Couple's covered wagon serves up meals fit for pioneers

| December 2007

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    DELICIOUS TRADITIONS: Steve and Linda Korthanke cook like cowboys in Robinson, Kan.
    Donna B. Edwards

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The pioneer life has always fascinated Linda Korthanke. As a little girl, she was captivated hearing of covered wagons and open-air camping, of meals cooked in large black kettles and served with freshly churned butter.

 'I was intrigued by the stories told of my maternal great-grandparents and their covered wagon trip from Clinton, Mo., to Humboldt, Kan., back about 1900,' Korthanke said. 'I remember, as a little girl, my family would have reunions down in the timber. My uncles would show me how to wrap an egg in mud - put it down into the coals to cook. I always wanted to cook that way.'

As an adult, she's gotten her chance. As owners of Pine Tree Acres Chuckwagon Cooking, she and her husband, Steve, rustle up meals from their own covered wagon, cooking from scratch in the same style as pioneers, using antique equipment.

Linda Korthanke got her first taste for Dutch oven cooking at a festival where she helped make apple butter in huge iron kettles. Then, while helping her husband clear out a windbreak on their Christmas tree farm near Robinson, Kan., she suggested they use the area for a cookout.

'I guess it just evolved from there,' Steve Korthanke said. 'Next thing we knew, we were able to make some simple stuff in a Dutch oven. Then we bought a larger Dutch oven and learned to cook some larger serving items in it, and, well, we now have over 20 ovens of various sizes. They range in size from the smallest - one pint - up to a 4-gallon size, which is so heavy I can hardly carry it when it is empty.'

The Korthankes gained so much experience cooking with Dutch ovens, they decided to buy a wagon and serve meals from it. After some nationwide searching, they bought an authentic late-1800s wagon and contacted a wainwright to outfit it for their needs.

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