A while back I wrote a post on Desiccated vegetables as used During the Civil War. Desiccated vegetables were used as rations by both side during the civil war. Ever since I have been meaning to try and make some. Yesterday I received this comment with a recipe for desiccated vegetables. This recipe sounds like it is close to being authentic. I haven’t told my wife yet, but I plan on trying to make it next week. This will be a surprise for her. This is a great comment and written with a lot of humor. Thank you
Civil War reenacting is a disease. I read about “Sanitary Fodder” in “Hardtack And Coffee” by Billings and got curious (always a bad omen).Mmmmmm! Then I ran across the actual recipe from one Civil War era vendor and could hardly wait to show it to my wife. She said, “You’re not cooking up that stuff in MY kitchen! It will smell evil for THREE DAYS!”
Somewhat discouraged (relieved, actually), I hereby turn the recipe over to the you in the hopes that maybe one of you has a wife from Bulgaria, for whom the preparation will be a breeze, and for whom the smell will bring back fond childhood memories of working in the communal kitchen at the tractor factory.
Cabbage, 2 medium to large heads
Carrots 1/2 bag of sliced or baby
Turnips, 4 medium with the tops on them
Parsnips, half the volume of the turnips
Onions, 3-4 small yellow ones
Some other green matter, the identity of which you will refuse to divulge. Perhaps fibers from some green hemp twine from the craft store, or maybe a handful of sawdust from under your work bench.
Preparing the “Sanitary Fodder”: (Desiccated vegetable, Howard)
Quarter the cabbage, remove the stem and separate the leaves. Cut off the turnip tops and cut the turnips into really thin, small slices. Now chop the turnip tops up too, and throw them all in a pot together along with your mystery ingredient.
Slice the carrots, turnips, parsnips, and onions, and put them in another pot. Remember, the smaller you dice them the better they’ll stack and the quicker they’ll dry.
Put the two pots on to boil separately. Cook until completely done, but they should still retain a rough texture. Drain, strain, and press out as much water as you can ahead of time.
If you have a food dryer, use a plastic 4 x 4 x 3 freezer container with holes drilled or punched into it. Press the veggies in as densely as possible in the following layers: 1/2 inch of green mix, then 1/2 inch of carrot mix layer, another green mix layer, etc. Keep packing them down. You want to end up with green mix on the top and bottom layers. In the end, you should end up with a three-inch thick vegetarian lasagna.
If you are using an oven, put the veggies in a 9 x 13 pan, layered as described above. Place a wire mesh on top and weigh it down with a couple of bricks. Cook at 200-250. Check the mix periodically by prodding it to see if it’s dried yet. You’ll have to set your own cook time when you see what works for you. Remember in an oven you run the risk of singeing the veggies on the outside if you cook it too long. Be sure to prop the oven door open so the moisture can escape, otherwise your bespectacled physiognomy will be greeted with a blast of superheated steam as you open the oven door, rendering you temporarily blind and leaving a first degree burn on your face that will make you look like a raccoon in reverse. Ask me how I know. On second thought, don’t ask.
In the end, if done right, and after the block cools, use a miter box or hacksaw to trim your brick into 2-4 inch squares. Be sure to wrap these squares in plastic wrap. Then, go find that roll of 3M Masking Paper you use to roll cartridges and wrap the little plastic-wrapped bricks up and tie them with string so the plastic doesn’t show. Store the little bricks in a Ziplock so they will stay properly mummified. The paper and string treatment isn’t actually authentic, but it beats the sight of a plastic bag poking out of your haversack. It would make Billings proud. Amazingly, this is about three days’ period rations for an individual Civil War soldier. A little bit of a cube crumbled into a mucket of salt pork & army bean soup goes a long way. Despite the rather bizarre (by modern standards) list of ingredients and method of preparation, it was well received by the solders.
3 thoughts on “A Recipe for Making Desiccated vegetable Rations”
“maybe one of you has a wife from Bulgaria, for whom the preparation will be a breeze, and for whom the smell will bring back fond childhood memories of working in the communal kitchen at the tractor factory”
Great sense of humor. I grew up just North of Boston in the 40’s and 50’s. We had a lot of European immigrants and quite a few from Eastern and Southern Europe. Typically every school year started with the teacher introducing a couple of kids from Poland, Hungary, Greece and even East Germany and many more. On day one they spoke no English. Three months later they spoke pretty fair English and by the end of the school year they spoke as well as any of us. But their parents clung to the old country. So we would make friends and when we went to their home we would learn some of the things from the old country. The smells from the kitchen are still stuck in that part of my mind. Typically we didn’t get invited into the house until we knew everyone better.
I grew up in northern Virginia not far from Fort Belvoir outside Washington, DC during the ’50s and ’60s. We had our share of immigrant students as well as a few kids of diplomats who attended public school. One of best friends was a Cuban emigre’ whose father was a physician’s assistant at Dewitt Army Hospital until he passed his US board certifications to practice as an MD here. It was customary to take turns visiting each other’s homes in the community, which was comprised almost entirely of Army brats and families of Federal Civil Service employees. Saturday night summer picnics or after church Sunday dinner were favorites, because everyone would bring their favorites from the “new” country or the “old” country. My best memories of growing up are those shared dinners and new culinary adventures. Somehow I think a Boy Scout campout with dessicated vegetables would have fit in. But I’ll settle for a Cuban style roast pork sandwich!
Very ingenious for getting vegetables in for the soldiers diet. I wonder how it would taste?