Welcome in the heat!
It was a minor revolution when the cast-iron cooker was introduced in the Danish kitchens from about 1850. Now, it was all over with cooking over an open fire. In the cast-iron cooker one uses wood or peat, and the smoke goes directly up in the chimney through a metal tube.
In this cooker, one could made several different courses at the same time – and it was a cooker for frying and baking while the pans were boiling on the top of the cooker.
An original cooker has been installed in the fort, and at special occasions the cooker is warmed up, so that the guests can feel the heating and get a sample of peas and pork and similar courses that were served when the fort was manned.
Pork and peas
The food served in the Garderhøjfort did not completely reflect the possibilities of the cast-iron cooker. Big portions for many soldiers had to be made. So, the menu was often peas and pork or meat and soup.
During the 18-hundreds, the importance of the food to improve the health of the people was observed more closely. The main problems were continuous under nourishment and malnutrition. Consequently, the food should be good, nutritious and in sufficient quantities. This was also the case within the armed forces.
The Soldiers became taller
The general improvement of the food meant that the soldiers became taller, which was measured when the young national servicemen met at the draft board. The average height increased from 165,4 cm about 1850 to 169 cm in 1914. In 2012 the average height of young Danes turning up at the compulsory board is 180,2 cm.
The food was not always that varied and of the highest quality in the eyes of the older soldiers recalled for the neutrality guard force 1914-1918. Some grumbled – but not all. The poorest came from worse conditions compared with the living standard in the Garderhøjfort.
Height and fitness
In 1914, the minimum height to become a soldier was 152 cm. The average height of the young men turning up for the board in 1914 was 169 cm. Only 64 out of 23,879 were under 150 cm and only 7 were above 191 cm. If a person was too thin and skinny, it was regarded as a sign of weakness. Thus, in 1914 421 men were rejected by the board, because they had a too “slight and weak build”.
Recipes of peas and pork:
Preferably use peeled peas (Victoria peas or split peas). The best is to soak the pork and the peas separately over night before cooking. If not possible, both must be washed (soaked) in several lots of lukewarm (not hot) water and preferably be cooked individually, as salted pork makes the peas hard. In both cases, the pork must be scraped well, especially if it is smoked.
Before the peas are soaked, they must be rinsed well so they can be boiled in the same water they were soaked in. Peas and pork (salted meat) are boiled in the same kettle. Pork or salted meat is put on the fire with peas and cold water. For ½ kg pork or meat is used ¼ kg peas and 3 litres of water. The foam that appears when the peas begin to boil is removed, the lid is put on and the boiling continues until the pork is tender.
It is all taken up, the peas are stirred well and cooked a bit more to become thicked; normally, they need 2-3 hours boiling. A small piece of Hamburg parsley, a bit of potherbs, a small stalk of thyme and a couple of onions make the peas tasty. The onions are put in whole and taken up when they are tender. If 1-2 peeled and chopped potatoes pr. man is added the last half hour, this will thicken the peas well.
Peas and pork are cooked separately. The pork is cut in smaller pieces and put over the fire in so much water, that they are covered. When the water boils, the foam is removed, and the pork is cooked tender. The herbs are added a good half-hour before the pork is tender, but it may also be cooked separately.
The peas are placed over the fire in another kettle with so much water that they are covered. You must stir frequently to avoid burning. Gradually, when the water evaporates, fresh water is added.
When the peas are fully boiled into a thick porridge, they are downed with the pork soup and the water of the boiled herbs, if they were cooked separately. After this and many hours of work, the course is ready to eat. Enjoy the meal!