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Union Coffee – a roast for winter

Union Coffee – a roast for winter



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By Merlin Jobst

For all our grumbling, most of us have something we love about a cold winter; a favourite thing that helps us through the endless arctic wasteland. For some it’s mince pies, or mulled wine, or simply the freedom to eat as much as they wish without being seen to be overstepping the mark. For me, though, it’s steaming hot coffee on a wintery day. The combination immediately takes me back to being a teenager in my hometown around the Christmas season; to sitting outside a little cafe that was a favourite amongst the locals and sipping endless cups of black coffee clutched by gloved hands, paired with crumbly shortcrust mince pies. Back then I would have given no thought to the origins of the coffee itself, which was likely nothing to write home about anyway, but in London quality coffee is quite the zeitgeist. As with all things that could be considered a scientific or artful process, the prospect of truly getting to grips with it is intimidating, but tonight I’ve been lucky enough to be treated to a private masterclass by Matt Ho of Union Coffee, one of London’s foremost artisanal coffee roasters.

I decided to investigate Union for this month’s article for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I have drunk their coffee in many reputable cafes across the city over the last year and have enjoyed every one immensely, and, secondly, they are currently offering a ‘Winter Blend’ – something that rather caught my eye and piqued my curiosity when it popped up on Twitter.

Around the corner from Jamie HQ, on the same cobbled street as Fifteen, is a small cafe and wine bar called Westland Coffee; a rustically-decorated and utterly charming place that, despite it being very young as an establishment, I and several of my colleagues have grown to be quite fond of over the last year. Paul and Joan, the owners, are devoted users of Union Coffee, and I am welcomed behind their bar one evening to get to grips with the bags of wholebean Winter Blend I’ve been very kindly sent by Union. Matt, standing before a veritable science lab, takes me through the process of a pour-over cup, an espresso, a piccolo and one more pour-over for good measure (it is my favourite, after all).

Union’s Winter Blend is not, as I initially thought, a blend of beans to produce ‘Christmassy’ flavours – no, it’s a blend of beans selected for their seasonality. The roast is medium and, whether coincidental or not, when ground releases heady, intense aromas that fit the season beautifully, like brown sugar, dark chocolate and vanilla.

Watching Matt at work with the Winter Blend was incredibly humbling, particularly after my own haphazard guide to a very basic pour-over coffee last month. Every aspect was meticulously perfect – the temperature and weight of the water was exactly right, as was the weight and coarseness of the grounds and the length of time the process took to complete. The result was delightful – a clean, crisp cup that still held the rich overtones of dark chocolate. If ever there were a style of coffee that should be drunk black, it is this.

Onto milk, however; as I mentioned several times last time, milky coffee isn’t historically a great love of mine. After pulling a couple of eye-wateringly strong espressos, each producing a thick, golden crema, Matt grinned as, with artful sleight of hand to achieve hearts in the foam, he created two of the most beautiful drinks I’ve ever seen or tasted; piccolo coffees. As the subtly sweet yet intensely rich warmth of the drink hit my tongue, my chest and eventually my stomach, I couldn’t help exclaiming. I could believe neither the natural sweetness of the milk, nor how much I was enjoying it; Matt merely continued to smile as he told me it was his very favourite coffee.

Back at home, I put the remainder of my wholebean to good use and make coffees similar to Matt’s piccolo to pair with one of my very favourite things to bake; Mimi Thorisson’s Italian pear cake, which is simple, elegant and, most importantly, not too sweet. The richness of the winter blend against the spongy, subtle cake is a wonderful match.

I’ll soon be investigating the very best food-and-coffee pairings, so keep an eye out for next month’s feature, but until then, I’d suggest bowing December out in style with Union’s Winter Blend, whether for yourself or as a great present for a coffee-fond loved one. Pick up a bag or two at www.unionroasted.com. Huge thanks to Matt and Alan from Union, and to Paul and Joan at Westland Coffee – and a warm Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all.


The 10 Best Ground Coffees in 2021

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products you can learn more about our review process here . We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Quick and convenient, pre-ground beans are the go-to option for many coffee lovers. They eliminate hassle and save money for those who don’t want to purchase an at-home grinder. While experts widely recommend whole bean coffee for the utmost freshness and flavor, ground coffee can still make a delicious cup of joe.

We’ve rounded up our favorite picks below, researching everything from the regions where coffee beans are sourced to the different size bags available to buy. Options range from light roast to dark, espresso to cold brew, and more.

One factor to keep in mind is the type of coffee maker you own, as different brewers require different grind sizes. The default for pre-ground coffee is a medium grind, which suits drip machines and some pour overs. French press and Chemex users will want a coarser grind, while espresso drinkers need a fine grind.

Here are the best ground coffees to buy.


Ethiopian Coffee Beans: Distinctive Features

Ethiopian coffees grow at high elevations, producing a hard, dense bean. Denser beans tend to have more sugars and flavour precursors, which translates to more flavour after roasting. To choose an effective roast profile, knowing the bean density is key. This will determine the charge temperature (among other variables), and help determine the flavour of the cup.

Ethiopian coffee tends to produce beans that are smaller than other origin varieties (15+ screen). This, in addition to variations in bean size, makes it tricky to roast them without losing their delicate and nuanced flavours. It’s not a predictable or forgiving bean, and the roasting process needs constant monitoring. It’s a fine balancing act.

Paul Arnephy smells beans to determine the degree of roast. Credit: Goncalo Silva

For further insight into how Ethiopian beans differ from others, I spoke to Paul Arnephy, who is the Q-Grader Arabica, AST Trainer, and co-founder and Head Roaster of Lomi Roastery and Café in Paris.

He explained that “Ethiopia is distinct from all other producing countries because of the flavour profiles that can be found, production methods (often ideal), the country’s history, and of course the plethora of plant diversity.” He added that while Ethiopian beans have some common attributes, “the flavour profiles are seriously regional”.

Paul recommends the following three books for a closer look into the complex world of Ethiopian coffee:

Sample of coffee beans being roasted. Credit: San Franciscan Roaster Co.


Why Choose Us:

At the Union Place Coffee Roastery we are passionate about good coffee and good people. Above all, we consider roasting coffee an art, striving for perfection in every batch we roast. We do not rely on computer processes with preset parameters, rather choosing to roast hands-on using our senses watching for color changes, listening for first and/or second cracks, key aromas, and then cupping for rich aroma and desired taste profiles. Keeping detailed notes for each roast allows us to consistently duplicate desired batches. We trust our senses to capture the ideal roast and deliver perfectly roasted fresh coffee to you, our valued friends.

Visit Our Retail Location:
Genesee Valley Regional Market
900 Jefferson Road Building 9 Suite 903
Rochester, NY 14623
(585) 784-0404


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I served this as a light finish to a ladies lunch and it got raves. Don't be discouraged if you taste the hot coffee mixture as it is really sweet and the vanilla is overpowering. Once chilled and set, however, the flavor is perfect. I didn't have enough heavy cream on hand to whip so I topped it with sweetened ricotta instead and it was great.

I love this recipe maybe, it is just because i love coffee. But i throw a litte Triple sec in there to pump up the flavor.

This a great dessert! - The additon of the curry to the whipped cream is brilliant - it adds an interesting complexity to the flavour of the cream. I'm going to experiment with how this works with other desserts and thinking it might be wonderful over poached pears. I did add a small amount of vanilla to the coffee and it worked very well -

Definately make sure you LOVE the coffee you use for this recipe. I used to own an espresso bar in the US and know the importance of freshly roasted and ground beans. I just ran out of my usual blend from Seattle, and had to use what was available here. Anyhow, the brewing method makes a very strong, somewhat concentrated coffee, so the resulting jelly actually seems stronger. The recipe has a lot of potential, just make sure you like your beans. This would be fun to try with real espresso and a bit of kahula or baileys..

To A Cook, below: Are you a therapist, or just overanalytical? This recipe was good, but not outstanding.

Oregon, I hope your review wasn't serious!! Maybe the coffee flavor was too strong for your liking, but gelatin really is never 'rich', and if this is too much effort, I feel badly for you! There is time involved, true (it has to chill), but this is a pretty simple recipe. Try giving yourself time to spend in the kitchen without interruption, and enjoy the prep work! Sometimes that's the best part about cooking. Good luck to you.

Oh the ever-popular coffee gello in Japan! Yumm! I prefer a touch of brandy to the cream topping to orange-flavor. Use good, strong coffee and keep it simple. In Japan, people serve the gello with simple unsweetened light cream poured on top, and sometimes with a few toasted slices of almonds.

I was dubious at first, but this turned out really good. The coffee lover in my family loved it. I used orange extract instead of curry in the whipped topping.

Wow! Live and learn. I have to say that the orange whipped cream sounds ever so much better than curry. Now I'll HAVE to give it a try.

To rich and takes to long to make.

Maybe it's regional to New England, but I grew up with homemade coffee jello (a packaged version was & is available in supermarkets as well). It used to be a standard menu item in restaurants around here, too. Now I think it is only found reliably at Durgin Park or The Union Oyster House. It's always been a great way to use left-over coffee after a big party. This recipe is very tasty. I liked the whipped cream, but personally prefer orange flavored topping with coffee jello, so added a little Grand Marnier the second time around instead of curry powder.

I haven't tried this recipe yet, but I wanted to assure you who seem hesitant- one of the yummiest desserts we had in Japan was coffee jello. They make it not-so-sweet, very strong coffee flavor, served with whipped cream and even mandarin orange slices and cherries. It made a low fat treat- I used to choose it everytime we went to the revolver-belt sushi shop Urashima. Yum.

As someone who loves Jello in all it's many forms and has been a die-hard coffee drinker for the last 30 or so years, this is for me a fabulous combination. I'm just surprised I didn't come up with it myself!


What type of roast is best for roasting on the grill? You can choose either pork or beef roast, both of which can work well in grilling recipes. But, if you’re specifically in the mood for beef, we recommend going with a tenderloin or another cut that you’d usually roast in the oven at high temperatures. Your grill will also be set to a high temperature to give your roast a good sear, so you’ll want your roast to be able to withstand the heat.

We also suggest sticking with non-fatty cuts for grill roasting, as fat and grills don’t often work well together. Plus, you’ll need to wait a while for the fat and connective tissue to break down and boost the texture of your roast on the grill.


Union Standard Medium Roast Coffee

A hearty, refined essence and an inviting aroma. Pairs well with fresh starts, new friendships, family breakfasts, and morning yoga.

We’re all about great things, like strong handshakes and first-name friendships. The Union Standard sets high expectations for the two things we love most: coffee and the commonwealth. Take a sip and feel the reverberation of the communal hum. It’s a cup of good morning hugs and positive affirmations. Today is your day. We’re rooting for you, friend.

Get only the freshest coffee

We roast all of our coffees to order every Tuesday. All orders must be placed prior to Tuesday to make the roasting schedule for the week. Orders that come in after that will be fulfilled the following week.

All of our single-origin coffees are roasted in our clean, roasting lab in Milford, New Hampshire.

Get two 12 oz. coffee packages of Union Standard medium roast coffee every other week and save a few bucks on your order.


Buyer’s Guide

Light roast K-cups are a great option if you like mild, complex flavors. So which of our top picks will be your new favorite? Keep reading for our quick buying tips.

Quality

To find the highest-quality K-cups, look for well-constructed cups with tight-fitting foil lids. As for the coffee, you’ll want to look for 100% Arabica beans with interesting nutty or citrusy flavors. Lightly roasting coffee highlights the flavors of the beans, so it’s especially important to find high-quality, fresh coffee beans.

Value

Are you looking to stock up, or would you rather start with a small sample? K-cups come in a variety of box sizes, from 24 pods up to 96. You may pay less per pod if you choose a bulk box, but you don’t want to end up with dozens of pods in a flavor you don’t like. You may want to start with a smaller box and stock up once you find your favorite flavor. The good news is that because K-cups are vacuum-sealed, they don’t go stale as quickly as regular ground coffee.

Some Keurig deals:


Hot Roast Beef Commercials Recipe

Where I grew up, I worked in several local diners and cafes, and these sandwiches were always known as Hot Beef Commercials. When they were on the menu, the counters and tables were loaded with customers and there were never leftovers. Read more It's still about the best "comfort food" I can think of - it reminds me of home, family, cold winter nights, and good conversation! This recipe is very lengthy, but I wanted to include step by step instructions for anyone (like my daughters!) who has never done this before and needs as much info as possible. See less

  • comfort
  • food
  • heaven
  • bake

Schedule your weekly meals and get auto-generated shopping lists.

  • The roast:
  • I use a 3 1/2 to 4 pound chuck roast, well marbelized with fat, and if you can find a bone-in roast, that 's better yet (but it's almost always boneless chuck that you find at the grocer). I like to quickly rinse the roast in cold water just before I lay it on the cutting board to coat it with seasoned flour. Place the following ingredients in a small baggie and shake the closed bag to mix it up:
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp Jane's Crazy Mixed-Up Salt (if you can't get this seasoning, use Seasoned Salt instead, but Jane's is by far the best)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Use your hands to generously pat the seasoned flour into the roast, on both sides, flipping the roast a couple times and repeating the process.
  • In a Dutch Oven or Roasting Pan large enough to hold the roast, heat 1 TBSP oil over medium high heat - you want your pan and oil to be hot enough to sear the roast well when you put it in the pan. When the oil is just about to the smoking point, put the roast in and cover the pan. Let the meat sear until nicely browned on the bottom, then flip the roast. Let it sear for a minute or two on the second side, then add:
  • 1 cup Beef Stock (I much prefer the boxed Stock to the canned broth - it just seems to give the gravy a much richer taste in the end)
  • Cover the roasting pan and place it in a pre-heated 300 degree oven. Roast for 4 to 5 hours, until the meat is "fork tender" and falls apart easily. I check the roast each hour, quickly opening the lid, just to make sure the stock has not evaporated. As long as your pan has a good seal on it, this shouldn't happen. But if necessary, add more stock to the pan.
  • About an hour before the roast is done, prepare the mashed potatoes. Peel 6 large red potatoes (these work better - at least for me - because they are much moister than the russets, so the mashed potatoes are creamier) cut into 1/4th, and place them in a large saucepan - rinse the cut potatoes 2 times in cold water, then cover them in fresh cold water and place the pan over medium high heat boil until tender. This is usually about 30 minutes, but it depends on the size of your cuts, so just cook them until you can easily insert a fork into a potato. Drain potatoes well, reserving 1 cup of the water for the gravy. Add the following to the hot potatoes:
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Jane's Crazy Mixed Up Salt (use regular salt or garlic salt if Jane's Salt is not available)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • I use a hand masher, but you can use an electric mixer or however you chose to mash the potatoes into a creamy yet firm texture. Add more milk if potatoes are too stiff. Place the mashed potatoes in a buttered casserole dish, cover with foil, and place in the oven to keep warm while you make the gravy.
  • To prepare the gravy:
  • Melt 2 TBSP butter
  • Stir in 1/4 cup flour to make a paste
  • Stir in enough Beef Stock to thin the paste enough to pour.
  • Remove the finished roast from the pan and place it on a plate cover meat with foil to keep warm.
  • Place the roasting pan over a medium flame and bring the liquid to a gentle boil (I usually seem to have about 1 1/2 to 2 cups liquid in the pan when the roast is done - if you have less, just use the Beef Stock to increase your liquid).
  • Use a whisk to gradually whisk in the butter/flour/stock liquid.
  • Add 2 TBSP Beef Base - I use Tone's (I prefer beef base to buillon - has a richer flavor and is really worth having on hand, but if you can't find this, try Knorr's Beef Buillon Extra Large cubes)
  • Add the 1 cup of reserved potato water
  • Add 1/2 cup Beef Stock
  • Taste the gravy and see if you want more seasoning. I usually find I don't need to add anything at this point, since I have the seasoning from the flour coating and the stock and the beef base. If you think you need more seasoning, add salt and pepper to your taste. Beef Base will also give you more saltiness.
  • Keep the gravy warm while you uncover the meat and use 2 forks to pull the meat apart into small to medium chunks.
  • You are now READY to assemble.

Ingredients

  • The roast: shopping list
  • I use a 3 1/2 to 4 pound chuck roast, well marbelized with fat, and if you can find a bone-in roast, that 's better yet (but it's almost always boneless chuck that you find at the grocer). I like to quickly rinse the roast in cold water just before I lay it on the cutting board to coat it with seasoned flour. Place the following ingredients in a small baggie and shake the closed bag to mix it up: shopping list
  • 1/4 cup flourshopping list
  • 1/4 tsp saltshopping list
  • 1/4 tsp garlic saltshopping list
  • 1/4 tsp Jane's Crazy Mixed-Up salt (if you can't get this seasoning, use Seasoned salt instead, but Jane's is by far the best) shopping list
  • 1/4 tsp peppershopping list
  • Use your hands to generously pat the seasoned flour into the roast, on both sides, flipping the roast a couple times and repeating the process. shopping list
  • In a Dutch Oven or roasting Pan large enough to hold the roast, heat 1 TBSP oil over medium high heat - you want your pan and oil to be hot enough to sear the roast well when you put it in the pan. When the oil is just about to the smoking point, put the roast in and cover the pan. Let the meat sear until nicely browned on the bottom, then flip the roast. Let it sear for a minute or two on the second side, then add: shopping list
  • 1 cup beef stock (I much prefer the boxed Stock to the canned broth - it just seems to give the gravy a much richer taste in the end) shopping list
  • Cover the roasting pan and place it in a pre-heated 300 degree oven. Roast for 4 to 5 hours, until the meat is "fork tender" and falls apart easily. I check the roast each hour, quickly opening the lid, just to make sure the stock has not evaporated. As long as your pan has a good seal on it, this shouldn't happen. But if necessary, add more stock to the pan. shopping list
  • About an hour before the roast is done, prepare the mashed potatoes. Peel 6 large red potatoes (these work better - at least for me - because they are much moister than the russets, so the mashed potatoes are creamier) cut into 1/4th, and place them in a large saucepan - rinse the cut potatoes 2 times in cold water, then cover them in fresh cold water and place the pan over medium high heat boil until tender. This is usually about 30 minutes, but it depends on the size of your cuts, so just cook them until you can easily insert a fork into a potato. Drain potatoes well, reserving 1 cup of the water for the gravy. Add the following to the hot potatoes: shopping list
  • 4 TBSP buttershopping list
  • 1/4 cup sour creamshopping list
  • 1/4 cup milkshopping list
  • 1/2 tsp saltshopping list
  • 1/2 tsp Jane's Crazy Mixed Up salt (use regular salt or garlic salt if Jane's salt is not available) shopping list
  • 1/4 tsp peppershopping list
  • I use a hand masher, but you can use an electric mixer or however you chose to mash the potatoes into a creamy yet firm texture. Add more milk if potatoes are too stiff. Place the mashed potatoes in a buttered casserole dish, cover with foil, and place in the oven to keep warm while you make the gravy. shopping list
  • To prepare the gravy: shopping list
  • Melt 2 TBSP buttershopping list
  • Stir in 1/4 cup flour to make a paste shopping list
  • Stir in enough beef stock to thin the paste enough to pour. shopping list
  • Remove the finished roast from the pan and place it on a plate cover meat with foil to keep warm. shopping list
  • Place the roasting pan over a medium flame and bring the liquid to a gentle boil (I usually seem to have about 1 1/2 to 2 cups liquid in the pan when the roast is done - if you have less, just use the beef stock to increase your liquid). shopping list
  • Use a whisk to gradually whisk in the butter/flour/stock liquid. shopping list
  • Add 2 TBSP beef base - I use Tone's (I prefer beef base to buillon - has a richer flavor and is really worth having on hand, but if you can't find this, try Knorr's Beef Buillon Extra Large cubes) shopping list
  • Add the 1 cup of reserved potatowatershopping list
  • Add 1/2 cup beef stockshopping list
  • Taste the gravy and see if you want more seasoning. I usually find I don't need to add anything at this point, since I have the seasoning from the flour coating and the stock and the beef base. If you think you need more seasoning, add salt and pepper to your taste. beef base will also give you more saltiness. shopping list
  • Keep the gravy warm while you uncover the meat and use 2 forks to pull the meat apart into small to medium chunks. shopping list
  • You are now READY to assemble. shopping list

How to make it

  • To assemble the sandwich, place a piece of white bread on a large plate (my husband insists on good old Wonder or Tastey Bread for this sandwich - the softer the bread the better, according to our tradition!).
  • Layer the bread with some meat.
  • Place another slice of bread on top of the meat.
  • Slice the sandwich in 1/2 and seperate the 2 halves to make room for the potatoes.
  • Place a big scoop of hot mashed potatoes between the sandwich halves
  • Smother bread and potatotes completely in gravy.
  • Serve immediately. Prepare to nap afterwards.

Civil War Cooking: What the Union Soldiers Ate

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

Caption: Army of the Potomac – Union soldiers cooking dinner in camp (Library of Congress)

We grab our plates and cups, and wait for no second invitation. We each get a piece of meat and a potato, a chunk of bread and a cup of coffee with a spoonful of brown sugar in it. Milk and butter we buy, or go without. We settle down, generally in groups, and the meal is soon over… We save a piece of bread for the last, with which we wipe up everything, and then eat the dish rag. Dinner and breakfast are alike, only sometimes the meat and potatoes are cut up and cooked together, which makes a really delicious stew. Supper is the same, minus the meat and potatoes.

– Lawrence VanAlstyne, Union Soldier, 128 th New York Volunteer Infantry

The biggest culinary problem during the Civil War, for both the North and the South, was inexperience. Men of this time were accustomed to the women of the house, or female slaves, preparing the food. For a male army soldier, cooking was a completely foreign concept. Thrust into the bleak reality of war, soldiers were forced to adjust to a new way of life—and eating—on the battlefield.

In the early stages of the war, the Union soldiers of the North benefited from supervision by the United States Sanitary Commission. Commonly known as The Sanitary, it made the soldiers’ health and nutrition a top priority. Even before the start of the war, volunteers in The Sanitary were trained to find and distribute food to soldiers stationed in the field. They were expected to be knowledgeable in determining which foods were available during each season, and how to preserve food items for transportation and storage. It was the responsibility of The Sanitary to schedule and maintain a constant supply of food to soldiers at war.

Fredericksburg, VA - Cooking tent of the U.S. Sanitary Commission (Library of Congress)

While the Sanitary did their best to provide a reliable supply of food, that didn’t guarantee a tasty or healthy meal. Considering there were nearly 2 million soldiers in the Union army, the Sanitary did not focus on flavor nor variety. It was a large enough task to provide the basics and keep their soldiers from starving. When food deliveries were interrupted by weather delays or other challenges, soldiers were forced to forage the countryside to supplement their meager diets.

Again we sat down beside (the campfire) for supper. It consisted of hard pilot-bread, raw pork and coffee. The coffee you probably wouldn’t recognize in New York. Boiled in an open kettle, and about the color of a brownstone front, it was nevertheless the only warm thing we had.

– Charles Nott, Union Soldier, 16 yrs. old

At the start of the war, James M. Sanderson, a member of the Sanitary, became concerned with reports of poor food quality and preparation. Sanderson, who was also a hotel operator in New York, believed that his experience would be of value to the Union. With the help of New York Governor Edwin D. Morgan, Sanderson set out to visit soldiers in the field, in hopes of teaching them a few simple cooking techniques. He started with the camps of the 12 th New York, as they were deemed “most deficient in the proper culinary knowledge.” He reportedly saw a significant change in just three days.

Colonel Burnside's Brigade at Bull Run (Library of Congress)

On July 22, 1861, just after the Union’s loss in the First Battle of Bull Run, Sanderson approached the War Department with a proposal. He asked that a “respectable minority” in each company be expertly trained in the essential basics of cooking. For every 100-man company, the skilled cook would be appointed two privates one position would be permanent and the other would rotate among the men of the company. The skilled cook would be given the rank of “Cook Major” and receive a monthly salary of $50. It would be the Cook Major’s responsibility to ration the food, prepare it, and delegate tasks to the company cooks. Sanderson had unknowingly proposed his idea at exactly the right time. Washington was faced with the likelihood of the war lasting years, rather than months. The government was actively looking for ways to increase soldier comfort. Sanderson’s proposal reached the Military Affairs Committee of the U.S. Senate. Though they did not follow his instructions specifically, Sanderson did receive a commission—he was named Captain in the Office of the Commissary General of Subsistence from the War Department.

Around this time, Sanderson wrote the first cookbook to be distributed to the military. The book was titled: Camp Fires and Camp Cooking or Culinary Hints for the Soldier: Including Receipt for Making Bread in the “Portable Field Oven” Furnished by the Subsistence Department. Though his grammar was questionable, Sanderson did describe several techniques, such as suspending pots over a campfire, that made cooking slightly more convenient in the battlefield.

Cooking with a kettle - City Point - West Point, Virginia (Library of Congress)

Sanderson believed his efforts were so successful that “no man could consume his daily ration, although many waste(d) it.” This certainly was not the case, as many men still suffered from hunger, illness and death from unsanitary and poorly cooked food. Sanderson did understand the importance of cooking with well-cleaned pots and was quoted as saying, “Better wear out your pans with scouring than your stomachs with purging.”

Typical fare during the Civil War was very basic. Union soldiers were fed pork or beef, usually salted and boiled to extend the shelf life, coffee, sugar, salt, vinegar, and sometimes dried fruits and vegetables if they were in season. Hard tack, a type of biscuit made from unleavened flour and water, was commonly used to stave off hunger on both sides. After baking, hard tack was dried to increase its shelf life.

Dinner party outside tent, Army of the Potomac headquarters, Brandy Station, VA (Library of Congress)

Soldiers in the field would carry rations in makeshift bags called haversacks. Made of canvas, the haversack folded around its contents, basically anything the soldiers would need to survive for a few days on their own, and was held together with buckling straps and completed with two shoulder straps.

An army is a big thing and it takes a great many eatables and not a few drinkables to carry it along.

– Union Officer, October 1863

The following Union army recipe comes from Camp Fires and Camp Cooking or Culinary Hints for the Soldier by Captain Sanderson. It’s a basic recipe (in those days known as a “receipt”) for “Commissary Beef Stew.” This easy meat stew is thickened with flour and filled out with potatoes and vegetables. The flour and added vegetables allowed Union cooks to stretch small amounts of meat into a substantial, filling meal. While many wartime stews were made from salted preserved meat, this recipe appears to be written for fresh beef. Here is the original recipe, as transcribed in A Taste for War: The Culinary History of the Blue and Gray. Note that grammar and measurements have been clarified from the original source:

Cut 2 pounds of beef roast into cubes 2 inches square and 1 inch thick, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put in frying pan with a little pork fat or lard. Put them over a fire until well browned but not fully cooked, and hen empty the pan into a kettle and add enough water to cover the meat. Add a handful of flour, two quartered onions, and four peeled and quartered potatoes. Cover and simmer slowly over a moderate heat for 3 ½ hours, skimming any fat that rises to the top. Then stir in 1 tablespoon of vinegar and serve. Other vegetables available, such as leeks, turnips, carrots, parsnips, and salsify, will make excellent additions.

I have adapted Captain Sanderson’s recipe for the modern kitchen my updated version of the dish appears below. While the stew is simple, it stands the test of time. The long and slow cooking produces exceptionally tender meat chunks. As you cook it, imagine stirring a kettle over an open flame in a Civil War army camp. Hungry soldiers would have looked forward to a hearty stew like this.


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7 Delicious cold coffee recipes.

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Espresso based coffee drinks

How to make cappuccino, latte, caffe mocha and other espresso-based coffee drinks. Full instructions here.

Hot winter coffee drinks.

Try some of these hot winter coffee drinks recipes for those long Fall and Winter days. Find them here.

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