*Guest author Naomi Musch
Empire in Pine is my historical romance series about the adventures, love, and faith of three generations of pioneer women in the great woods of Wisconsin. Two of those women, Lainey and her mama Colette, never were too patient with a sewing needle, but Colette could cook and grow things. That’s something she taught Lainey to love too. Growing up in the Wisconsin wilderness with a house full of brothers and the woods full of lumberjacks, Lainey learned to make a thick, tasty stew, because a man who works in the woods all day develops a hearty appetite. The women could put this stew in the oven of the cook stove with just a little bit of wood burning and let it simmer all day long until their men got home from the woods and mills. Then they’d heap it on their plates along with a slab of just-baked bread slathered in fresh-churned butter.
Venison was commonly used because that’s what was available, and because the men liked to hunt and have a good story to tell back in the camps.
When Lainey’s camaraderie with the Beaumont brothers took her to Peshtigo, she wound up living at the Forrest House, where a similar version of hearty stew was often served to guests, but prepared with beef. You can use what you like, whether its venison, beef, squirrel, goose, or rabbit. Here’s how you put it together:
Hearty Northwoods Venison (or Beef) Stew — or — Lumberjack Stew
- 2-3 pounds of beef, venison, or other game, cubed
- 1 pound of carrots cut into chunks ½ to 1 inch long
- 2-3 pounds of potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks
- Large can of tomato soup plus one can of Water
- 2 sticks of celery, cut into chunks like the carrots
- 1 package of instant onion soup mix (Lainey and Colette wouldn’t have used this handy seasoning.)
- Large onion, chopped in chunks (optional)
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Parsley or a handful of fresh
- Other seasonings to taste that you like — a couple bay leaves, dash of rosemary or marjoram
Mix together, slow cook 300 degrees for 2 or 3 hours, or in a crock pot for 8 or 9 hours.
Spurned twice since the death of her betrothed in a logging accident, Lainey Kade has become the object of talk. “That Lainey, she’s a shrew all right. Not ever going to marry, likely.” Fleeing heartache and flaunting convention, Lainey seeks solace instead in seeking adventure and breaking the rules.
When she crosses paths with Zane and Kelly Beaumont, she pretends to be married, but soon forges an adventurous companionship with these brothers whose nightmares since the Civil War have never let them return home. Dependent on each other, Lainey denies love’s rekindled spark. But as fires rage across the Wisconsin wilderness, it may tear them each apart, and Lainey may be consumed by the fury burning inside her.