As the weather warms and the summer approaches, my husband begins to long for the woods and rivers. The canoe is his element, and the deep forest his home. Some men anticipate the unveiling of their grill each summer. But he anticipates the campfire and the Dutch oven.
If at this point, you are picturing a pretty ceramic-coated casserole dish, you are slightly mistaken. The Dutch oven I am referring to is a black, cast iron mammoth. To pull it from the pot cupboard, I have to heave with all my strength. A mighty tug brings it from the cupboard to my knee. Another hoist to the counter, and a final heave places it on my gas stove. I use it frequently to cook soups and casseroles. It does an excellent job holding heat, and even continues to cook the food after being removed from the stove. However, its three cast iron legs and two-ton lipped lid hint at a destiny greater than soup pot. This Dutch oven was crafted for the campfire and charcoal cooking, and there it truly shines.
If the lipped (or flanged) lid is inverted it makes an excellent griddle. The lip is intended to hold hot coals or briquettes in place. When coals are placed on the lid and a fire or more hot coals are placed under the pot, it becomes an actual baking oven. Paul Revere, who was a blacksmith and silversmith by trade, is credited with creating the flanged lid.
The Dutch oven is a versatile pot which if used correctly, can cook main courses, breakfasts, desserts, bread, and cakes. It is made in aluminum and cast iron. It is available in all sizes, from one-man to pots large enough to feed your extended family.
Dutch ovens can be deep or shallow. The deep ovens are excellent for cooking meats, veggies, stews, and soups. Shallow Dutch ovens are intended for baking breads. The shallow container insures that the bread or biscuits will be brown and crispy on all sides.
Many people dislike camping because of the bugs, and difficulty in preparing good food. While a Dutch oven won’t solve any insect issues, it makes cooking (and eating) simple and delicious.
No one wants to wash multiple pots, pans, and prep dishes while camping. If you prep your food before leaving your home and use a Dutch oven, you can hike through the mountains instead of washing a mountain of dishes. Check out the Dutch oven pizza recipe below. The only container used in campsite prep and cooking is the Dutch oven. If you eat the pizza with your hands, clean-up will only take 5 minutes!
Many people are unsure how to clean a cast iron pot or pan. Cleaning cast iron isn’t difficult, but it must be done right or the vessel will rust. My husband is a cast iron cleaning guru and he agreed to share a few cleaning tips.
• It is important to use enough oils or fats when cooking. If you don’t use enough, the pot will dry out, causing the food to stick to the pot.
• Be sure to pre-heat the pot before adding food. The oil needs to be hot before adding the food. This insures that the cooking begins immediately, and the food doesn’t absorb too much oil.
• Clean the pot while it is still hot, or very warm. You want to clean it before the food dries on. The warm oil coating on the surface of the pot will enable the food to wipe off easily.
• Fill the pot a ¼ full with hot water (140 degrees), and wipe with a paper towel. Do not use soap, which will degrease the pot. Pour off the water, and dry immediately. A degreased pot is impossible to clean, and rusts quickly.
• Only use wood or silicone utensils with cast iron pots. Metal will scratch off the oil coating.
• If you are worried about low-fat, the build-up of oil on the pot does not go into the food, only the extra oils added for cooking.
In any camping adventure, be it a week-long canoe trip or an evening in the backyard, the Dutch oven delivers (delicious food). Whether you are an outdoors junkie or a turned-off camper I think you will find the Dutch oven a fun (and delicious) way to enhance outdoor cooking.
Dutch Oven Pizza
2 lbs. ground turkey or beef
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup tomato paste
1 Tb. cumin
1 Tb. oregano
1 lg. bay leaf
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. basil
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tb. baking powder
Sauté ground meat in oil until no longer pink. Add the onion and sauté 2 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper and sauté until tender. Stir in spices, and gently simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove bay leaf. When cool, place in a gallon Ziploc bag.
Pour flour, cornmeal, and baking powder into gallon Ziploc bag.
3 Tb. oil
2 egg whites
1 cup milk
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
Add oil, egg whites, and milk to the flour mix bag. Seal bag and mix thoroughly.
Spread batter in the bottom of a greased Dutch oven. Spoon the topping over the crust, and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake at 400 degrees, for 30-40 minutes until the crust around the sides is lightly browned.
To gain 400 degrees using charcoal briquettes, place 5 briquettes under an 8 inch round Dutch oven, and 7 on top. For a 12 inch round Dutch oven, place 6 on bottom, and 8 on top. Temps will vary due to charcoal quality, wind, and weather. Keep an eye on it.
The last Tuesday of the month I endeavor to answer your questions and share your favorite recipes. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.