What are your family traditions?
One of our special traditions is Dutch Oven cooking! We try to reserve Friday evenings for slowing down, and making a simple meal over the campfire.
A Dutch Oven is a perfect way to make a home style meal, and something about the cast iron plus the campfire just brings out the wonderful flavor of whatever you’re cooking!
Cast iron is a classic material for pans and pots that stand the test of time. Early pioneers usually brought one pot with them in their covered wagons, and they chose the sturdy Dutch oven, because of its versatility, and because it will last forever if treated right. Hint: Cast iron will not last for long at all if you don’t know how to take care of it, so here is a good page that tells you just what to do for your cast iron pans!
We bought our Dutch oven about three years ago, although now it seems like we’ve had it forever! I hemmed and hawed about which one to try, and finally settled on the Lodge 6 quart with legs. This size has proven to be a great one for our family of five (who eat like bears)!
What Size Dutch Oven should I Buy?
It doesn’t matter what size you use, just pick what looks like will hold enough food to feed your tribe! Also, keep in mind what you will be cooking/baking in the Dutch Oven. If you’re baking bread or biscuits, you will want a pan that is shallower, and if you are cooking a stew or entree, you’d want a larger oven. I could not imaging using a much larger pan than we have just for a simple meal. We get filled up with soups, potatoes, and casseroles with the six quart size.
What does matter is that if you will be cooking outside in the fire, you need to get the kind of Dutch Oven with legs. This will prevent the bottom of your pan from sitting directly in the coals, because your food will burn much more quickly on the bottom.
So…we cook with our Dutch Oven outside, over the camp fire. Actually, technically, we cook IN the hot coals, not so much in the fire, or things can get burned quickly!
Charcoal Briquette Option
Note that you may also use charcoal briquettes, and there is a specific formula for how many briquettes to use for the diameter of the Dutch Oven. We’ve never actually done that since we always use a wood fire. This website contains some very helpful tips for adjusting temperature and the number of charcoal briquettes according to temperature desired, wind, and many other factors.
Here’s a very basic step by step for cooking with a Dutch Oven.
- Make a fire! Make sure you build your fire 2-3 hours ahead of the time you’d like to eat so that you get some good, red hot coals! Gotta plan ahead!
- Oil your Dutch Oven lightly.
- Prepare your feast. Ideas to follow
- Chop veggies–onions, garlic, carrots, taters, broccoli, mushrooms, etc.
- Chop veggie meats/tofu/veggie dogs (or regular)
- Assemble the ingredients in your Dutch Oven
- Put the lid on securely
- Get someone strong to lug the Dutch Oven to the campfire (they are heavy)
- Make a nice place in your coals, and put the DO in the coals. Heap coals up around your DO (Dutch Oven, since my 16-yr old son just asked).
- Cover your DO with more coals. The larger the diameter of your DO, the more coals you will need. Don’t skip this step, or you’ll have a burned bottom, and and the top won’t get done!
- Sit around and wait. Depending on what you’re cooking, you’ll need to check your goodies every 15 minutes or so. Most things will take 30 min or more to bake. But this will depend on who made your fire, how awesome of a job they did, wind speed, barometric pressure (maybe) and what you’re cooking. Potatoes will take approx. 30 mins, but maybe more, and maybe less.
- Check your feast by using
If it’s ready, Dig In! Enjoy the fruits of your labor! If you have this little thingy to place your lid on, you will have a much happier time. Trust me. It beats finding a stump, the dirty ground, or somewhere else to put that hot lid on! Sometimes, it’s the simple things that someone invents that just work!
If you’d like to learn more, you may enjoy doing what I did with our boys. We studied the Pathfinder Honor, Dutch Oven Cooking. That, along with our real-life experimentation, turned us into Dutch Oven Experts! Well…maybe just Dutch Oven Intermediates! Seriously, if you go read through the honor requirements, you will learn the history of Dutch Ovens in the Americas, you’ll find several simple recipes of things to make, and you’ll learn just about everything that a beginner would want to know about cooking with your Dutch Oven. And then you get the badge! Woo Hoo! We all got one!
If you’d like to learn how to use your Dutch Oven to cook over a regular wood-burning cook stove instead of in the camp fire, please check out this article, Dutch Oven Baking on a Wood Burning Stove, over at the Self-Sufficient Home-Acre Blog. I found this article to be super interesting, and it’s given me all kinds of ideas for the Winter months, when it’s too wet to make a fire outside! Plus, it’s cooking while heating, so that’s a plus!
While checking out some other blogs, I came across this very helpful post from Original Homesteading about how to properly care for your Dutch Oven. I think that it’s very thorough, so am including it here
We also are moving towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle. At this point, we are taking baby steps. Making simple health choices is one way. Here’s a helpful article on dealing with cold and flu naturally, moving towards a more self-sufficient way of living.
The next question is, What do I put in my Dutch Oven?
I did an informal survey of the members of my household, asking them what their favorite Dutch Oven meals consist of. Here are the results:
Oriental Noodle Bowl
- Frozen or fresh broccoli
- Chopped onions
- Chopped garlic
- Tofu, firm, cubed
- Onion powder, garlic powder, mild curry powder, salt, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
This one cooks pretty fast–15 minutes or so.
Next favorite: Classic Potato Bake
- Cubed potatoes
- Cubed onions
- Chopped garlic
- Sliced carrots
- Chopped zucchini or yellow squash, if available
- Chopped Eggplant, if available
- Salt, onion powder, nutritional yeast flakes, olive oil.
Other dishes we enjoy:
Creamy Potato Bake–Just add a Nut cheese to the Classic Potato Bake before baking.
Dutch Oven Spaghetti--Add your noodles, sauce, mushrooms, onions, garlic, Italian Seasonings, salt, and enough water to cover. Water will be absorbed into noodles while cooking.
Lentil Stew. Be sure to season well, make it liquidy, and add a lot of mushrooms! Yum!
Dutch Oven Dessert!
Lightly butter your Dutch Oven. Place fresh or frozen fruit of your choice in the Dutch Oven. We like Blueberries, Apples, Blackberries, or Peaches. You may mix them up or just use one kind. Canned Pie Filling also works well, but we tend to not like all that sweetness. Lightly sweeten your fruit with sugar, Stevia powder or honey. Squeeze a lemon into this, and mix in a couple tablespoons of Corn Starch, if desired.
Sprinkle on top: 2-3 cups Quick Oats, a few T Sugar, a squeeze of Honey or Molasses. 1/2 tsp salt, a dash of Cinnamon or Coriander, Shredded Coconut, chopped walnuts or pecans, and 1/3 c Coconut Oil/Margarine.
Cover and bake until bubbly!
Find your own Family Favorites!
There are tons of Dutch Oven recipes out there, and you’ll find one that suits you if you do a little search! Everything tastes better over a camp fire!
Simple Vegan Nut Cheese Sauce Recipe:
- 3/4 cup Raw Cashews or Blanched Almonds
- 2 cups water
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 -1 tsp onion powder
- 2 Tbs Nutritional Yeast Flakes
- Blend all of this very well.
- Then add, 2 peeled, cubed, cooked potatoes
- 1/2 c cooked carrots
- 2 cups water
- Blend some more
- Add 1-2 Tbs Corn Starch or Arrowroot
- Blend, and pour over pasta, vegetables, for lasagna, or for Haystacks (Taco Salad)
We’ve had some fun in the past with Dutch Oven Cooking. Here’s a post from my old homeschooling blog about when we first learned about Dutch Ovens and preparedness. One of my favorites from the archives. Simple Practical Timeless
I hope this has given you some ideas on how to create a simple family tradition around the campfire! Dutch Oven cooking may not be your thing, but if you look, I’m sure you’ll come up with something that your family will love and enjoy, while making irreplaceable memories for the future!
Why don’t you share a few of your family traditions? Leave a comment below! You just may give someone a great idea for their family!
Shared at Grace at Home Blog Hop