Inspiring Recipes from the Archives
This story originally ran in the Fall 2014 (V8I3) edition of Yukon, North of Ordinary.
In spring 2014, two wonderful cookbooks, both published in the 1960s, came to my attention. The first: Camper’s Cookbook, written by Lucy Raup, an American lichenologist who embarked on summer field trips through northern Canada and Alaska, from 1925 until 1948, with her husband, Hugh, a botanist, ecologist, and geographer. Hugh was assigned to the American Army as the official botanist and archaeologist during the building of the Alaska Highway and led the Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition in Kluane, in 1948, along with archaeologist Frederick Johnson.
Lucy was chief cook on this and many more of their expeditions,which included their two boys from the time they were toddlers. The Raups travelled by foot, horse, canoe, skiff, and bush plane. Sometimes they established a base camp and took day trips; other times they were on the move every few days.From her accumulated experience, Lucy assembled a book that isn’t just a cookbook, but also a primer on provisioning and menu planning for the four types of camping she categorizes: permanent camp, light camp, very light camp,and lightest camp possible. Lucy identifies the constraints for each kind of camping, such as means of resupply, weight and bulk, and amount of time for cooking, and—the crux of her method—how to modify her comprehensive “Raup’s basicration list” for each category.
WHAT COULD BE FINER THAN BAKED BEANS AND SALTED PORK ON A CHILLY EVENING AFTER THE FIELD DRESSING IS DONE?
Though camping and cooking gear have changed radically since 1967, Lucy’s basic principles still apply, and camp cooks of all kinds would do well to find a copy of this slim and practical book. I was particularly intrigued by her instructions for baking in a hole: dig a hole slightly larger than your cooking vessel, line it with stones, make “a large, quick fire” with split wood, let a bed of coals accumulate, place your cooking vessel on top, cover with coals and then four inches of earth, and wait several hours or overnight.
This seemed to me a good technique for hunters heading out to camp in the fall. What could be finer than a pot of baked beans and salted pork on a chilly evening in the wall tent after the field dressing is done? In my best case hunting scenario, I would be the one left in camp to tend to the beans in the hole.
Last spring, Fine Cooking magazine published a recipe for baked beans by chef Chris Schlesinger, from East Coast Grill, in Cambridge, Mass., who has a bean hole in his backyard.Coincidentally, this was at about the same time Yukon Archives’ archivist Lesley Buchan alerted me to the Raup family fonds, where Lucy’s cookbook is found.
I modified Schlesinger’s recipe by adding birch syrup and tomato paste, and just to crank it up a notch, I cured pork belly to make my own salt pork. I was guided by Jennifer McLagan’s recipe in Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient and gave the recipe another boreal touch by incorporating spruce tips in the curing mixture. (This fall, when it’s time to close the deal on your purchase of a humanely raised pig, be sure to reserve some of the pork belly for salt pork. It’s so much nicer than the store-bought kind.) Now, you don’t have to dig a hole to bake these beans—they do just fine in an oven, especially when the cooking vessel is a cast-iron Dutch oven, which surrounds the beans with slow, steady heat like the coals in the bean hole. And a Crock-Pot is workable too.
The second cookbook to come my way last spring was Wild Plums in Brandy, written by Sylvia Boor man and beautifully illustrated by her husband, R.T. Lambert.This Canadian wild-food classic was published in 1962. An old family friend in Ontario passed Boorman’s book on tome, saying she thought I might enjoy it.I do, very much, especially for its simple and appealing dishes like Wild Strawberry Soup, Puffball with Sour Cream, and Elderflower Fritters.
Inside Wild Plums in Brandy was a tiny treasure—a hand-sewn booklet with the title, A small herbal being descriptive of the virtues and uses of plants cultivated for use or raised for beauty, By Houston of Stonehurst,at Shanty Bay, Township of Oro, Province of Ontario, Canada. Even better is the printer’s inscription:
“First printed by Houston’s in the Pigeon Loft, at the old Toronto Stock Exchange,in the street running from the Bay. MDCCCC XXXIV.” That would be 1934, on Bay Street, just south of King. A treatise on herbs produced in the heart of the financial district. How great.
Both Wild Plums in Brandy and the A small herbal reprint old English recipes in their pages; I love the sound of one for fennel and gooseberries in the latter.But equally alluring is Sylvia Boorman’s own recipe for Raspberry Cordial—if not ancient, then timeless—and, for me, especially tempting in my quest for personal best in the category of homemade aquavits and liqueurs made with wild ingredients.
I hope you enjoy this small and idiosyncratic collection of recipes and are inspired to search out the old cookbooks lurking in your own attics, basements, and archives.They’re great connectors to family, friends,and our culinary history.
Homemade Salt Pork
Adapted from Jennifer McLagan’s recipe in Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient.
2 1/2 lbs. (1.2 kg) boneless pork belly, with skin on
10 1/2 oz. (300 g) sea salt1/3 cup (80 ml) firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. (5 ml) juniper berries, crushed with a mortar and pestle
2 tsp. (10 ml) whole black pepper corns, crushed with a mortar and pestle
2 tbsp. (30 ml) dried spruce tips, minced
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
- Thoroughly mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Rub all the surfaces of the pork belly with the salt mixture, pressing it into the meat with your hands.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of the salt mixture in a glass dish and lay the pork belly on top, skin side up. Rub any exposed parts of the meat with the salt mixture. Save any mixture that remains; it will be about a cup. Cover the pork with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two days.
- Remove the pork from the refrigerator and pour off and discard any liquid in the dish. Turn the pork over and rub with the remaining salt mixture. Cover and refrigerate for another two days.
- Rinse all the salt mixture off the pork and dry well with paper towels. Wrap the pork with cheesecloth and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze for up to three months.
Makes 2 lbs. (910 g)
NOTE: Since you will only need one quarter of the salt pork for the baked-beans recipe, you’ll have a good amount left over for experimenting. Use in clam chowder, for example,or any recipe that calls for pancetta. McLagan suggests slicing the pork thinly and frying the slices like bacon. This is a good way to test the saltiness of the pork. If you find the pork too salty, blanch it in simmering water for 4–5 minutes.
Boreal Baked Brown Beans
A northern interpretation of the Boston classic, adapted from Chris Schlesinger’s recipe in Fine Cooking, June–July 2014 issue.
1 lb. (454 g) dried navy beans or any small white beans
1 large onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
8 oz. (225 g) salt pork, sliced and cut into 1 x1/4 inch (2.5 x 0.5 cm) strips*
1/2 cup (125 ml) birch syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) unsulfured molasses (the“robust” variety)
1/4 cup (60 ml) packed dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. (30 ml) dry mustard
2 tsp. (10 ml) freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. (30 ml) tomato paste
5 cups (1.2 L) water
*I left the skin on the pork belly when I sliced it and found it added a nice, chewy texture in the finished dish—not offensive at all. My advice is to leave it.
- Rinse and pick over beans. Pour into a large bowl, add water to cover by 2 inches(5 cm), and soak 6–8 hours or overnight,covered with a plate or plastic wrap. Drain and rinse soaked beans, discarding water.
- Pre-heat oven to 250°F (120°C) and place a rack in the middle of the oven.
- Line the bottom of a Dutch oven or heavy casserole with the sliced onions. Scatter the salt pork over top and add the beans.
- Whisk together the birch syrup, molasses,dry mustard, pepper, tomato paste, and water. Pour mixture gently over the beans without stirring.
- Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then transfer to the oven and bake, covered, until the beans are tender(4–5 hours). Remove cover from the beans and cook for an additional 30–45 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the top is crusty. If there is still too much liquid at this point, let the beans sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Serve beans with baked ham, barbecued sausage, or all by themselves. Will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to one week.
Makes 6 servings as a main course or 10 as a side dish.
Adapted from Wild Plums in Brandy. Sylvia Boorman writes, “You must be feeling affluent to make this cordial.” If you’re not feeling quite so affluent, reduce the amount of brandy, but keep the proportion of fruit to liquid at one to one. I’ve reduced the quantities here according to how brandy is generally sold, in 750 ml bottles.
3 cups (750 ml) wild fresh raspberries or thawed, frozen raspberries
3 cups (750 ml) brandy
Fruit sugar to taste
- Put raspberries in a clean jar and pour brandy over top. Seal jar and store in a cool, dark place for one week.
- Strain and taste. If it’s too strong, dilute with water. Add enough sugar to suit your palate—or make a simple syrup by boiling 1part water and 1 part sugar until the sugar has dissolved—add the brandy to taste, and seal the jar once the mixture has cooled.
- Let stand for a few weeks before serving.
Makes about 3 to 4 cups (750 ml to 1 L). Y
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