09 January 2011

9 January - Rawhide!; Sourdough Starter

Weather: the weather today foretells the weather of September
Warm to begin with, then it got colder
Today in 1959, the western Rawhide premiered on CBS, and continued rollin', rollin', rollin' until 1966.

This is the first 'adult' western that I can remember ('adult' in that it aired at night, rather than Saturday morning), and it remains at the top of my favorites list.

I like this opening because it features the main characters of the show.  In order: Trail Boss Gil Favor (Eric Fleming); Ramrod Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood); Scout Pete Nolan (Sheb Wooley); Drover Jim Quince (Steve Raines); Drover Joe Scarlet (Rocky Shahan); Cook G.W. Wishbone (Paul Brinegar) and Cook's Louse Mushy [aka Harkness Mushgrove III] (James Murdock), along with a host of unsung extras (the beeves).  The only one missing is Hey-soos Patines (Robert Cabal), the likable young remudero (in charge of the horses).

The premise is based on the cattle drives north out of post-Civil War Texas to the rail-heads at Sedalia (Missouri), Abilene, Wichita, and Dodge (Kansas).  Thieves, murderers, and con-men (and women) abound on the trail, along with irate indigenous people, encroaching farmers, crooked sheriffs, and clueless greenhorns.  And this on top of stampedes, badlands, deserts, mountains, dry rivers, flooded rivers, blue northers, tornadoes, and the general cussedness that comes from being in the saddle 25 hours out of 24, with 20 men and 2,000 head of ornery cattle for company.

Favor and crew manage to come through it all with nary a scratch (black eyes, sore heads, hanging-rope burns, poisonings, gunshot wounds, whippings, hangovers, and heartaches are just part of the job) and the occasional loss of a drover.  Bad guys (and gals) got their comeuppance; disaster threatened, but was somehow averted - and if not averted, the drovers managed to make good out of it.

And came out looking as handsome as ever.
One of Wishbone's pride-and-joys was his sourdough keg, which provided the necessary leavening agent for biscuits, bread, and flapjacks.  There are a lot of ways to make SOURDOUGH STARTER - the easiest is just mixing flour and water and letting it ferment.  This recipe uses potato water:

Boil some peeled potatoes (4-5 will do) in water to cover until tender, about 20 - 30 minutes (you will need 2 cups of potato water for this recipe, so judge accordingly).  Drain the potatoes, reserving the water; use the potatoes for something else (mashed potatoes comes to mind).

Let the potato water cool to lukewarm.  Mix 2 cups of it with 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Put the mixture in a crock, loosely cover, and let it stand in a warm place (above 75 degrees F) for 3 - 4 days.  It should start bubbling away and smelling on the sour side.  Then you can put the whole crock (still loosely covered, as you want it to breathe) in the refrigerator.  Before using, let it return to room temperature.

When you use an amount of the starter in a recipe, return an equal amount of flour and water to the crock, i.e. if you remove 1 cup of starter, then add 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water (any water, it doesn't have to be potato) back into the crock.

Go here for an easy recipe for Sourdough Biscuits with step-by-step pictures (it isn't mentioned in the process, but remember to remove the plastic wrap before baking).  Or try to make them as Wishbone would have done in a dutch oven.  A couple of those, a plate of baked beans, and a mug of scalding coffee that you can float a horseshoe in, and you'll be ready to hit the trail.
If you are also a fan, join us around the campfire on the Rawhide list at Yahoo! Groups.

Head 'em up, move 'em out!