Basque Sheepherder's Recipes

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As they moved across the mountains of Idaho, Montana, Nevada and California, immigrant Basque sheepherders cooked in Dutch ovens covered by dirt in pits they dug in the ground. Below are recipes for sheepherder bread, lamb stew and Basque boardinghouse flan.

Prize-Winning Sheepherder Bread

A sheepherder cuts a loaf of bread. i i

During the winter months, herders would live in sheep wagons, which contained a stove and an oven. They baked their own bread in a Dutch oven, buried in the coals from sagebrush or aspen wood fires, with a tight-fitting lid and a bale handle. Richard Lane/Courtesy Basque Library at the University of Nevada, Reno hide caption

itoggle caption Richard Lane/Courtesy Basque Library at the University of Nevada, Reno
A sheepherder cuts a loaf of bread.

During the winter months, herders would live in sheep wagons, which contained a stove and an oven. They baked their own bread in a Dutch oven, buried in the coals from sagebrush or aspen wood fires, with a tight-fitting lid and a bale handle.

Richard Lane/Courtesy Basque Library at the University of Nevada, Reno

Ingredients

3 cups very hot tap water

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 tsp. salt

2 packages active dry yeast

9 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Salad oil

In a large bowl, combine hot water, butter, sugar and salt. Stir until butter is melted; let cool to about 110 degrees. Stir in yeast; cover and set in a warm place until bubbly, about 15 minutes. Beat in about 5 cups flour to make a thick batter. Stir in about 3 1/2 cups more flour to make a stiff dough. Scrape dough onto a floured board. Knead until smooth and satiny, 10 to 20 minutes — adding as little flour as possible to prevent sticking. Place dough in a greased bowl; turn over to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled — about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down and knead briefly on a floured board to release air. Shape into a smooth ball. With a circle of foil, cover the inside bottom of a 5-quart cast iron or cast aluminum Dutch oven. Grease foil, inside of Dutch oven, and lid with oil. Place dough in Dutch oven and cover with lid. Let rise in a warm place until dough pushes up lid by about 1/2 inch, about 1 hour. (Watch closely.) Bake, covered, with a lid in a 375-degree oven for 12 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove bread from oven and turn onto a rack to cool. You will need a helper. Peel off foil and turn loaf upright. Makes one very large loaf.

Source: From the Sheepcamp to the Kitchen, Volume II

Lamb Stew – Chateau Basque

A Basque herder moves a band of sheep into a shipping corral. i i

A Basque herder moves a band of sheep into a shipping corral in the Columbia River Basin in northern Nevada. Bill Belknap/Courtesy Rapho Guillumette. Basque Library at the University of Nevada, Reno hide caption

itoggle caption Bill Belknap/Courtesy Rapho Guillumette. Basque Library at the University of Nevada, Reno
A Basque herder moves a band of sheep into a shipping corral.

A Basque herder moves a band of sheep into a shipping corral in the Columbia River Basin in northern Nevada.

Bill Belknap/Courtesy Rapho Guillumette. Basque Library at the University of Nevada, Reno

Ingredients

5 pounds cured lamb shoulder

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 carrots

6 medium russet potatoes

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

4 tbsp. chopped parsley

1 tbsp. dry thyme

1 cups dry white wine

2 tbsp. oil

Salt and pepper

1 small Pyrenees sheepherder round bread

In an 8-quart stock pot, saute lamb in oil along with the onion and garlic, until they are both soft. Add wine and enough water to cover meat. Add carrots cut in 1/4-inch pieces; add salt, pepper, thyme and parsley. Let simmer for 45 to 60 minutes. Add potatoes (cut in chunk-size pieces) and cook until soft. Skim excess fat from surface and add flour to thicken broth. Carve out top of bread in circular fashion. Clean out some of the bread from inside and spoon stew into crust shell. Replace top as a lid; place on serving dish and serve immediately.

Source: From the Sheepcamp to the Kitchen, Volume II

Flan (Basque Custard)

Ingredients

1/3 cup flour

4 cups milk

1 cup sugar

pinch of salt

6 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. nutmeg

On top of stove, brown the 1/3 cup of sugar in a 3-inch deep, 5-cup capacity pan. Set aside.

Beat the eggs, add milk, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Stir well. Do not beat after adding milk. Pour into the prepared pan; set this in a pan of warm water and place in oven at 325 degrees and bake for 1 hour.

Source: Isabel Larrondo Jausoro, Basque Museum and Cultural Center Basque Recipes Collection

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