“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.” – Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi.
So, why Pirates? Short Story: Recently I discovered that the way I cook is the way Pirates ate.
When I googled, what foods did Pirates eat, my food fit perfectly. This post is about Pirate food and gives you two Pirate Party Food Ideas that you can serve at your next Scalawag Soiree.
What Foods Did Pirates Eat?
The Golden Age of Pirates was 1650-1725, when Privateers were on the stealthy hunt for any ship carrying booty, be it Spanish gold and silver being transported from the New World, or any merchant ship with tools, tons of sugar, or chocolate bound for the New World. Their food on the ships? … meat, cheese, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, bread, hard tack, dried beans, spices, and not surprisingly beer, wine and rum. Salted, smoked, dried, pickled and fermented foods always stayed fresher longer on stretches at sea.
Pirates started their voyages with chickens, goats, cows and enjoyed fresh eggs and milk… as long as there was food for them.. then there was meat. Fresh meat went into soups and stews with whatever might be in the larder. If the food was going bad, cooks just added more spices so the food would be palatable. Some meat and fish were preserved by drying, salting and smoking into bacon, jerky, etc. And because their water became brackish in those wooden barrels after a few weeks at sea, Pirates drank easy-to-preserve alcohol.
It was a fine day when they raided the Captain’s quarters of a plundered ship and absconded with everything from chocolate, brandy, whiskey, cheese, olive oil, figs, dates, etc. In ports of call, they ate whatever was the local fare.
My style emerged from first preparing the complex and highly spiced Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Southwest US foods, then on to my favorite Cajun/Creole cuisine… arguably, the quintessential cuisine of the Caribbean. Today’s comfort food recipes are made from ingredients from in and around the Caribbean.
Pirate Party Recipes – Salmagundi and Caribbean Pirate Stew
These two dishes are perfect Pirate Party Recipes. They are easy to prepare and serve and they are healthy, varied enough to suit everyone… delicious, aromatic, appealing, appetizing, and healthy. Serve with dinner rolls and various spicy mustards and/or baguettes and butter.
Salmagundi is a Pirate Salad still being served around the Caribbean and both sides of the Atlantic. It’s essentially a cold plate of the same ingredients as mentioned above, topped with vinegar and oil* or lemon juice and oil**.
Pirate Stew is prepared from the list of food above. All these ingredients could have easily been found in the larders on Pirate ships in the Caribbean in 1695***.
To start off your Pirate Party serve the following in separate serving dishes or on themed trays (meat and cheese, fruit and veg, etc.) in your Salmagundi area. Allow Scalawags to forage at will for appetizer, salad, snack, and dessert.
Meat & Cheese
- Ham – cubed
- Cold shrimp – marinated then sauteed in lemon & oil drizzle**
- Pickled herring
- Boiled eggs – halved
- Various cheeses cubed – smoked gouda, smoked provolone, sharp cheddar, gorgonzola, mozzarella
Fruit & Veg
- Pineapple chunks
- Green olives
- Black olives
- Pickled beets
- Green onions
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Celery sticks
- Carrot sticks
- Hericot vert, whole
- Red radishes – topped and halved
- White radishes – topped
- Juliened bell pepper mix – red, green, yellow, orange
- Fresh whole hot peppers – jalepeno, serrano, caribe
- Fresh salad greens
- Fresh orange and lemon slices
- Lemon wedges
- Red wine vinager dressing*
- Lemon and oil drizzle**
- Mixed nuts
- Chocolate chunks/chips
*Red Wine Salad Dressing – Whisk together 2 parts red wine vinegar, 3 parts olive oil, with pinches of pink Himalayan salt, black pepper, dried mustard, and basil leaves to taste.
**Lemon & Oil Drizzle – Whisk together 1 part fresh lemon juice, 3 parts olive oil, a pinch of basil leaves, salt & black pepper.
Caribbean Pirate Stew
This is a unique Caribbean Pirate Stew. It could have been made at sea with foods onboard a ship at sea. It is robust, sweet, savory, rich in flavor, textures, and tastes. Fill their bellies and it will warm the hearts of the meanest and scurviest Scalawags.
- 2 lbs Chuck Roast – cut into 1” cubes
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried savory
- 1 tsp dried marjoram
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 3 tsp pink Himalayan salt
- 3 tsp freshly ground or crushed black pepper
- 6 T (Tablespoon) coconut flour
- ¼ C bacon drippings or coconut oil
- 2 large yellow onions – thinly sliced
- 3 large carrots – ¼ C diced, rest in 1” chunks
- 1 C celery – ¼ C diced, rest in 1” chunks
- 2 turnips – peeled, ¼ C diced, rest in 1” chunks
- 2 rutabagas – peeled, ¼ C diced, rest in 1” chunks
- 3 T garlic – minced fine
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1/2 C flaked coconut
- 1-2 C Beef Broth/ Beef Stock/Beef Bone Broth
- 1 C Red Wine
- 4 potatoes – red, white, or gold (not Russett)– cut into 1” chunks
- Combine the 10 spices in a small bowl. Season the beef chunks with 2 T of the spice mixture. Mince the garlic and let it sit in the open air for at least 10 minutes.
- Dredge the meat in the coconut flour (or shake them both in a resealable bag).
- Heat bacon drippings/coconut oil in a 4-quart Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add the meat in batches and brown on all sides. Don’t crowd the browning meat, crowding the pan will create a soggy ‘steamed’ result, and the meat will not brown. Also, be careful not to burn the flour, so keep stirring the meat.
- Remove the meat from the pan, keeping at least 2 T oil (add more oil, if necessary). Reduce the heat to medium and add ½ C onions, ¼ C of each veg (carrots, celery, turnips, and rutabagas) and cover to steam the veg in their own moisture, stirring often. This will create the base of the stew. These flavors will blend into each other and the bacon, salt, oil, beef, flour, and veg will make a deep, complex, smoky, sweet, salty, and savory taste. Stir often, scraping the pan bottom as the moisture develops, for 10 minutes. After the veg are cooked, you can leave it as a roux, or add 1/2 C broth and scrape into a food processor and puree into a gravy. The roux/gravy thickens the stew.
- Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, flaked coconut, the rest of the spice mix, and the meat with its juices.
- Cover the meat with 2-3 C of broth/stock/bone broth/red wine. Bring to a boil. Stir, scraping the pan bottom to blend everything. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the meat is fork tender, about 1½–2 hours. Stir occasionally, scraping the pan bottom so nothing sticks. All the flavors in the broth will have blended and it will be difficult to find any of the individual tastes in the broth.
- Add the chunks of carrots, celery, turnips, rutabagas, potatoes. Cover and cook on low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 35-40 minutes.
- The easiest way to serve this is in a slow cooker on low heat in your food area.
- Have crusty French bread or baguettes warmed and ready for butter.
Save These Pirate Party Food Ideas
Planning a Pirate Party, Scalawag Soiree, Buccaneer Buffet, Privateer Potluck, or my favorite, a Scurvy Seadog Smorgasbord? These recipes always work. If ye be transporting ye stew to another venue, use the slow cooker… just cover it with clear plastic wrap, and then place the lid on top. And if the seas be choppy, mates, secure the top to the base with packing tape or large rubber bands.
Was Pirate Food healthy? Yes, indeed. A varied diet, non-GMO, all organic, and no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, growth hormones, vaccines, etc. As close to dirt as possible. My ingredients are organic and non-GMO.
For futher study, a great history and resource is A New Voyage Around the World by William Dampier. He traveled around the world 3 times from 1679 to 1699, the same years as the Golden Age of Pirates. So, this would be the answer to what foods did Pirates eat. His travels led him to Jamaica, Panama, Peru, Mexico, Australia, SE Asia, India, Africa, Europe. He bought and sold goods, drew maps, and most importantly, he sampled and chronicled the local food in every port of call. He is noted as the first Global Foodie.
If you make these recipes, leave a comment and let me know how you and your Scalawags like them. Or leave a comment with a question about the food or the preparation.
Stay tuned for more merry-making. Hoist ye Jolly Roger and travel to Pirate Festivals and revel in grog and cavorting!!!! Maybe we’ll meet up. Remember, always be yourself… unless you can be a Pirate, then obviously, be a Pirate.
Cooking for Pirates, where every meal is a party for a Pirate.