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May 20, 2008 05:07 AM

Cooking while Camping

So I just saw the Chow feature about campfire cooking and realized that I really don't have a plan for this weekend's upcoming camping trip. There's just going to be two of us, we're car camping in the Catskills from Friday-Monday. Does anyone have anything to add to the ideas on the feature thread? Something nicer than usual camping fare would be nice, preferrably without relying on dairy too much. So far on the menu: pancakes for breakfast one morning, kielbasa on the grill for dinner one night (make extra to throw into homfries the next morning with potatoes that were cooked in the campfire). Lunch, dinner, snack ideas all appreciated.
One other thing...that thread mentioned bringing eggs in an olive jar to prevent spoilage. Anyone know what that's all about?

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  1. Eggs will keep in the shell just find without spoilage for a weekend even outside the cooler. Car camping does not limit your menu much since you can bring just about whatever you need for a recipe. Baking is out unless you want to master the dutch oven, something that only pays off when out for more than a week, IMO. Sticking with grilling for cooking meats is a good idea since it limits cleanup, the real pain when camping. Keep those kielbasa away from live flame though unless you like the taste of carbon.

    1. One of our annual camping trips, I made a great muffelatta (they are better over time, giving the flavors a chance to meld).

      3 Replies
      1. re: lexpatti

        Muffalettas are certainly one of our favourites for camping or picnicking. Delicious and reminds me of home.

        1. re: decolady

          LOLVE muffalettas - Great call, lex!!

        2. re: lexpatti

          another fan of the muffaletta! i made that last year for lunch - they do benefit from hanging out a whole day. I also made these on the same trip, just for 2 of us:
          started them at home, threw them on the fire for dinner. They're my favorite prep for ribs.

        3. Hmm, sounds like you'll be doing campfire cooking rather than camp stove cooking. I love to do foil packet dinners in the campfire, corn on the cob steamed in their husks, baked potatoes in coals and really anything on a stick you hold over the fire. How bout some shellfish, like shrimp or lobsty...they cook quickly and easily either in boiling water or on the grill... For snacks or lunches, I always bring summer sausage, good cheddar and triscuits for ease of preparation.

          Really, as previous poster said, wtih car camping the sky is the limit on what you can bring, as long as you have a good cooler for some perishables.

          2 Replies
          1. re: charlesbois

            I like the sausage/cheddar/cracker combo...I was struggling with lunch ideas and really didn't want to go with PB&J!

            1. re: CeeBee

              I'm personally not a big fan of summer sausage, so I usually bring a nice dry cured salami. Any dry cured sausage should be fine without refrigeration, just don't buy pre-sliced stuff.

              It's not light, but it's very compact, flavorful, and all the weight is protein, fat, and salt, which are exactly what you need when you're outdoors exercising.

              I've also been fine with regular cheddar in my backpack for over a week; I think sharp cheddar is reasonably stable, but a stinky cheese that ripens would probably get out of control after a few days away from low temperatures.

          2. We always took hot dogs and made roll ups with them. Freeze a package of hot dogs and use them in the cooler to keep the cooler cold. When they've thawed, then wrap them in tortillas with cheese (if you like), and hold closed with tooth picks (if necessary) and cook over the fire. The tortilla gets browned and crisp and the hot dog is heated through, and the cheese gets all melty.

            We also liked packets of instant hot cider for the cool mornings, using hot water from the fire to mix it up.

            1. Last weekend our camping menu consisted of: Friday dinner - chicken tagine w/ spinach and quenioa added to the pot 10 mins before the end of cooking (one pot, all precooked and just reheated upon arrival); Sat am - eggs and baked beans on toast w/ fresh fruit on the side; lunch we had cold 'oven fried' chicken (i usually take a pre-roasted or store bought chicken) and salad; Sat dinner - we grilled corn, potatoes, rack of lamb which we marinated for a couple of days pre-trip, salad. Sun breakfast - fruit salad and scrambled egg wraps.

              Usually i try and make a one-pot stew or casserole style meal for the evening of arrival. Something that can be easily reheated on the stove or the fire whilst we set up OR if it's pouring w/ rain and that's not an option, something that can be eaten cold. I always bring a plethora of fruit, salad ingredients and hard boiled eggs. I also try and marinate as much stuff as i can before hand and pack it in ziplocs on the ice and if i can cook off a chicken or make a quiche helps to have quick easy food for lunches. If time permits we'll also half cook potatoes and wrap in foil or blanch vegies that can be reheated quickly and easily.

              7 Replies
              1. re: aussiewonder

                Depends on how fancy.. the foil ideas from up above are pretty reliable - just don't cook anything acidic in them.. heck, you could roast cornish game hens in foil (and those little buggers are great little "ice packs" for keeping a cooler cold). Kebabs are good too, if you have a rack or grate to hold them..

                I love dutch oven cooking - cast iron, with a rimmed lid, so you can drop coals on top.. but be sure to understand if you are allowed to have open flames in your campsite. Most allow it, but some don't.. a few, such as Yosemite, even ban collecting wood in some of the more well-camped areas, so you occasionally have to bring your own.

                Other than that, boiling-water-dishes are always pretty easy.. or breakfast on a nice griddle. Rub liquid soap on the bottom of pans going over an open flame or coals - makes cleaning off the black soot a LOT easier.

                I know you aren't in the wilderness, but make sure to keep your food in the cooler INSIDE the car - critters (or bears) do hone in on food like a missle, so no harm in playing it safe and removing temptation. That was a hard lesson to try to teach to young Boy Scouts imploring them NOT to keep candy bars or snacks in their tents in bear country.

                Coffee is easy if you have a french press... bring a decent cutting board, as you won't likely have a good work surface, and don't try to make something that requires things like: egg foams, maintaining a low simmer for an hour, pureeing (unless you love cranking a food mill), etc. But in some cases you can do that at home the night before - like browning of meats, making a good tomato-based sauce, getting things into a marinade bag, etc.

                1. re: grant.cook

                  I realize this is an older post in a resurrected thread, but still, to anyone reading this who is not familiar with bears: please do *not* follow this advice. The cooler should never go in the car: bear can still smell it and could destroy your car to get it. In my neck of the woods (the Sierra) it happens often. For that matter, in many parks in our area (such as Yosemite) you could get a heavy fine for keeping food in your car, it is specifically against the rules. These days, nearly all camp sites in bear country in California have bear proof metal boxes, and you should store your food there.

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    Not all bears are as smart as the Yosemite ones. Yes, if the park provides bear proof boxes, use them. More generally, follow the guidelines provided by the park.

                    For example, Canadian National Parks have a 'clean camp policy', meaning you should not leave any food or food related items out when you are away from the campsite. The usual garbage can is a bear proof design, and a few campgrounds are surrounded by an electric fence. But in general they don't have problems with bears tearing into cars.

                    If there aren't bear proof boxes, your car is the best bear-resistant container you are likely to have, especially for large objects like a cooler. Coolers don't fit in those bear proof canisters mean for backpackers. It is also hard to hang a cooler from a tree.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Bears get into cars when a window has been left open a crack. It lets the food smell out, and gives the bear something to grip. They don't punch.
                      When I bought a house in the Spanish Peaks, I was uninformed and paid the "stupid tax" for leaving a can of bacon fat on the kitchen window sill, and for leaving a hummingbird feeder out at night. Two times.
                      At Yellowstone I strung a cooler in a sack from a tree a safe distance from our sleeping area. In Lake Placid, a black bear tore apart my entire campsite and stole a sirloin steak and a bag of potato chips in the middle of the night. Hey, we are guests in their home.

                      1. re: paulj

                        The clean camp policy works ok during the daytime. When you're sleeping at night, not so much.

                        We have a lot of black bears in Minnesota. If you're in bear country the best advice is to hang the food from the branch of a tree (in a sack, not a cooler, as far out onto the branch as possible and at least 10 feet off the ground. A bear can't reach it there. A bear can destroy your car however, even without the window open at all. The bear can smell the food in the car with the window and cooler lid closed.

                        1. re: paulj

                          The Ca NP clean camp regulations


                          Whether bears are major problem in your area depends a lot on past history. If through past carelessness by campers, bears associate humans with easy pickings, they will be more aggressive. Where the association is weak, they are more likely to avoid contact with humans.

                          Hanging food while car camping is probably not a good idea, especially in established campgrounds. Repeated use of a branch can damage the bark. I have seen permanent hanging rigs in a few walkin campgrounds, though the boxes are a more effective and durable tool.

                        2. re: susancinsf

                          We really like the metal bear boxes because they're almost a camp pantry AND you can set your Coleman stove on top and use as a cooking station, too. We've seen them in Minnesota and Wyoming, so far...