Love it or hate it, outcamping is always an adventure. Sleeping in the woods, sweating a lot, connecting with God through friends and nature, what could be better? One of the main attractions of outcamping is the food. Let’s face it, food cooked over a fire is just better than anything you can do in the kitchen. It’s a scientific fact (maybe). So let’s break down all of the outcamping meals in chronological order.
Every outcamping starts with a delicious hamburger dinner. Traditionally, burgers were prepared by the Hoche girl campers and staff the night before outcamping by wrapping patties in foil and packing them into industrial sized tin cans, then wrapping the cans in foil. When it comes time to cook, all you have to do is build a big fire, let it burn down to coals, then bury the cans for about 30-45 minutes, and bingo!
Recently, the older groups have bypassed the tin can method and have been grilling their outcamping burgers right over the fire on a cast iron grate. It’s a little more tedious than the all-at-once method of the tin cans, but you get that flame-grilled taste that can’t be beat!
Like any good outcamping meal, the burgers are served with chips and cookies, and all around they are a great meal to kick off the weekend.
Cheuk Donuts are the king of outcamping breakfast. While they are actually made by both the Cheuks and the Wenachees, they have kept the original Cheukawaka name. The process is really pretty simple.
You need is a fire, a grate, a big pot, some frying oil, biscuit dough, and some cinnamon-sugar. Get a nice little fire going under the grate, and set the pot on the grate over the flames. Pour in the oil and let it heat up. When it’s nice and hot, start forming your biscuit dough into doughnut shapes and (carefully) drop them in. When they’re a beautiful golden brown, use some tongs, a big spoon, or a stick if you’re really roughin’ it, and drop them in a plate of cinnamon-sugar. Get them coated all over in the cinnamon sugar and you’re ready to feast.
Lately, some innovative souls started carrying along some powdered sugar to make a simple glaze (just powdered sugar and water) to make glazed Cheuk donuts! Who needs a donut shop
The oldest two groups, the Nashamies and Hoches, have pancakes on their first morning in the woods. Outcamping pancakes are really a work of art. They can be a disaster if they’re not handled with care. Luckily, our summer staff are pretty good campfire pancakers.
The process begins by making a cowboy oven. Off to the side of the fire pit, you dig a small hole in the dirt – this is your cowboy oven. Build a decent fire in the main fire pit, and when you have a good bed of coals, use a shovel to move some into the cowboy oven. Make them nice and even and level so your pancakes won’t spill. In the meantime, another staff member is mixing pancake batter and prepping the pans.
With two greased pie tins and some pancake batter, you’re ready to cook. Pour the batter in one pan – not too thick, but don’t be shy about it either – then set the pan on the cowboy oven coals. Watch the pancake for bubbles. When the batter stops bubbling and the edges look firm, it’s time for the flip.
The flip is crucial. This is the make or break moment. Will it be a flapjack to put IHOP to shame, or will it be a soggy half cooked clump of batter? Only the flip will tell. With a good pair of gloves on, take your second greased pie tin and put it over the pancake, lining up with the edges of the pie tin on the coals. Get a good grip of both pie tins held tightly together, and then in one beautiful, graceful, and slightly spastic movement, flip the pancake over into the new tin. It should make a satisfying plop. Take the top pie tin off and admire the golden brown beauty of your outcamping pancake (or start trying to convince yourself that looks don’t matter and really as long as it tastes good you don’t mind).
Stick it on a plate, slap some butter on it, give yourself a healthy pour of syrup, and go town on your masterful pancake. If there’s a little bit of grit when you chew, just remember that a little dirt in a pancake is good fiber. Or something like that.
The oldest three groups, the Tawakas, Nashamies, and Hoches, have the privilege of partaking in a gourmet lunch in the woods next. The Cheuks and Wenachees only camp overnight and head back to camp after breakfast, so they don’t have lunch in the woods.
Outcamping lunch is a ham or turkey sandwich (or five) with chips and cookies. What more could you want from a lunch? It’s classic. All-American. Five stars. 10 out of 10. Let’s hear it for the cold cut sandwich – the unsung hero of outcamping.
The newest addition to the outcamping menu is Tawaka Tacos.It’s the Tawakas’ last meal before heading back to camp, and it has quickly earned its place among the legendary Friday night outcamping lineup.
The process starts, as always, with a fire. Grate. Skillet. Hamburger Meat. Taco Seasoning. Tortillas. All the fixins. The rest is pretty much self-explanatory. Some may venture to fry the tortillas a bit before adding the meat. We’ll leave that to the group leader.
Close your eyes and imagine that you’re deep in the woods of East Texas. You’ve probably been sweating all day. The sun is going down and the temperature has fallen to a brisk 92° and it’s time for dinner. What could be better than a heaping bowl of hot beef stew? That’s right, absolutely nothing.
With a large iron tripod, a chain, and a cast-iron cauldron, beef stew is only an hour(ish) away. The first thing to remember with Nashamie stew is to set up your tripod before you get the fire going. Otherwise you can say goodbye to your arm hairs. Next, fill the pot with all the ingredients. I can’t give away the secret recipe but let’s just say it all comes from a cans. Dump it in and mix it up and add a little secret spice, then hook the pot to the chain and let it simmer.
When it’s piping hot and all melded together, it’s time to take the pot off the fire. Fill up the bowls, add a couple of crackers, and you’re ready to roll. It doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to make sense. Hot stew on a hot summer night just can’t be beat.
Alright, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations. You’ve reached the ultimate outcamping meal. It’s time to get your hands dirty. It’s time for Hoche Chicken.
Step one: spit sticks. Find a young tree, roughly 2-3 inches in diameter. Give the tree a big hug and apologize for what you’re about to do, then chop it down. Grab your trusty tree-shaver, and start shaving off the bark. (Pro-tip: sweet gum trees have bark that peels off in long strips and makes for a really easy shave). When you’ve got the tree shaved down to just the wood, your spit sticks are ready it’s time to prep the fire.
Step two: fire. You need to start your fire about an hourbefore you’re ready to cook. Get the fire going, and just keep feeding it. Make it big. When you’re cooking 12 chickens on one fire, you need a lot of coals. Your bed of coals should be a few inches deep, five or six feet long and three or four feet wide to cook two spits with five or six chickens each. Build that fire up big and then let it burn all the way down to coals. You don’t want flames under your chickens.
Step three: y-sticks or notched logs. This is where you’ll set the ends of your spit sticks to keep your chickens up off the coals so they don’t burn. You can use a sturdy y-shaped stick on each end to form a little holster for the ends of your spit stick, or you can get a big log and use a hatchet to carve a notch in it. Either way works. You just want to be able to rotate your spit stick easily and for the y-stick or notched log to hold the stick in place.
Step four: get dirty. It’s time to prep the chickens. The chicken prepping process is a very delicate and precise art. First, you slather the chicken with a big ol’ glob of barbeque sauce (preferably Sweet Baby Ray’s) and then you sprinkle it with a healthy portion of seasoned salt (Lawry’s is our favorite). Ok, so maybe it’s actually not all that precise. Once your chicken is sauced and salted, it’s time to mount the chicken.
Step five: impale the chicken. Be ready to use a little a force here, especially if you have a larger spit stick. Line up the small end of the spit stick with the cavity in the chicken, then slide the chicken down into the middle of the spit stick. If you get stuck on a knot in the wood or anything like that, be gentle yet firm, and get that chicken into place. Then you need to tie up the legs and wings. Don’t let those things dangle or they’ll burn up! Use twisty ties to secure the wings and legs together.
Step six: cook. Put your filled spit sticks in their place over the fire. For the first twenty minutes, rotate your spit stick every 2 minutes to get the outside cooked evenly. After that, rotate every ten minutes until your chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165° or if you don’t have a thermometer, cut open the thickest part of the breast to make sure the meat is white and the juices run clear.
Step seven: eat. Remove chicken from spit stick. Remove meat from bones. Devour. Kick back and think to yourself “Man it’s good to be a Hoche.”
P.S. Hoches also make some delicious barbecue potatoes with their chicken. Simply dice up some potatoes, throw them in a pie tin with butter, barbecue sauce, and seasoned salt, wrap with foil, and cook in the coals for about an hour.
After dinner has settled for our three oldest groups, the Tawakas, Nashamies, and Hoches, it’s time for dessert. Everyone gets an orange and a spoon. You hollow out the orange the same way you’d hollow out a pumpkin to carve. When you’ve got all the fruit of the orange out, the staff will pour some cake batter in the orange and wrap it up in aluminum foil. Set it carefully in the coals and wait 10 minutes or so. When it’s done, carefully open up the foil and inside of your orange you’ll have a delightfully citrusy campfire cake! Is there anything you CAN’T make over a fire?
Breakfast in a Bag
The final frontier is Breakfast in a Bag. Tawakas, Nashamies, and Hoches all experience the chaotic wonder of Breakfast in a Bag. Here’s how it works: you get a regular brown paper lunch sack and put a piece of bacon in the bottom of the bag. Roll the edges of the bag down a couple of times so it’s nice and thick and sturdy at the top. Then poke a long, thin stick through the folded edges so the bag is hanging securely on the stick. Now it’s time to cook, and it takes some serious patience.
Only the most disciplined (or desperate) Deer Runners will master the balance of keeping the bag close enough to the coals to cook the bacon but not so close that the bag catches fire. When done correctly, the grease from the bacon protects the bag and allows it to cook without burning up. When the bacon is cooked, you crack an egg into your bag and put the bag back over the coals to fry the egg. When it’s all done, you eat your bacon and eggs right out of the bag.
When it’s done incorrectly the result is usually a fiery death for the bacon and eggs. But don’t worry, the staff are usually busy cooking some backup breakfast for those who don’t make it.
The saving grace of Breakfast in a Bag is Snake Bread. Where Breakfast in a Bag requires patience and discipline and focus, snake bread is as easy as roasting a marshmallow. Just take a piece of biscuit dough and stretch it out like a snake, then wrap it around the end of a long thin stick. Hold it over the coals until golden brown, then peel it off and enjoy a delicious campfire biscuit that will almost make you forget about burning your breakfast in a bag!
So there you have it. That is everything you could possibly want to know about all of the outcamping meals. If you’re a one-week camper and all of this sounds like a foreign language to you, let that be your invitation to give a two-week session a shot and experience the glory of outcamping!