Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Roughin' it

I've been a camper since I can remember. Having a summer birthday meant that many times we were on some kind of family camping trip, so we celebrated with birthday cake in the mountains - my favorite! One of our favorite places was Boulder Mountain where the air is clear and the fishing is good. My dad, even with his big "sausage fingers" knew how to tie every fishing knot in the book with amazing agility. I think he spent most of the time untangling our line or getting a hook out of the trees or someone's clothes. The rule was that we cleaned what we caught - gross, huh? I actually don't remember being too grossed out...more like disgustingly fascinated.
So, five years ago when my husband and I were asked to participate in a re-enactment of a pioneer trek across the plains (not the actual plains, but eastern Washington), we were excited! We were instant parents ("Ma"and "Pa") to ten kids aged 14 to 18 years old, and not having any children of our own yet, we were a little nervous about what to expect. We'd been married for about 1 1/2 years, and we still agree that it was one of the best experiences we've had together. By the end of the 4-day journey, we were exhausted but filled with gratitude for those who paved the way before us, and filled with the spirit of service, friendship a brief first-hand experience of enduring to the end.
The girls pulling the cart by themselves while the boys were recruited for the Mormon Battalion. This is one of my favorite photos - those girls worked HARD on a hot day and did it by themselves.

Yes, that would be me milking a goat.

This IS my very favorite photo. Look at that rugged man of a man!


It's a little blurry, but it's the only photo I have of us all sitting down at the dinner "table" - the handcart with the wheels taken off and turned over. These are awesome kids!


We cooked every day and night in our Dutch oven, whether it was beef stew, cornmeal mush (not a favorite, but the kids were so hungry that it didn't have to be that good), oatmeal or a special treat of homemade bread. At home we like to Dutch oven cook even when we're not camping. All we do is use a foil turkey pan so we don't leave a burn spot on the porch from the coals.

Here's the recipe for the bread - the quantities are big because it fills a 12" Dutch oven. I think I remember it lifting the lid off the top as it baked, so we could have reduced it or saved some of the dough for cinnamon rolls or scones the next morning. I hope you'll try it and let me know how it turns out!

Dutch Oven Bread - Pioneer Style
Put 14 cups of flour in a LARGE mixing bowl and make five wells with your hand. In the middle well pour in 2 packages of yeast and pour lukewarm water over the top so that it will start dissolving. Don't let the yeast run out of the well.

In the remaining wells place the following ingredients:
1 cup shortening
4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups dry powdered milk
4 TB honey
Mix all together thoroughly. Add water until the dough becomes sticky (dough must be sticky for the ingredients to mix). Knead well, adding flour until the mixture becomes dough-like and smooth. Place in oiled Dutch oven and cover with the lid (also oiled). Set the oven in a warm place for it to rise double.

Start coals in a charcoal chimney, and place the proper number of coals on top and below the oven (Add three to the diameter of the oven for the top and subtract three from the diameter for the bottom. So, for a 12" Dutch oven, place 15 on top and 9 on the bottom. As a general rule, each hot briquette is about 25 degrees).

Allow to cook about 30 minutes. If coals burn out before the bread is done, brush them off and replace with new hot coals. The bread is done when you stick a knife in the center and it comes out clean.

Note: It's easy to burn the bread on the bottom. After 30 minutes, you may find that it needs to cook longer - place more coals on the top, and even take the oven off the bottom coals and let the remainder of the cooking come from the top coals. Check the bread every 10 minutes or so.

Eat warm with homemade butter - Put 1 pint of heavy cream in a jar and start shakin'. This is like a modern churn, and it can take up to 45 minutes for it to solidify and turn to butter. Just pass it around and everyone take a turn. Buttermilk will settle on the top. Just pour it off and enjoy fresh butter.

1 comment:

  1. what a great recipe--where did you get it? Also, how much water is in there for the yeast to dissolve? I need to do more dutch oven cooking out here--maybe dessert tomorrow. :)