Monday, July 20, 2009

Dutch ovens really work!

I love cast iron cookware. I dunno, maybe it's just the straightforward heavy duty utility of the stuff. I mean, a lot of it is as plain as a mud fence. I don't really know what is available now, 'cause I buy mine at junque shoppes, but there have been some interesting things made for cooking, from little bitty frying pans to huge ones, griddles, sauce pans, tea kettles, muffin pans.
Hey, one of my favorites is a special pan for baking individual serving cornbread in which the cornbread is molded to look like half an ear of corn. Top that!. I've even got a waffle iron made for the top of wood ranges with the round lid over the firebox removed. The iron itself hinges at the end away from the handles and the hinge turns into a ball which then neatly fits into a socket in the holder which looks kinda like an upside down saucepan with no bottom. the side of the iron by the handles is a sort of roller when it is closed, and that fits neatly into a slot in the holder. This is to allow the waffle iron to be turned over without removing it from the holder..... neat, huh? Hey, I wonder if I could make waffles over the grill on a campfire...... Anyway, the utinsil that impresses me most is the dutch oven, that relatively shallow pot with a bail and a lid that covers the edges of the pot itself. This is important because to use the dutch oven you move the coals of your campfire and set the oven down on a shallow bed of coals and cover the lid with more coals and you don't want ashes getting inside the oven. This allows the heat to come down on top of whatever you are baking just like a..a.. well, an oven. Kewl. I picked up one at some yard sale or whatever and it only needed a little cleaning up, so I scoured that puppy out and baked the proper glaze into the cooking surface so stuff wouldn't stick and took it camping this weekend. I made biscuits. I'm no baker, and really not much of a camp cook, but how hard could it be? Anyway, it's more fun to approach new stuff with the attitude that "When all else fails, read the destructions." Did you see Lonesome Dove? Remember the scene where Gus is up way early with his coffee and is making biscuits in a dutch oven? He brushes off the coals and ashes carefully and lifts the lid and there are these beautiful fluffy golden brown sourdough biscuits. Wow! I make drop biscuits from Bisquick. I'm just not that ambitious. So I carefully let the fire build a bed of coals while drinking my camp coffee, and I put the drop biscuits into the dutch oven, covered it and properly got it bedded and covered with burning coals. NOw, normally, I make biscuits in a toater oven and you can see the things through the glass door. Cast iron lids aren't that easy to see through, so I did it by guess and by golly. I decided that the time was long enough before carefully removing the coals, brushing off the ashes and lifting the lid. The time was long enough. Dutch ovens are also great for making charcoal.


  1. Nate--I love your "voice" as a writer, and the way you notice what is important (and funny) in ordinary situations.

    But could I ask you a favor? Reading online is very different for me (for most readers, I'm told) than reading a printed page. The pixils are more of an eye-strain or something, or maybe it's the narrow column widths.

    But the upshot is that it is really hard to read solid, unbroken blocks of text. I find that on my own blog, I've gradually moved to much shorter paragraphs than I use in print. Maybe to a fault...

    But I would find your blog easier to read with more frequent paragraph breaks. I always enjoy the blog when I read it... but, I confess, on days I'm tired or in a hurry, I'll skip your blog, and it's really just about the formatting.

    Just a thought. (And better luck with the next batch of biscuit/charcoal!)

  2. Thank you, Cat. I guess I have seen the same thing without it really registering, ya know?

    The second attempt at biscuits was MUCH better. I patted out the dough and cut uniform biscuits. They were all golden brown and pretty on top, but two fo the seven did not rise as much and the bottoms were somewhat burned. Clearly, I gotta pay more attention to the bed the oven sits on, but really good biscuits!