Winter's the Time to Practice Good Camp Cookery

page cut from the Longmont Colorado Daily Times-Call

While cleaning up at my parents house, my brother found this page cut from the Longmont Colorado Daily Times-Call , dated Wednesday March 3, 1971, which appears to be part of a regular feature called “Cooks’ tour of the Valley” . The headline sums it up nicely, as a good headline should. Enjoy!

Winter's the Time to Practice Good Camp Cookery



Come spring and summer, many Cooks' Tour readers will be taking to the trail or the campground. They may be on foot, or horseback, in a canoe or in autos or campers. No

matter how they go, food will be an important matter. Days in the open air demand energy that comes from good eating. If you're planning a camping trip or trailhike, now's the time to practice open fire cookery says R. T. Brown, this week's Tour guide.

Though he's known to many Longmonters as a pro in the stock broker business, Brown once pursued a career in exploration geology. His searches for copper and uranium were carried out on ten-day stints into the hills on horseback. Five years of that plus numerous hunting, fishing and back-packing trips have made Brown an expert on camp cookery.

EXPERT ON OPEN Fire cookery R.T. brown prepares to get a meal going on a gas driven outdoor grill at his home on Judson Street. Brown gained five years of concentrated experience in outdoor cookery while pursuing a career as exploration geologist in several western states.

Best Fire

The best cook fire, according to Brown, is a five to six foot long fire confined between two green logs about six inches in diameter. The logs are placed six to nine inches apart on billets (props) to let a draught through. One end of the fire should be into the wind. In addition there should be two uprights with a crosspiece from which pots can be suspended. A good fire box can also be made of large rock or, if it's in the backyard, with brick stacked two high with air holes in between. Concrete reinforcing rod is excellent for uprights and the cross piece, Brown says. A grill is useful as is a large cast iron or aluminum griddle, if weight is no object. Both grill and pots can be supported by the logs or brick if there are no uprights available.

Start With Tinder

As for the fire itself,for starters gather a grapefruit sized pile of tinder. What to use? Dry twigs under all conifers are easy to acquire and their resin makes them burn well, Brown says. Also excellent are shredded dry birch or aspen bark. Next, thin, dry twigs are set teepee style over the tinder. The teepee is built larger and larger with limbs increasing size until the firewood is about a foot high. The best woods for a fire — because they don't spark — are the hard woods such as oak, hickory, apple or fruitwood, Brown says, adding that they are not always readily available on the trail but a good supply can be obtained from tree trimmers.

Roaring Blaze

A roaring blaze is needed to make coffee and for a reflector oven. But a bed of hot coals is the requirement for other cooking. A word about getting the fire started in the first place...matches.

Kitchen matches are the best. Aside from the supply carried with gear, pack two waterproof

containers with matches,too Brown advises. Campers can waterproof their own supply by pouring melted parrafin over matches is the hint from this veteran woodsman.

Heavy Duty

As for cooking utensils, Brown counsels investing in a heavy duty set of aluminum cookware.

Cheaper, thinner ware dents and has to be replaced after short use. Mountaineering companies market sets of nesting pans and dishes especially for back-packers and They also offer cast iron clutch ovens with lids which will hold a layer of ashes or serve as a platform on which to support the pot. The first meal of the day starts the night "Take the wood to bed with you," says Brownw Dewy wood doesnit ignite. Dry, seasoned wood burns best because it releases the gases which are actually what flames. Heat drives these gases from the wood if the "pores" are not blocked with moisture.


Thisthe breakfast procedure: start the tire and while it roars set the coffee pot on to boil. Use one to two tablespoons of grounds for each cup of cold water. The moment the coffee boils remove it from the fire! as coffee boils over Let it steep five minutes and pour in a half cup of cold water for each four cups of coffee to settle the grounds. While the coffee’s a making, the campers are dressing and when the fire dies they are ready to make some instant oatmeal or bacon and eggs. Raisins set to soak the night before make a good "taste intensifier" for oatmeal. They, prunes or other dried fruits also provide energy. 


While the campers eat their oatmeal, Brown recommends setting the bacon to cook over low heat. Turn the strips once then pour a half cup of light white wine over the bacon and continue cooking just enough to render the grease. Remove bacon from the grease and pour eggs in all at once.*crack them into a cup or bowl *firsL For a gourmet treat, pour in half a cup of light, dry wine, cover the pan and steam the eggs over low heat until they are medium firm to firm.

Bread, Brown suggests taking the coarsest homemade variety as it doesn't squash. It can be toasted on a stick or grill.


If pancakes are on the breakfast menu, make enough to use as sandwiches throughout the day. Wheatgerm and whole wheat flour can be used in a homemade mix to give the pancakes extra stay power. Speaking of stay power, the fat-protein combination sticks the longest But fats are the most difficult food component to acquire from nature so be sure to take plenty along, says

our outdoor Chef.

"Cheese, bacon, margarine and butter are good sources --- don't depend on fat in game you may catch. People in the woods for long periods have ‘rabbit starvation’ because there is virtually no fat on that common source of woodland food“

Vitamin C can be obtained in nature from the husks of rose pine needle tea and dandelions. On long treks, vitamin supplements are a must, however.


Lunch on the trail should be a quick affair in Brown’s opinion as time can be used to better advantage other ways. It is the evening meal he considers the most important of the day and one of his favorites is built around kabobs cooked on a peeled green stick.

The trick to cooking the cubes of meat alternated with onion, zucchini or whatever is to glaze the meat quickly in a roaring fire and then prop the stick over a low fire to finish cooking. The searing seals in meat juices.

For a night cap, hot chocolate laced with brandy or a hot tea toddy with brandy, cream and sugar are this camper's favorite.

As for camp cooking in general, Brown lists four things to remember: simplicity, ample calories, ample taste and improvising.

"Improvising is the key to survival in cooking and camping Campers have to prepare well but learn to use what's provided by nature for the rest of their needs”

Preparing well includes learning to make a good fire. And here for something to practice with are recipes for campfire cookery.

Make Your Own Package Mixes Now

What is winter for?

For saving bread bags and developing the camp foods to pack in them. . .the pancake mix, the chocolate pudding mix or whatever.

There are many dried foods now on the market, not intended for campers especially but a boon to them just the same. Some are packaged in foil or other lightweight containers.Many, however, come in jars and campers can make good use of doubled plastic bags to pack food for camping trips.

Some of the foods which are considered "staples" are flour, baking powder, cereals such as oatmeal and rice, dry beans and peas, powdered milk, powdered eggs, instant cocoa, side bacon, salt pork, lard, margarine or canned butter, dried soup powders and sauce mixes, and

bouillon, sugar and dried fruits and vegetables, coffee, tea and juice mixes.

What the above have in common is that the heavy water is left at home. Water from springs and streams that flow in clean and uninhabited country can usually be considered safe. Wilderness lakes in the Northern U. S. and Canada also usually contain pure water.

If there is the slightest doubt about the purity, however, cooking and washing water should be boiled hard for about 10 minutes.

Most sporting goods stores carry halazone tablets one of which will purify a quart of water in a half hour. It takes that long for the tablet to release the bacteria killing chlorine gas.

In Mexico and other semitropical areas,chlorine tablets are not always sufficient to kill water borne bacteria. Iodine tablets are used instead. So much for water.

In addition to the dried staples listed above campers wiII benefit from taking oregano, garlic and other taste intensifiers. And don't forget the meat tenderizer!

Campers will want to develop their own mixes ... using dried eggs and milk to insure sufficient protein. However, here are a couple of mix suggestions

to serve as models.


3/4 cup sifted flour

4 cups skim milk powder

2 tsp. salt

2 cups sugar

2 cups cocoa

To use, add 11/2 cups water for each cup of mix. Cook over boiling water stirring constantly for 15 minutes. Add one T. of margarine and a half teaspoon of vanilla when done.


Sift together several times:

8 cups flour

1 cup nonfat dry milk

1/4 cup baking powder

3 tsp. salt

1 cup of shortening which requires no refrigeration

For biscuits add to every cup of mix one third cup of water— enough to make a soft dough. Knead quickly, patting or rolling to desired thickness. Cut with Can top and bake in reflector oven.

For shortcake purposes, use the same dough but add 1 T. of sugar. Flatten dough to ¼ inch and cut in squares. Brush half with melted butter. Cover with one of the remaining pieces. Bake in reflector oven. Butter and add berries. One cup of dry mix makes six medium-sized shortcakes.

This recipe is not for a mix but for hardtack to be made at home and taken along for snacking.


A bread for the backpacker. Light, tasty, keeps for months. To one quart of water, add:

4 lb. whole wheat flour

11/2 cups honey

1 cup blackstrap molasses

1 lb. raw sugar (or brown)

2 cups powdered milk

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 ½ cups melted shortening

Pour into cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour — cut into squares while still warm and soft, then put back in, with door of oven ajar, overnight at very low temp. When thoroughly dry will keep for months. (Bake in low, flat pan.)

1. This recipe tastes strongly of molasses. If you prefer a more neutral taste, substitute more honey for molasses.

2. Soy flour is a good substitute in part for whole wheat flour.

3. For experimental purposes, cut recipe in quarters. Full recipe makes about 40-50 pieces 2 inches x 3 inches x 1 inch.

And one more recipe … this one is for a batter in which to fry shrimp, onion and oysters.


2 cans beer

3 cups flour


garlic salt

Bake Bread on a Fire

Freshly baked bread has always been somewhat of a cause for celebration. No less so on the trail or in camp! There are a number of breads which are successful camping candidates. Among them is — believe it or not— sourdough bread.

When Cooks' Tour included a recipe for making one's own sourdough starter several months ago one reader called in to stoutly affirm "It couldn't done."Other Readers reported trying it successfully. Here is another recipe for sourdough starter and bread which Brown has previded.


In a lard pail:

Mix four cups of flour with enough warm water to make a th•ck creamy batter. Add two tablespoons of sugar and two teaspoons of salt.

Let sit in a warm place two days or more to sour. Yeast dissolved in warm water can

be added to hasten the fermentation which then would take place overnight. Cover the sourings only loosely or they'll explode !

Mix three fourths of the sourdough with a tablespoon of melted fat and a cup of flour in which a teaspoon of baking soda has been thoroughly mixed. Then add enough flour to make good kneading dough.

Put the dough together in a hurry, cut dough to fit pans and set in a warm place to rise. After doubled, bake 40 minutes to one hour in a warm oven that is hottest the first fifteen minutes.

Use leftover souring to start more.

Bannocks are another traditional campfire bread. The beauty of this bread is that it can be done in a pan, on a griddle, or simp!y by wrapping a glob of dough around a stick.

Birch is a good wood to use,


1 cup white flour

1 tsp. baking powder

tsp. salt

Mix well before adding liquid and make sure pan to be used for baking is warm and its interior greased. Now stir in enough cold water to make a firm dough. Mold rapidly with as little handling as possible into a cake about one inch thick.

If you like crust, leave a doughnut-like hole in the center, Dust lightly with flour and lay in a hot pan. Hold pan over fire until a crust forms on the bottom, rotating so loaf will shift of its own weight and not become stuck to the metal. When hard enough that it will hold together, turn (or flip for showman like effects.)

Now pan can be propped at a steep angle in front of the fire so that the loaf will receive heat on top and bake some more. Turn several times to make sure loaf cooks evenly.Cooking usually takes about fifteen minutes. Test by inserting straw or slender twig.If any dough sticks the bread needs more heat. 

Instead of slanting the pan in front of the fire the cook can build a wall of large rock about a foot from the blaze.When the reflecting surface is piping hot, lean the pan with its back to the rocks and its front to the blaze.

Collapsible reflector ovens also make good bannock bakers. 

If the bannock is cooked on a stick, hold the dough in high heat. Once a crust is formed,lean the stick between the fringes of the fire and a reflecting surface for about 15 minutes. Or shove one end of the stick into the ground beside the heat,Variation is what makes cooking fun. Into bannock dough can go milk or egg (both in powder form.) Sugar, shortening and raisins or spices can be used, too.

For dumplings, drop gobs Of dough on top of bubbling stew.Cover the pot and allow the contents to continue boiling, Cooking takes ten or twelve minutes.

To make corn bread, use corn meal and flour mixed in equal amounts in the bannock

Add fresh or powdered egg.

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