Dutch ovens a good idea when camping

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Cast iron center: Bass Pro Shops in Portage, ind., offer a wide variety of cast iron products, including Dutch ovens. | Supplied photo

Eric Blue’s
campfire venison


One venison roast

Brown soda pop

Lemon or lime

Seasonal root vegetables

Seasonings to taste

Marinate the roast overnight in a brown soda pop like Coca Cola or Dr. Pepper with some fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice. Marinating will tenderize the roast. Fill the bottom of your cast iron pan with a layer of season vegetables like potatoes, parsnips and carrots. Place the roast on top of the vegetables. Season to taste. Place the lid on and slow cook until done.

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Sometimes traditional is best when it comes to cooking your catch and the Dutch oven remains a campfire culinary expert’s favorite go-to tool.

For about 25 years Eric Blue, camping lead at Bass Pro Shops in Portage, has been refining his campfire cooking skills by creating culinary masterpieces inside the old-fashioned standby.

“A Dutch oven is great for camping because of the material it is made with; it heats evenly when you cook on an actual campfire flame,” Blue said. His favorite fall harvest dish is venison roast with vegetables.

Even cooking also makes for good baking.

“Cobblers are the best because they are simple and you can feed a lot of people with them,” Blue said.

While Blue does most of his cooking on an open campfire, charcoal briquettes work just as well to achieve the same effect with the Dutch oven just about anywhere. Cooking with a Dutch oven is simple, but it may take some trial and error before mastering the correct heat to use.

“Once you’ve cooked long enough with cast iron, you learn how many coals and embers you need to regulate the heat,” Blue said.

Most Dutch ovens come with a chart with suggested coal or ember amounts to help out the beginners. Mastering the coals, embers and how often to rotate the pot on the fire come with time. Bass Pro Shops provides a full line of American-made Dutch ovens and related supplies by Lodge to help make campfire cooking easier, including Blue’s personal campfire kitchen must-haves — a great coffee pot and a cast iron pot.

Bird cooking

Dutch ovens work great for slow cooking, but some of the game hens harvested each season need a much quicker approach. Michelle Hobbs, general manager for Islamorada Fish Co. inside Bass Pro Shops, said grilling fits the bill for cooking birds like quail and pheasant.

Hobbs, who is also a trained chef, said game birds are very small so cooks have to be careful to not dry them out during the cooking process. She likes wrapping the birds in bacon to retain the moisture while they cook.

“You have to be careful with them, they dry out really easy. There’s not a ton of fat,” Hobbs said.

Another method that works well with game birds is spatchcocking – a technique of cutting and dressing the bird for grilling. Using kitchen shears, the backbone of the bird is removed, the wings and legs tucked in, and it is splayed flat for grilling.

Hobbs said a seasonal vinegarette marinade made with some champagne vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and fresh herbs like tarragon and thyme work well with game birds. She suggested pairing seasonal harvests from the woods with seasonal harvests from the fields, including root vegetables like parsnips, pearl onions, carrots and potatoes.

“It’s kind of part of the whole ‘localvore’ movement. It’s a good way to cook by going with what’s in season,” Hobbs said.