May 24, 2018

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Cookbook for 'survivalists with standards'

Recipes for campers who want to thrive, not just survive

The May long weekend — whether it’s roasting hot or drizzling snow — is the surest sign of summer in Manitoba. For the adventurous among you, it means hitting the road and setting up shop at a campsite.

Some folks grew up camping, others got a late start and have to learn the ropes as adults. You don’t want to be slouched on a large stone, matches in hand, kicking at your Coleman stove trying to strike a camp. A little research will help beginners get a well-planned, well-fed start on the summer.

But before you strike that match — before you even leave the house — be reminded that owing to Manitoba’s dry conditions, open fires are prohibited in some places. Either plan to eat cold meals all weekend or be sure to have a properly maintained campstove with you. Buckets of water standing by your stove are not a bad idea, either.

Eating well is going to require two things. The first is a properly stocked camp kitchen with all the right tools and food. There is nothing worse than trying to cook away from home and discovering you’re missing a can opener or a corkscrew.

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The May long weekend — whether it’s roasting hot or drizzling snow — is the surest sign of summer in Manitoba. For the adventurous among you, it means hitting the road and setting up shop at a campsite.

Some folks grew up camping, others got a late start and have to learn the ropes as adults. You don’t want to be slouched on a large stone, matches in hand, kicking at your Coleman stove trying to strike a camp. A little research will help beginners get a well-planned, well-fed start on the summer.

(Supplied)</p>

(Supplied)

But before you strike that match — before you even leave the house — be reminded that owing to Manitoba’s dry conditions, open fires are prohibited in some places. Either plan to eat cold meals all weekend or be sure to have a properly maintained campstove with you. Buckets of water standing by your stove are not a bad idea, either.

Eating well is going to require two things. The first is a properly stocked camp kitchen with all the right tools and food. There is nothing worse than trying to cook away from home and discovering you’re missing a can opener or a corkscrew.

The second requirement is a collection of camp-friendly, reliable recipes that can be executed with minimal fuss.

To that end, try The Campout Cookbook: Inspired Recipes for Cooking Around the Fire and Under the Stars by Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson.

The Campout Cookbook is weather-ready with a rubbery, water-resistant cover (in case you get rained out or sloppy with your joe). Inside, you’ll find more than recipes. There’s cast-iron care, fire tools, choosing a spot, lists aplenty, car games and sage advice on skinny-dipping, making it a fun-loving handbook for beginners.

One quirky bonus is a nice two-page spread on matching the right shape of branch to the food you wish to skewer and roast over the fire, whether it’s bacon, cherry tomatoes, grilled cheese sandwich (quartered and threaded) or an egg (carefully poke a hole in each end of a raw egg, thread a thinly sharpened green stick through the holes).

The authors advise campers to "pack heavy." (They dedicate the book to "survivalists with standards.") This is actually pretty good advice for beginners (though you might want to consider whether you really want to take tablecloths). It’s better to find out whether or not you need something if you have it in hand; you can pare down your pack list as you gain experience.

Nothing beats waiting for a meal cooked over open flame at your campsite. (Larry Crowe / The Associated Press files)</p>

Nothing beats waiting for a meal cooked over open flame at your campsite. (Larry Crowe / The Associated Press files)

The assumption is you will take the authors’ advice, and that’s reflected in some of the recipes — there are plenty of suggestions for prepping food ahead of time — so camp cooks will find some of them a wee bit more challenging. If you already cook, no problem — you’re just in a slightly more primitive, possibly bear-infested setting.

The Campout Cookbook is filled with watercolour illustrations, diagramming many of the tips and ideas, such as the "camp cookery kit" housed in a tackle box. 

The authors suggest including camp-size provision: salt and pepper, meat rubs and spice mixes, whole-grain mustard, chili powder, hot sauce and olive oil.

They also suggest a variety of packaged dry mixes for such things as coffee cake, pancakes, cobbler, campfire cake (blended dry ingredients of homemade cake mix, or you can use store-bought) and mug cake.

Other helpful items include Underberg (German bitters designed to quell digestive upset), honey, maple syrup, instant espresso and miniature bottles of bourbon.

The Campout Cookbook also has detailed tips for cooking with foil packets, the camp cook’s lightweight secret weapon. Here is a shortened excerpt:

  • Build a better steam trap: add moisture (water, wine, coconut milk, etc). Use enough foil to ensure an air pocket around the food. Ensure a tight fold to trap the steam.
  • Dress in layers: place meat on the bottom of the packet. Next layer is vegetables, then lighter herbs, minced garlic, and top it all with your liquids and fats so they can drizzle down.
  • Smorgaspacket: prepare a variety of ingredients in containers ahead of camp and let diners mix and match their own meal.

These tips and the recipe below are excerpted from The Campout Cookbook (Artisan Books, $30), used with permission from the publisher.

Twitter: @WendyKinginWpg  

 

Braised Bratwurst & Camp Stove Caraway Cabbage

Ingredients:   

Stock a tackle box with these foodstuffs, and you’ll be ready to flee civilization at a moment’s notice, without sacrificing the essentials (i.e.: coffee cake and bourbon). (Illustration by Emily Isabella)</p>

Stock a tackle box with these foodstuffs, and you’ll be ready to flee civilization at a moment’s notice, without sacrificing the essentials (i.e.: coffee cake and bourbon). (Illustration by Emily Isabella)

30 ml (2 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil

6 bratwurst sausages

125 g (4 oz) thick-cut bacon sliced into 1-cm (1/2-inch) pieces

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced

10 ml (2 tsp) caraway seeds (you can toast them a bit before cooking)

50 ml (1/4 cup) red wine vinegar or more to taste

15 ml (1 tbsp) dark brown sugar

5 ml (1 tsp) kosher salt

2 ml (1/2 tsp) freshly ground pepper

 

In the Backpack:   

12-inch cast-iron skillet

Barbecue tongs

Dutch oven

Serving platter

Serving spoon

 

Method:  

1. Set up the camp stove.

2. To cook the sausage: Combine the olive oil and 125 ml (1/2 cup) water in cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Prick the bratwurst all over with a fork and add to the skillet. Cook for 15 minutes, turning once. Turn up the heat to medium-high and boil off the water. Flip the sausages so they brown on all sides.

3. Meanwhile make the cabbage: Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion and cook in the bacon grease for five minutes. Add the cabbage and caraway seeds and cook until the cabbage has wilted, about 7 minutes. Add the vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and pepper and cook for 10 minutes more, until the cabbage is soft. Return the bacon to the dish. Taste, and add another tablespoon of vinegar if the cabbage needs a little more zip and adjust the seasoning.

4. Transfer the cabbage to a serving platter and top with the brats.

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