In May of 1847, the vangard company of pioneers sent out hunters to find meat on the plains. After an overnight excursion, they sent a rider back to the camp to fetch a wagon. The hunters hauled 1,800 pounds of buffalo meat back to camp, only to receive Brigham Young's castigation for wasting powder and lead by killing so much.
The other day I had the opportunity to re-enact this scene, in modern terms. A ranching friend of mine had four buffalo available: a five year old cow and three yearling calves. We (a few friends and I) used a horse trailer instead of a wagon, and hauled them to a local butcher. When all was said and done, we had eight hanging halves for a total of 1,900 pounds. I imagine that when all is said and done, we might lose a couple hundred pound in bone. If we were pioneers, those bones would be used as well. Here's a trail reminiscence from Catherine Camp Greer, speaking of buffalo bones:
"After we had cut the meat off the bones, they would build a big log fire and put the bones in and scrape the coals all over them and cover them with ashes until they were roasted… You have no idea how much marrow would be contained in the larger leg bones; sometimes almost a pint, and we used this for butter."
The marrow was high in fat, and therefore made good calories. As part of my book research last week I added up the calories in the daily ration afforded by the PEF regimen. Between the daily flour, bacon, dried beans and fruit, etc., the PEF pioneers received 2,200 calories in their daily ration. When balanced against the daily toll of the trail, it seems pioneers likely expended 3,500 calories for a deficit of 1,300 calories. Only through such wild sources could this deficit be made up.
I don't know if I'll go to the trouble of rendering marrow from the bones of our bison, but I'm pretty sure we'll have some tasty eating for the next year, thanks to electric deep freeze chests in the basement.
Welcome to Plain But Wholesome: Adventures in Mormon Pioneer Food - A blog focused on historical Mormon culinary perspectives. We hope that you enjoy reading what we have to offer, and we hope you'll take the time to comment and say hello as well!