The Sandpoint Eater

Rounding up fall

By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist

Many signs are pointing to fall. The last of the gardens need harvested and preserved, the leaves are turning and the cool evenings remind us to grab a sweater before we head out the door. And the wildlife is getting, well, wilder. Just last week I received a social media warning from my neighbor, Meggie: there’s a moose in your back yard! Not just any moose, but a monster of a moose that needed none of my Irish embellishment. He was a huge, intimidating specimen of brown mass, a giant of a bull with enormous velvet covered antlers who decided Ponder Point would be a very special place to live. Unfortunately for him, it was quickly determined he was too big and too bold to share the neighborhood with small children, pets or even boats, so he was swiftly and successfully tranquilized and relocated to an undisclosed, less urban area. I hope he’s not anywhere near Scotchman Peak, which is experiencing its own rogue animal issues with wild goat encounters along the now closed trail. Fall is the time that all these bad boys begin their rut, which makes all of them even more menacing.

I especially love the fall. It always reminds me of my former life on the ranch. Life in the country was busy, and we measured the seasons by hard work. It especially felt like fall was the hardest and most demanding season of all: repairing and storing all the haying equipment, riding miles and miles of fence line and repairing the holes before rounding up the cows and finally bringing them down from their summer pastures. Inside the house too, was a whole set of fall chores, like canning, preserving, and laying in the winter foodstuffs with one of my two major grocery runs for the year. There was also a lot of food to be prepared in the fall, as there were many extra mouths to feed. Not a day went by that I didn’t cook up tasty roasting pans full of food to haul up the mountain and share with the ranch hands and city friends who came to “help us” move the cows down to fall pastures. By midday the riders (and hardworking dogs) were chilly, tired and hungry and always happy to see me arrive with hot stew and biscuits, beef pot pie or chicken and dumplings and a still-warm dessert. The grand finale to this endeavor was the big round-up when the cows were finally herded to the home ranch. This event was second in importance only to branding and was an occasion to prepare mountains of food in celebration. Over hot plates and cold beer, many tales were shared and spun about the maverick steer hiding in a coulee or the mean-eyed cow who charged a rider. Once the hay stacks were fenced, the cows had settled and the horses well rested, it was hunting season.

It hardly seemed fair that we couldn’t help ourselves to an elk or two, because despite our best fencing efforts, they ate many a ton of the expensive hay that was neatly stacked and waiting to provide our cows their winter nourishment. Montana Fish and Game did their best to drive off the large and hungry wapiti by arming night herders, who slept near the haystacks, with bells and whistles and lights. Their efforts did little to protect our precious hay and consequently, once (or maybe twice) when the meat supply looked a little low, an eager ranch hand or my husband, took it upon themselves to re-supply our freezer. Unfortunately, without a hunting license tag affixed to the carcass, we were unable to take the ill-gotten game to be processed and were forced to butcher them ourselves. “We” was me and my adventurous and weathered seventy year old mother’s helper, Jeannie. On one occasion, with two toddlers in tow, neither of us was up to the task of cutting and wrapping, so we rented a commercial grinder and began the arduous task of grinding the entire mighty beast.

Ryanne observes that I always begin this story with, “First, I scrubbed the tub.” (I think that’s a real important part of the story). Next, I covered the floor with lengths of brown craft paper and while Jeannie added dozens of beaten eggs, a giant sack of oatmeal, half-bushel of chopped onions, a few number ten cans of tomato sauce and handfuls of savory spices, I mixed and stirred and coaxed the mass together. When we were finished, we had nearly one hundred neatly wrapped meatloaves in the freezer and nerves of steel (during the course of meatloaf making, we had unrelated visits from a state brand inspector plus a game warden).

While I have catered events for hundreds of guests, I’ve never had an opportunity to make that quantity of meat loaf ever again. Still, I can’t bring myself to make only one, and I always make at least one extra one for the freezer. Should you ever feel the need to prepare a massive amount of meatloaf, this recipe is foolproof when multiplied as needed. But first, you scrub the tub.


Savory Meatloaf Recipe



*This recipe will yield 2 meatloaves, one to cook now and one to wrap, freeze and bake later.


•3 lb. ground beef

•1 lb. pork sausage

•¾ cup oatmeal, pulverized in food processor

•1 large onion finely chopped

•2 tbs cooking oil

•2 eggs beaten

•15 oz can tomato sauce, reserve ¼ cup

•1 tbs Dijon mustard

•1 tbs Worcester sauce

•1 tsp fresh oregano finely chopped  (2 tsp if dried)

•1 tsp salt

•½ tsp coarse ground black pepper

•4 strips bacon



•Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit

•Saute the chopped onion in oil and cook until limp. Set aside to cool. Mix ground meats together, add oatmeal, eggs, tomato sauce and herbs and spices, mix well by hand. Add onions and mix again.  Divide equally and form into loaf shapes. Place on foil-lined roasting pan, coat top with some of reserved tomato sauce, place bacon strips lengthwise, pat into meatloaf and tuck ends under loaf, coat bacon with last of tomato sauce (you can cook both of them, or freeze the second one for later). Sprinkle with a little coarse salt and, if you have some, a few fresh herb leaves.

•Bake at 350° for an hour.

•I like to serve with rosemary roasted new potatoes.

*Bake other meatloaf frozen.

•Unwrap and place on foiled lined roasting pan. Bake at 325° for two hours.

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