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GreyOne
10-24-2009, 02:09 PM
The recent discussion of blackpowder and difficulties in purchasing it brought to mind an article from an old E-mail list.
[I caution, as no quantities are given this is an outline
only, and should not be used as a recipe.]

Grandma's Breakfast and Making Grandma's Blackpowder
By Rev. Dr. J.D. Hooker

Though she passed away just at the time I was entering my teens, my
childhood recollections of my grandmother still remain just as clear as
a high-mountain brook 'in my memory today. Spirited, irritable, tough
as old boot leather, yet still lady like; to this day, that elderly West
Virginia hill woman stands alone, as the single most independent and
self-reliant human-being I've come across in my entire lifetime.

Not only does one of my favorite memories of her perfectly illustrate
the stubborn independence of her nature, this same recollection can
readily serve as a pretty terrific inspiration for those of us striving
to live our own lives in a more self-sufficient manner today, For as
long as I knew her, Grandma ate exactly the same breakfast, every single
day, squirrel gravy, on top of corn muffins. In itself, that's really
pretty unremarkable, as most older folks seem to get mighty settled in
to certain ways of doing things, and particular dietary preferences.

The only thing that made her breakfasts especially noteworthy, was the
amount and variety of effort which she'd put into such a simple meal.
For starters, it's often hard for many folks today to begin to
understand the amount of care grandma lavished on her ancient flintlock
squirrel gun. Though with it's deeply browned, 38" long, 34 caliber
barrel, dark full length native walnut stock, and plentiful brass
Ornamentation, her rifle was a thing of beauty. To her the gun was much
more than that. For grandma, this rifle represented a permanent
guarantee of there being food on her table; as well as being the single
thing passed down to her by her own grandfather.

Unlike any more modem firearm-, with her rifle she had no need at all to
purchase factory made cartridges, or even percussion caps. Because with
nothing more than a piece of chert, or even quartz, broken off "just
so", her rifle would strike sparks, and fire. She even claimed never to
have purchased gunpowder in her life, and I haven't yet found any reason
to doubt that statement!

Two, or sometimes three times each year, grandma would shovel up a batch
of the soil from inside of her chicken run. From this dirt, she'd leach
out the whitish "niter", which she then used in fashioning her own
orange tinged gunpowder. According to her, she used exactly the same
gunpowder producing methods her family had been using since before 'the
Revolution; which was also the methods employed by all of the eastern
mountain folks during her childhood.

After placing a clean, heavy cloth over the perforated bottom of a metal
bucket, half a cupful of clean, sifted, white wood ashes were evenly
spread atop the cloth. With a second piece of clean cloth lain atop the
ashes, then she'd fill the bucket to within 2" of its top with the dirt
she had dug up earlier. After resting this bucket over top of a second
somewhat smaller bucket, she would use a galvanized metal watering can to
gently sprinkle 1-1/2 gallons of boiling water over the soil, All of which
was then left to dram for a few hours.

Later, when this liquid was brought to a boil, and kept simmering, tiny
grains of salt would form as the liquid simmered. These she dipped out
with a small wooden spoon and discarded. Once about 2/3rds of the
liquid had been simmered away, it was set aside to cool for an hour or
two (during which time us kids would sometimes sit and watch the nitre
crystals forming), after which the crystals were strained out and set
aside to dry.

When she was ready to make up a small batch of rifle powder, grandma
would put 2 cups of water into a pot, and bring it to a low boil. Into
this boiling water went I cup + 2 tbs. of this home leached saltpeter, I
cup of sugar (which she'd boiled down from sorghum, or from maple sap),
and 2 tbs. of fine red rust (scraped with a knife blade from any
available rusted iron or steel).

Stirring constantly, she'd keep this mixture simmering until it became
just a little thicker than regular breakfast oatmeal. Then this rusty
orange colored mixture was spread out, about 1/4" thick, on a metal
cookie sheet. Using a kitchen knife, she'd then cut this into I"
squares, and set the cookie sheet on a sunny window ledge, to dry
somewhat. About every 15 minutes or so, she would cut the pieces even
smaller.

Once the stuff had finally dried out enough that it would no longer
stick to her fingers, she would take about a teaspoon full at a time,
and carefully rub it through a piece of wire window screen. Catching
these small granules on a second cookie sheet, which was then resituated
on the window ledge, and allowed to dry for a week or more, until it was
"dead bone dust dry". After which, about a third of the resultant gun
powder, would be very finely crushed with a mortar and pestle; for use
as the priming powder in the rifles flash pan,

All of which left grandma with only just about I pound of good quality
home made gun powder, which could be loaded on a volume for volume basis
exactly like commercially produced black powder. That doesn't sound like
much for almost of a day's worth of effort. Yet, as she never missed, and
used no more than "half a thimble fall" of powder, for "so small a creature
as a mountain bushy tail", this limited quality would normally be
sufficient for her uses for several months.

The rifle balls were patched with pieces cut from worn out cotton
dresses, and lubed only with beef or mutton tallow ("nothing' else,
ever!"). While grandma always made a definite point of waiting until
each squirrel came down on the trunk, for a good look at her squirrel
dog, before firing. Which insured that she'd be able to use her knife
to dig the spent hunks of metal out of the bark, for future recasting.
Grandma was able to feed her small children while grandpa was "across
the pond" fighting the Kaiser. When grandpa became terminally sick
right at the very start of the 'Great Depression' with her flintlock
rifle, and homemade gunpowder, she was also able to feed eleven kids
through some of the leanest years America has ever seen. Not only fat
mountain squirrels, but wild turkey, venison, and other game, even black
bear roasts (which grandma said cost 2 thimbles full of powder),
regularly found their way to her table.


Yet again, thanks entirely to grandma's patient and thorough
instruction, I've been able to pass down to my own children and
grandchildren the skills needed to shape quartz or chert for striking
the fire, as well as the know-how for producing and using their own
reliable propellant powder.

It's interesting too, that though it hasn't became a steady, every
single day thing, one of our family's very favorite breakfasts has
always been the same squirrel gravy over corn meal muffins that grandma
so steadily enjoyed. Even our very youngest grandchildren have already
learned to look forward to the mid- August start of squirrel season.
When our two grown and married daughters will start fixing them their
great-great grandmother's special breakfast, on special mornings.

Maybe trying this tasty morning treat yourself might not fire up your
desire to spend your day traipsing the hills with a flintlock rifle and
a batch of home made orange gunpowder, but, likelier than not, you're
going to find a breakfast dish your family will really enjoy, while you
can just sort of stash away the powder making information for a rainy
day (or maybe a snowy one!).

Squirrel Gravy
Carefully skin and clean I or 2 squirrels, rinse well. Then soak 'in
salt water for 4-10 hours. Rinse really well with cold water, and then
place in a pot with 1-1/2 quarts of boiling water. Reduce heat, and
simmer until very tender. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool,
reserving 1-1/3 cups of the cooking liquid.
Once cooled, pick all of the meat off the bones, and return it to the
pot, along with the reserved cooking liquid. Refrigerate over night, if
desired. Add I cup of milk and I tbs. of butter to the pot, and heat to
simmering. Separately, blend 4-tbs. flour with I cup of milk & 1/4 tsp.
black pepper. Add this mixture to the pot, stirring constantly continue
to simmer, until thickened. Add salt to taste, and spoon over corn
muffins. jdh


NOTE:Always Use a wooden mortor and pestle when crushing blackpowder
of any type. Never use metal utensils of any type.

Sgt. Mac
10-24-2009, 02:15 PM
WOW Great post G1!! Thanx

Mac

crookedknife
10-24-2009, 02:22 PM
Neat post - reminds me of the time........ OK, when I was 12 years old I made a big batch of black powder. Someone told me that it wasn't very powerful (what they meant was in COMPARISON with modern powders). Sooo - since it wasn't very powerful, I packed a quart jar tight full of it, put a cherry bomb in the top of it, lit it and threw it over a ridge. It worked. I wasn't injured, but I was confined to quarters for quite a long time.

GreyOne
10-24-2009, 02:28 PM
Grandma's Breakfast- Recipes :


Squirrel Gravy
Carefully skin and clean I or 2 squirrels, rinse well. Then soak 'in
salt water for 4-10 hours. Rinse really well with cold water, and then
place in a pot with 1-1/2 quarts of boiling water. Reduce heat, and
simmer until very tender. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool,
reserving 1-1/3 cups of the cooking liquid.
Once cooled, pick all of the meat off the bones, and return it to the
pot, along with the reserved cooking liquid. Refrigerate over night, if
desired. Add I cup of milk and I tbs. of butter to the pot, and heat to
simmering. Separately, blend 4-tbs. flour with I cup of milk & 1/4 tsp.
black pepper. Add this mixture to the pot, stirring constantly continue
to simmer, until thickened. Add salt to taste, and spoon over corn
muffins.

Corn Meal Muffins
Mix together I cup cornmeal, 3/4 cup white or rye flour, 2 tsp., baking
powder, I egg, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup melted shortening,
and 1/3 cup brown sugar (or other dark sugar). Stir well, and pour into
lightly greased muffin tins. Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees.
For about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
This is one breakfast that will keep you going strong until lunchtime;
especially on those big days when the planting, haying, or harvesting
just has to be done. Try it
and enjoy! jdh

Boonie
10-24-2009, 03:37 PM
G1, I'm pretty familar with Rev. Hooker's writings. That article appeared in Backwoodsman a few years back.

Mountain Ron
10-24-2009, 04:50 PM
Neat post - reminds me of the time........ OK, when I was 12 years old I made a big batch of black powder. Someone told me that it wasn't very powerful (what they meant was in COMPARISON with modern powders). Sooo - since it wasn't very powerful, I packed a quart jar tight full of it, put a cherry bomb in the top of it, lit it and threw it over a ridge. It worked. I wasn't injured, but I was confined to quarters for quite a long time.

Ah, yes. A lad and his high explosives. Kind of brings a tear to my eye.:D

GreyOne
10-24-2009, 05:35 PM
G1, I'm pretty familar with Rev. Hooker's writings. That article appeared in Backwoodsman a few years back.

I had not read any other of his writing, but he has a way with description <g>. Paints a rather clear picture of his Grandmother !
This was a post I saved at the time because it was quite interesting, both in concept and the writing.

sbkittrell
10-24-2009, 06:07 PM
Foxfire Book #5 has a section on making black powder that's pretty good. That volume also has a section on making a flintlock rifle from scratch. The Foxfire section on making black powder is on the web at a certain website. I accessed it and it has the complete section from Foxfire #5, but then I realized I had probably activate the CARNIVORE program in Washington DC and am now on a list somewhere and being investigated even as I type, so I won't post the website here. Just buy the book.

GreyOne
10-24-2009, 06:12 PM
Foxfire Book #5 has a section on making black powder that's pretty good. That volume also has a section on making a flintlock rifle from scratch. The Foxfire section on making black powder is on the web at a certain website. I accessed it and it has the complete section from Foxfire #5, but then I realized I had probably activate the CARNIVORE program in Washington DC and am now on a list somewhere and being investigated even as I type, so I won't post the website here. Just buy the book.

Posting here is probably all it takes to get on someones list.
We have an attitude towards being self sufficient and responsible for ourselves that is not acceptable to the new powers that be.

Red Powder Formula- at your own risk:
Expedient Powder Explosive and/or propellant:

MATERIAL REQUIRED:
Heat source (kitchen stove, open fire,etc)
2 gallon metal bucket
Measuring cup (8 ounces)
Wooden or plastic spoon
Metal or sheet of aluminum foil
Flat window screen (1 foot square)
Potassium Nitrate (hobby store) 2-1/3 cups
White sugar (granulated) 2 cups
Powdered ferric oxide (rust) 1/8 cup (if available)
Clear water 3-1/2 cups

This proceedure makes approx. 2-1/2 pounds of charge.

1. Place the sugar, Potassium Nitrate, and water in
the bucket. Heat with a low flame, stirring occasionally
until the sugar and potassium nitrate dissolve.

2. If available, add the ferric oxide (rust) to the
solution. Increase the flame under the mixture
until it boils gently.

NOTE: The mixture will retain the rust coloration.

3. Stir and scrape the bucket sides occasionally
until the mixture is reduced to one quarter of
it's original volume, then stir continuously.

4. As the water evaporates, the mixture will become
thicker until it reaches the consistency of cooked
breakfast cereal or homemade fudge. At this stage
of thickness, remove the bucket from the heat
source, and spread the mass on the metal sheet.

5. While the material cools, score it with the spoon
in crisscross rows about one inch apart.

6. Allow the material to air dry in the sun. As it
dries rescore it about every 20 minutes to aid drying

7. When the material has dried to a point where it
is moist and soft but not sticky to the touch, place
a small spoonfull onto the screen. Rub the
material back and forth against the screen mesh
with a flat object until the material is
granulated into small worm-like particles.

8. After granulation, return the material to
the sun to dry completely.

NOTE: The material is now more powerful than strong
black powder...this material should be handled
with EXTREME care. This material can be used
to reload 7.62 rounds or as an explosive.

woodsmith
10-25-2009, 10:39 PM
I first read this in Backwoodsman. I was checking it out on google tonight just to see what other references I could find and that led to "rocket candy" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_candy), a fuel used in model rockets - basically potassium nitrate (saltpeter) and sugar. There's a note that adding iron oxide prevents the mix from absorbing atmospheric water and causes it to burn faster. So...

grandma was firing her gun with rocket fuel!

tennecedar
02-09-2010, 09:25 PM
BTTT

Howie
02-09-2010, 10:19 PM
http://www.bushcraftusa.com/forum/showpost.php?p=126580&postcount=5

didnt see this when i posted earlier....

GreyOne
02-10-2010, 06:32 AM
Besides legalities, there is a real safety issue. Making powder is dangerous, a spark from static electricity can ignite the powdered materials.If anyone ever tries this,use only non sparking wooden or glass tools and utensils, in an open well ventilated area. work only in small quantities(under 1 pound) and once ingredients are mixed, keep them wetted until final screening and then dry and store.

Mattnu
02-10-2010, 07:24 AM
Intersting that her "blackpowder" wasn't black at all, and not the normal formula of charcoal, saltpeter and sulfur.

I recall an article from Gun Digest back maybe in '79 (from a used book store) that described "golden" powder. Gun powder made from citric acid (vitamin C). It burned at about the same pressure curve as traditional black powder with much less smoke and was cleaner. I don't recall if the formula called for anything other than citric acid. The articla mentioned that in the late 1180's a couple of Armies woere looking at going to golden powder because or its advantages but the advent of smokeless powder put an end to it.

Arrowolf
02-10-2010, 08:47 AM
This is the very reason I own a flintlock. If it ever comes down to it, I can make everything it needs to shoot it.

Cracker
02-10-2010, 06:38 PM
The good Reverend has been published since at least the late eighties(when I first read him) and appears several times in Backwoods Home Mag, Backwoodsman and if memory serves me the old American Survival Guide.

pure_mahem
07-04-2011, 05:54 PM
I would like to thank you for this post but at the same time say "and you gave me crap over the Poland Spring Water Bottle WTF, LOL!