This region of Montana was populated with United States forts after the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. A couple miles west of the Tongue River, Fort Keogh was built. It was named after one of the men who had died in the battle. It was commanded by General Nelson A. Miles, who is known for having driven the remaining Native American tribes, the Nez Perce and the Lakota, onto reservations in order to maintain control over them.
During this time, sutlers, or civilian merchants who sold their wares to military bases, provided the soldiers of Fork Keogh with copious amounts of whiskey. General Miles, in order to keep his men under control, threw the sutlers out in 1877. The sutlers moved two miles over to the east and founded Miles City. When Fort Keogh moved further west eventually, Miles City did too. This position is where Miles City currently resides today.
The 1880's brought cattle and horses to the open range around Miles City, and the railroad was nearby as well, both of which brought with it an increase in population. Miles City was where cattle were brought from Texas to be fattened up on their way to Chicago. Miles City grew into a thriving, typical "Wild West" town. It grew until the 1920's and 30's, when Billings, a town upriver to Miles City, grew and overshadowed them.
Cool Factoid: Though unconfirmed, according to the Guiness World Records, the largest snowflake, measuring 15" in diameter, was recorded on January 28, 1887 at Fort Keogh.
The Food: Rye Cracker-Bread and Montana-Stuffed Trout
Montana is known for their grain production, as well as their wild game. I don't eat game meat, for the most part, and don't have easy access to it, so I opted for another well-known Montana food: trout. Montana is also known for huckleberries and alfalfa honey. I tried very hard to find these, but had no luck. Actually, I did run across the honey at one store, but it was too expensive, so I didn't buy it. I have no idea why alfalfa honey is so expensive and so difficult to find in Seattle. I have heard it is quite delicious, though, so if you ever have the opportunity to try it, don't pass it up!
I wanted to try something a little different for the bread, and in my research, rye came up a lot in Montana recipes. I searched through my own recipe cards and ran across one that stood out to me. It was a little different than a typical loaf of bread, so I chose that. I think it was pretty easy to make and tasted fantastic! I will write out the recipe as it is written, but note that I made a half batch. A full batch would work if you're making it for a large group of people. A half batch still makes quite a lot and I have leftovers to take to work tomorrow. The recipe card is so old that I no longer know the source, unfortunately.
1/4 cup warm water
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1 tsp. each salt and sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. crushed caraway seed(I tried crushing this with a plate and a metal measuring cup and both failed. If you have a mortar and pestle, I would recommend that. If you don't, you can use a food processor or do what I did: use a coffee grinder I keep specifically for grinding spices.)
1 3/4 cup medium rye flour, divided(My store only sold dark rye, so that's what I used and it turned out just fine.)
About 1 1/4 cups flour, divided
In medium bowl, combine water, yeast, salt, and sugar. Let stand about 3 minutes to soften yeast. Add milk, caraway seed, 1 1/2 cups rye flour and 1 cup flour. Beat with quick on-off turns until well blended and smooth.(This instruction is for a mixer, but I just mixed it with a fork and it worked fine that way.)
Turn out on floured surface, and using remaining 1/4 cup flour, knead until smooth and elastic. Cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each into a round bun; place on lightly greased cookie sheet, turn to grease top. Cover, let rise in warm, draft-free place 30 minutes or until almost doubled.
Punch down. Remove to lightly floured pastry cloth, and using remaining 1/4 cup rye flour and stockingette-covered rolling pin(I just used my normal rolling pin and it was fine), roll out each piece to a 9" round. Place on ungreased cookie sheets; prick entire surface with fork.
Some parts of this cracker bread were chewier and some were crunchier. It was really tasty and I loved the texture of both the crunchy and chewy parts. I did not put anything on it, I just ate it as-is, but I can see how it would be delicious with cheese or a spread of some kind. The rye flavor is really strong because of crushing the caraway first. It would overpower more delicate flavors, and any toppings you would put on would need to blend well with that strong, distinct caraway taste. Keep that in mind. It might sound complicated to make, but it was actually quite simple. This is a great way to ease yourself into bread-baking if you are not terribly familiar with it or confident.
My entree recipe was found online and I will provide the link in the sources, but I will go ahead and write out the recipe here. It is not my own, however.
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
3 cups Italian bread, cubed
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tbsp. white wine
4(8oz) whole trout, dressed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 cup flour
2 slices bacon, cut in half
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion and celery, and cook, stirring constantly, until tender. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley and next three ingredients. Add bread cubes; toss gently. Combine egg and white wine; stir into bread mixture. Spread evenly into an 11"x7"x1 1/2" baking dish; set aside.
Rinse trout; pat dry. Sprinkle inside of fish evenly with 1/2 tsp. salt. Combine lemon juice and soy sauce; brush inside of fish, reserving remaining lemon juice mixture.
Dredge fish in flour. Place over stuffing, overlapping slightly. Drizzle with reserved lemon juice mixture. Place bacon over trout.
Both of these recipes were fun to make. They felt rustic, but classy at the same time. Both turned out to be very delicious. I need to experiment with rye flour more often, and I'll be able to, because I had to buy a whole bag for this recipe!! Every time I bake with it now, I'll think of Montana!
Trout Recipe Source