COOKING IN CAMP
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COOKING IN CAMP

COOKING IN CAMP




      

COOKING IN CAMP




By.A. C. Rowell.

SPEAKING of the camp outfit, the less there is of it the better. Nearly every writer begins his list of outfit with a Dutch oven; so will t. Just when you are ready to pack up, drop the Dutch oven on a rock and break it; it belongs with a bull wagon and has no business in a pack outfit. The Dutch oven is a good thing, all right, and is fine to have in camp; but so is a crosscut saw or a keg of beer, and if I were obliged to take one of the three for my own use I would take the keg of beer. After the beer had become a memory the empty keg would be fine to sit on and would be hard to break; either one of which the Dutch oven is not.

Generally, with a pack outfit, I take a large frying pan for frying fish, one of medium size for baking bread, a tin pail for water and a smaller one for tea, a stew pan, two tin basins, two tin plates, a tin cup or two, and knives, forks and spoons. The pails are empty lard pails that go one inside of the other, and both of them into the stew pan; the frying pans fit one inside of the other, and the basins and plates inside of both of them. The whole outfit costs less than two dollars and weighs less than a Dutch oven, and is as compact as such an outfit can be. When I get up some morning mad. and want to smash things and begin over again, I can kick the old outfit over the dump and get a nice, bright, new one for two dollars. The cheap outfit would eventually wear out, while an expensive outfit might last a life time; but no one ever wears out a camp outfit, they get tired of it, or tired of moving it. and take a fresh start in life with a new outfit.

When I get tired of frying-pan bread and want an oven, I use a tin plate for a foundation and a basin for a cover and bake just as good biscuits as ever came out of a Dutch oven. I can get along with one boiled mess at a time and use my stew pan for both fruit and stews, and generally I take along an extra pail when berries are ripe, and several of them when I expect to get honey. or bear fat in warm weather. Stuff that I buy in cans I get. when I can, in friction top cans, and I generally have a few of these cans in camp and use them when I have stewed fruit, bacon grease and so forth that I wish to keep from one meal to another.

There probably was a time in the history of the human race when man did very Utile or no cooking, and subsisted largely upon food that required no cooking, and that is not now used as food except by some of the lowest tribes of savages. At that time the human animal probably existed only in tropical climates and could find great quantifies of insects at all times of year, and could find fruit and nuts of some kind at nearly all times of year. Man then fed much the same as bears now feed, and instead of chasing grasshoppers for fish bait, he caught them to eat, and ate them as fast as they were captured. A nest of the right kind of ants, together with a quart or two of berries, made him a meal, and in time of hard luck he doubtless could make out by eating certain kinds of riots and plants, and when urged by hunger he probably ate the raw flesh of reptiles and small animal.

When man began to make use of fire he began to advance, and our superiority over other animals to-day is due more to the advantage of using fire than to all other things put together. All use of metal depends on the use of fire, and all manufacturing depends on the use of metal, and the advancement of the human race is due to manufacturing. Crude implements of stone, and such implements of wood and of bone as could be made by the use of them, could have been, but probably were not, manufactured prior to the use of fire. While these crude implements gave man an advantage over beasts, and enabled him to use fire to advantage, they alone, without the use of fire, could not have advanced man beyond the state of the lowest savage. Probably the first use of fire was due to the curiosity that prompted some savage to overcome superstition and approach a fire started by lightning. He found that fire warmed him better than he had ever been able to warm in sunshine, and that it did not hurt him so long as he treated it with respect. He probably considered the fire to be supernatural, or the effect of something supernatural, and worshiped it in much the same state of mind that a human of to-day would be in if he were to come into the presence of something visible that he believed to be divine. By worshiping the fire the savage soon became familiar with it and learned that he could increase it by adding fuel, and that he could move it from place to place and confine it by surrounding it with earth or stones. Once the savage had become familiar with fire it was part of his nature to try its effect on different substances, and in a very short time after he began to use it to warm himself he learned to cook. We are not concerned with what he cooked, nor with how be cooked it. but only with the fact that he gave the art of cooking to the human race, and that it has endured and improved, and that we to-day can not get along without it in any but a tropical climate.

Out in the frozen wilderness a man is crunching along on snowshoes with a heavy pack on his back; night is approaching, and by the way he scanning the country on all sides of him as he goes along, it is seen that he is anxious to camp and be rid of the burden that is making hi* shoulders ache. Several times he changes his course to investigate clumps of evergreens At the first place he investigates, dry woods is too scarce; at the next place the "only open space among the trees is grown up to prickly berry bushes In a clump of white spruce, surrounded by dry alders, he drops his pack and gets out his ax and cuts an armful of the dry alders. These he takes to the place that he has selected for a fire; in this place the snow has been kept off the ground by the trees, and what little snow there is he soon scrapes away with his feet. Then he -tarts his fire. Instantly everything is changed, and what was dark and dreary and cold becomes bright and cheerful and warm. The shed of boughs overhead and the tree trunks at the back reflect the heat, and the snow reflects the light. After securing a supply of dry wood and cutting several armful of spruce boughs our woodsman prepares to cook. To see how he does this is what we have followed him for, so we will observe, as closely as we can, what he has in his pack and how he uses it. First we will notice !hat he is not a green hand at the business. A green hand would have camped somewhere in a poor place rather than to keep going when he wanted to camp. He can hardly be a woodsman of the West, else he would be using skis instead of snowshoes. So we judge that he is a woodsman of the North, or of the East, and are not surprised to see that his cooking outfit consists of a small frying pan, a quart pail, a two-quart pail and a tin cup. We notice, as he takes these things out of the pack, that they are all inside of a light cloth bag. This, we suppose, is to keep them from blacking the other things that are in his pack. When he takes the pails out of the tag we notice that one of them is placed inside of the other, and that inside of this is the tin cup. a small can of baking powder, a few ounces of salt, tied up in a tobacco sack, and a large spoon.

His first move towards cooking is to put the largest of the pails in the fire and burn it out clean, so that it will be fit to melt snow in. Then he fills it with snow and puts it in the edge of the fire. There is no danger of unsoldering modern tin pails, because they are clinched together at the seams, otherwise our woodsman would have burned out his frying pan for melting snow; he burns the large pail instead of the small one because he uses the small pail for making tea. and to burn the tin out of it would expose the iron and cause the tea to be black—like ink. To attempt to melt the snow in a pail that was not burned out would result in burning the sides of the pail while the snow was in it, and the smoke from the pail would go into the snow and condense and cause tea made from the snow to taste like fur-house fox bait smells.

While the snow is melting the woodsman dresses a pair of ruffled grouse that he has shot somewhere along the trail during the day, and cuts them up and lays them on a stick of split wood. As soon as the snow is melted he pours the water out of the large pail into the small one and puts it where it will get hot. Then he dries the large pail and puts a pint of flour into it and mixes this with about a rounded teaspoonful of baking powder and a pinch of salt; with cold water he makes this into stiff dough, greases his frying pan and turns the dough into it, and with a wet spoon spreads it evenly in the frying pan. This is to be bread for three meals, and it will be quite a thick loaf, and he can afford to waste none by burning, so he rakes some coals well back from the fire and places the pan on them as nearly level as he can get it. By this time the water in the small pail is boiling and he pours half of it into the largr pail and then puts snow into both pails till he gets what water he wants. Next he takes the breast of one of his grouse, or perhaps the breasts of both of them, and cuts the meat into very small pieces and puts it into the large pail, which contains water enough, with the meat, to make about a quart. This he puts where it will soon boil, and now he gives his attention to his bread.

When the side of the loaf that is next to the pan is well browned he tilts the pan up so that the top will get the heat of the fire, and, in doing this, he has to use care and keep turning the loaf till the top is crusted. As soon as the top is crusted he takes it out of the pan and stands it in front of the tire with some sticks under it to keep it out of the ashes and a stick behind it for a prop. Now he takes his frying pan and fries a slice of bacon, or melts a lump of grease half the size of an egg, and mixes a heaping tablespoonful of flour, or a handful of oat or corn meal, with the grease and stirs this into his boiling grouse meat. He puts in two or three pinches of seasoning of some kind, and now he is ready to make his tea; he makes sure that the water is boiling and then puts a handful of black tea into a quart of water—probably four or five times as much tea as a boarding house cook would put into the same amount of water. Generally he takes the pail off from the fire as soon as he puts the tea in, but if he happens to be leather lined he boils it awhile. By this time the bread is baked through and our woodsman is ready to thoroughly enjoy a feed.

As soon as supper is over he again burns out his large pail and melts snow as before, and puts what is left of his grouse to boiling. The breasts of the grouse, cut fine, will be cooked almost as soon as they come to a boil; but the other parts require several hours of boiling. It seems as though all of this must have taken a long time to do, but it has probably been less than two hours from the time the woodsman dropped his pack to the time he is smoking his after-supper pipe. We haven't taken the trouble to learn what this woodsman is doing, out in the wilds, but we can judge from the size of his pack and from the way he is going easy on the bread that he is "going somewhere." He is not of the breed that cooks his bread wrapped around a stick and eats snow for a drink, but he puts as little weight into outfit and as much into grub as he can and get along.

It won't be worth while to tell how Hungry Dick and Slim Jim cooked things while they explored the Far North with only such outfit as they had in their pockets when they ran away from home. Their methods, or the methods of their kind, have been set forth many times, and may be learned from books that are absolutely true accounts of stirring adventure, and that sell at anywhere from ten cents to ten dollars. From one of them I learned that beavers hibernate, and that while exploring the Far North Slim and Hungry put in a portion of their time reaching into beaver houses and pulling the beavers out by the scruff of the neck. Also that they roasted the beavers whole over the flame of an Eskimo lamp, and that the flesh of the beavers was very much the same as that of the catfish. After reading that book I could hardly find anything else that was worthy of being called fiction, and since reading it I don't go much on cooking by the methods of Slim and Hungry.

Sometimes I roast fish by putting them on the end of sticks and holding them in the fire, or cook a grouse by burying it in hot ashes, but these methods are make-shift and not to be recommended for ordinary use. On a few occasions I have had a supply of flour, but no baking powder or soda. When this happens to me I mix dough as hard as I can make it and pound it out into thin cakes and bake it in front of the fire; this makes good bread that is not sticky and that fills the bill as well as though it had baking powder in it.

To make sour dough bread I take a pint of flour, a teaspoonful of salt, a heaping tablespoonful of sugar, and, if I have it, a small piece of a yeast cake, and mix into stiff batter and put in a warm place. With yeast cake in it, it will generally be ready to use at the end of twenty-four hours, but without the yeast it takes longer. When it has fermented till there is about twice the original bulk. I take two-thirds of it in a mixing pan, with enough flour to make a stiff dough, and add a pinch of soda, dissolved in a little water, and knead into dough that can be handled without sticking to the hands. This dough may be molded into loaves or biscuits and baked at once, or put where it is warm and allowed to raise and then baked. For the next baking I mix flour, water and salt with the portion of the original mixture that is not used and put it in a warm place till needed. The amount of soda always depends on how sour the dough is, and only through experience can a man learn to gauge his soda right. Too little soda will leave the bread sour, and too much will make the bread yellow and cause it to taste of potash. For sour dough pancakes I simply add soda and syrup, or sugar, to as much of the sour dough as I want to use and beat it into a smooth batter and bake at once. The cakes are better, to my taste, to be put in a covered, dish and allowed to stand a few minutes after baking. An earthen jar is the best dish to keep sour dough in; but I generally make out with a lard pail. Sour dough that is really sour will stand freezing and thawing, and may be allowed to freeze and be kept frozen for a month and then thawed out and used, but freshly made sour dough will be killed by freezing and must be kept warm till it becomes sour.

To make baking powder biscuits I take the required amount of flour and mix it thoroughly with a rounded teaspoonful of baking powder and a half teaspoonful of salt to each pint of flour; then I take whatever shortening I wish to use and work it into the flour and add water to make a dough that can be handled without sticking to the hands. I mould this dough into biscuits with my hands, and slightly grease each biscuit as I place it in the tin. The grease keeps the biscuits from sticking together and causes them to brown nicely. It is best to bake baking powder biscuits as soon as mixed, but if they have been mixed with cold water, as they should be, and are kept cold, they will do very well baked any time within twelve hours. Heat is what causes the soda and acid to generate the gas that raises the biscuit, and by mixing the dough with hot water the biscuit raise as they are mixed and flatten out as they are baked. Always use baking powder that is made of cream of tartar and soda, and use only enough to raise the bread, and you will not find baking powder to be unhealthful.

Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.

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