In 1862, Captain James M. Sanderson with the U.S. Sanitary Commission wrote "Camp Fires and Camp Cooking" or "Culinary Hints for the Soldier". The text includes an introduction to the tools of the cook house, various recipes utilizing the components of a soldier's rations and the "Cook's Creed", highlighting the importance of cleanliness.
Captain Sanderson's recipes became the standard for thousands of newly minted "Cook Majors" who had the unenviable job of providing meals for hungry troops.
1) Captain Sanderson’s Boiled Pork and Bean Soup
During the Civil War, one of the rations that a soldier was often given was a portion of fresh or salted pork. If it was salted, they'd be more inclined to put into a soup like this to make it easier to eat. The main ingredient in this recipe - dried beans - was very easy to store and transport and would have easily been on hand. Throw in a few fresh vegetables and put it on the fire, and soon there would be a solid meal for all who had gathered.
1 pound dried navy beans
1 pound pork shoulder or butt
1 onion, diced
1 leek, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 sprig of thyme
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons bacon fat
Soak beans overnight in cold water. Dice the pork into small chunks and boil in water 1 hour or until tender. Save the stock. In a soup pot, combine the bacon fat and vegetables. Once the liquid is clear, add thyme and vinegar. Add the soaked navy beans and the pork stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, and then add the pork. Cook for 20 minutes until the beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
2) Cabbage Stew
- one head green cabbage
- onions (slice the cabbage and onions - approximately ½ & ½)
- salt pork (cut the salt pork into small cubes)
- stewed tomatoes
- salt, garlic salt, pepper, cajun seasoning or ground red pepper
1) Fry the salt pork in a very large, hot, cast iron pot until well browned (do not drain).
2) Turn the heat down (move to a cooler fire area).
3) Add cabbage and cook until wilted
4) Add onions and cook until wilted
5) Let cook approximately 1 hour (low fire)
6) Add tomatoes to more than cover
7) Let cook ...and cook...and cook....simmer is a good word. You can't really overcook this dish - the flavors will blend nicely the longer it cooks.
8) Add garlic salt (small amount), then add salt and pepper to taste.
9) Add a very small amount of cajun seasoning or ground red pepper. Be sure to taste after adding each time. It takes the seasoning a few minutes to make themselves known. Better to add too little than too much.
10) Stir occasionally.
11) After approximately 2-3 hours, start tasting then season/cook more if necessary.