A Page from A Taste of the West from Coors – Rocky Mountain Oysters
(multiple authors; copyright 1981)
Ok, ok – I get it — 1981 isn’t a very “vintage” year for the first cookbook out of the gate for this column. But it’s National Western Stock Show time here in Denver, and the venerable all-things-Western event that sets down in town every January got me thinking about two of the most iconic Colorado foods and drinks on record: Coors beer and Rocky Mountain Oysters.
Say what you will about either, but the history behind the Adolph Coors Company and its beginnings in 1874 near the outskirts of Golden, coupled with the double-dog-dare-you status of prairie “oysters” to newcomers and visitors, and you have a combo worthy of a mention. And this cookbook has both.
A Quick Coors History
In early 1868, Adolph Coors came to the United States as an undocumented stowaway. He sailed from Hamburg to New York City and then moved to Chicago arriving on May 30, 1868. His name was changed from “Kohrs” to “Coors”. He worked in the spring as a laborer, and during the summer he worked as a brewer. He became foreman of John Stenger’s brewery in August 1869, in Naperville, Illinois, about 35 miles west of Chicago.
He resigned from Stenger’s brewery in January 1872, and moved to Denver. That same May he purchased a partnership in the bottling firm of John Staderman. Only a handful of months later he bought and assumed control of the entire business.
On November 14, 1873, Coors and the Denver confectioner Jacob Schueler purchased the abandoned Golden City Tannery and converted it to the Golden Brewery. By February 1874, they were producing beer for sale. In 1880, Coors purchased Schueler’s interest, and the brewery was renamed Adolph Coors Golden Brewery. (Wikipedia)
A Taste of the West from Coors cookbook was published in 1981, bringing together the “recipes of western settlers, sodbusters, and gold seekers who found imaginative ways to cook the natural plants and wildlife of their regions – their only food.”
I can only imagine the creativity that went into the birth of Rocky Mountain Oysters.
A Quick Rocky Mountain Oyster Definition
This cookbook defines these culinary delicacies as: “Mountain oysters (or prairie oysters) are testicles from calves, sheep, and turkeys. During roundup time, cowboys often cooked them in a skillet or on sticks over a branding fire.”
A quick internet search expands on this:
The dish is most commonly found served at festivals, amongst ranching families, or at certain specialty eating establishments and bars. They are, however, also readily available at some public venues (e.g., at Coors Field during Colorado Rockies baseball games). Eagle, Idaho, claims to have the “World’s Largest Rocky Mountain Oyster Feed” during its Eagle Fun Days. Testicle festivals can also be found in Clinton, Montana; Deerfield, Michigan; Huntley, Illinois; Olean, Missouri; Severance, Colorado, and Tiro, Ohio. Rocky Mountain Oysters are sometimes served as a prank to those unaware of their origin. They are also considered to be an aphrodisiac by many people.
Alrighty, then. Pass me a basket and a cold one. I have just enough time before the rodeo starts.
*On a side note, the cowboy hat and hankerchiefs pictured in the photos this week belonged to my late grandfather, Perry Blach, who died on this day in 2011. A life-long third generation Colorado rancher, he witnessed firsthand the early days of the National Western Stock Show, where the Blach family had a large role in its foundation.