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Monday, June 11, 2018

Outdoor Cookware



If you’re cooking outdoors it is important that your cookware is durable.  Cast iron and stainless steel are the materials of choice.  Those nice pottery bowls and Teflon pans may be okay for the kitchen, but they have no place around a campfire.

Cast Iron Cookware

I have four pieces of cast iron cookware in my cooking gear.  I have a 10” cast iron pot with a bail and lid.  This is convenient to hang from an “S” hook over the fire.  I use it to cook things like stew, chili, chicken and dumplings, pinto beans, and etc.

A 12” Dutch oven is handy for baking biscuit, bread, pies, and cobblers.  It or the hanging pot are also good for cooking large chunks of meat like a pot roast.

I have a round 12” griddle that is great for cooking pancakes, corn cakes, and tortillas.  It’s also good for cooking bacon, sausage, spam, and sliced ham.

I actually have two different sizes of cast iron skillets, but I usually just stick to a standard 10” skillet for most situations.  If I’m cooking for a pretty good crowd I have a larger 12” skillet.  These are great for cooking eggs and for frying chicken or fish.

Stainless Steel Cookware

A large stainless steel lidded pot is handy for cooking vegetables, soups, rice, or anything else that you would cook in a pot on your stove.  I have such a pot that I use for large groups, but I don’t use it often.

I use a deep, round baking pan that fits inside my Dutch oven when I cook biscuits or bread. Some people cook biscuits and bread directly in the Dutch oven, but I use this pan and set it on three steel hex-nuts that elevate it about a quarter inch from the bottom of the Dutch oven.  I find that this cooks my bread-stuffs more evenly and avoids scorching the bottoms.  The pan pictured here is actually a new one.  My old one was fairly shallow, and I’m looking forward to using the new pan.

I also have a big stainless steel bowl that serves as my wash basin for doing dishes. It also doubles as my dough bowl for mixing up bread dough and letting it rise.

Enamelware

I have an enamelware coffee pot that has seen a good number of campfires.  Some people cook camp coffee by putting the grounds directly in the water, boiling it up, and then throwing in a cup of cold water to make the grounds settle.  Maybe you can make this work, but I always end up straining coffee grounds through my teeth.  I prefer to use the removable basket and percolator tube to make my coffee.

A medium size enamelware bowl is used for mixing biscuit dough, pancake batter, and etc.

I use my small enamelware hanging pot to cook vegetables, soups, and etc.  I find that I use it much more often than my large stainless steel pot.


I also have an enamelware lid that fits over my 10” skillet.

Kitchen Utensils

You can get as complicated as you want on utensils.  I keep it pretty simple. The main rule is “long handles.”  You want to be able to reach out over that fire without singing the hair off of your hand.  I use a big butcher knife and a small paring knife.  Also pictured is an old-time can opener.


A pair of meat tongs and a long handle fork are also handy; especially if you are cooking straight on the grill.

You’ll need a spatula, a ladle, and a spoon to cook with, and that weird looking thing on the right is an absolute necessity if you’re using a Dutch oven.  It’s called a lid lifter.


The last item on the list is a blow-pipe.  This is used to direct air at your fire to help build the flame.  It concentrates the stream of air much better than bending over and blowing through your lips.


Well, that’s it for cookware.  As you can see I didn’t exactly drive over to William’s Sonoma and buy my stuff.  It’s mostly hand me downs, garage sales, and thrift stores; but it works, and it has turned out some good camp meals over the years.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Outdoor Cooking Equipment



In any long-term grid down situation it will eventually become necessary to cook on an open fire.  This is, of course, assuming that you don’t have an old time wood-burning cook stove.  I personally don’t have a wood burning cook stove.  I have a propane cook stove, and I have enough propane to operate said stove for about a year.  This makes it easy to deal with run-of-the-mill power outages, but for a super long term emergency situation the propane will run out.  In order to keep cooking in such a situation I have put together a pretty good outdoor cook set.  This is not the kind of equipment that you can throw in a bug-out bag.  It is heavy, it is durable, and it will last for generations; but it is not very portable unless you have a vehicle.  I’d like, in this post, to tell you a little bit about my outdoor cooking equipment; so without further delay, let’s get started.

The Grill

The most basic component of your outdoor cooking set-up is the grill.  Grills come in many sizes, shapes, prices, and configurations.  There are many places that you can purchase a good cooking grill.   You can get a grill at a sporting goods store or a big-box store like Wal-Mart.  I actually bought my 12” X 18” grill at a home building supply store for about $10 US.  I think it was a replacement grill for an outdoor barbecue.

To support the grill I made four legs by bending some 3/8 inch bar stock as illustrated in the photo below.


 To set up the grill requires a small camp shovel and a hand axe or hammer.  I use a hand axe because it is more multi-purpose than a hammer.

Start by digging a fire pit that is about four or five inches deep and slightly smaller than your grill.  One end of the fire pit should slope up to ground level so that you can feed firewood down under the grill.

Lay your grill down over the fire pit so that you can determine where to hammer in the legs, and use your hand axe to start the legs into the ground.  Set your grill on the legs and tap each leg in so the grill is as close to level as you can eye-ball.  You should end up with about eight or ten inches of space between the bottom of the fire pit and the surface of your grill.  This will leave enough room to get a good fire going under the grill.

To fine tune the leveling process, set a pan of water on top of the grill and tap the legs down until the water is level in the pan.  You may not think it’s important to level your grill, but it’s really annoying to try and cook something in a frying pan and have all the grease run over to one side of the pan.

Fire Irons

A set of fire irons is a metal framework that is used to suspend cooking pots or a coffee pot over your fire.   



Fire irons are not as easy to find as a grill.  I’ve never seen fire irons in a regular retail store.  You can probably find fire irons on-line if you want to go that route.  Any good size mountain man rendezvous or other re-enactor’s event will probably have a blacksmith or two that sells fire irons.  I had my set made by a blacksmith friend.  Blacksmithing is no longer a common profession, but if you search on- line you might find one near you.  Of course any welder can cut, heat, and bend up some 5/8” bar stock and make you a set.   

One part of the fire iron set that is pretty hard for an amateur to make is the crane. 
 

A crane is a device that is attached to one of the uprights and can be moved up and down and swung from side-to-side.  A cook pot or a coffee pot can be placed on the crane and then the crane can be adjusted to keep the pot warm without any continued cooking.  The good news is that a crane is not really a super important part of the fire iron set, so if you don’t have one it’s really not a big deal.

To set up fire irons you simply drive the uprights into the ground on each end of the fire pit and place the cross piece on top.  If you use a crane remember to place it on one of the uprights before you drive the upright into the ground.  I like to place the uprights out as far as possible from the ends of the fire pit so that I have a little extra room at each end of the top piece to hang my griddle, my cooking utensils, and etc.  This also leaves better access for adding more wood to your fire.

One final item or really items that you’ll need for your fire iron set is some pot hooks.  These hooks are used to suspend cook pots from the top piece of your fire irons.  Pot hooks can be fancy black smith items, or they can simply be bent up out of ¼” round stock.
 

Whichever kind you use be sure to get them in varying lengths so that you can adjust your pots to different heights above the fire.

In my next post I’ll familiarize you with the various pot, pans, utensils, and accessories used in out-door cooking. 


Monday, November 6, 2017

Other Set-Ups for the Plow Point Tarp



The Pole Framework Set-Up

I wouldn’t waste the time or energy to do this set-up for a one night stay, but if you have a lot of materials available and if you are going to be in the same location for several nights, you may want to set up a pole framework for your tarp.

To do this set-up you will need a ridge pole that is a little longer that the diagonal length of your tarp, and you will need a couple of forked sticks that are about six feet long.  You don’t necessarily have to have forked sticks as you should have plenty of cordage in your kit that can be used to lash together some straight sticks into a bi-pod that supports the ridge pole.  You will also need a short piece of cordage to  attach the front of the tarp (one of the cords used to tie around your kit will work for this), and you will need seven tent stakes.

First set up the framework as pictured below.
 


Here is how you can lock the forked sticks and ridge pole together.

Now you drape the tarp over the ridge pole and stake down the back of the tarp.

Pull the front of the tarp up and tie it off to the ridge pole and forked sticks then stake down the sides.

The One Stick Set-Up

If you are in a situation where you have very limited vegetation you can set up your tarp with only one stick.  In the example below I have pitched the tarp using only my walking stick which is about five feet long.

In addition to the single stick you will need two of the six foot pieces of cordage from your kit and all of your tent stakes.

First you need to stake down the back of the tarp.

Then you need to attach the front of the tarp to your stick.  In this instance I used the lanyard on my walking stick and looped it through the front grommet on the tarp and then back over the walking stick.  If you use a found stick you will need to use a short piece of cordage to tie the tarp off to the stick.




Now pull the tarp forward to tighten up the ridge line and attach your two, six foot pieces of cordage to the top of the stick.

This next step is easier to do if you have two people so that one person can keep the stick in place while the other person sets the tent stakes, but you can do it alone as I did in this instance.  So, what you do is drive in a couple of tent stakes that are about 45 degrees on each side of the stick.  The stakes need to be about four feet out from the stick. 

Tie off your guy lines to the stakes to hold the stick upright.  Make sure that the ridge line of your tarp is tight.  Use your remaining tent stakes to stake out the sides of the tarp and you’re done.




Friday, October 6, 2017

The Plow Point or Diamond Fly Tarp Set-Up

I started using this particular tarp set-up years ago.  At the time everyone I knew called it a diamond fly.  Today the term plow point seems to be more popular, but which ever name it goes by this is definitely one of the quickest and easiest set-ups that you can use.  If you tie off the front of the tarp to a tree you can create a good, rain proof shelter in ten minutes or less.  If you don’t have a convenient tree to use it may take a few minutes more. 

Here’s the equipment you will need from your shelter kit:

You will, of course need your tarp.
You will need one of your small, pre-made loops and your bungee cord
You will also need one long stake and six short stakes.
Lastly, you will need a couple of your six foot long guy ropes and one of the little two inch sticks.

Now let’s set up our diamond fly:

First lay out your tarp as pictured below.  It’s best if you can find a location with one tree at the front of the tarp and another tree at the back.  In this case the front of the tarp will be attached to the tree on the left.


Next, attach your small loop to the front corner of the tarp.

Use your bungee cord to attach the front of the tarp to the tree.  You can vary the height according to conditions, but I usually set the front at about chest height.

Grab the back corner of the tarp and pull it back toward the back tree.  Use your long stake to stake the tarp down good and tight so that you have a nice diagonal ridge line.


Use your six short stakes to stake out first one side of the tarp and then the other.  You want to pull the sides out as far as you can without making the ridge line start to sag.



You could stop at this point and call it home, but it only takes a minute to make your set-up a little better. What we’re going to do is attach a guy line between the center loop of the tarp and the back tree.  This will pull the ridge line up a little bit and keep it from sagging down in the middle.  If it’s very far to the back tree you may need to tie two guy lines together to make a long cord. Here’s how you set up the guy line:

Attach one end of the guy line to the tarp’s center loop as pictured below.


Pull the other end of the guy line back to the back tree and wrap it around the tree a couple of feet higher than your bungee cord is attached to the front tree.  Tie the guy line off using the simple quick release knot pictured below.  Notice that the small stick is inserted into the finished loop to prevent accidentally
untying the knot.







That’s it.  You’re ready to move in for a good night’s sleep, and the next morning you can break camp as quick as you set it up.