To build a fire you need some light, dry wood, which you can split up with your pocket-knife into match sticks about the size of a lead pencil. When these small sticks begin to blaze, other sticks a little larger in size may be added, and this continued until the fire is as large as you wish to make it. But a bed of hot coals is the best of all fires for the cook. If a narrow trench be dug in the ground, and a fire started in it and constantly fed with small sticks until the trench is filled with glowing coals, you will have an ideal cooking fire.
Fig. 107 shows a stone camp bake-oven. It may be built of bricks, stones, or sods, or it may be dug in the side of a bank. It is only necessary that it shall have an opening for the smoke, so that there will be a draught. Fig. 108 shows the oven plastered over with wet mud or clay. Fig. 109 shows a finished oven in the form of a rounded mound of earth. To bake in this oven, build a roaring fire in it, and keep it going until it is thoroughly heated upon the inside.
Find a stone or a piece of wood with which to stop up the front opening, and another smaller piece with which to close up the chimney hole. With a stick draw all the embers from the oven, leaving no hot coals or ashes inside, then quickly place your dough, or whatever food you wish to bake, inside the heated oven. Close up the front of the oven and the chimney hole, and with some damp tie mud or clay plaster up all the cracks around the door and chimney cover, so that no heat may escape; then go away and leave the oven alone for several hours. When you come back and open it you will find your food beautifully baked.
The ordinary camp-fire is shown in Figs. 110 and 111.
People who are accustomed to an open cook-fire generally have two green logs laid side by side, about seven inches apart at one end and three inches apart at the other end, with the tops of the logs flattened so the kettles and pans may rest securely on them. A forked stake is driven in the ground at each end of the space between the logs, and a Strong pole is laid across the forks. From this pole hang the pots and kettles (Figs. 112, 113, 114, and 115).
Take a green stick (Fig. 112), Cut off all but one branch (Fig. 113), cut a notch in the other end (A A, Fig. 114), and it is a serviceable pothook (Fig. 115).
The broad space between the logs (Figs. 110 and 116) is used for the large kettles, while the smaller space is used for the coffee-pot and small utensils. The logs should be five of six feet long if there is much to be cooked, but for less cooking they may be shorter. A good fire can be kept burning between these two large logs with little trouble, and a moderate fire will last for some time with but little attention. The pots or kettles hang from the cross-pole by pothooks suspended a few inches above the large logs.
Any one of these fireplaces or ovens may be made in a vacant lot or a back yard, as well as in the real wilderness, and by their aid potatoes may be baked, green corn roasted, popcorn popped, meat cooked, and bread or biscuits baked.
If You Want to Make Biscuits
take some dry salt, one heaping teaspoonful of baking powder, and two and one-half teacupfuls of flour, and mix it all together while it is dry. While one of you stirs the Hour around with a clean wooden paddle, let the other slowly pour in enough water to make a soft dough. Now put some flour on your hands, and without wasting any time make the dough into small balls somewhat smaller than base-balls, sprinkle them over with dry flour, flatten them a little, and place them in the oven to bake.
Take four cupfuls of flour, one-half teaspoonful of salt, and one heaping teaspoonful of baking powder; mix them together and add cold water until you have a thin paste or batter. The frying-pan should be hot, and greased by rubbing it over with a piece of fat bacon or a greased paper, and should be placed over the bed of hot coals. Then pour the batter in the frying-pan until it covers the bottom of the pan. As soon as little bubbles begin to form upon the surface, turn the cake over so that the other side will brown. If you can make flapjacks and biscuits you will soon become an accomplished camp cook.
If Bread is to be Baked
for hungry fishermen or hunters, there are Dutch ovens or bake-kettles, but where room is precious, and every pound of luggage must be carried on the backs of horses or mules or men, two tin pans that fit closely together are light and bake just as well as a Dutch oven; one tin should nest into the other when packed.
Grease the tins and put the bread or "dough-god" in the smaller pan, cover it with the large one, and bury them in hot coals for about half an hour. On a real wilderness trip from which I have just returned we baked the bread in an open pan set on edge in front of the fire. On the camp-fire (Figs. 110, 111, and 116) you can cook almost any sort of a meal, but for a
Long Island Clam Roast
select a level piece of ground or a smooth, sandy spot, and on this make a hearth by paving a place with flat stones or bricks, or if you can find one large flat stone use that. Now hunt up an iron hoop such as is used on certain kinds of barrels and kegs, place the hoop on the hearth-stone, and inside the hoop put your hard-shelled clams. Set them with the part of the clam that opens pointing down, and put them close together so that they will fill up all the space inside the hoop.
Over the tops of the clams spread paper, shavings, or a layer of small, dry twigs; set fire to this and cover the fire with sticks about the thickness of your finger or thumb; make a heap of this brush over the hearth and replenish the top wood once or twice to make sure that there will be plenty of hot ashes left when the fire dies down; it is not so much the hot flames as the hot ashes that cook the clams.
When the clams open they are done. Have a pan of melted butter, some salt and pepper, then let each camper supply himself with a clean green twig whittled to a point at one end; with this as a fork he can spear the clam inside the shell, remove it, dip it in the hot butter, salt and pepper it, and eat it from the end of the stick!
is made by building the fire inside of a stone-lined pit or hole and keeping the fire going until the stones are all very, very hot. On the floor of the pit place the clams, with their "noses" down, as told in the clam roast; put a layer of sea-weed over the tops of the clams, and over this a layer of ears of sweet corn, with the fine inner husks left on; over this place another layer of sea-weed, then some new potatoes, then more sea-weed, and finally cover with a piece of an old sail; cover the sail with sand or earth and leave to steam about thirty minutes, or until it is done.
Inland boys can use the green husk of the corn instead of the sea-weed, and may cook chicken, fish, or any sort of meat by wrapping it up in wet cheese-cloth and placing it on the hot stones; over this they can put a layer of potatoes covered with more green husks, over that another layer of green husks, then some green corn, and so on, until they have the pit filled up with all the food obtainable; cover this up and allow it to steam until the viands are cooked. If properly seasoned and properly cooked there can be no better dishes made.
Roast corn by using long, pointed sticks for forks and toasting it over a hot bed of embers.
An Indoor Camp-Fire
Those who are fortunate enough to have a good open fireplace destitute of gas logs in their homes may use it for a camp-fire. The hearth should be covered with several inches of ashes before you attempt any camp-fire experiments; but when you have a foundation of hot ashes and live (wood) coals, any sort of camp cooking may be done indoors.
I have cooked a pot of beans in my studio fireplace by placing the pot in the ashes, and with the fire-shovel heaping the hot cinders up until I made a mound of them, the center of which was occupied by the pot of beans (Fig. 117). This done, I went to bed, and in the morning there was as fine a pot of baked beans, steaming hot, as ever graced a dish of a camp epicure or made a hungry man glad.
For this recipe, take a pint of beans; wash them; parboil until wrinkled skins split in cooling; drain; cover bottom of pot with sliced onion; put in half the beans, two pinches of salt, one of pepper, a layer of sliced onions, a piece of pork 4 x 4 inches; put in the remaining beans; spread a full teaspoon of molasses; add just enough warm water to cover the beans; cover pot with a piece of thin cloth; force down lid; place in hot embers as described, and as shown in Fig. 117.
It is not generally known that
is far superior to rabbit stew. Cut off the legs of the animal and keep them for a stew; spread open the body between the ordinary kitchen broilers (some thin slices of bacon should be put in the broiler with the rabbit); place it over the hot coals in your open fireplace, and broil it first on one side and then on the other. When taken from the broiler, placed upon a hot dish, and buttered with some sweet butter, you will declare that there is no game animal which can excel an ordinary cottontail in aroma, flavor, and all that goes to make food tickle a hungry palate.
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.