Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Home Front: camp cooking staples

I took a solo camping trip a few weeks ago and in doing so got to try out some camp cooking without he worry of the fussy or more gourmet members of my household that I might have otherwise needed to cater for. Wanting to keep it simple and easy to pack I pre-packed some of my food, using the Dead Person Jar Pathopak's. My primary pre-packed meal I set up was porridge. I raided the baking shelves and made up a jar of rolled oats (for quick cooking) to which I added a handful of currants, almond slices and crystallized ginger. I also packed a jar of powdered milk and sugar for both my cups of tea and to add to my porridge. They worked out great. I used a cup of this mix, and made it up with a cup of boiling water, before adding a spoonful of my milk-sugar mix. Delicious, sustaining and warming on a cold damp morning.
My other campfire staple is chilli. This may provoke disputes among aficionados, some of whom insist that the word "chili" applies only to the basic dish, without beans and tomatoes but when i camp, I take cans of baked beans, chopped tomatoes and pre-mixed sachets of seasoning. A couple of onions in my cooler bag, and some frozen diced pork, this time. If I'd been camping longer I might have taken cured, dried sausage or salami as my meat component. Diced the onions and braised it in my cast iron pot over the coals, then the same for the pork. Seasoning went in next before adding the two cans of tomato and the three cans of baked beans. and some slow cooking with the lid on to reduce it all. I ate mine out of my Optimus-Terra solo cook set mug and shared my meal with a couple of friends who came up to join me in the evening. Five cans, one packet of frozen meat, a couple of seasoning sachets and two onions. Pretty simple. Not too heavy for a drive-in camp, and probably not that bad for a hike-in either, especially if those cans were shared around a little. We had plenty to eat with heavily seasoned leftovers I ate next next day too. After serving I added a dash of water, put he lid back on and put it back over the fire to heat up again to a low roil to kill off any germs introduced during serving up.
Porridge and beans make two excellent staples when camping, but some other items can find their way into your larder easily enough. Things that add both variety and value. Eggs. Eggs are great, self contained, long lasting and generally not requiring of refrigeration. In an austere setting, if you find yourself in an egg-glut, there are a number of traditional methods for preserving the quality of eggs. Packing in salt, wheat bran or cool clean ash. Eggs packed in box and buried in ash are reported as remaining fresh after 8 months in 80% of cases. Not only does it give the eggs shock and crush protection but having leftover wood-ash at a camping trip once you've eaten your food is no drama, just dump it into your fire pit and off you go. That said, cardboard egg cartons make good fire starters. When I pack eggs, its usually because I plan to make pancakes and then pack them in my flour mix, again, in a sealable jar. They stay safe, insulated and ready or when i'm ready to cook.

Not so much cooking as snacking, I also like to take hard cheese, like a block of Parmesan and salami  or slab of salt cured meat like Prosciutto. They keep well un-refrigerated and are a very tasty addition to an al fresco snack-plate after a hike or as an addition to most meals.

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