Friday, February 8, 2019

Old West Recipes: The Meats

Here are some more recipes in our series of Old West Cooking. This time we’re going to cook our main course, the meat dish. I've included jerky and pemmican because those recipes are an ideal method of storing meat.

Beef Jerky

Several pounds of flank steak
Salt and seasoning salt

Trim fat and slice steak with the grain into ¼ to ½ inch strips. Lightly salt strips – or soak overnight in a solution of water with 2 tablespoons of salt. Arrange strips onto skewers and sprinkle with seasoning salt and pepper. Hang strips in a smoker or set in oven on the lowest temperature (175 to 200 degrees F) with door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape. If using an oven, be sure to set a pan beneath the strips to catch drippings. Drying time will vary (in an oven, eight to ten hours should be sufficient) but result should be tough and leathery but not brittle. Store in cloth bags in a cool, dry place.


Equal quantities of jerky and animal fat (lard)
Dried berries (optional)

Pound jerky to break up fibers. In a skillet, melt fat, making sure it does not boil or smoke. Stir pounded jerky into fat, adding berries if desired. Let fat cool and cut pemmican into candy-bar sized pieces. Store in cloth or rawhide bag in cool, dry place.


1 onion, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon
½ cup oatmeal
Salt and pepper

Chop bacon into one-inch chunks and fry. When grease coats the pan, add sliced onion and fry until transparent. Add oatmeal to absorb the fat, keeping the mixture thick. Stir for seven to ten minutes until cooked. Serve with mincemeat, roasted poultry, or as a main dish when the larder is bare.

Racoon Fricassee 

1 Racoon
1 Onion, sliced into rings
½ cup vinegar
1 ½ cup water
1-2 tbsp lard or other fat
1 bay leaf
1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

Skin the raccoon, remove the musk glands and dress out the carcass. Soak in salt water overnight to draw out the blood. You can add baking soda to the water to remove the gamey smell. Cut raccoon into serving pieces and dredge pieces in seasoned flour. Brown in hot fat. Add remaining ingredients and simmer two hours or until tender. Thicken the juice with flour and water mixture for gravy. Serve hot with cornbread.

Mouse Pie

5 fat field mice
1 cup macaroni
½ onion, thinly sliced
1 medium can of tomatoes
1 cup cracker crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil macaroni for ten minutes. While this is cooking, fry the mice long enough to drain out some of the excess fat. Grease a casserole dish with some of this fat and add a layer of macaroni. Add onion slices, then tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Add mice and cover with another layer of macaroni. Sprinkle the top with cracker crumbs and bake at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until mice are well done.

Roast Beaver

Remove skin and scent glands carefully – these are found between the front forelegs, under the thighs, and along the spine in the small of the back – be careful not to cut into the glands. Also remove fat completely, as it has a strong odor and taste. Soak in salted water or in a vinegar bath (1/4 cup vinegar with enough water to cover meat) or cover with boiling water with 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Drain meat and wash in cold, clear water.

Place in roaster and cut several slits into the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place four strips of salt pork over the slits. Dust meat with a little flour. Pour ¼ cup water into the pan and roast with lid off until half done. Add more water if needed to keep pan from becoming dry. Cut up enough celery, onions and carrots to make one cup. Add vegetables to meat and continue roasting with the lid off. Meat should be falling off the bone. Add water and flour to juices to make gravy.

Pan Hoss

1 hog’s head
4-6 cups water
1 medium onion
6 stalks celery
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt

Simmer the first five ingredients together until meat falls from the bones. Grind and chop meat fine. If hog’s head is not available, neck bones (chicken, turkey or lamb) may be substituted.

Strain liquid from meat. Boil down or add water to make four cups total liquid. To boiling liquid, add cornmeal until mush is thick. Add 1 tsp salt. Boil for three to five minutes. Add meat and place over boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes, adding additional seasoning if desired.

Chicken (or Any Other Game Bird)

3 to 4 pounds of fowl
¼ tsp sage
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp basil
¼ tsp coriander

Wash the bird(s) and pat dry. Mix all seasonings except basil together and sprinkle mixture into cavity or bird(s). Place bird(s) into a Dutch oven and sprinkle with basil. Cover and bake for four to six hours until tender.


  1. We are so spoiled in this day and age! I can't imagine having to do all this in order to have a meal. So interesting--thanks for posting, JES!

  2. Great article. My pemmican recipe has whole grains, like grass seeds. I use sunflower seeds in addition to modern whole grains (not cracked)and dried berries. and enough bacon grease to hold it together.

  3. I'm curious to know, how many of these have you actually tried? I'm game enough to try just about anything, but I think I will draw the line at mouse pie. Besides, I think catching five field mice sounds like a lot of work.

  4. Fascinating. I had come across and early recipe for salted cod cakes in some of my research, but these are all far more than I've seen. Thanks! Doris

  5. Many years ago, I bought a dehydrator and *tried* to make my own jerky. My goodness, but it was a lot of work, and I have modern conveniences. Just imagine how much time and effort went into cooking 'back then'.