Ok, so I have a lovely stove/oven in my kitchen. I also have DeLonghi table top grill that cooks just about everything, including toast. So, why must I cook in the back yard over a campfire?
Recently I wrote about being a pioneer wannabe, so perhaps that is the reason behind my desire to cook over the open fire. Or maybe this urge goes back further in the DNA. Currently I am reading People of the Wolf, a novel about the Clovis people who lived approximately 11,000 years ago. These people migrated into Central America from the far north. In the book, the People are still in the area of northern Canada and having access to fire for warmth and cooking means life over death.
I read up on the history of campfire cooking, and learned that it developed among nomadic peoples, such as the Plains Indians and Arab Bedouins. However, over the millennia, most cultures, nomadic or not, developed some form of outdoor cooking. The Iroquois perfected the art of cooking corn it its husk, but most people developed different vessels.Asian people developed a way to steam food inside bamboo stalks. Clay pots are used in India for Tandoori cooking. I use a cast iron Dutch oven suspended from a tripod, like the Pioneers. Here is a photo of my set-up:
We now have every kind of high tech cooking pot imaginable, in every color. And, indoor stoves are generally considered a great improvement over outdoor fires. So why do some love to cook outdoors on the BBQ and, other like myself, cook over the open fire?
There is no doubt that food cooked outdoors tastes better (or it seems so). And ostensibly outdoor cooking is easier (not including hauling everything outside and then back inside later). However,I propose that there is more to cooking outside for modern people who have the choice.
For me, the main draw is simply being outdoors. I work indoors all day, at the church, at home, on home visits, and in meetings. At night it is tempting to fall onto the sofa and veg out, never getting outdoors. Here in southeastern Wyoming we may have hot days, but the nights cool right down. I love wandering out at this time, starting a campfire, and weeding a while in the garden. As the fire burns down to I suspend my Dutch oven from the tripod and put something on to cook slowly overnight. In the morning it’s a joy to run out and see the final product, which usually ends up being breakfast!
I suppose cooking outdoors is getting to be something like a hobby too for me. I like to learn new things, and undertake new challenges to keep life interesting. I have found recipes to pour over, and techniques to try. I see that Amazon has some books on the history of cooking, which I will have to read!
So are you getting interested in Dutch oven, cowboy-style cooking? Here is one of my recipes:
Wheatland Baked Beans
24 oz bag soybeans (I use Bobs’ Red Mill) or navy beans
•Rinse beans and soak overnight in water. Rinse again and cook in slow cooker (covered in fresh water) about 3 hours on high (every slow cooker differs, cook until softer but still with a crunch). Do not add salt to water, if using soybeans as they won’t soften.
Cast Iron Dutch Oven
•Line with foil for extra heat retention and easy clean-up
•Drain soybeans and place in Dutch Oven
The Good Stuff
½ cup mustard
1 cup ketchup
½ cup molasses
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
Gently stir in the above ingredients, cover Dutch Oven and hang from a tripod over a nice bed of coals. Leave overnight or 8-10 hours, depending on how hot the coals are. Do not cook over fire with open flame as some beans will burn and stick to the sides.
Optional: shovel some coals on top of Dutch Oven lid for more even heating
Note: I set this out before bed on Sunday night, and in the morning, brought it in and just dug in for breakfast. Yummmmy. Would be good with a jalapeno thrown in if you like hot stuff.