Reprinted with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
By Roseanne McKee
Oklahoma is inextricably linked to bison, or buffalo as they are often called. Bartlesville uses buffalo statuary as symbols throughout the city. With Oklahoma’s connection in mind, my husband and I recently visited the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky — the oldest continuously producing distillery in the United States — started in 1887.
First, a bit of history. According to an article “Castle & Key Distillery Rising fom Ruins after Old Taylor Distillery Narrowly Escaped Wrecking Ball,” dated July 27, 2016 on the Distillery Trail blog, Taylor started in the distillery business in 1869 with the purchase of the Old Fire Copper Distillery and the Carlisle Distillery.
The article said, “Taylor later ran into financial troubles and in 1878 was forced to sell the distillery to George T. Stagg. Stagg then turned around and hired Taylor to run the distillery. On a quick side note, in 1904 the O.F.C. was renamed the George T. Stagg Distillery and years later in 1992, that distillery was renamed again to what we now know as Buffalo Trace Distillery.”
On a tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery recently, provided free of charge with about six liquor samples included, I learned that the land where Buffalo Trace is located was once on the path of migrating herds of buffalo who fertilized as they traveled, leaving the soil optimal for planting corn. Since corn it the starting ingredient in whiskey, it only made sense to open a distillery near the crop location.
That is exactly what Buffalo Trace did.
The land was originally a part of Virginia, which was then governed by Thomas Jefferson. He decided to define the area where Buffalo Trace is located as Bourbon County in honor of a French family that had helped the United States in the Revolutionary War. That is how the whiskey produced in the region came to be called bourbon whiskey. Later, the area became part of a new state — Kentucky in a new county — Franklin.
During Prohibition, many distilleries closed entirely, but not Buffalo Trace. Why? Because people could still get prescriptions for small quantities of whiskey for medicinal purposes. In this way, Buffalo Trace survived the Prohibition years.
The whiskey begins as corn, water and starch. There is an enzyme that converts the starch to sugar and produces a slurry called sweet mash.
“Our fermentation vats are 92,000 gallons and two stories tall,” the tour guide said. “They’re big enough that if you put them on their side, you could drive a semi truck through them.”
They add yeast to the sweet mash, which consumes the sugars, gives off carbon dioxide bubbles and alcohol. That makes distiller’s beer, the tour guide said. The fermentation vats give off the scent of bread — that hangs in the air of the distillery campus.
The beer moves to a still where, at some point, it reaches 173 degrees — the temperature at which ethanol evaporates.
“Then it goes into a vapor. We let that vapor condense by cooling it and we’ll have 110 proof clear alcohol. We need higher proof than that, so we put it in a still called a doubler. The temperature goes to 140-150 degrees, add some water to it, and take it to 125 proof and put it into a barrel. That process take about a week to a week and a half,” he said.
There is an interesting story about how whiskey came into existence. It was really by accident, he said. Distilleries in Bourbon County had a market for their clear alcohol in Louisiana and so they hauled it there in oak barrels. When the alcohol arrived, it had an amber hue and had taken on the flavors of the oak barrels. That is how bourbon whiskey was born, the tour guide said.
A byproduct of the distillation process are corn solids, which are extracted, dried and sold as [livestock] feed, he said.
In a video about Buffalo Trace, the narrator said Bourbon whiskey is a distinctive product of the United States that has won recognition and acceptance around the world.
“Here, and here alone, is a place where it has been crafted without interruption for more than 200 years,” the narrator said. Historically, the distillery has operated under several different names, including the George T. Stagg Distillery and the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery. Today Buffalo Trace is owned by the Sazerac Company.
“It takes its name from the buffalo traces that frontiersmen followed in the years before the Revolutionary War. Near where the buffalo had long crossed the Kentucky River, distillers found rich soil, perfect for growing corn and the naturally filtered limestone water was ideal for distilling that native grain into whiskey,” the video narrator said.
In the late 1700, the Old Taylor House was built on the distillery property. It is not only the oldest structure at the distillery, but the oldest residential building in Franklin County, Ky. Soon others built homes in the region and began distilleries, and the legend of Kentucky bourbon began.
According to a Buffalo Trace Distillery press release, the one-story house was originally built for Commodore Richard Taylor who served as superintendent of navigation on the Kentucky River and who was great-grandfather to Colonel Edmund Haynes. Taylor, Jr., a grand nephew of U.S. President Zachary Taylor.
Later a second story was added. Since its inception, the two-story house has held many different roles, including being a residence, first aid clinic, and even a laboratory for the distillery. The house underwent extensive restoration and renovation in 2015.
“The renovated house features beautiful hardwood floors and fresh paint throughout, and is lit by hanging Edison bulbs. The second floor lab displays old beakers and artifacts once used in the house,” the press release stated.
“Taylor’s great-grandson, Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr., founded the bourbon industry as we know it — introducing techniques and standards that still endure.” His successors, Swigert and Kenner Taylor, [who organized E. H. Taylor, Jr. & Sons in 1894], would bring the business into the 20th century.”
In 1919 their business was threatened when Prohibition was enacted.
“This distillery was among the very few allowed to continue producing whiskey, strictly for medicinal purposes,” the narrator said.
After Prohibition, the business expanded. Today, Buffalo Trace makes a variety of acclaimed spirits. Among their brands are: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, White Dog, Bourbon Cream, Stagg Jr., Single Oak Project and W.L. Weller, a wheated bourbon, Wheatley Vodka and McAfee’s Benchmark.
“Buffalo Trace claims to have won more official honors and accolades on our brands than any other distillery. Repeatedly named distillery of the year, in 2013 Buffalo Trace earned its most cherished designation — as a national historical landmark,” the narrator said. “Generations of visionaries, builders, preservers and protectors have sustained this unique enterprise through adversity, past historic milestones to worldwide acclaim. … They seek to both honor tradition and embrace change.”
As one of the few distilleries that offers free tours, it is definitely worth the stop, but bring your wallet because the tour finishes in the gift shop after samples of many of the products, including their chocolates, have been offered. If you’re not careful, you’ll leave with several bags goodies from Buffalo Trace.
To learn more about Buffalo Trace, visit their website at https://buffalotracedistillery.com/.
By Roseanne McKee
Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
In June during a visit to the Gateway Arch Museum in St. Louis, Mo., which opened July 3, 2018, I learned details of Thomas Jefferson’s desire for and efforts toward westward expansion in America. Jefferson’s endeavors had serious implications for indigenous people and African Americans.
He had a lifelong interest in the American West and knew much about the region based on personal study. Information in a museum panel stated that by 1803 Jefferson had one of the most extensive libraries on the subject and was very knowledgeable on American western geography. Jefferson’s father, Peter Jefferson, was one of the first farmers to move to western Virginia. He was one of those who surveyed the colony and created the Jefferson-Fry map published in London in 1755.
In 1749 Peter Jefferson, Dr. Thomas Walker, James Maury and Joshua Fry founded the “Loyal Land Company” to increase land purchases west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and send explorers all the way to the Pacific.
According to a panel at the museum, “Walker was the first non-Indian to cross the Blue Ridge into Kentucky.”
Jefferson compiled research on American Indian tribes in well-organized tables and charts. He listed quadrupeds, and their weights, that were in North America — listing bison, bear and red deer.
According to a panel at the museum, Jefferson authorized the Louisiana Purchase and developed the idea for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Before Jefferson became the third U.S. president, he asked four men to lead expeditions westward, but for various reasons none of these plans came to fruition. Time was of the essence to claim these lands because Alexander Mackenzie, from Montreal, was also seeking to explore the west to secure the Pacific Northwest for Great Britain.
This news prompted Jefferson, then president, to again organize an expedition. Meriwether Lewis, 29, a career army officer, agreed to lead a U.S. expedition to establish claim to western lands. Lewis, who was also Jefferson’s personal secretary, used Jefferson’s extensive library on the subject to prepare for his journey west. However, a museum panel stated that he “later discovered on his expedition with William Clark that much of what was written in these books was untrue.”
A panel at the museum stated that Jefferson was curious about the ancestry of indigenous people in North America. He gathered vocabulary lists of Indian words in 1780 and sought through comparative linguistics to determine their origins.
Jefferson wrote to John Adams June 11, 1812, ”[As a boy] I knew … the great Outasseté, the warrior and orator of the Cherokees … his sounding voice, distinct articulation, animated action, and the solemn silence of his people at their several fires, filled me with awe and veneration.”
In a June 7, 1785, letter to the Marquis de Chastellux, Jefferson wrote, “I am safe in affirming, that the proofs of genius given by the Indians of North America, place them on a level with whites.”
However, in later years, Jefferson became less positive about American Indians.
Another historical panel said, Jefferson wrote to Adams “that despite the progress of some tribes, like the Cherokee, many ‘will relapse in barbarism and misery, lose numbers by war and want, and we shall be obligated to drive them, with the beasts of the forest into the Stony mountains.’”
In another revealing passage, Jefferson wrote to Henry Dearborn the Secretary of War Aug. 13, 1802: ”[We obtain American Indian land] by letting them get in debt, which when too heavy to be paid, they are always willing to lop off by a cessation of land.”
Jefferson continued a practice begun by other European explorers to appease indigenous people — giving peace medals.
American Indian chiefs wore peace medals given by Jefferson while he was president.Per the official Monticello website, “the Jefferson Indian peace medal was designed and engraved by John Reich and was the first to bear the image of an American president. Thomas Jefferson was depicted in profile on the obverse side of the medal, with the inscription: “TH. JEFFERSON PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. A.D. 1801.” The inscription on the reverse, “PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP,” was symbolized by the image of clasped hands and a crossed tomahawk and peace pipe.
“Thomas Jefferson, the first Secretary of State, described the policy in 1793 as an ancient custom. He went on to write: ‘The medals are considered as complimentary things, as marks of friendship to those who come to see us, or who do us good offices, conciliatory of their good will towards us, and not designed to produce a contrary disposition towards others. They confer no power, and seem to have taken their origin in the European practice of giving medals or other marks of friendship to the negotiators of treaties, and other diplomatic characters, or visitors of distinction.’”
The medals were very useful in diplomatic situations.
In fact Lewis and Clark gave peace medals to Indian chiefs on their expedition, carrying a large supply with them.
A museum panel said, “Missouri chiefs who visited the city of Washington in the winter of 1805-1806 wore their Jefferson peace medals on their chests, and were given silver chains to suspend them by the governor of Massachusetts.”
So great was Jefferson’s influence on westward expansion, that this period came to be known by historians as the Jeffersonian period — tied to the Doctrine of Discovery — a time when American settlers and bureaucrats used this doctrine to justify taking lands of the west.
A panel at the museum said, that the doctrine had its roots in international law, which gave Europeans who “discovered” a region the first right of purchase from the occupiers of the land (instead of outright conquest). Ownership was to come from purchasing the land from the original inhabitants. This is why treaties were made with American Indian tribes, the panel explained.
The Osage were the most powerful tribe in the lower Midwest in the late 1700s because of its established relationships with French fur traders and Spanish government officials in St. Louis, which enabled them to trade for firearms. Intermarriage between the French fur traders and the Osage women also strengthened those alliances.
“The United States, unlike the French and the Spanish, had little desire to partner with the Osages in the deer hide trade. By 1830 the Osages were the first western tribe dispossessed of their ancestral homelands as new settlers searched for available land in Missouri.”
Another panel stated that by the 1830s, [shortly after Jefferson’s death in 1826], the U.S. government abandoned the Doctrine of Discovery and began dispossessing eastern tribes from their lands.
Over time, the Osage fell out of favor with white men.
One historical museum panel stated: “Although the Osages were key to the early commercial success of St. Louis, in 1808 Gov. Meriwether Lewis suddenly suspended trade with them accusing them of killing white settlers. Threatening to send their many Indian enemies against them in a war, Lewis forced several Osage chiefs to sign the Treaty of Fort Osage, which ceded over 52 million acres of land. By one of the provisions of the treaty, a government trading post, called a factory, was established at Fort Osage.“The United States, unlike the French and the Spanish, had little desire to partner with the Osages in the deer hide trade. By 1830 the Osages were the first western tribe dispossessed of their ancestral homelands as new settlers searched for available land in Missouri.”
One more aspect of Jefferson’s westward expansion efforts was a place for African Americans.
According to a museum panel, “Jefferson believed that slavery was unnatural and degrading for the enslaved as well as the enslavers. He wished for an end to slavery, yet he also thought that free blacks should not live along whites, and they should not be citizens. …
“Jefferson’s Ordinance of 1784 called for a ban on slavery in the west, not necessarily as a beneficial measure for blacks, but as an attempt to set geographical limits on the institution. Although his proposal was rejected, it was later adopted by Congress for territories north of the Ohio River in the Ordinance of 1787. This measure created tensions between slave states and free states tested many years later with the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Dred and Harriett Scott decision of 1857.”
By Roseanne McKee
Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
Last week’s article provided an introduction to Cahokia located near St. Louis, Mo. This week’s column details past archaeological digs at Cahokia.
Archaeologists at Cahokia excavated an area that had previously been used as a drive-in movie theater in the 1980s. They dug down until they reached the level of the Mississippian period over an area covering several hundred square miles. There were many houses there. When the archaeologists find something it is called a feature, such as a circular area of discolored soil that indicates a storage bin, the museum’s archaeology exhibit video narrator explained.
“At Cahokia the small arrowheads found in mound 72 … we have an idea that these materials are from an area near the Spiro site in Oklahoma — some hundreds of miles away,” the archaeologist on the museum video said, which shows Cahokia’s link to Oklahoma.
“Over the years there have been many field investigations at Cahokia, including the excavation of mound 72 and the dig that revealed Woodhenge,” the archaeologist on video said. “In the 70s a highway project led to the most massive field investigation ever conducted in this region. Many communities from Cahokia’s time were found allowing scientists to study how these smaller towns interacted with their much larger neighbors. Field investigations of a site, which occur just before a site is to be destroyed by construction, are called salvage archaeology.”
Another example of salvage archaeology is the location of the Cahokia museum itself.
“A thorough investigation of this site had to be conducted before construction of this site could begin,” the video narrator explained.
Because it is some distance from Monks Mound, the greatest mound, the excavation of mound 72 revealed information about how ordinary people lived. The careful collection and excavation was meticulous work, but necessary to increase knowledge of Cahokia, the video narrator said.
Monks Mound (mound 38) received its name from the group of Trappist Monks who lived on one of the nearby mounds, according to the Cahokia website. “The Monks never lived on the biggest mound but gardened its first terrace and nearby areas,” the Cahokia website states.
Once archaeological finds were gathered, follow-up work took place in the laboratory, which included: identifying, cleaning, labeling the fragments found and preparing them for analysis.
The archaeological remains from the dig were highly fragmented, even stone tools, the video explained. Tools, such as hoes and spears and arrowheads, were studied to determine the time period they are from and what they were used for.
Bones from the site are compared with modern animals to help identify them — for example a white-tailed deer’s bones are compared with the bones found in the dig.
Similar work takes place in the botanist lab where plants/seeds found are compared with today’s plants and seeds.
In this excavation, archaeologists learned that the diets of people had declined as their intake of carbohydrates increased over time.
The reason Cahokia began to decline sometime in the 13th or early 14th century remains a mystery. The society may also have declined over many years as Cahokia’s authority was challenged.
According to the video overview of Cahokia, “poor nutrition and disease were growing problems. Weather changes and climate, dwindling resources and a growing population or perhaps growing class warfare, conflicts within the group, or from the outside also contributed to the decline.”
Present-day archaeological digs are ongoing and so continue to reveal information about the people who inhabited the 2,200 acres known as Cahokia.
To learn more about Cahokia or to plan a trip, visit the Cahokia website at https://cahokiamounds.org/.
A Birger figurine (shown left) was found in the Cahokia area near St. Louis, carved from Missouri flintclay depicting a kneeling woman hoeing into a snake, symbolic of fertility, life forces and the lower world. Photo by Roseanne McKee
By Roseanne McKee
Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
Recently, I visited the Cahokia Mounds near St. Louis, the largest earthen monument in the Americas, with links to the Osage people, whose sovereign nation is headquartered in Pawhuska.
According to an article “Osage Cultural History” by Dr. Andrea Hunter, published on the Osage Nation website, “[d]uring the latter part of the Late Woodland (A.D. 900) and Emergent Mississippian, (A.D. 1000) periods, larger groups of the Dhegiha Siouan tribes focused their settlement strategy in the Cahokia/St. Louis area. … Those who would later become the Osage were the last remaining Dhegiha Siouan tribe in the Cahokia/St. Louis area.”
A panel about the late Charles Arthur Pratt (1944-2015) was on display at the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center and Museum. The panel included a photo of Charles Pratt, an Osage Elder, wearing regalia. The panel stated that Pratt had been the Hominy Drum Keeper in the Osage Hominy Village during the 1960s, and he never forgot his obligations to his people. Pratt was a college graduate and scholar of both Dhegihan language and culture.
“Charles epitomized the Hominy community. After all, they were the full bloods. … they were always eager to save their great heritage as well as being generous in sharing with others,” the panel said.
I was fortunate to have met Pratt at a traditional Osage dinner at his own camp, during the Hominy In-Lonshka dances in 2014, a year before he passed. My friend Mark Simms, a retired Osage congressman, and his wife, Linda Simms, took me to the dinner.
What I learned at the museum in St. Louis was that up to 20,000 people lived at the more than 2,200-acre Cahokia settlement.
While the settlement originally began more than 12,000 years ago — 1,000 years ago the culture evolved into what is known as the Mississippians. At that time, residents built various types of mounds, plazas and a unique wooden sundial, now called Woodhenge. Regarding the mounds themselves, some were flat-top — where temples and other structures were built. Others, called ridge-top mounds, marked the community’s boundaries. There were also burial mounds.
However, the tallest, most prominent mound was the location of the chief’s home, where a sacred fire was kept burning, the narrator said.
It is interesting to note that the practice of keeping a sacred fire burning was continued by the Osage.
In the book “Osage Life & Legends” by Robert Liebert, he wrote, “the fireplace served as light, warmth, and … any time that the People were gathered around the fireplace was a time of communion; for the fire was symbolic of the divine spark of life and the power that resided within the Sun. In the lodges of the Grand Chiefs [sacred fires] burned eternally, as they had in the temples of the Ancient Ones that erected the great earthen mounds.”
According to the video presentation at the center in St. Louis, the chief was said to have ruled the earth and spoke to the sky.
The chief’s “wealth was immeasurable, his wisdom profound, his authority unquestionable. The chief was responsible for maintaining balance between the spiritual forces of the upper world and the low world. … and for maintaining order and harmony among the people,” the video narrator said.
“Service rendered to him was as to the gods. With his wisest advisors, the chief directed construction of the great mound, the site of his temple. For the thousands of laborers, building the mound was an act of loyalty on faith. Building it in stages, they dug the earth with stone hoes and carried [the earth] in woven baskets 50-60 pounds at a time, 15 million times over a 300-year period,” the narrator said.
The community was “the seat of power, vitality, wealth and security. It prevailed for several hundred years. … Each area had a function. There were enormous plazas for games, ceremonies and great gatherings. There were miles of stockade wall protecting the central ceremonial area,” the narrator said.
The community was so large that individuals specialized in tasks such as toolmaking, farming and basket weaving. Goods and services were exchanged and the population became interdependent.
The people were able to grow a surplus of corn so it could be saved for years when crops were poor, the narrator explained. “With a steady food supply, great numbers of people could make Cahokia their permanent home.”
This surplus in crops allowed the chief to engage in trade with other tribes.
“The leader of the community could trade corn for rare goods such as copper or sea shells. Mississippian communities traded in this way over a network that spanned thousands of miles from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico — from the Atlantic ocean to the Ozarks,” the narrator said.
Reprinted with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
A month ago today, May 2, was a significant day in Oklahoma history. It was the day that an Act took effect that provided the initial framework for the land in Oklahoma to be governed.
In the book “Oklahoma’s Governors, 1890-1907” guest editor LeRoy H. Fischer wrote that “on May 2, 1890, Congress passed the Oklahoma Territory Organic Act, which provided for the organization of Oklahoma Territory; from it the present state government of Oklahoma evolved.”
The Organic Act authorized the appointment by President Harrison of a governor, a supreme court consisting of three judges (who also served as district court judges), a legislature with a 26-member House of Representatives, a 13-member Council and a voter-elected delegate to Congress, Fischer said. The laws of Nebraska applied until laws were enacted.
The Act provided that all reservations in Oklahoma territory, when opened to settlement, became part of Oklahoma Territory.
The Act named Guthrie as the territorial capital, Fischer said.
The first election in the territory was held Aug. 5, 1890. Fourteen Republicans, eight Democrats and four People’s Party Alliance members were elected to serve in the House of Representatives. The Council had six Republicans, five Democrats and two People’s Party Alliance members.
Then, on Nov. 4, 1890, an election was held to choose the first territorial delegate to Congress — David A. Harvey.
The Act also “authorized President Harrison to appoint a commission to negotiate with the tribes of western Indian Territory to open their surplus lands for settlement,” Fischer wrote.
The Jerome Commission, as it was called, consisted of David H. Jerome, chair (also the former Michigan governor) Warren G. Sayre of Indiana and Alfred M. Wilson of Arkansas.
Over the next five years, the Commission negotiated with each tribe such that an individual allotment became privately owned by each man, woman and child on the official tribal rolls.
Once that had been accomplished, the surplus land was purchased by the U.S. government to be homesteaded.
A series of land runs followed — Sept. 22, 1891, creating Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties, April 19, 1892, creating six counties (Blaine, Dewey, Day, Roger Mills, Custer and Washita, but Dewey was later abolished by Constitutional Convention) and the largest land run Sept. 16, 1893 of what was known as the Cherokee Outlet, creating seven counties Kay, Pawnee, Noble, Grant, Garfield, Woods and Woodward (with others added later by Constitutional Convention).
Additionally, land was reserved for higher education institutions, and public buildings in section 13.
“In 1895, the surplus Kickapoo lands were opened to homeseekers, but so little land was available that the Kickapoos received allotments of only eighty acres each,” Fischer said.
Sooners were becoming an increasingly big problem and so an alternate lottery method was used when Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Wichita and Caddo surplus lands of more than 2,000,000 acres were opened in August 1901. A one-half section of land in each township was reserved to provide income for public purposes with additional sections in each township set aside for special purposes, Fisher said.
Land located between two rivers was given to Oklahoma Territory by the 1906 Constitutional Convention that had been part of Texas. This added 1,400,000 acres which became Greer, Harmon, Jackson and part of Beckham counties.
Smaller pieces of land became available when Congress dissolved the Ponca, Otoe, Missouria and Kaw reservations.
“The Big Pasture Reserve, made up of land in both Comanche and Tillman counties, was finally sold at auction by sealed bids in 1906,” Fischer wrote. “That same year the Osage Nation was dissolved by Congress, with each tribal member receiving over 500 acres of land.”
At that point, “all reservations west of Indian Territory — the home of the Five Civilized Tribes — became part of Oklahoma Territory by the eve of Oklahoma statehood,” said Fischer.
Those settling in Oklahoma Territory had to find ways to make a living and find enough food, and it wasn’t always easy.
Settlers bartered for basics and sold cut cedar posts to ranchers or followed the wheat harvest north.
Sod homes were common, Fischer explained.
An article by Eric Standridge on the website hubpages.com entitled “Oklahoma History: Pioneer Life in Early Oklahoma” stated that the “settlers’ first homes were very crude one-room houses build out of raw timber.” Later, they build two-story log homes, but most homes had no screens at the door. he said.
“Windows were square places left in the logs and covered with greased paper,” Standridge said, or settlers chose not to have windows at all.
The wild game settlers hunted were — wild turkey, quail and prairie chicken; wild sand plums were plentiful and so became popular for canning and drying, Fischer said.
Standridge added that settlers usually brought enough grain with them to plant crops and at wild turkeys, geese, deer and elk. Prairie chickens were also abundant, Standridge said.
According to the book “Taste of the States: A Food History of America,” pioneer women in Oklahoma invented a stew of rabbit, turnips, and flour gravy, and something called Oklahoma stew made from hard Spanish wheat and beef.
“Wild pecans were used in pie fillings, and Pioneer Pecan Pie became famous all over the states.
“Pickles and preserves were made from watermelon rinds. Watermelons originally grew on Indian farms and were later raised by settlers.”
Smoking and salting meats was essential in those days and cooking was done over an open fire in iron kettles, Standridge said. The kettles were set on tri-cornered iron holders.
“Skillets, pots and tin pans were also used and every family had a huge brass kettle in which they made their soap, apple butter, maple syrup, and rendered out the lard,” Standridge wrote.
Tallow candles made by the family provided light and garments were handmade, he said.
Oklahomans have come a long way since those early days. They stand on the shoulders of their ancestors.
The Oklahoma motto translated from Latin means “labor conquers all things” and as I reflect on Oklahoma’s past, I think it has.
By Roseanne McKee
Reprinted with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
Part of history from the beginning of mankind is using cooking techniques enabling food to be kept so that none of it will be wasted and food reserves can be established. Ways of preserving meat — confit, pate, sausage, bacon, ham, smoked salmon, smoked trout, lox and salmon cured with salt and seasoning are all part of the specialty called charcuterie — salting, smoking and cooking meat.
The word charcuterie combines two French words — chair (flesh) and cuit (cooked). The term was originally limited to pork but over time these techniques have been used on other meats and foods.
In the cookbook “Charcuterie: the craft of salting, smoking and curing” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, Ruhlman writes, “[y]ou can confit many cuts of meat. Goose, in addition to duck, of course, chicken or turkey — or a pork loin. It’s a remarkable thing: you can buy a supermarket pork loin, unnaturally lean now and flavorful as cardboard, and, with the basic confit method, turn it into something so tasty you’d swear voodoo were involved.”
The word confit literally means preserved. This was a French technique in which duck, for example, was salted for a period of time and then poached in its own fat, then immersed in that fat and kept until needed, Ruhlman said.
Charcutiers were esteemed French tradesmen, who belonged to guilds, and who played an essential role in maintaining the food supply in their communities, said Ruhlman.
Co-author Brian Polcyn, an accomplished chef who teaches charcuterie, refers to charcuterie as a practice because it is a technique “you’re always learning, always practicing, never perfecting, because the conditions are always changing. …”
While charcuterie is an ever-present part of the European culinary scene, it is less prevalent in Oklahoma.
Nonetheless, there are places that offer it — Ludivine in Oklahoma City being one of them. Ludivine, located at 805 N. Hudson in OKC, has a charcuterie platter on the menu offering country pate, rabbit liver mousse, rabbit rillettes, house cured salmon, Berkshire Lardo, foie gras mousse and a daily cheese selection.
Another establishment gaining a reputation for curing meat on site is Fassler Hall, which makes all of its sausage in house with Oklahoma-sourced pork. A few of the sausages offered at the two locations (Tulsa and OKC) are — bratwurst, lamb sausage, hot Italian sausage and the hunter, a sausage made from venison, buffalo and pork. Duck fat fries come free with each order.
In Oklahoma salting and smoking may have been the preferred method to preserve meats.
Salt not only flavors meat, it preserves it by disabling the microbes that feed on food. Salt pulls water out of the meat and thereby dehydrates it.
Sauerkraut, a tasty addition to a sausage meal, is basically salted cabbage. Olives, a staple of charcuterie platters, when soaked in saltwater are transformed from a bitter fruit into a delicious one.
The Egyptians were possibly the first to brine olives. According to the authors of “Charcuterie,” the Egyptians “were possibly the first people to preserve food with salt on a large scale,” which they used for their own food supply and for trade.
The authors said, because the Egyptians did not consume swine, the Celts were said to have invented ham during the Iron Age, around 1,000 B.C. The Celts shared ham with the Romans. A favorite ham of the Romans was Westphalia, which endures as one of the world’s finest hams. Westpahalia is a region in today’s northwestern Germany.
Viking, who preserved cod, were sustained by this cured fish as they traveled to distant shores.
Ruhlman wrote, “The Vikings also secretly fished for cod in the New World, (keeping the discovery of Nova Scotia to themselves, centuries before Columbus crossed the Atlantic), then salting it to sell throughout Catholic Europe, no doubt a thriving trade on meatless Fridays and during Lent, when pork was off limits.”
Long journeys became possible only when cultures learned to preserve large amounts of food, Ruhlman said.
“Curing with salt and smoking go hand in hand,” Ruhlman stated. Smoking inhibits microbes that would spoil meat and impart flavor. That flavor changes depending on the wood used.
“It’s critical to use only hardwoods in smoking foods,” Ruhlman said. He recommends, hickory, maple and fruitwoods while soft woods should be avoided because they contain unpalatable sap, or resin.
Ruhlman recommends using fruitwoods for a mild sweet smoked flavor and pear for smoking fish. Cherry is popular in Michigan to create smoked duck, he said.
“The pairing of applewood smoke and bacon is so felicitous it’s become almost commonplace,” Ruhlman wrote.
Home cooks can easily hot smoke, or cook meats at a temperature at or above 150 degrees, in a smoker. Ruhlman recommends 180 degrees as optimal for hot smoking sausages and 200 degrees for smoking whole cuts of meat.
Home cooks should take note that most recipes involving smoking require pink salt, or sodium nitrite, as a preservative against botulism poisoning, Ruhlman said. However, food that goes from the refrigerator to the hot smoker doesn’t require pink salt, he added.
Whether you smoke some meat yourself this summer, or go to one of the restaurants in Oklahoma that serve charcuterie, here’s wishing you some delicious charcuterie experiences!