The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild - Dave Canterbury (2016)
Part III. Living Off the Land
Chapter 16. Dave’s Favorite Recipes
“Fat gives things flavor.”
In this chapter, I’m sharing my favorite campfire cooking recipes with you.
These recipes have stood the test of time.
This no-frills bread will fill you up if you run low on other food supplies.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 package (1⁄4 ounce) active dry yeast
21⁄4 cups water
Small amount of fat, such as lard or vegetable oil
1. Mix together the dry ingredients. Warm the water to about 110ºF (too hot or too cold and the yeast won’t activate). If you don’t have a thermometer, water of this temperature is about what you’d want for a nice warm shower—not too hot, not too cold.
2. Slowly add water to dry ingredients while mixing to form a dough consistency. Cover with a rag and let stand in a warm place for 24 hours (90–100°F). Dough should double in size.
3. Working on a floured board, knead about 6–8 times. Grease the dough with lard or vegetable oil and shape into a loaf. Cut a cross in the top of the loaf and let stand for about 1 hour.
4. If cooking in a Dutch oven, use fewer bottom coals and double on the top of the lid. Rotate the lid about every 5 minutes and cook 20 minutes on medium heat. You can also cook in a loaf pan or other type of cooking pot, but use a lid, or form a lid from aluminum foil, to help trap the heat and cook the bread thoroughly. It’s done when it makes a hollow sound when tapped on the top.
Cat Head Biscuits
These drop biscuits are as big as a cat’s head—thus their name. For kids, a fun variation on this recipe is to form the dough around the end of a stick and cook it over the campfire, then pull it off and eat.
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup lard (or butter or shortening)
1 cup buttermilk
1. Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in lard and add buttermilk.
2. Mix to a formable dough and knead 8 times on a floured board. Roll out or flatten by hand so dough is about 1" thick.
3. Cut out biscuits by hand or use an opened can to cut them out. Biscuits should be about 3–4" in diameter.
4. Cook in a greased Dutch oven about 20 minutes.
5. To make buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup milk and stir.
Mountain Man Breakfast
For those mornings when you’ve got a big appetite!
4 large russet potatoes (any kind will do), cut into chunks
1⁄2 tube of sausage such as Jimmy Dean Premium Pork Sausage or 8 ounces sausage, sliced or crumbled
1⁄2 pound medium Cheddar cheese, grated
1. In a Dutch oven, boil potatoes until partially cooked, about 10–15 minutes.
2. While potatoes are boiling, cook sausage in a skillet until cooked through, about 8–10 minutes. Remove sausage from skillet and set aside.
3. Add eggs to sausage fat in skillet and scramble.
4. Drain potatoes. Add eggs and sausage to potatoes in Dutch oven. Add cheese. Cover and cook 20 minutes on medium heat.
This hearty meal doesn’t have to be for breakfast!
4 large hard-boiled eggs, shells removed
1 pound ground sausage, any kind
11⁄4 cups corn flour, wheat flour, or bread crumbs
Salt, ground black pepper, and other seasonings of choice to taste
2 fresh eggs
2–3 cups oil (your choice) for frying
1. Dry hard-boiled eggs with a towel or rag. Pat sausage into thin patties and wrap each egg completely.
2. Mix together flour and seasonings in a shallow dish.
3. Break the fresh eggs into another shallow dish and scramble well.
4. Dip sausage-egg roll in egg and then roll in breading mix.
5. Fry in oil in a Dutch oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning halfway through. Serve.
Serve with pan-fried hash browns for a hearty meal.
1 pound ground sausage, any type
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
3 cups Bisquick
1⁄2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
Mix together all ingredients and roll into small balls, about black walnut size. Cook in a greased Dutch oven 10–15 minutes or until done (no pink in center).
If you purchase dried beans without seasoning, add 2–3 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning to the pot.
1 bag mixed soup beans with seasoning (about 20 ounces)
1 pound salt-cured bacon, diced
1. Add beans to Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium or medium-high coals. Boil 10 minutes.
2. Add bacon. Boil an additional 10 minutes, then move to low-heat part of fire and cook 1 hour.
This traditional campfire favorite uses up all your leftovers so you don’t have to pack them out. I generally make this in a bush pot for myself.
1–2 large potatoes
2–3 tablespoons dried vegetables or leftover vegetables
Old Bay Seasoning or your preference, to taste
1. In a Dutch oven or bush pot, cook whatever meat is left over in camp by boiling until tender.
2. Add more liquid after boiling to raise pot back to 3⁄4 full. Add potatoes and vegetables.
3. Cook until all contents are heated through and water is reduced to about 1⁄4 of the pot, about 30 minutes. You can add instant potatoes for a thickener if the stew is thin. Season to taste and serve.
As long as you don’t tell them in New Orleans, you can use any seafood for this jambalaya.
1 package ground sausage (about 16 ounces)
8–12 fresh crawfish (tail meat only)
1 bag precooked rice (8–9 ounces), (I like Uncle Ben’s Butter & Garlic Ready Rice)
2 medium onions, diced
3 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄2 cup water
Brown sausage in a Dutch oven. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 30 minutes or until rice is cooked through. Serve.
This Bread Pudding goes great with Camp Jambalaya.
8 slices stale bread
2 eggs or powdered equivalent
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1⁄4 cup butter
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon or nutmeg
1⁄2 cup fresh raspberries
Topping of your choice—cinnamon, brown sugar, or molasses
1. Cut bread into small cubes and set aside. In a small bowl, beat eggs and salt together and set aside.
2. Place milk and butter in a 2-quart saucepan and heat until scalded.
3. In a large bowl, add bread, sugar, cinnamon, and egg mixture. Slowly add milk and butter mixture. Stir until bread is well soaked. Stir in raspberries.
4. Pour mixture into a small Dutch oven or pot and bake 30–45 minutes or until golden brown on top and heated all the way through. Top with cinnamon, brown sugar, or molasses and serve.
S’mores aren’t the only way to satisfy your sweet tooth at a campfire!
1⁄4 cup butter, melted
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
3⁄4 cup milk
2 cups fresh raspberries (any fruit will work for this; if using canned fruit, strain first)
Mix all ingredients except fruit into a batter. Pour batter into a Dutch oven. Scatter in the fruit. Cook 1 hour over medium heat or until bubbling.
These recipes cook up fast—but they’re still full of flavor.
Pigs in a Blanket
Use a stick to cook these just like marshmallows over the fire.
8–10 link sausages or 3–4 hot dogs or 1 kielbasa sausage, cut into 4 pieces
1 package quick 3-cheese biscuit mix (about 71⁄2 ounces), prepared according to package directions
1. Boil sausage or hot dogs in water 6–10 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from water and pat dry.
2. Roll the prepared dough into a rectangle and cut into strips about 1" wide. Wrap the dough around the sausages like a ribbon spiraling the sausage.
3. Place on a stick and cook over medium coals for 5 minutes, turning constantly. Eat right off the stick or dip in a ranch dressing.
For a different flavor, try adding pineapple chunks to the kabob.
3–4 smoked sausage links, cut into 2" slices
4 new red potatoes, quartered
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
Thread sausage, potatoes, and peppers onto skewers or a stick, alternating ingredients. Cook over medium coals until sausage and potatoes are cooked well.
This dish can work for any fish. Substitute ramps for the onion if you prefer.
1 fresh-caught trout
1 medium onion, sliced
3 tablespoons butter, sliced
Garlic, salt, and ground black pepper to taste
1. After gutting the trout, lay on heavy foil with enough on all sides to completely fold over the fish. Place onions, butter, garlic, salt, and pepper in cavity. Fold foil over and crimp shut so juices don’t escape.
2. Cook on top of coal bed about 10 minutes, turning once. When done skin should peel off easy and meat should fall off the bone.
A very good friend of mine, Marci Waleff, is a Viking re-enactor (she goes by the name Mistress Marsi of Hadley) and a great outdoor cook. She generously shared some of her best outdoor cooking recipes with us.
This simple cheese recipe is a fun camp activity. Reserve the whey produced in this recipe for other uses.
1 gallon whole milk (not ultrapasteurized)
1⁄2 cup vinegar
Sea salt or smoked salt to taste
1. Set up your workstation with a cheesecloth or linen cloth in your whey-catching bucket.
2. Heat milk over the fire to the boiling point. Remove from fire as soon as it boils.
3. Quickly add vinegar and stir. You will see the milk curdle and the solids separate from the liquid.
4. At the workstation, lift the curds into the cheese cloth. I use a simple linen cloth or large cotton flour sack material. Once you have lifted the curds that will come out in a solid form, pour the remainder of the material slowly into your cloth-lined bucket. You may squeeze unwanted whey from the cloth or leave it to hang for an hour or so.
5. Add sea salt to taste and enjoy.
This should keep for several weeks just wrapped in linen cloth provided you have used quality dried ingredients. If you use fresh fruit in lieu of dried fruit, your mix will be more moist; therefore, you should eat the oatcake within a week or so. As this ages it dries out, so it is a great traveler’s companion.
1⁄4 cup honey
1⁄2 cup lard or butter
4 cups of your favorite dried mix of all-natural oats, dried berries, fruit, grains, and nuts (you can even use all-natural organic granola)
2 pinches sea salt
1⁄2–1 cup oat flour (do not use wheat flour)
Your favorite sweet spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, pie spice, mace, etc. (I usually add at least 1 teaspoon or so of these spices combined. Spice as you see fit. You can experiment here.)
2 large eggs (optional)
1⁄2 cup brown sugar or cane sugar (optional)
1⁄2 cup dried/smoked meat, fresh fruit or berries, seeds, or cinnamon and sugar as topping (optional)
1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and pulverize. A potato masher, meat mallet, or heavy-duty wooden spoon works great. The consistency should mimic Play-Doh with rice. You can always add extra dry ingredients if too thin.
2. Grease 2 round cake pans or prewarmed Dutch ovens.
3. Divide mixture and press into cake pans or Dutch ovens. If desired you may top with seeds or cinnamon and sugar. Be sure to press any toppings into the cake.
4. Bake at medium to medium-low heat for about 30 minutes or until edges of oatcake begin to darken slightly and move away from the sides of the pan. If cooking in a Dutch oven, pull coals away from your main fire, sit Dutch oven on coals, pack coals around the edges, and lay coals on top.
5. Immediately after they are removed from the oven or fire you will need to press the cakes under a heavy weight. You can choose a flat rock or griddle and top with the Dutch ovens. Leave sit away from critters for several hours to overnight.
6. Enjoy! The older the oatcake gets the drier it becomes. However, lard will maintain its moisture longer than most fats. This is helpful in flavoring, consistency, and preservation.
A delicious side when served with fish.
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whey, water, or milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt (try smoked salt for even better flavor)
Hot oil or lard for frying
1. Mix all ingredients except oil together to the consistency of a thick cake batter.
2. Place lard or oil in cauldron or Dutch oven sitting on hot coals or hanging over the fire with consistent heat.
3. When oil is hot (a small piece of batter dropped into the oil sizzles) drop batter into oil by large spoonfuls.
4. Turn hush puppies several times to brown evenly, about 2–3 minutes each.
5. Remove and enjoy! Try various dips and toppings. I like vinegar on my hush puppies.
Be careful in tasting and grating horseradish as it contains caustic oils that can burn the skin and eyes. Sauce is excellent when used to coat meat that you will flash-fry prior to roasting.
2 parts wild horseradish
1 part olive oil
Salt, to taste
Scrape the horseradish root with the back of your knife or grate. Macerate the horseradish greens. Add olive oil. Salt to taste and serve.
Any fatty fish such as salmon or trout can be used. I have personally used trout and salmon.
1 fresh-caught trout
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup fresh dill or fresh mint
1. Clean your fish, leaving skin on.
2. Split fish down the center. Be sure to remove pin bones by running your hand down along the fish against the grain.
3. Mix together dry ingredients (not including the mint or dill). Rub dry ingredients onto flesh of fish. Sandwich dill or mint inside of fish.
4. Tie fish together with skin side out. Wrap in waxed linen, waxed paper, or plastic wrap.
5. Keep cool 3–5 days. Weather permitting, bury the whole operation 12–18" in the earth, or add this to your cooler or refrigerator with a weight on top.
6. After 3–5 days, remove, rinse, slice thin, and serve. For a hint of citrus in the out of doors, add wood sorrel leaves to your fish prior to serving.
You can use any berries you like for this recipe—try a mix of several.
2–3 cups fresh or frozen berries
1 cup rolled or steel-cut oats
1⁄2 cup whole-wheat flour
1⁄2 cup brown sugar or organic cane sugar
1⁄2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Put berries in the bottom of a well-seasoned Dutch oven. (If berries are very tart, top with a little sugar and cinnamon now.)
2. Mix together oats, flour, sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Top berries with this mixture.
3. Place in coals about 30 minutes or until berries are bubbling. Serve and enjoy!
Easy Peach Cobbler
This recipe really couldn’t be any easier!
1 can peaches (about 16 ounces)
1 package spice cake mix (about 151⁄2 ounces)
1⁄2 cup butter, if desired
1. Empty can of peaches into Dutch oven, juice and all. Shake dry cake mix on top of peaches. If desired, place dabs of butter on top of cake mix.
2. Bury the Dutch oven in the coals for approximately 30–40 minutes until peaches are thick and bubbly.
Easy Chocolate Cherry Lava Cobbler
Nothing goes better with the great outdoors than a little chocolate!
10 ounces Dr. Pepper or Coke
1 package chocolate cake mix (about 151⁄2 ounces)
2 cans cherry pie filling (about 20 ounces each)
1. Preheat seasoned Dutch oven to medium.
2. Take a drink from a 12-ounce can of soda. Add soda to cake mix and mix slightly.
3. Empty pie filling into the bottom of Dutch oven. Spoon batter on top of cherries. Cover with lid.
4. Cover Dutch oven in coals and bake approximately 30–40 minutes or until cake is set.
Tips and Tricks
· Cooking over a campfire or using a camp stove is not as predictable as using a regular stove or oven. Keep an eye on your meal, and don’t be afraid to turn food items over frequently to assure even cooking. You may need to rake hotter coals closer to your pot as you cook to ensure thorough cooking.
· You’ll enjoy your meals more if you use what’s local to make the recipes, especially if you’ve foraged for or caught it yourself.
· Try some of your favorite recipes over a campfire. Choose recipes that don’t have a lot of steps and don’t require a lot of bowls, pots, and pans. You’ll be cooking like a pro in no time.
· All of the recipes in this book are just meant to get you started. Add your own variations to the meals. If you’re not a big sausage fan, use ground beef. If you didn’t pack in Old Bay Seasoning, try your favorite blend. Check out the Simple Ingredient Substitutions table in Chapter 5 for more ideas.
· To get a sense of the possibilities, try cooking in a variety of ways—on the coals, in foil, using a Dutch oven, on a stick. You’ll see that just about any recipe you can dream up at home can be made in camp.