Thursday, June 28, 2018

Cheese, Raisins, Cattle and Cowboys.

San Juan County Road 228 aka South Cottonwood Road, there is a main reason why I specifically wanted to come to this area; my dentist, Dr. Brian Goodwine of San Juan Dental in Monticello (part of the Utah Navajo Health System, Inc).  He is the great grandson of Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr., active in the development of the San Juan Mission in Mexico.  While at my 6 month checkup, Dr. Goodwine asked if I'd ever been to the Cheese and Raisins Hills; "The what?" I asked, and "Where are they?"  He told me the story of Lemuel who had cattle up on those hills; one day his ranch hands asked him if he would like to share their lunch of cheese and raisins with them.  "All you boys ever eat is cheese and raisins, cheese and raisins"; and that is how the hills in the area became so named.  I was able to also verify this story through the book, Utah's Canyon Country Place Names by Steve Allen, as told by Albert R. Lyman.  On the Internet, someone's vacation blog, didn't note the name down though, was a second story on how the hills were named.  There were several mines in the area; the miners often had cheese and raisins in their lunches.  Since the mines were not started till around the early 1930s, the first version of the story is closer to the truth.  A photo of Lemuel and his wives, Eliza and Lucy, and their story can be found in the book, They Came to Grayson put out by the Ridgeway Art Gallery in Blanding.

Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr with wives, Eliza and Lucy

Talking about mining, the ruins of the old Cottonwood Millsite is along this county road which got me to thinking about typical miners’ meals which got me thinking about Cornish Pasties.  Oh my, isn’t that a nice run-on sentence; but that story will be for another article as I’m concentrating on cheese and raisins right now.

Raisins are simply dried grapes, which would stand up well during the long journeys the pioneers traveled to win over the Wild West.  Cheese, however, now where did they get cheese from and how did it keep without refrigeration?  Time to research cattle within San Juan County and I certainly did find a moo-full of information! 

Briefly, when the Hole in the Rockers came to Bluff, they did have cattle along for the trek.  Dunham aka Short Horn which were great milkers, but also provided meat to the settlers.  However, there had already been established, within San Juan County, cattle companies from Colorado and Texas; competition for grazing land became an issue.  Excuse me while I digress a little more; eventually Peters of Peters Hill fame sold his cattle; Howard Carlisle, a British patriot, eventually sold his cattle.  The remaining cattle company was the LC, which remained in the Blanding area…. poor ranch cook Harry Hopkins, may he in rest in peace.  Digging around, I was able to find out that Peters and Carlisle began a new cattle company in Kansas City, MO.  While Peters, whose given name was Quincy, became the company’s accountant; Howard Carlisle got in huge trouble selling stolen cattle. 

Where did I get my information on Peters and Carlisle after they left San Juan County?  Scholars Archive of BYU: The Cattle Industry of San Juan County, Utah, 1875 – 1900 by Franklin D. Day, and United States. Courts; Circuit Court of Appeals, volume 47.

Emma Smith 1884 
Now back to cheese and raisins, and were they only eaten separately, or did those resilient pioneer women combine them into a recipe?   Emma Smith, wife of prophet Joseph Smith baked up biscuits nicknamed “politicians” due to their being so light and full of hot air.  I didn’t make this up; the story appears in Good Things to Eat From Old Nauvoo by Theo E. Boyd.  These biscuits were normally used to make strawberry shortcake, but other variations were: cherry, peaches, warm applesauce, raisins plus cinnamon and honey, chopped dates and nuts, or grated or cubed cheese with raisins.  There you go, cheese and raisins in biscuits; but you can use this combination in scones as well and it is delicious!

Hope you enjoyed my convoluted journey through San Juan County pioneer history, and here is Emma Smith’s Biscuit recipe.

(Good Things to Eat From Old Nauvoo by Theo E. Boyd)


2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk


Sift dry ingredients. Add shortening and cut in with a pastry blender or two knives until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add buttermilk and mix lightly.

Turn out on floured board.  Pat out to 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick.  Cut, sprinkle with sugar and place on well-greased pan and bake at 425 degrees until golden brown.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Jackrabbit Ruminations.

This little story came about due to the posing of a single jackrabbit.  Normally they’re zipping back and forth across roadways, or racing through the desert trying not to smash into sage brush.  Photographing them is next to impossible, those buggers don’t sit still long enough, until that one day.  Sitting at the front desk of Canyon Country Discovery Center, well I have the best seat in the house.  Large window panes allow me to look across farmland and canyon rocks stretching eastward to Colorado; in the far distance are the majestic San Juans.  Typical wildlife that entertains are mule deer, wild turkeys, red fox, antics of chipmunks, aerodynamics of hummingbirds and the zipping of jackrabbits.  Then it happened, a jackrabbit stopped on a gravel path and began to “strike the pose…vogue” (Madonna song reference).  He (assuming it was a he, I didn’t actually check) sat back on those long, power punching legs; turned his head this way and that; then turned his whole body so that the mild wind pushed his ears back.  His eyes slowly closed and I swear that little bugger had decided to take a nap there and then.

So, back to the mention of a little story and let me put the disclaimer now, so those experts on wildlife won’t get all bent out of shape.   The story I’m about to tell about this jackrabbit is totally made up, a work of fiction from my mind; call me crazy and I’ll say thank you for noticing. 

Meet Jack, Jack the Rabbit; he’s not much on commitment; loves the ladies, but doesn’t stick around long enough for a lasting relationship.  He’s a bit of a cad, loves them and leaves them in a “delicate” condition.  Now the ladies, they have their own issues; so busy running to no place in particular that when the babe comes, it’s “pop it out, it fends for itself”.  Jackrabbits don’t build nests in the ground like the cute cottontails; nope, their babies are born wide eyed, bushy tailed and raring to go-go-go.  Jack has a sister, Jackie; who happened to meet one handsome hare from Wyoming.  The Wyoming Alope family are well known in those parts for slick dealing at the gambling table and serving up watered down liquor at their establishment.  Yes sir, Jackie married and became…Jackie ALope.

Then there is Jack’s uncle, Bob; the family don’t speak much about Bob, not since “the incident”.  Seems Bob got into a bit of a mess when he was hungry and decided that elderberries would make a great snack.  Well he was a bit lazy that day too, so instead of picking those berries fresh off the bush, he ate the ones sitting on the ground, not realizing they had fermented into wine.  That Cat was so drunk, didn’t realize that his neighbor’s third daughter was sleeping under that elderberry bush.  Nope, he had his way with her, No, not that way, get your minds out of the gutter; he done ‘et her!  Yep, Bob’s his uncle, but they don’t really talk about Bob in front of pleasant company.

Ah cooking, this column is supposed to focus on cooking, so let’s cook up some rabbit, aye?  In Native American cultures, the rabbit resides in legends from being a good luck charm to a parallel of coyote; the protector of witches and a trickster.  Mesoamerican belief was that a rabbit, not a man, resided in the moon.  No matter the legend, the rabbit was prized for its meat; its fur and tanned hide made into gloves, caps, cradle board cushions or padding.

In the cookbook, Pueblo Indian Cookbook by Phyllis Hughes, there is a kitchen tested recipe for Jackrabbit Stew.  While researching recipes for this article, I found that Native American cooking techniques/beliefs resembled ones I am quite acquainted with. Before serving the meal, a small portion is offered up to the spirits; similar to the offering of a piece of bread and meat to the Greek Goddess, Hestia (protector of the home and hearth; goddess of hospitality).  When it comes to measuring, it comes down to the senses; the feel of the grains, herbs and spices, a sort of knowing, in your heart, what amounts are correct.  That’s what cooking with love and passion are!

So here’s the recipe, and if rabbit or hare are not your type of fare; substituting chicken will be just as tasty.

Jackrabbit Stew
(Pueblo Indian Cookbook, page 39)


1 jackrabbit (or domestic hare or 5 lb. baking chicken)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt
2/3 Tbsp. chile powder (optional)
1 and ½ cups flour
2 quarts water
2 large onions
6 large carrots, halved
2 sweet peppers, halved and seeded
4 tsp. salt
2 cups cooked lime hominy
¾ cup melted lard or cooking oil


Cut rabbit (or other) into serving size pieces.  Dredge in flour.  Put oil in large kettle and heat until sizzling.  Brown all pieces of meat on all sides, drain and pour off excess oil.  Return meat to kettle, add water and simmer for two hours, add all vegetables and simmer until carrots are tender.

Note:  Not sure if the repeat of onion and salt are intentional or a misprint.  The majority of cookbooks also have ingredients listed in the order that they are used, while this recipe is a bit of a hodge podge.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What is Fair About Fair Trade?

As long as I can remember, and that is a long time, the United States of America has been the unofficial “911” of the world.  Global disasters, whether brought about by human hands, or the displeasure of Mother Nature, the American government and its people were ready, willing and able to help.  It wasn’t until the 1980s that I personally took notice that when it came to America itself, we seemed to be failing the 911 calls from our own farmers.

The first Farm Aid Concert was held on September 22, 1985; organized by Willie Nelson, John “Cougar” Mellencamp and Neil Young.  The focus of the concert was to raise money for American farmers who were being threatened by foreclosure due to mortgage debts.  Now while Congress did pass, in 1987, the Agricultural Credit Act, to keep foreclosures at bay, the question remains, why, why was the farming industry in such dire straits?

Simply put, the cause is “dumping”, but an article, Global Trade can Make or Break Farmers, by Jennifer Fahy (Communications Director for Farm Aid) explains it in more detail.  Quote, “Agricultural dumping — the practice of exporting commodities at prices below the cost of production….encourages overproduction, trapping family farmers in a never-ending need for higher yields… forcing…farmers off the land, while damaging rural economies, public health and our environment.”

Jump forward to the 2000s – 2010s and the newest term to hit the food industry, “Fair Trade”; sounds similar to the term “barter”, no?  No, fair trade is, as defined by Fair Trade Certified aka Fair Trade USA, “a choice to support responsible companies, empower farmers, workers, and fishermen, and protect the environment. In other words, it’s a world-changing way of doing business.”  Formerly this applied to poorer countries, or what are referred to as “third world countries”; but recently the practice is being applied to American food industries, namely farmers.

Should you, as a consumer, make a conscious effort to purchase fair trade products?  Sadly, the answer is dependent on your, or your family’s, financial good or bad health.  Fair trade products are pricey; while a 12 ounce package of Dunkin’ Donuts (coffee beans from Latin America) costs an average of $6.99; Equal Exchange’s 12 ounce package will cost an average of $8.99.  Equal Exchange gets their coffee beans from a small town in Brazil, called Bahia, and, now hold on a minute, isn’t Brazil in Latin America!?!  The difference is large company growing and harvesting the beans as opposed to family farmers in a small village.  The product you decide to purchase is now dependent on what you can comfortably afford to pay.

In my humble opinion, the concept of fair trade is not unreasonable; we can apply it to the “small cottage” industry San Juan County is attempting to develop.   A huge corporation can make jams and jellies, selling cheaper in bulk.  At home businesses will have similar products, made fresh, by folks you personally know, just a bit more costly.  Which should you buy?  Again, it’s dependent on what you can comfortably afford; but I know I’d rather see a San Juan County, Utah, USA label on a jar of jam, then “Made in China”.  Again, that’s just my own opinion.

Mary Cokenour

Note: All photographs are of products available at Nature’s Oasis, Durango, CO


Fair Trade Certification extended to USA farmers:

Fairness to USA Farmers:

Farm Aid:

Farm Aid’s mission is to keep family farmers on their land to guarantee an agricultural system that values family farmers, good food, soil and water, and strong communities.