If you are like me, you still have some of that turkey you served on Christmas Day. Oh, the leftovers! But I have found a new way to use some of that delicious meat in something surprisingly delicious.

Today, December 29, is National Pepper Pot Day…okay, I had never heard of it either! So I did some research. Seems like Pepper Pot was long ago dubbed as the “soup that won the war”, the Revolutionary War.

During a brutal, cold winter at Valley Forge, George Washington asked his chef to make a soup for the men that would improve both their health and their morale. After scrounging around for what was available, the chef made a spicy soup using beef tripe (cow stomach), ground peppercorns, and some vegetables. The soup was well received by the soldiers, and Philadelphia Pepper Pot is still popular in Philly restaurants today.

Valley Forge

In the winter of 1777-1778, George Washington gathered his recruits at a place twenty miles outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here, he planned to train them to become an effective army that could win the war for independence.

But the winter proved to be very cold and cruel. By the time it was over, Washington had seen 2,500 young men die, not from battle, but from sickness and disease.

We traveled to Valley Forge in 2005, as part of a trip to the East Coast. At that time, I did not yet have a digital camera. I took many pictures with my old film camera and put them into a scrapbook of our trip. Here are four of those pages…

On the page to the left, you see a statue of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the Persian drill master who did so much to turn the young men at Valley Forge into a fighting force that could play its role in the battle for independence.

On the right hand page is a monument to “Mad” Anthony Wayne, the general who fought so hard to clothe and supply the soldiers; to provide them with the sense of dignity that would help make them successful in war.

You can see Valley Creek on the right hand page. Many years ago, there was an iron forge built at the creek, from which Valley Forge got its name. Today, you can fish in the creek, but only to “catch-and-release”.

These pages deal with the everyday life of the soldier. On the lower left corner of the second page, you see three huts in a row. These are reproductions of some of the seventy-eight that were built to house the men during that dreadful winter. The wood for the huts came from the surrounding forest. On the page to the left are pictures of the interior of the huts.

Also shown on the right hand page is the outdoor oven used at Valley Forge. It is said that the men enjoyed freshly baked bread, about a pound a day, made by Baker General Christopher Ludwig.

You can learn more about Valley Forge, and about planning your own trip to this national historic park, by going to their website at http://www.nps.gov/vafo/index.htm.

Pepper Pot Soup


I have always enjoyed cooking from historical cookbooks, trying to learn from the food of the past, about the people of the past. It was a fun activity to share with my own children, and a fun activity to share with the students in my classroom. Now, it is just my husband and I…but once a teacher…you know the rest!

There are many different recipes for Pepper Pot. I looked at many of them and adapted them to fit our Christmas “leftovers” and our taste buds. This, along with some fresh homemade wheat bread,  is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy this soup, we surely did!

Pepper Pot Soup

  • 1 1/2 lb. leftover turkey, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 Tbsps. butter
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 large potatoes, cut in a 3/4 inch dice
  • 2 stems fresh thyme
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • 2-4 Tbsps. black peppercorns, crushed (or to taste, I did not use quite so many)
  • 2 qts. turkey broth (I used the broth I had made by boiling the turkey bones, and added 1 cube of chicken bouillon.)
  • cayenne pepper

In a large pot, melt the butter and saute the onions, celery, and carrots until tender. Add the sliced garlic and saute 30 more seconds, until you can smell the garlic aroma.

Tie the herbs together with string. This makes them easier to remove at the end of the cooking. Add the tied herbs, diced potatoes, and the broth to the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Add the turkey pieces and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Turn off the stove and let soup sit for 30 minutes, allowing all the flavors to blend.

Bring the soup back to a boil, then simmer for up to 5 minutes; just to reheat it. Remove the tied herbs and season to taste with salt. Set out some cayenne pepper for those who would like their soup a bit spicier, and serve. This recipe will serve 6 people.