site logo

Food And Cooking Utensils


The professional trapper on a campaign depends much upon his traps

for his food, and often entirely contents himself with the subsistence

thus gained. We encourage and believe in roughing it to a

certain extent, but not to that limit to which it is often carried

by many professional followers of the trap throughout our country.

The course of diet to which these individuals subject themselves,

would often do better cred
t to a half civilized barbarian than

to an enlightened white man, and when it comes to starting on a

campaign with no provision for food excepting a few traps, a gun, and

a box of matches, and relying on a chance chip for a frying-pan, he

would rather be counted out. In ordinary cases we see no necessity

for such deprivation, and, on the other hand, we decry the idea of

transporting a whole kitchen and larder into the woods. There is

a happy medium between the two extremes, whereby a light amount

of luggage in the shape of cooking utensils and closely packed

portable food, may render the wild life of the trapper very cozy

and comfortable, and his meals a source of enjoyment, instead of a

fulfilment of physical duty. What with the stock of traps, necessary

tools, blankets, etc., the trapper's burden is bound to be pretty

heavy, and it becomes necessary to select such food for transportation

as shall combine the greatest amount of nutriment and the least possible

weight, and to confine the utensils to those absolutely necessary

for decent cooking.

The trapper's culinary outfit may then be reduced to the following

items, and in them he will find a sufficiency for very passable


One of the most nutritious and desirable articles of food consists

of fine sifted Indian meal; and it is the only substantial article

of diet which many trappers will deign to carry at all.

By some it is mixed with twice its quantity of wheat flour, and

is thus used in the preparation of quite a variety of palatable

dishes. One or two pounds of salt pork will also be found a valuable

addition; boxes of pepper and salt and soda should also be carried.

With these simple provisions alone, relying on his gun, traps and

fishing tackle for animal food, the young trapper may rely on three

enjoyable meals a day, if he is anything of a cook. Pork fritters

are not to be despised, even at a hotel table; and with the above

they can be made to suit the palate of the most fastidious.

Indian meal is a valuable accessory with cooks generally, and to

the trapper it often becomes his great staff of life. If our

young enthusiast desires to try his hand at roughing it to the

fullest extent, compatible with common sense and the strength of an

ordinary physical constitution, he may endeavor to content himself

with the above portable rations; but with anything less it becomes

too much like starvation to arouse our enthusiasm. For cooking

utensils, a small frying-pan and a deep tin basin are indispensable;

and a drinking cup is also to be desired. The kind known as the

telescope cup, constructed in three parts, which close within each

other, when not in use, possesses great advantages on account of

its portability. With these one can get along pretty decently.

The pork fritters already mentioned form a favorite dish with trappers

generally, and can be made in the following

way; have at hand a thick batter of the Indian meal and flour;

cut a few slices of the pork, and fry them in the frying-pan until

the fat is tried out; cut a few more slices of the pork; dip them

in the batter and drop them in the bubbling fat, seasoning with

salt and pepper; cook until light brown and eat while hot. The

question now arises, What shall we eat them with? If you are

roughing it, such luxuries as plates and knifes and forks are

surely out of the question; and you must content yourself with

a pair of chop sticks a la Chinee, or make your jackknife do

double purpose, using a flat chip or stone as a plate. A small

tin plate may be added to the list of utensils if desired, but

we are now confining ourselves to the lowest limit of absolute

necessities. That wholesome dish known as boiled mush, may come

under the above bill of fare; and fried mush is an old stand-by

to the rough and ready trapper. In the first case the Indian meal

is slowly boiled for one hour, and then seasoned as eaten. It is

then allowed to cool, and is cut in slices and fried in fat. Indian

meal cakes are easily made by dropping a quantity of the hot mush

in the frying-pan, having previously stirred in a small quantity

of soda, and turning it as soon as the lower side is browned. A

Johnny cake thus made is always appetizing, and with the addition

of a little sugar, it becomes a positive luxury. Hoe cakes, so

much relished by many, can be made by mixing up a quantity into

a thick mass, adding a little soda. Bake in the fire on a chip or

flat stone. The trapper's ground is generally in the neighborhood

of lakes or streams, and fresh fish are always to be had. They

may be cooked in a manner which would tempt a city epicure; and

when it comes to the cooking of a fresh brook trout, neither a

Prof. Blot nor a Delmonico can compete with the trapper's recipe.

The trout is first emptied and cleaned through a hole at the neck,

if the fish is large enough to admit of it; if not, it should be

done by a slit up the belly. The interior should be carefully washed

and seasoned with salt and pepper; and in the case of a large fish,

it should be stuffed with Indian meal. Build a good fire and allow

the wood to burn down to embers; lay the fish in the hot ashes

and cover it with the burning coals and embers; leave it thus for

about half an hour, more or less, in proportion to the size of the

fish (this may be easily determined by experiment); when done,

remove it carefully from the ashes, and peel off the skin. The

clean pink flesh and delicious savor which now manifest themselves

will create an appetite where none before existed. All the delicate

flavor and sweet juices of the fish are thus retained, and the trout

as food is then known in its perfection.

By the ordinary method of cooking, the trout loses much of its

original flavor by the evaporation of its juices; and although

a delicious morsel in any event, it is never fully appreciated

excepting after being roasted in the ashes, as above described.

The other method consists in rolling the fish in the Indian meal

and frying it in the frying-pan with a piece of the salt pork.

Seasoning as desired.

Partridges, ducks, quail, and other wild fowl are most delicious

when cooked in the ashes as described for the trout. The bird should

be drawn in the ordinary manner, and the inside washed perfectly

clean. It should then be embedded in the hot coals and ashes, the

feathers having been previously saturated with water. When done,

the skin and feathers will easily peel off, and the flesh will

be found to be wonderfully sweet, tender, and juicy. A stuffing

of pounded crackers and minced meat of any kind, with plenty of

seasoning, greatly improves the result, or the Indian meal may be

used if desired. A fowl thus roasted is a rare delicacy. A partridge,

squirrel, pigeon, woodcock, or any other game can be broiled as

well in the woods as at home, using a couple of green-branched

twigs for a spider or toaster, and turning occasionally. For

this purpose the bird should be plucked of its feathers, cleanly

drawn and washed, and spread out by cutting down the back. Venison,

moose, or bear meat, can be deliciously roasted in joints of several

pounds before a good fire, using a green birch branch as a spit,

and resting it on two logs, situated on opposite sides of the fire.

The meat can thus be occasionally turned and propped in place by

a small stick, sprinkling occasionally with salt and pepper. The

above manner of making the fire is that adopted by most woodsmen.

Two large green logs, of several feet in length, being first laid

down at about three feet distant, between these the fire is built,

and when a kettle is used a heavy pole is so arranged as to project

and hold it over the fire. A cutlet of venison fried in the pan

is delicious, and a Johnny cake cooked in the fat of this meat

is a decided dainty.

With the above hints for a rough and ready campaign, we think

the young trapper ought to be able to get along quite comfortably.

We will now pass on to the consideration of what the average

professional trapper would call luxuries. The stock of these

depends much upon the location of the trapping ground. If accessible

by wagon or boat, or both, they may be carried in unlimited quantities,

but when they are to be borne on the back of the trapper through

a pathless wilderness of miles, the supply will, of course, have

to be cut short. When two or three start out together it becomes

much easier, one carrying the traps and tools; another the guns,

cooking utensils, etc.; the third confining his luggage to the food.

One of the most necessary requisites for a journey on foot consists

in a knapsack or large square basket, which can be easily strapped

to the back of the shoulders, thus leaving the hands free. Matches

are absolutely indispensable, and a good supply should be carried.

They should always be enclosed in a large-mouthed bottle with a

close fitting cork, to prevent their being damaged by moisture. For

further safety in this regard the matches may be rendered perfectly

water-proof by dipping their ends in thin mastic or shellac varnish.

If not at hand, this varnish can be easily made by dissolving a

small quantity of either sort of gum in three or four times its

bulk of alcohol. It is well to dip the whole stick in the solution,

thereby rendering the entire match impervious to moisture. Lucifer

matches are the best, and, when thus prepared, they may lay in

water for hours without any injury. It is a fearful thing to find

oneself in the wilderness, cold and hungry, and without the means

of lighting a fire, and to prepare for such an emergency it is

always advisable to be provided with a pocket sun glass. So long as

the sun shines a fire is thus always to be had, either by igniting

a small quantity of powder (which the trapper is always supposed

to carry) or using powdered touch wood or punk tinder in its

place. Fine scrapings from dry wood will easily ignite by the sun

glass, and by fanning the fire and adding additional fuel it will

soon burst into flame. In cloudy weather, and in the absence of

matches, a fire may easily be kindled by sprinkling a small quantity

of powder on a large flat stone, setting a percussion cap in its

midst, and covering the whole with dry leaves. A smart strike on

the cap with a hammer will have the desired result, and by heaping

additional fuel on the blazing leaves the fire soon reaches large

proportions. If the young trapper should ever be so unfortunate

as to find himself in the wild woods, chilled and hungry, minus

matches, powder, caps, and sun glass, he may as a last resort try

the following: Scrape some lint or cotton from some portion of

the garment, or some tinder from a dry stick, and lay it on the

surface of some rough rock, white quartz rock if it can be found.

Next procure a fragment of the same stone, or a piece of steel from

some one of the traps, and strike its edge sharply, and with a

skipping stroke into the further side of the tinder, the direction

being such as will send the sparks thus produced into the inflammable

material. Continue this operation until the tinder ignites. By now

gently fanning the smoking mass it may easily be coaxed into flame.

At least so our Adirondack guide told us last summer. The author has

never had occasion to test the merits of the plan for himself, and

has no special desire of being so placed, as that his life will hang

upon its success. He presents it therefore as a mere suggestion

without endorsing its practicability, and would rather prefer matches

in the long run. The open fire generally serves both for purposes

of warmth and cooking, but by many, a camp stove is considered a

great improvement. Stoves of this character, and for this especial

purpose, are in the market. They are small and portable, with pipe

and furniture, all of which pack away closely into the interior.

A fire is easily started in one of these stoves, and, by closing

the damper, a slow fire may be kept up through the night. The stove

is generally set up at the entrance of the tent, the pipe passing

through the top, in a hole near the ridge pole. The furniture consists

of three pots or kettles, which pack easily into each other, and

when in the stove still leave ample room for a considerable amount

of provisions.

The kettles are made of block-tin, and frying-pans also, as these

are much more light and portable than those made of iron. The lid

may be used as a plate, and for this purpose the handle consists

of an iron ring, which will fold flat against the surface when

inverted. Knives, forks, and spoons are easily stowed away in the

stove or knapsack, and a coffee-pot should always be carried. There

is a knife known as the combination camp-knife, which is much used

by hunters and trappers, and contains a spoon, fork, knife, and

various other useful appendages, in a most compact form. It costs

from one to two dollars.

For provisions, potatoes will be found excellent, both on account

of their portability and the variety of ways in which they may be

served. They are healthy and nutritions, and always palatable.

Beans are also very desirable for the same reasons. Wheat flour will

form a valuable addition to the trapper's larder, and particularly

so, if the self-raising kind can be had. This

flour contains all the required ingredients for light bread and

biscuit, and is sold by grocers generally, in packages of various

sizes, with accompanying recipes. We strongly recommend it where

a stove is employed; and to anyone who is fond of biscuit, bread,

or pancakes, it will be appreciated. Butter, lard, sugar, salt,

pepper and mustard are valuable accessories, and curry-powder,

olive oil, and vinegar will often be found useful. Olive oil is

often used by camping parties with the curry powder, and also as

a substitute for lard in the frying-pan. Pork, Indian meal and

crackers, wheaten grits, rice, and oat-meal are desirable, and

coffee and tea are great luxuries. For soups, Liebig's extract of

beef is a most valuable article, and with the addition of other

ingredients, vegetables or meat, the result is a most delicious and

nutritious dish. This extract is obtainable at almost any grocer's,

and full directions and recipes accompany each jar. Canned vegetables

are much to be desired on account of their portability, and are

never so delicious as when cooked over a camp fire. Lemonade is

always a luscious beverage, but never so much so as to a thirsty

trapper. A few lemons are easily carried and will repay the trouble.

All provisions, such as meal, flour, sugar, salt, crackers, and the

like, should be enclosed in water-proof canvas bags, and labelled.

The bags may be rendered water-proof either by painting, (in which

case no lead or arsenic paints should be used) or by dipping in

the preparation described on page 247. If these are not used, a

rubber blanket, page 250, may be substituted, the eatables being

carefully wrapped therein, when not in use. The butter and lard

should be put up in air-tight jars, and should be kept in a cool

place, either on the ground in a shady spot, or in some cool spring.

For a campaign on foot, the knapsack, or shoulder-basket, already

alluded to on page 234, is an indispensable article. It should

be quite large and roomy, say fifteen inches in depth and ten by

twelve inches in its other dimensions. The material should be canvas,

rubber cloth, or wicker, and, in any case, the opening at the top

should have a water-proof covering extending well over the sides.

The straps may consist of old suspender bands, fastened crosswise

on the broad side of the bag. The capacity of such a knapsack is

surprising, and the actual weight of luggage seems half reduced

when thus carried on the shoulders. When three or four trappers

start together, which is the usual custom, and each is provided

with such a shoulder basket, the luggage can be thus divided, and

the load for each individual much lightened.

Venison is the trapper's favorite food, and in mild weather it

sometimes happens that the overplus of meat becomes tainted before

it can be eaten. To overcome this difficulty the following process

is resorted to, for the preservation of the meat, and the result

is the well-known and high-priced jerked venison of our markets.

The flesh is first cut into small, thin strips, all the meat being

picked off from the bones. The pieces are then placed on the inside

of the hide of the animal and thoroughly mixed with salt, a pint

and a half being generally sufficient. The salt being well worked

in, the fragments should be carefully wrapped in the hide, and

suffered to remain in this condition for two or three hours. The

meat is then ready to be dried,--jerked.

Four forked poles should be first driven into the ground, about

six feet apart, in the form of a square, the forks being four feet

above ground. Lay two poles of green wood across the forks on the

two opposite sides of the square, and cover the space between them

by other poles laid across them, an inch or two inches apart. On

to this mammoth gridiron the strips of flesh should now be spread,

and a steady fire of birch or other clean, fresh wood should be

kept steadily burning beneath for about twenty-four hours. At the

end of this time the meat will have reduced much in size and weight.

The salt will have been thoroughly dried in, and the flesh so

prepared may be kept for almost any length of time. In its present

condition it is excellent eating, and it is always at hand for

frying, and may be cooked in a variety of ways. Moose and bear meat

may be dried in a similar manner, using a proportionate amount of

salt. Fish may also be prepared in the same way, for which purpose

they should be scaled as usual and afterward spread open by cutting

down the back, the bone being removed. We cordially recommend this

method of preparing both flesh and fish, and no trapper's recipe

book is complete without it.

In localities where wolves abound, the nocturnal invasions of these

creatures often render the keeping of fresh meat a very difficult

task, and in this connection it may be well to give directions

for the preservation of game desired to be used either as fresh

meat or for purposes of drying.

The spring-pole is most commonly and successfully used.

Select some stout sapling, bend it down, and cut off a limb several

feet from the ground. Hang the meat in the crotch thus formed, and

allow the tree to swing back. By dividing the meat into several

parts it may thus all be protected. When

a moose or deer is killed at such a time or place, or under such

circumstances as render its immediate dressing impossible, its

carcass may be defended against mutilation by another means. Wolves

are naturally sly and sagacious, and have a wholesome fear of a

trap. Any unnatural arrangement of logs and stones immediately

excites their suspicion, and the trapper takes advantage of this

wary peculiarity to good purpose. Laying his dead game near some

fallen tree or old log he strews a few branches over the carcass,

or perhaps rests a log over it. Sometimes he hangs the entrails of

the animal over the body, on a forked stick, anyone of which devices

is said to have the desired result. The wolverine is another pest to

the trapper, and not being so sly as the wolf, never hesitates to

pounce upon any flesh within its reach. The former method, therefore,

is always the safest plan for absolute protection against all animals.

The moose and deer are the favorite food of trappers in the country

where these animals abound, and the trappers of the Far West find

in the flesh of the Moufflon, or Rocky Mountain sheep, a delicacy

which they consider superior to the finest venison. The prong-horn

antelope of the Western plains is another favorite food-animal

with hunters, and the various small game, such as squirrels,

rabbits, woodchucks, etc., are by no means to be despised. The

author once knew a trapper who was loud in his praises of skunk

meat for food, and many hunters can testify to its agreeable flavor

when properly dressed and cooked. It is hard, to be sure, to getup

much enthusiasm over a skunk, dead or alive, but where other food

is not to be had we would discourage the young trapper from being

too fastidious.

The buffalo, or bison, is the great resource of the trappers of the

West. The tongue, tenderloin and brisket are generally preferred,

but all the meat is eatable. The flesh of the cow is best. It much

resembles beef, but has a more gamey flavor. In winged game there

is no food superior to the flesh of the grouse, and the great number

of the species and wide range of territory which they inhabit render

them the universal food game of trappers throughout the world. The

ruffed grouse or partridge, pinnated grouse or prairie hen, spruce

or Canada grouse, and the cock-of-the-plains or sage cock, are

familiar American examples of the family, and their near relatives,

the ptarmigans, afford a valuable source of food to the trappers

and hunters, as well as general inhabitants of our northern cold

countries. Here they are known as snow grouse, and there are

several species. The willow ptarmigan is the most common, and in Rome

localities exists in almost incredible numbers. Flocks numbering

several thousand have been frequently seen by travellers in the

Hudson's Bay territory; and the surface of the snow in a desirable

feeding ground, is often completely covered by the birds, in quest

of the willow tops, which form their chief food during the winter

season. The Indians and natives secure the birds in large numbers,

by the trap described on page 75, and Hearne, the traveller and

explorer of the Hudson's Bay region, asserts that he has known over

three hundred to be thus caught in a single morning, by three persons.

Of water fowl, ducks and geese are especially to be recommended.

The former are hunted with decoys and boats, and are sometimes

trapped, as described on pages 94. The species are distinguished

as sea ducks and river or inland ducks. The latter are considered

the most desirable for food, being more delicate and less gamey in

flavor than the salt-water, or fish-eating varieties. The mallard,

teal, muscovy, widgeon, and wood-chuck are familiar species of the

inland birds, and the merganser and canvass-back are the two most

esteemed salt-water varieties. Wild geese are common throughout North

America, and may be seen either in the early spring or late fall

migrating in immense numbers. They form a staple article of food

in many parts of British America, and great numbers are salted down

for winter supply. They are trapped in large numbers, as described

on page 75, and are hunted with tame geese as decoys, the hunter

being secreted behind a screen or covert, and attracting the game

by imitating their cries.

Fish form an agreeable change to the trapper's diet, and may be

caught by the hook and line, or by spearing. The latter method

requires considerable practice and skill, but is very successful.

The Indians of the North are great experts in the use of the spear,

and the number of salmon taken by them annually is enormous. The

spear generally consists of five or six steel prongs an inch apart

and barbed at the ends. It is mounted on a heavy handle, and when it

strikes its victim its grip is sure death. The spearing is generally

performed either at the spawning beds or at the falls.

Salmon trout are generally speared in the night time by boat, the

spawning ground, generally a gravel bank near the shore, being

the seat of operations. A fire of pitch pine and birch bark is

ignited on an elevated jack in the bow of the boat, the jack

consisting of an ox-muzzle, or other concave wire contrivance

which will hold the inflammable materials. This is secured to a

post or crotched stick, as a prop, and the spearman stands near

the burning mass with his spear in readiness. As his companion in

the stern of the boat paddles, he keenly watches for his victim,

and, seeing his opportunity, makes his lunge and lands his prize.

To become a successful spearman requires much practice and no small

degree of skill. To retain one's balance, acquire quickness of stroke,

and withal to regulate the aim so as to allow for the refraction of

the light in the water, all tend to invest the sport with a degree

of skill which only experience can master.

Fishing through the ice in winter is a rare sport, and large numbers

of brook and lake trout are often taken at this season by cutting

holes through the ice and fishing with hook and line. The baits

commonly used consist of cow's udder or hog's liver, these being

especially preferred on account of their toughness. Angle worms

are also excellent, and any kind of raw meat may be used if other

bait is not to be had.

It is asserted by some sportsmen that bait scented with assafoetida

is much more attractive to the fish, and will insure a capture

which would otherwise be impossible. Sweet cicily and anise are

also used for the same purpose. When the trout bite lively, fishing

through the ice is a most exciting sport, and by the aid of tip-ups

a single person may command a great number of lines. The winter

resort of the brook trout is in water two or three feet deep, over

sandy beds. The lake trout frequent deeper water.

The holes are made in the ice at intervals of one or two rods, and

a line set in each hole.

The tip-up consists of a narrow strip of lath or shingle, with

a hole bored through it near the large end. At this end the line

is attached, and the hook thrown in the water. A branch is now

inserted through the aperture, and its ends are rested across the

opening in the ice. No sooner does the fish bite than the long

end tips straight in the air, and thus betrays its captive. Ten

or fifteen of these contrivances will often keep one pretty busy,

and do good service. By some an ordinary cut fish pole, arranged on

a crotch, is used instead of the tip-ups just described. Pickerel

fishing through the ice is a favorite winter sport in many localities.

The line should be about thirty feet in length, and the bait should

consist of a small, live fish, hooked through the back. A small cork

float should be attached to the line at such a distance as will keep

the bait above the bottom, and the superfluous line should be laid

in a loose coil near the hole, the end being attached to a small

switch or bush, stuck up in the ice near by. The pickerel, on taking

the bait, should be allowed to play out the whole line before being

pulled in, as the fish requires this time to fully swallow his

prey, after which the hook is sure to hold him firmly. Twenty or

thirty lines may thus be attended at once, the bush or twig acting

the part of a tip-up, or sentinel.

Pickerel spearing is another successful mode of capture during

the winter months. A large hole is made in the ice, in about two

feet of water, and covered by a spacious box or board hut, six or

seven feet square, and provided with a door. The spearman, concealed

within, lowers his bait, consisting of an artificial fish with

silver fins, made especially for the purpose. This he continually

twirls in the water, and as the pickerel approaches the bait, he

gradually raises it, until the fish is decoyed nearly to the surface

of the water, when a quick stroke of the spear secures his victim,

and the line is again lowered. This is capital sport, and is very


There is a very curious device for fishing by night commonly employed

by some anglers, and sometimes known as the lantern, or fish trap.

Many kinds of fish are attracted by a light, but to use a light

as a bait, submerged beneath the water, certainly seems odd. It

may be done, however, in the following way: The fish lantern

used for this purpose consists of a bottle containing a solution

of phosphorus in sweet oil. Procure a piece of the stick phosphorus

the size of a small cherry, and submerging in a saucer of water,

proceed to cut it into small pieces. Have in readiness a three-ounce

white glass bottle half filled with sweet oil. Drop the pieces of

phosphorus into the oil and cork the bottle tightly. In the space

of a few hours the phosphorus will have been completely dissolved,

and the contents of the bottle will present a thick, luminous fluid,

which in a dark room, will afford considerable light. This is the

fish lantern. To use it, the cork is firmly inserted and the bottle,

with fish line attached, is lowered through the hole in the ice.

The water becomes luminous for several feet around, and the unusual

brightness attracts the fish in large numbers. They are plainly,

discernible, and are readily dispatched with the spear, or captured

by a circular net, sunk on the bottom, beneath the luminous bait.

This is certainly an odd way of catching fish, but it is often

a very efficacious method.

It has not been our intention to enter very extensively into

the subject of fishing, but only to give such hints as will be

found especially useful and practical to the trapper in relation

to his food. The above methods, together with those of trolling

and fly-fishing, are those most commonly employed by trappers and

hunters generally, and we commend them to the amateur.

We give, on page 120, a unique device for the capture of fish, which

might also be found useful.

With the above general remarks on the campaign, together with what

follows in the detailed articles on the subject, we think that the

ground will have been completely covered. Every possible requirement

has been anticipated, and every ordinary emergency foreseen and

provided against.