BY RICHARD MOOREY
THERE'S something special about spending time in the great outdoors. Getting away from the city for a few days with family and friends and out into some fresh air, sunshine among the beautiful lakes and the majestic forests that Northwestern Ontario has to offer is nothing short of a perfect way to decompress. With our short summers, so many of us try to take advantage of getting out to enjoy all the great things camping has to offer as much as we can.
Exploring, swimming, fishing, hiking, sitting around the campfire and stargazing are definitely some of the highlight activities of time at camp and are bound to keep the crew busy. But after all the high energy activities of the day and with dinner approaching your outdoor adventurers will for sure be looking to fuel up on some good eats. Your troops are usually so ravenous by dinner time that it doesn’t really matter what you’re cooking, but whatever it is, things somehow always just seem to taste better when they’re cooked on the fire at camp.
Camp food usually includes the basics like hotdogs, hamburgers, the day’s catch, potatoes and maybe some vegetables for good measure. But there is nothing that says camp food can’t be gourmet. I mean what’s to stop you from slow roasting a whole herb crusted chicken, coal firing crab legs with melted lime butter, making cast iron corn bread for a hearty lamb and stout stew or even grilling thick ribeye steaks and corn on the cob finishing them both with sundried tomato café butter.
If you said this all sounds more like it’s off of a restaurant menu as opposed to a campfire most people might agree but I assure you meals like these are completely within reach and sure to make all your camp neighbours jealous.
Whether you’re a basic tent and sleeping bag camper, have a 15-metre Rolls Royce trailer or anything in between, there’s nothing stopping you from eating like royalty while you are out enjoying all that nature has to offer. With a little imagination, some culinary know how and a touch of prudent planning you can take all the best of campfire flavours and incorporate them into gourmet back woods eats.
Mapping out your menu in advance is the best way to get a jump start on eating well in the woods. Plan your menus to use the most perishable of items first. For instance if you’re going to do a fish or seafood meal you will do well to make those meals in the first day or two of your getaway.
Always buy the freshest ingredients you can and use a good cooler with lots of ice to keep things cold. Blocks of ice work the best for food storage as they provide ample chill and last longer than cubes. I like to use wire rack shelves in the cooler as well so things like bottles and jars which are waterproof can sit in the bottom but things like breads, lettuces and cheeses which aren’t can be up and out of any melt water.
Prepackaging ingredients in the quantities that recipes call for can save a lot of space and using waterproof storage like Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers is always a great idea.
Lining the bottom of bags with a little damp paper towel for things like fresh herbs, vegetables and lettuce is always a great way to keep things fresh and having those little waterproof containers is perfect for ingredients like premixed spices, liquids like vanilla, stocks and barbecue sauce and small quantities of dairy and butter.
For cooking, heavy duty pots and cast iron pans work amazingly well and will stay hot longer, disperse heat well and help you keep things from burning. Thick heavy duty aluminum foil and disposable pans can be extremely useful and bringing along some lump hardwood charcoal can help you keep a bed of hot coals rolling longer for cooking.
By using some of these tips and tricks and mapping out your meals in advance you can take your backwoods eating experience to the next level and create some serious campfire tastitude of your own that is sure to take your taste buds on their own outdoor adventure while you and your crew gets back to the wild. Here’s a recipe to get you started.
Lifted Kilt Bacon Wrapped Back Ribs
2 racks of back ribs
1 lb thick cut slab bacon
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili flake
1 cup Lifted Kilt Scotch Whiskey Barbecue Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle each rack of back ribs with garlic, chili flakes and salt and pepper. Wrap pieces of thick cut slab bacon around the back ribs until covered.
Triple wrap each of the racks separately with heavy duty aluminum foil ensuring a tight seal.
Place the ribs on the campfire cooking rack over a hot bed of coals for 45 minutes. Keep a good bed of hot coals the entire time and turn the packages over every ten minutes or so.
After 45 minutes open each of the packages and drain the excess fat. Place the bacon wrapped ribs directly on the cooking rack to crisp the bacon watching for flare ups and turning as required.
About 5 minutes before removing the ribs apply Lifted Kilt Scotch Whiskey BBQ Sauce liberally to the ribs turning and brushing both sides. Allow the sauce to glaze and create a little bark on the outside of the ribs.
Remove and allow the ribs to rest covered in foil for 10 minutes. Cut and serve as desired.
(We served ours with loaded baked potatoes and cilantro and lime buttered corn)
Richard Moorey (aka Chef House) can be reached with email to email@example.com, through his website at www.evot.ca, or on his Facebook group Evolution of Tastitude. You can follow him on Twitter @House_74.