High Cholesterol?
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Author:  KangViper [ Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:36 pm ]
Post subject:  High Cholesterol?

My mess got invited to an event this weekend by a friend doing a campaign company. We were doing the whole nine yards with waking up at 6am, mail call, ration issues, drill, drill, drill. This is will be my first campaign event and never really had salt pork. Well I bought and extra 1 1/2 pounds of salt pork because we had another guy who might be showing up. Well he cancelled and so I decided to make some salt pork up with eggs. I put the salt pork under some water to get a little bit of the salt off. So I cooked it and started to chew it. Man was it bitter a little to bitter. Also with so much fat and grease with each bit.

So this is my question with as much salt as they used in Salt Pork, Hardtack, and other issued rations. Did many soldiers have High Cholesterol? As the answer maybe "NO" because they were active and on the move. Plus sometimes going without some food for a day or two or more that maybe everything equaled out? What do you guys think?

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: High Cholesterol?

Joesph, and fellow Sharpshooters;

Your comments about trying to eat modern, commercial salt pork made me chuckle. Hopefully comrade Brian White will relate his introduction with 'the briney porker' to this post.

The modern commercially brined salt pork is not the same as the 'salt pork' issued to the Civil War soldiers. You might search the Authentic Campaigner archives about how meat was preserved during that period. Smoking, brineing and salting were the most common.

You account reminds me of one of John Billing's recollections in his book, Hardtack and Coffee. Billings devoted an entire chapter on food consumed by soldiers of the Army of Potomac; it is one of the 'MUST READ' books for anybody with a notion to do living history. Billing's reported that occassionally a beef ration was so saturated with salt that a few of the men tied a string around the meat and immersed it overnight in a stream just to make the meat palatable enough to eat. On a couple memorable occassions, the meat ration was so bad that the men refused to eat it. Instead, the company procured a coffin and filled it with the spoilage. Then, with field music and honor detail proceeding the casket, the company consigned the 'deceased' in specially prepared grave.

The Mess buys unsliced, smoked bacon in a 5 pound section. Once issued, we cut it up into 1 pound segments for each man. The meat is then cut into smaller pieces and cooked immediately; this way it can be stored in your haversack and be safe to eat. The cooked ration allows one to grab a slice to munch during a halt, or can be added to any culinary concoction you might make up for dinner (sliced potato/onion/apple slices with the bacon makes up a hearty meal).

While period accounts by Sharpshooters report some men ate their salted pork ration raw between a couple slices of hardtack, I would not recommend this. Remember, 2/3 of soldiers from both sides died because of disease; and Salmonella and Trichinosis are two you can live without. While cholesterol is something physicians and drug companies like to badger us modern, sedentary folk about; this concept was unknown during the Civil War. Soldering, then and now, is hard and demanding physical labor, that causes you to burn huge amounts of calories. Soldiers want food, and lots of it, to sustain them.

For those who don't understand soldier 'lingo'; a 'mess' was a collection of soldiers (usually 4-6) who banded together for companionship and to share resources. Pooling food rations ensured (better than trusting company cooks), that they would be cooked properly and all of the mess-mates got an equal share. Occassionally, one member was particularly creative, and using humble ingredients and resources, made up marvelous meals for his comrades. At one event, Dan Wambaugh created a pastry using nothing more than campfire coals, bayonet, canteen half, 4 hardtack crackers, raw sugar, water, and blackberries fresh off the vine. Dan's 'Bill-iums Blackberry pie' was hailed, by all who were fortunate to sample a slice, as "Bully!"

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS

Author:  BrianTWhite [ Fri Mar 27, 2009 1:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: High Cholesterol?

Hey, the pie was MY idea!!! There's a crummy nighttime photo of us all with it, did you ever see that Bill?

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Fri Apr 10, 2009 3:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Sharpshooter Victals


My apologies for not identifying you as 'Le chef du Pastry' for the Billium pie. I vaguely recall seeing the photo but it has been many moons since the pie was created/photographed and devoured.

While not exactly pertinent to the topic of cholesterol, I thought it might be an entertaining opportunity to learn what fellow Sharpshooters cook and eat while 'on campaign'. And I do not mean what you buy at the vendors at the large events. Granted, I've enjoyed many ‘guilty pleasures’ gorging on Bayou Billy's jumbo-lyah, Orange County (VA) Boy Scout hot dogs, and more questionable cuisine early in my career. However, since I started pooling the contents of my haversack with the Mess a decade ago I've found the time spent around the campfire with good friends and hearty meal made by our own hands a wonderful way to pass the evening.

Scoosh. Unfortunately, I don't rrecall who in the Michigan sharpshooters coined the name for this repast. But it is hearty fare for hungry sharpshooters—even a small portion, added to hard crackers and a cup of coffee is mighty satisfying.

1 large onion
2-3 potatoes
1-2 pound smoked lean, bacon
1-2 apples
Dried cherries (optional)

Preparation: Slice bacon into 2x3x ½ inch sections. Chop onion, dice potatoes, and cut apples into ¼ inch wedges or cubes Place ingredients in empty tin plates until needed. Usually the ‘prep cooks’ are those in the Mess who have sharp jackknives. Cutting table is any freshly split log. Another Mess-mate tends to the fire…Schoosh is best prepared coals and not open flame.

Cook bacon in a small skillet or canteen half-pour off ½ the grease, keep the rest
Add onion and potatoes-let cook until onions brown and potatoes soften-stir with bayonet, wooden spoon or forked stick whittled to serve that purpose.
Add apple slices
Add cherries just before removing from fire
You should have enough food to serve 4 sharpshooters with enough left over for seconds. Bon appetite!

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS

Author:  NearSighted [ Tue May 26, 2009 4:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: High Cholesterol?

Why does this entire thread give me an idea for a YouTube video series? I have to imagine it would be something along the lines of: "The Sharpshooter's Kitchen"... :D ...

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