Cooking Pot: Dutch Oven
The following information was generously sent to the Utah State Library by the International Dutch Oven Society located in Logan, Utah. Utah is not only the headquarters of the Society but the site of World Championship Dutch Oven Cookoff which is a major event of the Festival of the American West.
When the early pioneers came to Utah they used a number of things such as lumbering prairie schooners, teams of massive oxen, mossy wooden water barrels, and heavy dresses which almost dragged on the ground. For most of us, such common pioneer artifacts are difficult to relate to or use in our lives today. However, there is one very popular pioneer indispensable which thousands of Utah families are using in their everyday activities. It not only looks the same but is still made basically the same way--the tried and true Dutch oven.
Explorers like Jim Bridger and Peter Skene Ogden used the kettle versions on the trail but appreciated the standard three-legged, flat top with a rim version together with its "lite" breads, tasty fruit cobblers and delicious stews when they wintered in. Mountain men who rendezvoused in Cache Valley in the 1820's used them and Osborne Russell in his Journal of a Trapper writes about how much they appreciated having some greasy, grizzly bear meat to cook because the cast-iron pots needed re-seasoning after boiling roots for meals the previous eleven days.
Pioneer trains gearing up near Independence, Missouri were given a list of essentials with the Dutch oven at the top of the list, the people-powered handcart companies chose to include the heavy pots for their long pull to Utah and the miners digging in the canyons around Bingham, Price and Cedar City counted the black pots almost as essential as their picks.
It's been asked why Dutch ovens are used by more Utah families than other states and perhaps it's because for Utahans, families have a special significance and particularly their pioneer forbearers. It's a unique and generational bonding experience for families to gather around a campfire after a meal from the same kind of Dutch ovens and tell the stories about and history of their pioneer ancestors.
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