Molly Pitcher’s Pepper Pot Soup

Molly Pitcher’s Pepper Pot Soup is a legenary recipie for this 4th of July.

William W. Lawrence Sr.

Mary Ludwig Hays was in on one of the most delicious concoctions ever invented. Who was Mary Ludwig Hays? You have heard of her, but by a different name.

She married John Casper Hays, a barber who lived in Carlisle, Pa., in 1769. Her husband enlisted in the First Pennsylvania Artillery in 1775. Like many other soldiers of the time, he took his wife with him.

The couple spent the bitter winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge. The men were in tatters. There was little food, and desertions were frequent.

General Washington called his mess sergeants together and implored them to devise a belly-filling meal. They went back to the wives, who did most of the cooking, and took inventory of their supplies.

The only meat available was tripe and veal bones. They had an abundance of peppercorns, some potatoes, onions, and hot peppers. Mary Hays helped to dice the provisions. The cooks came up with enough scraps to brew a thick, hearty soup.

It later was named Philadelphia Pepper Pot. Some historians credit the dish with saving the Continental Army.

A few months later, on Sunday, June 28, 1778, the Battle of Monmouth took place. John Hays and his wife were there. It was a scorching day. John and the rest of the gunners fired their artillery pieces steadily under the broiling sun.

His wife grabbed a pitcher, which she filled and refilled from a cool spring. She went from gun to gun, taking the delicious water to the thirsty fighters. It was they who named her Molly Pitcher.

When her exhausted husband fell from the heat, Molly took over and fired until the battle ended.

George Washington awarded her a non-commissioned officer rank and in later life she became known as Sergeant Molly.

Those later years, however, were not happy ones. After Hays died, she married George McCauley, a former soldier and close friend of her husband. McCauley was lazy and refused to work. The heroine had to work as a laundress to keep both of them.

She welcomed a $40-a-year pension the Pennsylvania Legislature authorized. She continued to brew Philadelphia Pepper Pot soup until she died.

She is listed as Molly McCauley on her tombstone in Carlisle.

Molly Pitcher’s Philadelphia Pepper Pot

1 Lb. fresh white honeycomb tripe

1 Veal knuckle

3 Quarts. cold water

1 Small bunch parsley

3 Large diced potatoes

2 Carrots

2 Onions

15 Peppercorns crushed

1 Tsp. marjoram

1/2 Tbs. thyme

1 Tsp. basil

1 Hot red pepper

1 Tbs. salt

3/4 Cup flour

1/2 Tsp. salt

1 Egg

2 Tbs. margarine

3 Tbs. flour

Wash tripe in several times changing the waters, then cut with scissors into strips, then dice. Place in pot with knuckle, add water. Heat slowly to boiling, let boil for 15 minutes. Skim. Cover and simmer gently for two hours. Put spices and crushed peppercorns in cheesecloth bag. Add the pepper, diced potatoes and diced onion. Let the soup return to a boil and add balls the size of little marbles made from the 3/4 cup flour, egg and 1/2 Tsp. salt. To make these, beat the egg, add the salt and enough flour to make a not-too-stiff dough. Roll between palms into tiny balls. Cook an hour longer, then thicken with the melted margarine and three Tbs. flour. Cook a few minutes longer and serve piping hot.


Molly Pitcher’s Pepper Pot Soup

Molly Pitcher’s Pepper Pot Soup

3 thoughts on “Molly Pitcher’s Pepper Pot Soup”

  1. Chef Bill uses this one.

    It’s a lot simpler.

    4 cups water
    4 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
    2 medium potatoes, grated
    2 medium carrots, grated
    2 stalks celery, finely chopped
    1 large onion, finely chopped
    1 1⁄2 cups green peppers (total) or 1 1⁄2 cups red peppers (total) or 1 1⁄2 cups yellow peppers, finely chopped (total)
    1⁄2 cup flour
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 teaspoon pepper
    1 cup water
    6 cups milk


    Mix 4 cups water, chicken bouillon powder, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and peppers in a large pot.
    Bring to a boil.
    Cover and simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
    In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, pepper and 1 cup water together until smooth.
    Stir flour mixture into soup.
    Continue stirring until soup thickens.
    Add milk and heat through.
    Makes a large pot.

  2. I’d offer one correction, that if you’d really want authenticity, use butter to make the rivvels, instead of margarine, which was not yet invented at the time.

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