trail boss.

      It might have been a hard trip, but to me it’d be a fascinating one. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Love sourdough and love apples. But do not have time to bake often, so the sourdough starter aways gets ahead of me and I wind up throwing it out. Thanks for an easier recipe for the starter. After using some of the starter, how much flour and water do you add to the old starter? Equal to what you removed? No need to add more sugar? Thanks!

    • Great questions, Sherry! So if you remove 2 cups of starter, replace with one cup of water and one cup of flour. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I’d add a pinch of sugar, too.

    • Ha! You’re right, Hebby – if I was a cowboy eating dust and dirt all day, eating a hot meal would be a highlight of my day!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing my blog today, my dear. I appreciate you!

  12. I love apples. I think my favorite recipe was my Aunt Evelyn’s Apple Sauce Cake. I have not worked with sourdough before. Sounds interesting. Thank you for sharing your time and your talent. God bless you.

    • Your aunt’s cake sounds wonderful, Debra. I have an applesauce quick bread from my aunt that is super-good, too!

      Sending God’s blessings back at ya!

  13. I have always just loved apple dumplings but man are they are lot of work!
    I’ve got a really delicious recipe for apple torte that is just a pie crust rolled super thin and spread on a 9x 13 cakae pan. Add a layer of sliced apples, dotted with butter and brown sugar, another super thinly rolled layer of pie crust. There was some kind of glaze, too. Like a super thinly spread meringue. OKAY holes in this recipe. Do not follow it.

  14. There are so many good apple recipes!….Dark chocolate applesauce cake is one of our favorites and my husband’s favorite pie is apple, two crust or apple pie bars. I have a milk base sourdough starter that I have had since December 1978. It is stored in a crock in my refrigerator and when I want to use it I take it out and let the crock sit on the counter allowing the starter to warm to room temperature. If I use 1cup starter I add 1 cup flour and 1cup milk to the remaining starter and cover the crock or bowl with cheesecloth or a dish towel and let it sit on the counter overnight or ‘til bubbly. Then it goes back in the ‘frig. (The crock has a loose fitting lid) The same thing can be done with a water base starter. I do add a tablespoon of sugar while it’s warming if it has been several months since I last used it. I have been thinking about making sourdough biscuits this week but now I will have to try your apple recipe although I’ll be using fresh or frozen apples since I don’t have dried apples.

  15. I like any and all things made with apples. I would love to try the our dough, but unfortunately i’m Diabetic.

  16. Bummer, Karen. My dad was diabetic, and he had a huge sweet tooth. It was a constant struggle for him to maintain his diet – as my mother could attest!

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