The Big Kitchen at Sutter’s Fort: The Local Cuisine, 1840s


A Swiss adventurer named John August Sutter arrived in the Northern California wilderness in mid-August 1839, soon commencing construction of a trading post and year-round residence for himself that came to be known as Sutter’s Fort.  One of the rooms inside the walls was a large kitchen to feed the dozens of fur trappers, tradesmen, and others who lived there or frequently visited. What was served at Captain Sutter’s table in the 1840s? Roast beef, lamb and mutton, pork, onions and potatoes, cabbages, turnips and peas and radishes; pumpkins and melons in season, salmon from the American River, soups, cheeses, bread and butter, and ham. Apples, pears and strawberries were planted outside the fort walls.  Often there was no sugar or tea or genuine coffee, which had to be purchased from the merchant ships from Boston that traded along the Pacific Coast.  Home-grown, dried peas were a fair substitute for coffee, but roasted ground acorns gathered from local oaks was even better.  


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