Buffalo Chili Con Carne, 1883

Dave DeWitt U.S.A. Leave a Comment

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Drying Buffalo Meat for Carne Seca

The only extensive use I have ever seen made of the [buffalo] meat was by the Mexicans, who used to come across the “Llano Estacado,” or “Staked Plains,” in large parties every Winter, for the purpose of hunting.

Their method of preserving the meat is to cut it into long strings, or immense flakes, and after carefully removing every particle of fat—which becomes rancid—they hang it on lines in the sun and wind, without even salting it, until it is as dry and as hard as sole-leather. Then with rudely-constructed lever presses, they make it up into bales of about one hundred pounds’ weight, cart it home and stow it away in a dark and dry place for future use.

A “Gringo,” as they call all Americans or foreigners, would find great difficulty in making any kind of a meal out of the meat thus prepared; but the Mexicans, by their peculiar style of treating it, are able to make a very palatable dish, of which I have frequently partaken with great relish. They call it “Chile con carne,” and it is prepared in the following way: Taking a sufficient quantity of the Carne seca, as this dried meat is named, they place it on a block and beat it with a mallet until it is reduced to a powder.

After carefully removing all strings and fibrous tissue, they place the pulverized mass in a frying pan, or skillet, containing boiling-hot tallow, which is saved and rendered out during the hunt; and after the meat has been stirred around over the fire until it has soaked up all the grease, they add a boiling decoction of Chili peppers, previously prepared, and stirring the mixture around a few times, it is ready, and is really a very tasty dish to a hungry man. The Mexican way of preparing the peppers seems to give you all the delicious flavor and aroma, without that burning sensation in the mouth and throat which we find so objectionable in capsicums or Chili peppers as used in the North.

–From “Shall the Buffalo Go? Reminiscences of an Old Buffalo Hunter.” The American Magazine, Volume 15, Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, 1883.


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