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Giddy Up

See What’s Cooking At Miracle Mountain Ranch

A scene on Rodeo Drive as new Ranchers arrive at Miracle Mountain Ranch.
Photos courtesy of the Miracle Mountain Ranch

A scene on Rodeo Drive as new Ranchers arrive at Miracle Mountain Ranch. Photos courtesy of the Miracle Mountain Ranch

Need a fun day trip on Memorial Day? Check out the western town and old west atmosphere at Miracle Mountain Christian Ranch’s Open House, just 40 minutes from downtown Jamestown, where the campers who sleep in bunkhouses are referred to as ranchers. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. and events are over at 5 p.m. They’re offering pony rides, a demonstration by the vaulting team, a Memorial Day service, a Message from the Mount and much more. There will be a concession stand, but visitors are welcome to bring a picnic lunch to eat while enjoying the show. Tours and activities for all ages will be offered. The event is free, but trail rides are $8 per person with a 250-pound weight limit. There is no registration required.

Be prepared to be drawn back, as some of the workers and volunteers have returned and stayed for 20 or 30 years, with several starting as ranchers, such as Executive Director Matt Cox.

“I came on staff in 1991, but I first came as a rancher in 1976 when I was 8 years old.”

Cox and his wife, Jenni, met at the Ranch. She is his Administrative Assistant and originally came as a rancher, like her husband, and returned as a volunteer, a counselor and as a student at the School of Discipleship.

“We committed to one another that if we lost our joy here, we would leave,” she said.

The Ranch was established in 1964 by two families whose goal was to reach youth in Northwestern Pennsylvania. It is a non-denominational, non-profit, Christ-centered ministry which hosts 150-170 children each week during camping season. Today, it is comprised of 630 acres and several structures, including the Town Hall, which was built in 1993 by volunteer labor, houses offices and a large gymnasium that is used for activities on rainy days and 20 bunkhouses. Several barns, a large arena for indoor horse activities and two more arenas where training for vaulting is given are also situated on the property. Ox Yoke Inn (a dining area that seats 150), J & R Trapping Company (a 40 capacity meeting room), Wells Fargo (another dining area and meeting room that seats 80) and the Buckboard Cafe (which is the camp store) are all found on Rodeo Drive, the main street of the western town.

There are several activity areas to keep campers and those coming for retreats busy, such as indoor and outdoor basketball courts, a dodgeball court and a baseball field and indoor and outdoor volleyball courts, tetherball courts and a soccer field. Confidence building on a low ropes course, hay rides, hiking and pony cart rides, field games and snow tubing are just a few of the activities available.

Three Texas Longhorn steers, which are trained by Matt Cox and 70-80 horses are on location. All but one of the 28 full-time staff reside on the property. Staff must raise their own funding, similar to missionaries.

“(The Ranch) was started with a western theme, which was popular in the 60s. It used to be if you came to camp you were on a horse. Now it is optional. Archery has exploded for us. After having 20-25 kids interested out of 125, we now fill 60 slots. We offer instruction and safety.”

The Critter Corral is a small animal program for kids intimidated by horses or kids that love both horses and animals in general. It consists of an alpaca, miniature horses, kittens, rabbits and chickens, a pig, a goat and a sheep for hands-on teaching.

“The instructional teaching doesn’t just happen in the chapel. It happens on trail rides or in horsemanship lessons or games and activities. We do a lot of illustrative teaching. We can attach a truth to the illustration.”

The horses and Longhorn steers are utilized in teaching some of the illustrations.

“A full summer for us is 1,200 kids. Almost 300 come on full or partial scholarship and every year we start at zero,” says Cox. “We will never turn a child away due to finances.”

Several churches and businesses help support the scholarship program.

“LECOM is one of our biggest supporters,” adds Donnie Rosie, marketing director. “Corry Federal Credit Union is our largest and has sponsored for four years. We have many other supporters.”

Cox goes on to say, “We have about 300 adult and teen volunteers. Some are parents that have driven their children from far away places — moms will volunteer in the kitchen or do landscaping and dads will be in the operations department.”

“Our goal is stewardship and we try to stay out of debt as much as possible,” the Executive Director says as he tells about desired acreage that became available and how it was financed for 20 years but was paid in full within five. He also tells about a fire that occurred in 2013, destroying some of the barns and a very large quantity of hay and how the people of the community showed up within hours with trucks and trailers full of hay to replace what had been lost. The Miracle Mountain Family is extremely grateful.

“We enjoy being a part of the community and they have helped sustain the ministry of MMR,” Rosie said. “We’re excited to provide this safe, fun adventure for youth and the tasty food they enjoy while here. I’m so grateful to our kitchen staff.”

“If you come to camp and you don’t like the food, it takes away from the experience,” says Connie Cooper, food service director, who along with her husband, Dan, serves as the Director of the School of Discipleship. Cooper has served the camp since 1982, while residing and raising their three children there.

“We do a lot of Dutch oven cooking,” she says, referring to the cast iron pot holding Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler. “At the Horse Lover’s Retreat, we make peach cobbler over a camp fire. Cobbler and coffee are available all day. The Hash Brown Breakfast Bake is cooked over the coals at the Breakfast Trail Ride during the Horse Lover’s Retreat.”

She began offering the cinnamon rolls for breakfast each week on the last day of camp after her daughter returned from another camp and talked about the cinnamon rolls they served on Friday mornings. She is happy she no longer has to get up at 4 a.m. in order to have the cinnamon rolls ready since she started using a cool rise method for the dough.

“My husband developed the Pulled Pork recipe. He loves to grill and smoke,” she says. “He turned the old grill into a smoker. We do eight to 10 pork shoulder butts at a time, then roast them in the oven overnight. It can be done in an oven or a Crock Pot, but it won’t have the smoked flavor. The Sweet BBQ Sauce was a former student’s recipe, but we adapted it a little.”

“When the parents come on Friday night, they have a mini-rodeo. We do a cookout and serve pulled pork, with a hamburger and hot dog substitute for those that don’t like pork, baked beans and potato salad.”

Miracle Mountain Ranch is much more than a summer camp with a western flavor. An intensive year-long School of Discipleship was started in 1983 and many year-round retreats and events take place each year.

“We’re a licensed school of discipleship. We average between 30 and 40 students. This year we have 37. The model is life-on-life discipleship. It is intense but extremely rewarding,” says Cox.

Disciple students begin in early September taking regular classes. When they return from Thanksgiving break, they have the choice of horsemanship, food service or programming as their majors. All students take basic horse training.

A Homeschool Day, a fun and educational field trip, will take place Sept. 27, where hay rides, a Message on the Mount, fire safety training, animal science and interaction and more will take place. A curriculum swap for families who wish to sell used books and curriculum is planned. Cost is $6 for persons over 2 years old for lunch, activities, talks and first-come, first-served pony rides. Participants must register.

Other upcoming events include a golf scramble, family camp, ladies retreat, APEX Mud Run and a hunter’s retreat. The Harvest Party, which takes place Oct. 21, is a day of western activities for individuals, families, youth groups, and church groups. There are seasonal dinner trail rides and father-daughter and father-son retreats both taking place in the spring. A Community Christmas Party is planned for December.

Miracle Mountain Ranch is located at 101 Rodeo Drive, Spring Creek, Pennsylvania. For information on the camp or the open house, to register for Homeschool Day or to donate visit mmrm.org or call (814) 664-7673.

Did You Know? — Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson was born on Feb. 13, 1892, in Spring Creek Township, Pa.

Cool Rise Dough

2 T yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/2 c sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c oil/margarine/butter

2 eggs

5-6 c flour

Proof the yeast in the warm water with a little sugar until it is foamy and bubbling. Mix in the eggs, the fat and the sugar and then add the smaller amount of flour and mix with a dough hook and an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape bowl occasionally. The dough will be soft, but should start to leave the sides of the bowl. If it isn’t leaving the sides of the bowl, add the remaining flour a little at a time to make a soft dough. If you touch it with your finger, a little should stick to your finger but it shouldn’t be “wet.” Knead in the mixer or by hand for 6-8 minutes. Remove the dough hook and use a spatula or your hands to loosen the dough ball. Drizzle a little oil on top of ball of dough and moisten all sides with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes in the bowl. Punch down. Divide and shape as desired.

To make cinnamon rolls, take your dough ball and make a long “log” of dough about 3 inches in diameter. Flatten it slightly with your hands and use a rolling pin to make a rectangle about 7 inches wide and about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Roll it as long as you need to, to get it that thickness. Melt about ¢ cup of butter or margarine. Spread dough with melted margarine or butter. Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. (I use about 1 1/2 T cinnamon to 1 – 1 1/2 cup sugar.) Roll up tightly starting from the front to form a long roll. Use your fingers to seal the seam on the back. Cut into 1 inch slices and place your slices on a greased baking tray about 2 inches apart. Press down with your hands to flatten to ¢ inch.

At this point, you can cover them lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes while pre-heating oven. Bake as usual. If baking immediately, let rise again until doubled in size. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown. Let cool for about 8-10 minutes. Frost with glaze.

Glaze: Melt about 2 tbls butter or margarine. Add 2-3 cups of powdered sugar and enough milk to thin to a drizzling consistency. Add a little vanilla (and almond flavoring if desired.) Drizzle rolls with icing. Makes two dozen.

Hash Brown Breakfast Bake

1/2 lb sausage, cooked, crumbled and drained

1/2 c diced onion, sauteed

4 c shredded hash browns

1 1/2 c cheddar cheese

9 eggs

1/2 c sour cream

2 T milk

1 tsp onion Salt

crumbled bacon or diced ham, optional

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray a 9“x 13” pan or a medium cast iron Dutch oven. Cook sausage with the onion and drain. Place hash browns in the pan spreading them in an even layer, approximately 1 inch thick. Sprinkle the meat & onion over the hash browns. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the meat. In another bowl, whisk the sour cream with half the eggs until smooth. Add remaining eggs, milk, and seasoning. Blend all together and then pour carefully over the hash browns. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes until set.

For a Mexican flavor, use chorizo seasoned sausage, add some sauted green peppers and serve with salsa.

Pulled Pork

1 pork shoulder butt roast

Dry Rub:

1/2 c brown sugar

2 T sweet paprika

4 T kosher salt

2 tsp Cajun seasoning

2 T garlic salt

2 T onion salt

2 T dry mustard

1 T freshly ground black pepper

4 T Montreal Steak seasoning

Mix all ingredients for dry rub together, blending well. Reserve about 1/4 cup dry rub. Sprinkle the remaining dry rub over the pork shoulder butt, rubbing to evenly coat all sides and ends. Smoke for 6-8 hours in the smoker. Remove from smoker and place pork butt in a roasting bag, then in a roaster or 9” x 13″ pan. Place in oven and bake overnight at 200-250 degrees. (This can also be done in a crock pot.) In the morning, remove from oven, check temperature. It should be at least 190 degrees. A fork should be able to be easily inserted into the roast. Let stand, covered in the pan, several hours until cool enough to handle. Remove from bag and pull the pork. Remove the shoulder blade bone and fat layer, then gently shred the pork roast. You should get approximately 5-6 lbs of pulled pork per shoulder roast. Strain the broth in the bottom of the pan and pour over the pork. Sprinkle shredded pork with remaining dry rub and stir gently to combine. Serve with buns and barbecue sauce. Serves 20-25 people

*If you don’t have a smoker, just roast overnight. After the meat is shredded, add 1 tsp liquid smoke to the broth before pouring it back over the meat. Stir well.

Sweet BBQ Sauce

1 1/2 c ketchup

3/4 c brown sugar

1/2 c sugar

2/3 c honey

2/3 c molasses

1 T mustard

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 c water

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and heat on top of stove until smooth and blended. Simmer for 5-10 minutes to combine flavors. Makes approximately 3 cups.

Potato Salad

8 med-large potatoes

6 eggs, hard boiled

1/2 c celery, finely diced

c onion, diced

1 1/2 c mayonnaise or salad dressing

2-3 T mustard

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

1/4 c sugar

1/2 c sweet relish

Scrub potatoes well. Cook potatoes until soft and then cube and chill. Chop celery fine, mince onion and dice hard boiled eggs. Mix all dressing ingredients together and blend with potatoes, celery and onion. Taste and adjust seasoning. Chill for several hours to blend flavors. Serves 10-12.

Baked Beans

3-16 oz cans pork & beans, drained

1 c

1 c ketchup

2 T mustard

1/3 c brown sugar

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1/3 c molasses

1/2 c bacon pieces

Combine ingredients. Pour into a 9“x 13” pan that has been sprayed with pan spray. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until hot and slightly thickened. Serves 10-12.

Strawberry-Rhubarb

Cobbler

2 1/2 c rhubarb, sliced

2 1/2 c strawberries

1 1/2 c sugar

2 T minute tapioca

1 T flour

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

3 T butter, cubed small

1 box white or yellow cake mix

1/2 can ginger ale

Mix the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla and butter in a bowl. Stir to combine and pour into a greased deep dish pie pan or cast iron Dutch oven. Sprinkle cake mix over the top. Pour half of the can of ginger ale over the cake mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until filling is bubbling and cobbler topping is crispy and light brown. Serves 8-10.