On July 24, 1847 Brigham Young and his followers arrived in what is now the Salt Lake Valley. He looked out across the valley and declared “This is the place.” The Mormons, having traveled on foot from Missouri, believed that they had as last reached The Promised Land. Today Mormons make up 62% of Utah’s population.
Brigham Young led his flock to what was a territory of Mexico to escape persecution of their faith and in particular the practice of multiple wives. By the time they settled in Utah, the territory belonged to the United States. Statehood was granted only after the church denounced the practice of polygamy. So much of Mormon influence is a part of Utah. Utah is The Beehive State. The early Mormon settlers used the symbol of the honeybee to represent hard work and industriousness. They saw the example of a beehive as an example of all its members cooperating in the construction of something much bigger than themselves, as a model for a properly run society.
The beauty of Utah is unsurpassed. Places like Monument Valley; Lake Powell, Goblin Valley, Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon will take your breath away. Zion is the Grand Canyon of Utah. Unlike it’s Arizona counterpart that is viewed from the rim’s edge; Zion is explored from the bottom looking up.
The Utes, Shoshone, Navajos and Goshutes were among the first peoples to settle in what would eventually become the 45th state in the Union. They lived among the natural arches and bridges that formed the landscape long ago. These architectural wonders of nature are the cornerstone of Utah’s beauty.
The Great Salt Lake and the Salt Flats are also interesting. Due to the high sodium content; nothing grows. It is a dead ocean and salt desert. The flats are also a great place to push the land-speed limits. Ever wonder what happened to our promised Flying Cars? They are still in the testing stages at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
I remember as a young girl driving from our home in central California to visit family in Denver. We drove through Utah, stopping to see the salt flats. I can still remember tasting a chunk of salt. Not something I would recommend as the taste will stay on the tip of your tongue forever.
There are a number of modern takes on popular foods of Utah. I wanted to reach back a way, to the early days of Pioneers. These people utilized two forms of cooking on the Mormon Trail – the Dutch Oven and the Cast Iron Skillet. And since this is the Beehive state; I’ve included some honey butter for good measure.
Dutch Oven Chili
Cast Iron Sweet Cornbread
Dutch Oven Chili
2 White Onions
1 Medium Bell Pepper, Green or Orange
4 Garlic Cloves
4 (16 oz) cans Kidney Beans
3 (28 oz) cans Stewed Tomatoes Mexican Style
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 lb Ground Beef
2 lb Ground Pork
1-3/4 cup Beef Stock
3 tablespoons Chili Powder
2 tablespoons Coriander
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
Cayenne Pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Peel and finely dice the onion; set aside. Core, seed and chop the bell pepper; set aside. Peel and finely mince garlic; set aside.
Drain kidney beans into a colander. Rinse; set aside to drain. Empty the stewed tomatoes in a shallow dish to capture the liquids. Cut tomatoes into smaller pieces and set aside.
In a Dutch oven, heat canola oil over medium heat. Brown meats in batches, crumbling meat, until no longer pink; drain and set aside.
To the now empty pot; add onions and green pepper; cook until tender. Return meats to Dutch oven. Add beans and tomatoes with their accumulated juices. Add beet stock.
Season pot with chili powder; coriander, cumin, oregano and Cayenne pepper. Stir to blend.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until flavors are fully developed, about 90 minutes. Taste; adjust seasoning with salt if desired.
Cast Iron Cornbread with Honey Butter
1 tablespoon Bacon Drippings
1 cup Flour
1 cup Yellow Corn Meal
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 cup Milk
5 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/3 cup Sour Cream
Place bacon drippings in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Place the skillet in the oven. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl; whisk together the flour, corn meal, baking powder, sugar and salt. Set aside.
In a 4-cup glass measuring cup, measure out 1 cup of milk. Add egg and vegetable oil. Whisk to blend well. Add sour cream, stir until fully incorporated.
Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well. Pull dry ingredients into the wet ingredients; gently folding to blend.
Carefully remove the heated skillet from the oven, swirl to coat in the melted bacon drippings. Pour batter into the skillet, return to oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Test with a toothpick or cake tester; probe should be nearly clean.
1 cup Butter, soft
1/4 cup Honey
Mix together butter and honey until smooth and well blended. Taste and adjust honey to personal preferences.
Mound in a small crock. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator. Allow butter to come to room temperature before serving.