Chuck, grub, chow, all names for chuck wagon food in the wagon train and on the cattle drive, featured basic starches and staples cooked over a fire. Beans cooked all night, bread cooked quickly in hot cast iron. Those breads are still popular today, whether cooked over a fire or on top of the stove. Here is one recipe for easy flat bread homesteaders still use, and one for a hearty, sour, make-do mainstay.
Carl’s Two-Ingredient Flatbread
In equal parts, mix flour and cooked, pureed sweet potato. A cup of each makes four to six large pancakes. Optional, add salt to taste. Divide dough into several pieces and form each piece into a ball. Roll each ball lightly into a thin pancake, flouring and flipping as you roll to avoid sticking to your work surface. Cook each piece on medium-high heat in a large, lightly oiled fry pan. When the bread first begins to bubble slightly, turn it and continue cooking. Turn once more and cook until the bread deepens in color.
Carl would have stacked these in a wooden bowl and served them in the cabin he built for a rendezvous with Fannie Smiles. For a more roti-like bread, as each pancake finishes cooking, take it off the heat and stack it in a foil wrap with a slightly moist paper towel on top. Keep the foil packet closed so the pancakes steam before serving. (Homesteader Stacy, in Off Grid with Doug and Stacy, cooks her flat breads longer and slower, then stacks and wraps them in a t-shirt.)
Jesse’s Stinky Trail Bread
Mix a few ingredients with a sliced potato, let stand until sour, and presto! A makeshift sourdough starter for hearty appetites on the trail. This malodorous method worked well … outdoors!
Combine 1 small sliced potato with ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon each cornmeal and wheat flour, 2 cups boiling water. Let mixture stand in a warm location until foam forms, overnight or longer. Pour off foam, discard potato, and add enough flour to make a medium-thick pourable batter, and let rise until double.
Add to mixture approximately 2 cups flour, a generous pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, approximately 4 tablespoons butter, lard, or bacon fat, and 2 cups warm water.
Add enough additional flour to make a soft sough and knead until smooth and well worked. Divide into individual biscuits, let rise a little more if there’s time, and bake in Dutch oven or fry on a cast iron griddle until hot through.
Too dry, too greasy, too salty, needs more salt? Crumble and serve on stew. With beans.
If you have a chance, take a look at my new web site and Subscribe to my e-mail list for updates on the upcoming historical fiction book Cat’s Café. Later, we’ll feature more of Cat’s, Carl’s, and Crowfeather’s recipes in the free Notes section.