The Old Wild West conjures up visions of dusty towns, rolling tumbleweed, rowdy saloons, good time gals, sheriffs sporting six-point star silver badges, notorious outlaws and good ole cowboys. What is often overlooked is the hearty western cuisine that was prepared by the ranch’s cook during that era. After completing a grueling day of wrangling cattle and working out on the range, the American cowboy would have worked up quite an appetite! In those days, the ranch cook wielded a tremendous amount of power, so it was always wise to stay on his good side. His mood could determine whether the cowboys ate well or not that day. The quality of his food also played an important role in attracting top hands to a ranch, since other than getting a good night’s sleep there was nothing more important than being served up a top-notch meal at the start and end of each day.
Western cooking entailed much more than baked beans cooked over an open fire. Below are just a few recipes that the American cowboy might have enjoyed after a long day in the saddle out herding cattle!
This was a favorite beef stew dish among cowboys of the America West. It was also known as rascal stew or by the name of some unpopular figure of the time. For example, some cowboys called it Cleveland Stew in (dis)honor of President Grover Cleveland displacing cowboys from the Cherokee Strip. If you’re not into eating animal organs, pass this one up. However, if you want to put some hair on your chest, belly up to the table and pound this meal down.
2 pounds of lean beef
Half a calf heart
1 ½ pounds of calf liver
1 set sweetbreads (that’s the thymus gland for you city slickers)
1 set of brains
1 set of marrow gut
Salt, pepper to taste
Louisiana hot sauce
Cut the beef, liver, and heart into one-inch cubes. Slice the marrow gut into rings. Place these ingredients into the Dutch oven and cover with water. Let it simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Chop sweetbreads and brains into small pieces and add to stew. Simmer another hour.
Buffalo (or beef) Steaks with Chipotle-Coffee Rub
3 teaspoons ground coffee
3 teaspoons ground chipotle pepper (or chipotle chile powder)
1/4 cup paprika
2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
4 buffalo or beef steaks (8 ounces each)
Combine coffee, ground chipotle, paprika, cumin seeds, sugar and salt. Rub mixture into steaks. Grill steaks until desired doneness. Makes four servings.
Source: The Chuckwagon – Western Recipes
Out on the trail, coffee was a staple among cowboys. Piping hot coffee helped a cowboy shake off the stiffness from sleeping on the hard desert ground, and it was also a good beverage to wash down the morning sour dough biscuits. But cowboys didn’t have the luxury of fancy coffee brewers or french presses. They had to pack light, so all they usually had was a metal coffee pot, sans filter, to brew their coffee in. No matter. A cowboy could still make a decent cup of coffee. Here’s how.
1. Bring water to a near boil over your campfire.
2. Throw your coffee grounds right into the water. That’s right. Filters are for city slickers.
3. Stir the coffee over the fire for a minute or two.
4. Remove the pot from the fire and let the coffee sit for a minute or two to allow the grounds to settle at the bottom of the pot. Add a bit of cold water to help speed along the settling process.
5. Carefully pour the coffee into your tin cup so that the grounds stay in the pot.
6. Stand around the fire with your left thumb in your belt loop and your coffee cup in your right hand. Take slow sips and meditate on the trek ahead.
Guest ranches today serve up anything from hearty western-style cuisine to haute cuisine and something in between. Regardless of which guest ranch you decide to stay at you will find that meal times are a special part of the day. They provide an opportunity to discuss the day’s events, make new friends and dine on delicious ranch fare. Click on the links below to see a sampling of just a few of RanchSeeker’s ranch recipes and learn a little more about the ranch’s featured.
Let RanchSeeker help you find the ideal guest ranch vacation today.