One of our final challenges involves a thick and spicy soup that played a crucial role in American history. December 29 is National Pepper Pot Day!
And of course, this is one of those unusual/complicated dishes that is impossible to find in a small town like Ely (and probably a stretch to locate even in a thriving metropolis such as Portland). One that requires careful preparation at home. Of course, we’re not AT home, and busy with other things…so how on earth will we possibly celebrate this food holiday? Is our quest for completion doomed to failure with a mere 3 days left?!?!
Read on, friends.
The year was 1777. The date, December 29. The Revolutionary War was in full swing, and George Washington’s troops were hunkered down in a snowy field in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, tired, weak, cold, and hungry. Area farmers had sold their crops to the British Army for cash, rather than rely on the meager currency carried by the Continental Army. Capitalism was at its finest, even then. The soldiers were low on food, and even lower on morale. And then Christopher Ludwick, the baker general of the Continental Army, gathered together every bit of food he could find: scraps of meat, tripe, vegetables, and pepper. He mixed the ingredients together in a large pot with whatever spices and seasonings he had available, and created a hearty, thick, spicy soup that became known as Pepper Pot. It gave the soldiers much-needed strength, which in turn restored their confidence. Pepper Pot is known as “the soup that won the war.” If not for Christopher Ludwick, we might all be driving on the left side of the road today and speaking in funny accents.
There are many different recipes for Pepper Pot. Truly, it’s one soup you can create from scratch on your own, following Ludwick’s original idea of using whatever is available. We more or less used this recipe from the City Tavern in Philadelphia, altering it enough to make it our own. Here’s the kicker: we made the soup Thursday evening, before we left for Ely. We enjoyed it for dinner that night, and then brought leftovers with us to heat for lunch while out of town. Probably the most prep work we’ve had to do all year (minus the vanilla custard, which also took place during a trip to Ely).
And how was the Pepper Pot? Absolutely delicious! The soup was rich, hearty, and aromatic; the allspice added warmth and a unique depth of flavor. This recipe’s a keeper – definitely one of my favorite challenges of the year!
- Feast of Leftovers: Prime Rib Soup! (merlinspielen.com)