PDA

View Full Version : The Iron Chef......



MStuart
10-26-2006, 05:53 PM
I'm at Cedar Creek, and I decide to fix up a little skillygalley to go with my slab bacon and corn bread. This is where I think I screwed up, or, maybe not. I soak my Bents hardtack in some water for about 10 minutes, then put the cracker in my canteen half with the remants of some of my bacon grease and fry it up some. What came out was the most tastless concoction I've had in a while. Where did I go wrong? It certainly wasn't "Good Eats".

Mark

flattop32355
10-26-2006, 06:28 PM
If you look up the word "skillygalee", you'll find different versions of it, though the CW version seems to be what you made.

The times I've tried it, I've found you'd better eat it quick while it still has the consistency of rubber, or it turns back into an even harder rock than it was before frying.

Some folks soak it in coffee rather than water.

It was also used to extend rations in the old West, post CW.

JerseySkilletLicker
10-26-2006, 07:18 PM
I assume that you broke up the tack before soaking and frying, if not, that might be one of the problems. The smaller bits of soaked tack sop up the hot grease better...not the worlds tastiest dish, but filling in a pinch.

MStuart
10-26-2006, 08:36 PM
Joe:

I soaked it "whole" for lack of a better word, then pulled it apart and into the grease. I've had better taste when I've just crumbled a hard cracker into the grease without soaking it. Tasted like bacon grease fried cracker and really pretty good.

Mark

toptimlrd
10-26-2006, 09:00 PM
Mark,

I've never soaked it first, but broken it up and let the grease soak into it. Still not the tastiest thing in the world, but edible. I would guess that by soaking it ahead of time it became too saturated to soak up the grease, oil and water after all.

While on the subject, I'm no culinary expert about the ACW, but does anyone know if there are period accounts of making "red eye gravy" with the rendered grease by pouring a little water or coffee into it then soaking the cracker? I did a search on red eye gravy but came up empty.

Rob
10-26-2006, 09:36 PM
In my first attempt to make skillygallee, I forgot to soak the hardtack... I just crumbled it into the hot grease. A little crunchy, but not too bad.

The second time, I made it the same way, except that I cracked two eggs over it and stirred it all together with a pinch of salt and pepper, and let it soak for a while before cooking. A hardtack and bacon omelette!

bulletsponge
10-26-2006, 09:46 PM
Mark,

You probably didn't fry up enough bacon. It seems to me that the hardtack goop should cook in about 1/4" of grease. Ideally, it should float (think funnel-cake or donut). Talk about your artery-clogging, heart-stopping goodness.

JerseySkilletLicker
10-26-2006, 10:12 PM
Mark,
When I did "soak" it, is was just a very very short while and it was with cold coffee - to give that "old and mellow" flavor.

Robert,
I have done the "red eye gravy" thing quite a few times and it is very very tasty! What I did was after I finished frying the tack, I added the coffe to what was left of the grease, simmered it a few minutes and poured the resulting "gravy over the hardtack bits and whatever rice or hominy I could scrounge up. Corn meal sloosh is also real tasty when the dough is made with "red eye" gravy. I am no expert either as to whether it is period or not but would imagine it probably is.

MStuart
10-26-2006, 10:15 PM
Joe:

After you soaked it in the coffee, what was the next step? Yer makin' me hungry. And what's your red eye gravy recipe?

Mark

GrumpyDave
10-27-2006, 06:17 AM
If it tasted like &#!t you got it right. I think cardboard fried in bacon grease would be about the same.:-P :-P :-P :-P

Kevin O'Beirne
10-27-2006, 11:48 AM
Perhaps this is a silly question, but why would one need to soak Bent's crackers? They are usually the consistence of saltines and can be busted up easily with your fingers. I believe soaking was done to some crackers in the CW to "soften" them, which didn't work too well for the hard stuff, per John Billings in Hardtack and Coffee.

Pvt Schnapps
10-27-2006, 12:04 PM
Bread and soup are the great items of a soldier's diet.

flattop32355
10-27-2006, 02:28 PM
Bread and soup are the great items of a soldier's diet.

As I move slowly along in this hobby, I've discovered that I prefer boiling pork with onion, potato and carrot, salt and pepper (when items are available), rather than frying it, for a typical meal, unless I'm in need of the grease for making eggs, cornbread, etc. My son still preferres the frying.

Concerning hardtack, I've found that busting it up into pieces and boiling it with apples (or other seasonal fruit) and some sugar(cooked in or sprinkled on) makes a nice treat. You know it's done when the hardtack is the consistancy of dumplings. It went over well at Perryville this year.

toptimlrd
10-27-2006, 03:44 PM
Joe:

After you soaked it in the coffee, what was the next step? Yer makin' me hungry. And what's your red eye gravy recipe?

Mark

Red eye grazy is the easiest thing in the world, after frying up the bacon or (preferrably) salt ham, pour in just a little water or (preferrably) coffee to the rendered grease to make the gravy. Be sure not to burn the grease first. It takes a bit of eyeballing, but I usually pour enough coffee in to fill the fry pan a little under 1/4 full. All you want to do is make it liguid enough to pour easily. What it will look like is a dark red colored center with a clearish outside when finished (hence the term red eye). make sure you get as much of the red center as possible as that is where the flavor is. If you are fortunate enough to have biscuits it is especially good. What it does is it gets the flavor of the meat and is very tasty. It's a bit of a southern tradition.

Rachal
10-27-2006, 04:14 PM
I have always had good results simply dropping an entire piece in the melted lard and waiting for it to turn brown. Once I pull it out, I pour some salt on it if it needs it, but usually the pork fat is seasoned enough to make it palatable. I tried to soak it once, but it quickly turned to a nasty paste-like mush. Edible but not very appeasing, especially after it soaked up enough grease to ... well add your own sick twist!

bill watson
10-27-2006, 07:38 PM
I have always had good results simply dropping an entire piece in the melted lard and waiting for it to turn brown. Once I pull it out, I pour some salt on it if it needs it, but usually the pork fat is seasoned enough to make it palatable.


Ditto. No presoak. What that does is put water in the hardtack so it can't absorb the grease and whatever flavor there is in the grease -- like a sponge that's already full.

Although putting just about anything in there with the grease helps; it adds either texture or flavor. Sometimes the trick is knowing what cooks fastest so you can put it in last and not overcook it.

RebelCapt
10-28-2006, 05:47 AM
My recommendation is don't use hardtack at all.
Hardtack, while in the hands of some CSA was mostly a federal staple. The southern equivilent was cornmeal. Just fill yourself a cloth poke bag of the stuff for a host of semi tasty allternatives. How to substitutue hardtack with it for skillygally??
You make cornpone the night before. Boil some water in your mucket and stir enough cornmeal into a pudding like substance. You can even keep a little pottery bottle of molassass and add a little to sweeten it. Or a poke sack of raw sugar. You could spoon it that at that point .....or.....Let the cornpone set in the cup until morning. It will stiffen into a polenta. Then you can slice it like scrapple and fry that with your bacon. Much tastier than the cardboard like hardtack, more southern and downright acurate!!

Rob Weaver
10-28-2006, 08:11 AM
To fry hardtack, you really need a good pool of grease. I would recommend frying your fatback, and leave a piece in the pan that you're not going to eat. You know, one of those 100% fat pieces that's really more useful for greasing your musket. Let it cook out until you've got a good pan of grease. I bust my hardtack up and soak it, but for a lot longer than 10 minutes. Maybe it has to do with the way I make it. Boiling it in your coffee water takes less time. Spoon your cracker pieces into the grease and fry em til they're golden brown. If you have sugar, sprinkle it on them when they're done. That's really good too.
I tend to fry more than boil, mostly because it's faster When I was a young reenactor I ate a lot of burned potatoes and onions because I hadn't figured out that a boiled veggie fries quicker than a raw one.