Whats up with all the towns in Kentucky with the word “lick” in their name? Mud Lick, Knob Lick, Paint Lick, Lickburg, Bullitt Lick, Elk Lick, Blue Lick, lick, lick, lick,…Where’s all this tongue action coming from?
The answer is the buffalo tongue! (This just got weird!) Yep, the buffalo was the one doing all the licking. In the south part of our country salt was found close to the surface in certain areas, especially around creeks. It was a very important mineral to the herds of bison who would create well worn trails (also known as traces) to and from these salt licks. Bison choose the most convienient and easiest travel routes between their feeding grounds, bedding areas, and the salt licks. The network of trails were then used by Native Americans and pioneers and then by the modern road builders and rail roads. All because of the buffalo tongue.
The tongues of many animals have been a favorite food item for people around the world and the Native Americans and European settlers placed bison tongue high on the menu. It was known to be a favorite of Daniel Boone. Chief Blackfish brought jerked tongue as a gift to the Fort Boonesborough settlers in an attempt to win them over, just prior to the siege of 1778.
Since buffalo tongue played such a significant roll in the history of Kentucky, I can’t see how I can make this trek without gettin’ me some. Therefore, I took a trip to Butcher Boy Meats in Warren, MI, and purchased 2 of the massive lickers (just one weighs more than 2.5 lbs) and a bison roast, but what to do with them?
I decided to make my own creation and call it Boone Hoosh. Hoosh is a food that was a mainstay during the golden age of Antarctic exploration. The late 1800’s and early 1900’s explorers, such as Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton, needed a food that was easy to pack, durable, and highly nutritious. Hoosh fit the bill. It was made from pemmican, hardtack, and water creating a thick stew. Anything and everything on hand could be added but the base recipe was the same. This dish contained enough fat, protein, and carbohydrates to keep the men going in the extremes at the bottom of the earth. The only thing it lacked was vitamin C, but knowing how important it was to our diet wasn’t fully understood until 1930.
What’s pemmican you ask? It is a simple mixture of pulverized dried meat mixed with tallow and occasionally dried berries. You can think of it as an Indian energy bar made by the Native Americans for eons.
Hardtack is a hard cracker like bread eaten by ocean crossing sailors and civil war soldiers. Neither pemmican or hardtack are known for great taste but can last for years if packaged right. Heat them together with melted snow and it satisfied the nutritional needs of the British and Norwegian Antarctic explorers, if not their epicurean desires.
So here’s my recipe for Boone Hoosh.
Pemmican: Dried bison tongue and meat mixed with tallow and dried cranberries
Hardtack: I’m using a more modern and convienient substitute, Stacy’s Pita Chips. They come in whole grain, plain or various flavors and dissolve well to thicken the hoosh. I tried the traditional way of making hardtack but must have got it wrong because even after a night of soaking in water it was still too hard to bite.
Cabbage: For a bit more flavor and vitamin C I’m adding dried cabbage. (Is your mouth watering?) Cabbage was a common vegetable in the American colonies and supplied the needed vitamin C before citrus became available, even though they didn’t know they needed it.
Melt the desired amount of snow (because this will be March on Boone Trace) and heat the pemmican, pita chips, and cabbage till all is reconstituted, dissolved, and mixes well.
How does Boone Hoosh taste you may ask? Let me just say that food can be contextual. After many miles in the mountains of Virginia and Kentucky, it will be a much needed source of energy and nutrition. But here at home it wasn’t exactly “finger lickin’ good”.