Food never tastes better than when cooked outdoors. And nothing quite highlights a fun campout like favored foods prepared using special outdoor cooking methods.
Modern camp cooking can be much like cooking at home. Push a button to light the camp stove or gas grill, or start a charcoal fire, and you're ready to prepare a hot, delicious meal. For many of us, however, it's more fun to use simple, yet unique cooking methods when preparing camp meals and treats. This might include a pot of delicious beans prepared in the old North Woods style in a "beanhole," or showing the youngsters in hunting camp how to cook breakfast Boy Scout-style in a paper bag. We can teach the kids how to whip up some homemade ice cream in a coffee can, or take a more traditional route and cook a complete meal in aluminum foil. There are dozens of ways to making camp cooking fun and memorable, including those that follow.
Beanhole Baked Beans
Cooking in a hole filled with hot coals is the way lumberjacks once made big pots of sweet baked beans to feed the whole camp. This is still an excellent means to prepare a great side dish for supper. You'll need a Dutch oven and the ingredients listed below. To start, soak the beans overnight as described. Then several hours before meal time, dig a hole big enough to set the Dutch oven in (with a little extra space around the sides), build a hardwood fire in the hole and allow the wood to burn down to coals. Proceed in the following manner:
- 3-1/2 cups dried navy beans
- 4 quarts water
- 1/2 pound salt pork
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- A pinch or two of ground cloves
- 2 small onions, peeled
Cover the beans with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. Drain the beans and reserve the liquid. Cover the beans again with 2 quarts fresh cold water and bring them to a boil. Immediately lower the heat and simmer the beans for 45 minutes. Drain the beans well once again, reserving the water. Cut a 1/4-pound slice of salt pork and place it on the bottom of a Dutch oven. Mix the tomato paste, molasses, brown sugar, dry mustard, pepper, thyme and cloves into the beans. Pour the bean mixture over the salt pork in the Dutch oven. Bury the whole onions in the center of the beans. Cut the remaining salt pork into small pieces and arrange these on top of the beans. Pour the reserved bean liquid over the mixture, then cover tightly.
Place the covered Dutch oven over a bed of coals in the hole you have prepared, then rake more coals and ashes over the top and sides. If your oven has a bail, leave it in an upright position for easier removal. Top the pot with aluminum foil or a layer of green leaves to keep out the dirt, and shovel earth back into the hole to a depth of four or five inches, tamping it down well. Now let the beans cook six to eight hours. When you return from a day's hike or fishing expedition, you'll have a special treat in store.
Breakfast in a Paper Bag
Don't want to clean up any breakfast dishes? Try cooking the day's first meal in a paper bag. It really works! You'll need a lunch-sized brown paper bag for each camper's meal and a long, green, pointed stick to hold each bag near the campfire coals. For each breakfast, you should have:
- 1-2 bacon strips
- 1/2 cup or so frozen hash browns, thawed
- 1-2 eggs
Start by opening the paper bag and placing the bacon strips on the bottom. Toss in hash browns. Break in the eggs.
Now fold down the top of the paper bag at least three times but leave 3"-4" of air space above the food. Insert the pointed stick only through the top folded part of the bag. Prop with rocks, or hold the bag on the stick about 4"-5" over the hot coals for about 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to touch the coals or hold the bag over flames or you'll set your breakfast on fire.
When the aroma makes your mouth start watering, remove the bag from the heat and carefully pull out the stick. Open the bag and fold down the paper. Eat right out of the brown bag. Throw your "dishes" in the fire.
Ice Cream in a Can
Kids and grownups alike love making ice cream in a can. All you need to make dessert for three or four people is some duct tape, a 1-pound coffee can with lid, a 3-pound coffee can with lid, some crushed ice, some rock salt and the following ingredients:
- 1 pint half and half or whole milk
- 1 egg, beaten (optional)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup or 1/4 cup sliced strawberries
Add the above ingredients to the 1 pound coffee can and mix well. Put the lid on the coffee can and secure with duct tape. Place the 1-pound coffee can into the 3-pound coffee can. Surround with crushed ice and rock salt and place the lid onto the 3-pound coffee can.
Have two people sit on the ground and roll the cans back and forth 3-4 feet apart. Roll for 8-10 minutes. (The kids can kick the can back and forth as well.)
Check to see if the ice cream is hard; if it isn't, replace the lid, and add more ice and rock salt. Roll for another 8 minutes. Remove the lid to the 1-pound can and serve in bowls.
If you make a single dinner entree, you may not please all your diners. But if you put out a variety of fixings and let everyone choose the ingredients for an individual foil-wrapped dinner, the whole crowd will be happy.
Start by placing 18-inch long rectangles of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a table. Then place a variety of meats, vegetables and fruits, each cut in bite-sized pieces, in individual bowls. These might include such items as hamburger, chicken, cubed steak, sausages, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, pineapple, green peppers and more. Use whatever you have on hand that your diners might enjoy. Put some spices on the table, too.
Now, allow each person to get a piece of foil and the foods he or she likes. Lay the foil flat, place the food on top, season to taste and fold the foil in half so the food is between the folded pieces, near the fold. Then, beginning at the place where the two end edges meet, make a fold of about 1/2 inch and firmly press this, sealing the seam. Then fold the seam over two more times, 1/2 inch at a time, and press to seal. The two open ends are then sealed in the same manner, and the packet is ready for the cooking fire. Cook in coals about 12 minutes per side or until done. Open carefully so the steam inside the foil packet doesn't burn you. Eat and enjoy!