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Cookin' With Leo

By Leocthasme

Chuck Wagon - Soup of the Devil
A Famous Recipe From The Days Of Cattle Drives

Way back when in the days of cattle drives, the cook was a very important guy. Hearty men had hearty appetites. However, there was only so much provisions a cook could carry along on the trail, lack of refrigeration and space meant most of the provisions had to be dried or canned or hunted on the spot, and water was at a premium. The only time a cook could use water to cook with was if the trail boss found a water hole to camp by. Otherwise the cattle and horses got the water. The cowboys came next and if the cook used valuable water for cooking he might be shot on the spot. Booze was always carried along, it wouldn't spoil and in case someone got h urt, it was the pain killer or the cure. A form of beer could always be made from grains found along the way. So here is a recipe from way, way back, passed down to me from a great, great, grand uncle who was hung for stealing chickens, whatever.

What to round up:
6-7 pounds of meat - prairie dog, squirrel, rabbit, buzzard or other fowl found in forsaken places, an old longhorn that ain't gonna' make it, a horse with a broken leg, whatever. But, in this m odern day, I'm going to recommend a nice 6-7 pound chuck roast, cut up into stew size chunks. Trim and keep the fat, we're gonna' use it. If you need more grease, render a couple of pieces of bacon.
12 - tblspns Chili Powder.
6 - tblspns Oregano.
12 - cloves Garlic, chopped fine.
6 - tblspns Cumin.
4 - tblspns Cayenne Pepper Flakes.
3-4 - quarts liquid* (see above and below).
3 - tblspns Massa Harina Flour.

What to do with the stuff you rounded up:
Use an 8-12 quart cast iron pot with a lid. Put in the fat pieces of meat and bacon first to get the necessary grease. Now brown the rest of the meat. After the meat is browned add all the rest of the ingredients except the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat all the meat then cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat is cooked apart or you can shred it apart with the wooden spoon. When done skim off some of the liquid and mix with the flour to make a paste. Blend the paste back into the pot to thicken the liquid. Let simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes uncovered.

*Now about that 2 or 3 quarts of liquid:
Modern cooks use water because it's easy to get out of the tap. But, way back when, water was a scarce commodity. So, herewith, are water substitutes. Beer, Booze and Black Coffee can always be found, use it freely. Stale or warm beer and old, cold black coffee are always good to use rather than dump it out. Pour a cup of red wine over the lean meat before you begin to brown it, let it set and soak while you render the fat meat. Got some gravy or soup left from another meal? Dump it in. The best use for a bottle of cheap wine and whiskey, usually a gift for holidays or birthdays, is to cook with it. I never pass on to another relative no matter if I like or dislike them. A can or two of coke will add a distinct flavor. 7-Up will give the final result a sweet taste. And finally, if you must use water, distilled water and sparkling water is OK, but tap water is pure yuch.

How to serve the finished product:
OK! OK! So you think that all you got is a big pot of soup. Don't sweat yet. You're gonna' use it in all kinds of ways. Them ol' trail cooks had to boil up all sorts of stuff, but, this was the way they preserved the meat they had without it spoiling.

Some folks insist on beans in chili, if that's what you want then add about 1 1/2 cups of dry beans (any kind you like) to the pot, but omit the flour. The beans will soak up most of the liquid w hile they simmer. Some rice on the side is great, make enough for the bunch you're feedin' and spoon the finished product over the rice, even the kind that has beans in it.

Ya' like stew? Toss some cut up potatoes, carrots, celery and onions in the pot for the last 30 to 40 minutes of cooking.

There's some ideas for starters, so take it from there.  

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