Being a rock hound I love poking around the scrap heaps of old mines and I enjoy hearing tales about the old time mining adventures. Some are funny, some are sad and some are just plain downright interesting, like the esteemed position the company cook held, how he cooked and the recipes he came up with. They ate a lot of stews mostly because stews go a long way when it comes to feeding a crowd. They are filling and they are nutritious and most of the time you can cook it all in one pot. It wasn’t exactly gourmet but it sure was tasty after a long hard day’s work.
Meanwhile over medium low heat
In a soup kettle combine and sauté in
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 medium onion slivered
1 green bell pepper seeded and coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery including leaves chopped medium fine
When onions just starts to turn transparent Add
1-2 pound chicken meat cut into bite size pieces (optional) depending on how meaty you want your stew (I don’t always add the meat and just make a vegetable stew)
1-15 oz (one pint) can red kidney beans (do not drain)
1-15 oz (one pint) can butter beans (do not drain)
Reduce heat to medium low and toss all ingredients together with
Pinch of rosemary
Pinch of thyme
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Dash of salt
Dash of ground black pepper
1/2 cup boiling water
Cover and cook slowly for 12 minutes stirring occasionally
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken or vegetable stock (more broth if desired)
Add more salt and pepper to taste but I don’t think it needs any
Turn up heat and bring to full boil. Reduce heat to low
Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. For a thickened stew add 2 rounded Tbsp. flour stirred into a little water until creamy smooth for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Stir while adding to prevent any lumps. When done remove from heat and cool for 5-10 minutes before serving, leave covered. When ready remove cover stir and serve immediately in warm bowls with sourdough biscuits or corn bread and butter on the side.
Miner’s often spent weeks at a time living in tents or make-shift shelters close to the mine. There were the men who worked the mine and the boys who tended the area and saw to the supplies like making sure there was a good supply of wood cut up and probably did the hunting for wild grub to eat like rabbit, squirrel, quail, grouse, wild turkey and larger game as well as other wild edibles to add to what was in the chuck-wagon kitchen and there was the cook who also often served as the camp doctor as well, sort of a jack of all trades. The cook was the best loved person in the whole crew and when “Cooky” spoke everyone listened. You didn’t mess with “Cooky” not if you wanted dinner. It was a fortunate mining crew if you had a good cook and if you did, you hung onto him.
Eventually the mining camps took on more of a village scene and women joined the crews and did the cleaning and the cooking and some of the other chores and in time taverns and brothels put in an appearance as well and eventually some roving minister would show up and establish a mission church to save the souls of these rough and rowdy miners. It is how they lived and how villages were born.
According to the article this was a favorite meal of the miners and after tasting it I can see why. It is both delicious and nutritious and it is filling. I can imagine these men sitting around a campfire after a long days work and hungrily devouring this stew while the boasted tales of their mining adventures and other stories. Somehow I think maybe the cowboys ate this too.
Published in: Cooking