CAMP COOKING
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CAMP COOKING

CAMP COOKING




      

CAMP COOKING


CAMP COOKING

By A. C. Rowell

CORN-BREAD without milk or eggs can not be first class, but, where fresh corn meal can be had, pretty fair corn-bread can be made by using a teaspoonful of baking powder, or a pinch of soda, to each pint of meal and adding a tablespoonful of grease and one of syrup, or sugar, to each pint of meal and mixing with water to make a rather thin batter. This should be baked slowly in a well greased pan (a Dutch oven will do O. K.). Corn meal does not readily absorb as much moisture as is required to make it into bread, and for this reason nearly everybody that tries to make corn-bread uses less than enough water, with the result that the bread is little more than moist corn meal that will not stick together to be handled.

Often I have read how Sour Dough Bill gathered lichens from the trunks of maple trees and used tea made from them for mixing his bread—generally his bread was so light that he had to lay a rock on it; but a mess of pancakes that I made from the recipe (just to try it) resembled rawhide and were the only truck that I ever fed a burro that he appeared to dislike.

I have seen the Mexicans burn corn cobs and mix the ashes from the cobs with corn meal to take the place of soda, and the scheme seemed to work all right; but I have never happened to have any corn cobs with me when I couldn't get soda.

To cook beans, I first boil them with a little soda in the water, and when they have boiled till they are as big as they will get and the skin on them is loose, I drain the water off, rinse them and start them to boiling again with fresh water and a piece of salt pork, or bacon. I boil them till they are cooked to pieces, eat a few of them, get a bellyache, and then throw the rest of them away. Beans are all right for any one that they agree with and they are one of the most portable articles of food to be had. Fresh beans cook easily, but beans that are several years old cook about as fast as that many buckshot. To cook old beans I first heat them dry till they are on the point of browning and then cook them in the usual way. To cook beans at a high altitude I put them in a vessel that has a tight fitting cover and put a weight on the cover. I have heard a great deal said about the woodsman's method of baking beans in an iron pot buried in hot coals and ashes, in a "bean hole," but I never made a success of the method and advise any one that wants baked beans in camp to boil them first and then bake them, or else buy them already baked. To bake beans I boil them till they are nearly cooked and then put them in a basin with whatever pork they have been boiled with, and a little syrup or sugar, and turn a larger basin over them and heap coals and ashes around and over them. The best seasoning that I have found for beans is Chili powder, but almost any sort of pepper or hot sauce is all right—cayenne pepper excepted (the only thing that cayenne pepper is fit for is to break up a free-for-all fight). To properly cook rice, oat-meal and so forth on a camp fire without a double boiler is uphill business, but it can be done by raking coals well back from the fire and not being in too much of a hurry.

While I can, and sometimes do, cook pies and puddings, this sort of grub don't pay to bother with in camp, and being that I am dealing with camp-cooking, I will leave them out. Cakes, also, are too much of a good thing for the campfire. The last cake that I tackled was when I was stopping at a ranger station, and I had no eggs, and put corn starch in it in place of baking powder. It held together, all right, and would have been fine for a beaver sinker, but between me and my dog we made out to do away with the most of it before any one came along.

To make "dumplings" I simply use part oi a mess of biscuit dough, but sometimes put a spoonful of cooked dried apples in each dumpling.

Doughnuts without eggs are not genuine; but when I have plenty of bear grease I often mix a batch of biscuit dough with half the usual amount of baking powder and no shortening; and make it into thin, small cakes and fry it in hot bear grease. Sugar may be added to the dough for any one that likes sweet truck; but for my use I prefer the dough fried without sugar in it, and then, if I want sweet, eat sugar or syrup on the cakes. Sugar in the dough makes it take up lots of grease and makes it brown too quick. Sour dough is better for these fried cakes than baking powder; but either one is good, except that too much baking powder, where the dough is cooked so quick, will cause it to raise too much and absorb lots of grease.

When berries are ripe I mix up dough with equal parts of water and grease and make it into thin cakes and bake it brown in a frying pan in front of the fire. I take several of these cakes and put layers of raspberries, or blue-berry-. between them and eat them with or without sugar, just as I happen to want them sweet or not, and with or without condensed milk, according to whether I have it or not.

Several kinds of berries, and buffalo berries in particular, I mix into biscuit dough, without sugar, and bake the dough into loaves. By putting in lots of berries and letting the bread get cold, it is fine cut into slices and covered with condensed milk and sugar. Dried currants, or; raisins, first soaked in warm water, are good cooked in bread. To make "duff," I cook rice with most an> kind of dried berries, or with any kind of dried fruit that will not cook to pieces, and sweeten with sugar or maple syrup—condensed mil* goes good with duff; but duff goes pretty good without milk.

Dried apples I cook into thick sauce and season with cinnamon; I cook the sauce till it is as thick as apple butter, and it does no harm if it be scorched a little in cooking. Dried peaches I soak in warm water till they are soft enough to peel, then peel them and put them in a vessel with just enough hot water to cover them, and let them soak till they are as soft as fresh peaches. If they were ripe, good peaches before they were dried they require no cooking. If they were green peaches and culls when they were dried they will never be anything else, and are better cooked than raw, but poor truck at the best.

Goose-berries, or other extremely tart fruit, I cook with plenty of sugar and little or no water—by adding soda to tart fruit the acid is killed so that less sugar is required, but the soda also kills the flavor of the fruit, as well as its tartness, and makes it worthless for my use.

Most kinds of wild fruits are so well supplied with large seeds that I force them through a colander, or piece of wire screen, to get rid of the seeds. For eating raw, nearly all sorts of wild fruit is improved by being exposed to the sunshine for several hours after picking, and even choke-cherries are good after standing in hot sunshine for a day. I am not stuck on boarding-house soup, or any other brand of dirty water; but good, rich soup is mighty good food to put into a hungry trapper, and it is easy to make.

When I come in cold and hungry and want a good feed of something hot, in a hurry, I put two tin cupsful of water into a stew pan, or tin-pail, and set it where it will get hot. Then I cut a piece of whatever kind of steak I happen to have, or the breast of a grouse, into small pieces and add to the water, and while this is coming to a boil I cut a piece of bacon, or other fat, into small pieces and fry, and to this I add a handful of some sort o' meal, mixing it well with the grease. When the meat has come to a boil I add the mixture of fat meat, grease and meal and season with celery salt, onion salt or Chili powder. When this has boiled two minutes it is ready to eat and is good. If I happen to have trout I boil two or three trout, remove the bones and use the trout in place of the steak or grouse, and if I happen to have any cooked vegetables in camp I hash them up and add them to the mess.

When I have vegetables, and other things required to make good soup, I boil a mess of meat that is either fat or composed largely of marrow bones, and when it is well cooked I take it out of the broth, and to the broth I add to each quart a quart of hashed vegetables, half a ran of tomatoes and a handful of finely broken vermicelli, or a handful of rice. In the way of vegetables, I prefer potatoes, cabbage and onions, and I boil the soup till these are thoroughly cooked and then season with whatever and of seasoning I happen to have and want— a few apple dumplings boiled in a soup of this and don't go bad.

A part of my outfit is a twelve gauge pump gun and occasionally this old gun goes out and walks up with a flock of ducks and goes off three or four times before the ducks can get out of range. Then I take the ducks to camp and pick them clean and singe the pin feathers off from them, cut them up, wash them and put them to boil. When they are about cooked I add a handful of rice to each quart of soup and let them continue to boil till the rice is cooked. Tomato ketchup is the best seasoning for this kind of soup; but I use whatever kind if seasoning I happen to have.

Sometimes in the winter I take a trip down Wt of the snow and camp along the river in the valley; then I get among the cotton-tail rabbits with my six shooter, and the best way that I have found to cook them, after they are full grown, is to boil them with thin slices of bacon, potatoes and onions. Generally on these trips I can get eggs, and when I have the eggs I break a couple of them and mix them with enough flour to make a crumbly dough and add this to my rabbit soup when it is about cooked.

When I am on these winter trips to the valley it occasionally happens that I mistake a sage chicken for something that is not in the dude's game-law book; the sage chicken is generally fat in the latter part of winter and I pick them clean right where I kill him, while the feathers are loose, and take him to camp and boil him with vegetables and a little rice and butter. There is nothing better to eat than fat boiled sage chicken, but it is against the law to kill them at the time of year that they are fat—the law don't seem to have much effect on the killing power of smokeless powder and chilled shot, nor on the flavor of fat sage chicken. In open season when sage chickens are poor, and only the young ones are good to eat the dudes go to where the sage chickens water and kill them for fun, and I have seen old sage chickens heaped in piles where dudes had been camped. They vied with each other to see who could kill the most chickens, and brought the old ones in to count, and left them to rot.

Young game birds and young rabbits, when I can get them, I skin, cut up and place for a few minutes in cold water, roll in flour and drop into hot grease and fry brown. Fresh venison, of all sorts, I often cook the same way, and fresh fish the same. By cutting the fish into pieces they stay in the frying pan, while a whole, freshly-caught fish will curl up and roll away. Rolling the meat, or fish, in flour prevents the escape of the moisture, or juices, and keeps the grease from spattering.

Any meat that is fit to fry, or broil, will cook in boiling water in less time than it takes to fry or broil it and be tenderer and have a better flavor than fried or broiled meat. It must be taken out of the water as soon as it is cooked enough to lose its raw color, because after it has boiled a few minutes it begins to toughen and then requires lots of boiling to cook it tender.

Meat will boil better and quicker, and requires much less water, when it is placed where it will simmer than it will to be kept boiling furiously.

The best way to roast meat in camp is to boil it; but when fat meat is abundant and grease at a discount, I sometimes hang a side of fat ribs in front of the fire and let them roast brown. The best way to do this is to set a high stake on each side of the fire and put a pole across and then hang the meat from the pole with a trap chain. The swivel in the chain allows the meat to turn freely, so that all parts get the heat from the fire. Meat cooked this way is fine, but what is often a valuable part of the meat is lost by dripping into the ashes. When a Dutch oven is in camp, instead of scattered around a rock somewhere, it does first rate for roasting meat, and, when roasting meat in a Dutch oven, potatoes may be added to the roast without doing any serious harm, also, in a Dutch oven roast, the juice from the meat may be thickened with a little browned flour, with results that are not painful.

Fat ducks stuffed with a mixture of bread crumbs, mashed potatoes, butter and sage don't go bad roasted in a Dutch oven; but they are just as good roasted, or baked, in a tin pan, or a camp stove oven.

To cook tough steak, I hash it up with a bit of fat pork, or other fat, sage and meal, or flour, and fry in hot grease. A good way to cook suckers is to skin and clean them, and then steam them, and force the flesh through a piece of wire screen to get rid of most of the bones. The flesh may then be mixed with mashed potatoes or bread crumbs and fried brown. Mashed potatoes are simply potatoes peeled, boiled and mashed, and seasoned as desired. Potatoes are good baked in hot ashes; but this method wastes more or less of the potato, and is no better than boiling them with the skins on and then peeling them as they are eaten.

It is hardly worth while to tell people what they had ought to take, in the way of grub, or, a trip into the wilderness, because they ought to know better than I do what they like to eat; but it is worth while to say that dudes hardly ever take enough grub.

In putting in a supply of grub I figure on it least a pound a day of bread stuff, and on not less than a pound a day of other stuff. What I take depends largely on what means I have of taking it, and on whether or not I can keep it from freezing, and, more than anything else, on what I expect to get in the way of game and fish. When I am going with a wagon, or have plenty of pack stock, so that I can take everything I want, I take a supply of canned stuff and vegetables, and this, with flour, sugar, tea, syrup, bacon and so forth, will figure up to four or five pounds a day. Of course a man can get along on mighty little "store grub;" but what a man can do in this line has nothing to do with what he will eat where he has all he wants One of my brothers, another man and myself went a month on a 24 pound sack of graham flour and five pounds of salt; but during the month we ate every bit of three small bears, one full grown bear, one deer, one beaver and divers of fish, grouse and rabbits, and we were hungry all of the time and for a month afterwards. On the last day of that hungry spell my brother and I walked thirty-five miles over rough country and carried each of us a bundle of furs, a rifle and a blanket. Where we struck the river we were five miles from town and there was a road from there in, but we were so tired and footsore that we camped for the night, and. as our only chance of having supper, we tore up a rotten log for grubs and set our fish lines for suckers. About an hour after dark we raised our lines and pulled in a hump-backed sucker that must have weighed seven or eight pounds. We had already rustled a rusty lard pail and had it full of boiling water, and in a very few minutes after we landed that sucker we had him boiled. We caught no more suckers that night; but we were in town the next morning before daylight and our first move was to get a gunnysack full of grub for breakfast and find a place to camp. Coffee and baker's bread were the things that tasted the best and I have never since had bread taste so good as it did that morning. It was not from choice that we went on that trip with so little grub, but because we had to make a living and knew of nothing to do except to make that trip after fur, and the snow was so deep that we had to go on sleds, and the distance so great that we didn't care to make two trips in with grub. We were located between fifty and seventy miles from town that spring and for the first month of the trip we had grub, or at least bread and coffee and game.

I go hungry when I have to; but I don’t go hungry on a pleasure trip, and I always take grub to spare when I can. The finest kind of a trip is spoiled by not taking enough grub, and plenty of good grub will knock the rough corners off from a tough trip. Some spider legged dude that eats one pancake and a cup of coffee for breakfast, a dish of thin soup and a few crackers for dinner and a couple of cookies and a glass of milk for supper, will try to roar (he can only squeal) when he reads that I take four or five pounds of grub as a days ration when I can take everything I want. But. take this same dude out into the hills and chase him around over down timber and slide-rock for a week, and make him carry a pack, and he will make small business of eating a pound of canned stuff—tomatoes, etc—at a meal, and for breakfast he will get outside of a dozen flapjacks and half a cupful of syrup. A half pound of flour made into hot biscuits will taste like a small mess to him, and on every biscuit he will want a lump of butter and a spoonful of jam. When he gets back to town he will tell what a wonderful lot of good it did him to get out in the woods and rest. What really did him good was the grub he ate and the exercise that caused him to eat so much. Some one else furnished the grub and the dude don't know how much he did eat on the trip, but thinks that it was only a little, and in making out a list of what he "took" he would be shocked if he were to allow the list to figure up to a pound a day, or more.. Instead of giving a list of forty or fifty different articles of food, each done up in a tobacco-sack, I will say take lots of good grub and pay no attention to lists of what Slim and Hungry took with them.

One of my brothers and I once loaded six burros with supplies and outfit and struck out on a prospecting trip; when we got to a likely looking piece of country we set up our tent and fixed things for a month's stay. When we came to unpacking the panniers, to take care of the grub, we found one of them packed with a large ham, several slabs of bacon and a couple of cans of lard. Others we found packed full of cans of sour-kraut, tomatoes, corn, peas, jam and different kinds of fruit. One pannier was full of potatoes (at five cents a pound). Another contained cans of milk, cans of baking powder, bottles of pickles, small sacks of rice and divers of other small packages. One burro was loaded with flour and meal, and instead of being in panniers each sack of this was inside of a coarse outer sack. When we bought that supply of grub we had no great amount of money, but enough to buy what we wanted. We did not know how long we would be on the trip, but estimated that we could, some time or other, use what grub our burros could pack. What a man has to have depends on the man and on what he is going to do, and a man that needs a list of what he has to have can get one by experimenting on himself. Let him begin with a sack of salt for his first trip, and if that be too slim a diet for him, let him add to it on subsequent trips, till he finds out what he really has to have. Slim and Hungry didn't really have to have even salt, and by poking a ram-rod back and forth through a knot-hole in a log they started fire and got along without matches, and that without wasting powder to start fires. I think that their muskets were flint locks, because, in a round with wolves, Slim fired his muzzle-loader so fast that it blistered his face, and a cap lock would hardly spill enough fire at the breech to do that, even when used as a repeater. I am not certain that Slim had a gun till he got into the mess with the wolves, and it may be that at the time he started the fire with a ram-rod he did not have the other parts of a gun and was carrying the ram-rod to build it. I don't remember the title of the book that set forth the exploits of Slim and Hungry, and don't remember who the author was, nor what names he used in place of Slim and Hungry, but the book had a picture of Slim, standing on top of a pile of dead wolves, in the act of killing three or four wolves at one shot. He had about an acre of the wolves dead and there were lines of wolves coming to him from all directions. The book had "price ten cents" marked on the cover and was well worth ten dollars.



Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.

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