Sunday, May 31, 2009

Don Mason's Dutch oven newsletter

Here's the summer edition of Don Mason's Dutch oven cooking newsletter. To have a copy emailed directly to you, contact Don at

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Summer camp job at Sacramento YMCA Camp

Here's a summer camp job that I found on Craig's List:

Are you familiar with working in a small kitchen and feeding 50 or more hungry kids? We need your experience for our Resident Camp. Would you like to spend part of the summer in the woods?

The Sacramento YMCA is looking for the right people to work as part of our kitchen staff. Duties include, preparing all 3 meals a day and snacks, set up and clean up of kitchen and dining hall. Some participation in camp activites, like evening skits and songs. We are currently accepting applications for the following summer positions:

Resident Camp Cook and Kitchen Staff

If you think you might have the skills to be part of our team please visit our web site at Applications and Resumes may be submitted via e-mail, fax or USPS.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Comdr. Duane G. Wolfe, CEC, USNR

I learned yesterday that shipmate and brother-in-Christ Duane Wolfe was killed Monday in the line of duty in Iraq. Duane and I served together in Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 17 in the 1980s and early 1990s as chief petty officers. He later promoted in to the officer ranks in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps.

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cmdr. Duane G. Wolfe, 54, of Port Hueneme, Calif., died May 25, 2009, from injuries suffered as a result of an improvised explosive device attack on his convoy southeast of Fallujah. Wolfe was assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division in Iraq.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jeep Jamboree USA looking for cook

I'd apply for this job myself if I wasn't busy during August. The job will be the perfect challenge for an experienced camp cook with a love for the Sierra Nevada high country. Here's the classified ad for the job:
COOK-Rubicon Trail cook needed for trips over the Rubicon Trail during the month of August. Must have prior food service experience & references. Submit resume to Jeep Jamboree USA, PO Box 1601, Georgetown, CA, 95634.
This information comes from the Mountain Democrat, Monday, May 18, 2009.

Navy cooks test field skills at Seabee Rodeo

By Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) (5/20/09) -- The Third Naval Construction Regiment Seabee Rodeo was held aboard NAS Jacksonville April 28-May 3, and the competing teams were Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 14 of NAS Jax, NMCB 23 of Fort Belvoir, Va., and NMCB 24 of Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

"Each team competes in general military skills, uniform appearance, physical training and readiness, construction skills, marksmanship and other skills," explained NMCB 14 Commanding Officer Capt. Joseph Hinson.

To simulate being deployed, competitors bivouacked in tents and dined on MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Events took place throughout the day and night with teams competing in events representing every aspect of Seabee life — such as personnel inspections, close order drill, land navigation, erecting tents within a secure perimeter and command operations center exercises that simulate attacks on their base.

They also participated in practical rate exercises that test the skills of the individual Seabee. Construction mechanics had to build a working cabinet with sink. Engineering aides surveyed construction sites. Equipment operators were tasked with loading and unloading a tractor onto an 18-wheeler flat bed. Steelworkers welded and cut sheet metal, and utilitiesmen erected lights and ran power cables. Other rates attached to Seabee battalions, such as storekeepers and culinary specialists, had events of their own.

The "Iron CS Challenge" mimicked the Iron Chef television show — but with some aspects geared more toward cooking on deployment rather than in a regular galley kitchen.

"This is the second running of the Iron CS Challenge. We try to set the same tone and environment, as they would encounter in the field. They get limited resources and a surprise item, which today happens to be a tomato," said Culinary Specialist Chief Michael Farrell of NMCB 23.

"Competitors have to create a meal around that tomato and only have 2.5 hours to prepare, cook and serve the meal. The skipper and the commodore will evaluate each chef's creation on taste, presentation and creativity. The winner is presented with the Iron Culinary Specialist Trophy that they will keep until next year's rodeo."

Hinson continued, "After six days of friendly but serious competition, we tally up the scores to determine our rodeo champion. They take home the trophy until the next year's rodeo."

Staff from the 3rd Naval Construction Regiment, headquartered in Atlanta, judged the events. At the end of the competition, NMCB 23 came out on top — winning both the Iron CS Challenge and the overall Seabee Rodeo.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cooking trailer for sale in Kentucky

I reveived this email from Biscuit the other day. Friends of a longtime Yahoo Dutch Oven Cooking group member Jim Harper are selling his cooking trailer. Know as Tapscrew to his friends, Jim passed from this life on February 5, 2009.

Although I didn't know Jim, he must've been a great camp cook.

Photographs of the trailer are posted here.

Here's Biscuit's description of the trailer:

My friends in Kentucky are selling Tapscrews cooking trailer. Below is a discription of trailer.

Please contact Biscuit at for more information and photos.

The price is $1,500.

Trailer Description

This customer cooking trailer is 5' x 8'. It has rear stabilizers on both sides, is wired for light and ready to travel. It is made of water resistant material and can be removed from the trailer for storage.

Cook prep area is 6' in length with a sink and side counter. Also a fifteen-gallon water tank with a battery operated pump to move water from storage to sink. Waste is collected under trailer and can be dumped.

There is storage for all things Dutch Oven, pots, fires buckets (not included). There is also room for tents, chairs, and other large items. The trail is new, used only 3 times.

Chuck wagon boxes: 3 different boxes

Box measures: 30" (w) x 13" (d) x 24" (h). Drop in lids form the closure for the box. Inside of lid is covered with Formica to provide added work space. One box has storage for dry goods, while another has storage for utensils. Boxes are made of beautiful wood with handles for easy transport.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Vegetable lasagna with roasted zucchini and mushrooms

I an not a vegetarian, nor do I see myself becoming one. The closest I come most days is with my morning cereal with milk and sugar. Other than an occasional meatless meal, I eat meat every day at lunch and dinner.

(Of course, I'm talking about being an ovo-lacto vegetarian, not vegan.)

A vegetarian meal is one where I simply leave the meat out of the dish that I'm cooking. I don't make any effort to make a special vegetarian dish. Any item without meat, like a slice of cheese pizza or scrambled eggs with hotcakes, qualifies as a vegetarian meal in my mind.

I just made the best lasagna ever last night. While I still relish an aromatic tomato-based lasagna with three or four layers of quality Italian sausage sandwiched between layers of ricotta and mozzarella, roasted diced zucchini and crimmini slices did a very good job of substituting for the sausage.

I will use this recipe this summer at camp. I'll be able to use vegetables on-hand to vary the layered dish each week or two. I should be able to purchase no-boil lasagna noodles from Sysco.

Pre-cooking the vegetables drives out excess water and adds flavor. The biggest flavor boost comes from the caramelization of the natural sugars in the vegetables.

Pair pre-cooking technique to the moisture content of the vegetable. High-moisture vegetables, like eggplant and zucchini, are best sauteed or roasted. Blanch, chop and saute low-moisture vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower.

Vary the vegetables as desired: Substitute 1-pound diced eggplant for mushrooms. For spinach and mushroom lasagna, saute 1 pound sliced crimmini mushrooms with a small amount of onion. Season and remove from skillet. Add 10-ounces (12 cups) chopped spinach leaves to skillet and saute until wilted. Season and combine with mushrooms.


You need 16 no-boil lasagna sheets (approximately 3-1/2- x 7-in.) for the recipe. It takes 4 sheets to cover the bottom of a 9- x 13-in. baking pan. Depending on the size of the lasagna sheets and the baking pan, their may be some overlap.

1 pound zucchini, diced small
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3-1/2 cups tomato sauce
8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

To roast zucchini and mushrooms, toss vegetables with olive oil and garlic. Spread vegetables in a thin layer on 1 or more greased sheet pans. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast vegetables in a 400-degree F. oven for about 35 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Yields 3 to 3-1/2 cups roasted vegetables.

Combine ricotta cheese, eggs and parsley until eggs are incorporated in cheese mixture. Season with pepper to taste. Set aside.

To assemble the lasagna, spread 1/2-cup tomato sauce over bottom of 9 x 13-in. baking pan. Lay 4 lasagna sheets so they cover the completely tomato sauce. Spread 2/3-cup ricotta over noodles, 1-cup vegetables evenly over ricotta, 2/3-cup tomato sauce evenly over vegetables and 1-cup mozzarella cheese and 3 tablespoon Parmesan over sauce.

Repeat layering noodles, ricotta mixture, vegetables, tomato sauce and cheeses 2 more times. For the fourth and final layer, lay the final 4 lasagna sheets over the previous layer. Top with remaining 1 cup tomato sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 2 heaping tablespoons Parmesan.

Cover pan with large sheet aluminum foil greased with cooking spray. Bake covered 40 minutes in 375-degree F oven. Remove foil and continue baking 15 minutes until cheese brown in spots. Remove and let rest 10 minutes. Cut into 8 (2 x 4) or 15 (3 x 5) portions as desired.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bakery scales and pizza

I have long advocated the use of scales in the bakery. Measurement by weight is more accurate the by volume. This is especially true for the dry ingredients like flour.

The actual weight of a cup of flour, for instance, varies considerably. A cup of sifted bread flour weighs about 4 ounces while a cup of unsifted weighs about 4-3/4 ounces. The difference is considerable when working with multiple cups of flour.

For consistent results, bakers weigh most of the ingredients. This includes the water and most other the wet ingredients. Although a "pint is a pound the world 'round," liquid measures vary in capacity, unlike scales.

The dough comes together nicely when weighing the ingredients. You'll achieve the right balance between flour and water (usually in the neighborhood of a 3:2 ratio by weight). If the dough is a little loose, you can work some additional flour into it.

After using a mechanical portion scale for 10 years, I purchased a digital scale last month. The digital scale is convenient. To measure, set a measuring container on the scale, press the tare button and it's ready to go.

To add a second ingredient without removing the first, press the tare bottom again and add the next ingredient. This method is helpful when you're going to sift the dry ingredients together.

I purchased the My Weight 7000DX digital scale (pictured) from Old Will Knot Scales on the Internet. The scale has a capacity of 7,000 grams or 15.45 pounds. With the right-sized measuring container, you can weigh enough flour for 15-pound batch of bread, pizza dough or pastry.

I plan to take the scale with me to camp this summer (without the bowl). Its slender profile easily fits inside a duffel bag with a few other must-have baking tools, like a dough cutter, plastic bowl scraper and lame.


This recipe makes enough for 4 (10- to 12-inch) pizzas. It'll yield 24 to 32 slices, depending on how you slice the pizzas. You can double the recipe when using the 5-quart Kitchen Aid mixer.

I provided baker's percent so you can adjust the recipe to fit the needs at your camp.

1 pound 12 ounces bread flour (100 baker's percent)
1/4 ounce instant yeast (.9%)
1/2 ounce table salt (1.8%)
1/4 ounce sugar (.9%)
3/4 ounce olive oil (2.7%)
1 pound warm water (57%)
3 ounces pizza sauce
4 ounces shredded cheese

Place flour, yeast, salt and sugar into 5-quart mixer bowl. Mix dry ingredients using paddle attachment. Replace paddle with dough hook. Knead dough for 15 minutes on medium speed.

Use widow pane test to determine if dough is kneaded long enough. Pinch off a small piece of dough and slowly stretch it like pizza dough. As you gently pull and rotate the dough, stretch it until a thin, translucent membrane forms. If it tears easily, continue kneading for a few more minutes and test again.

Roll pizza dough into a smooth ball on counter top. Place into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add a little olive oil to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment 45 minutes, until double in size.

Place the pizza stone onto bottom of a cold oven and turn the oven to its 500 degrees F. If the oven has coils on the oven floor, place the tile onto the lowest rack of the oven.

Split the pizza dough into 4 equal parts, about 11 ounces each. Flatten into a disk on counter top and then fold the dough into a ball. Let dough relax 5 to 10 minutes.

Work with 1 dough at a time. Flatten dough with hands on a slightly floured work surface. Starting at the center and working outwards, use your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick.

Turn and stretch dough until it won't stretch further. Let relax 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired diameter, 10 to 12 inches. Flatten edge of the dough where it is thicker.

Dust pizza peel with light coat of cornmeal. Place pizza on peel. Brush with light coat of olive oil. Spoon on tomato sauce and sprinkle with cheese.

Slide pizza off the peel onto pizza stone. Bake 7 to 10 minutes until cheese is golden and crust has browned. Remove pizza from oven with peel. Rest pizza about 3 minutes before slicing.

Cut each 12-inch pizza into 6 or 8 slices as desired.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Messman Chronicles added to Navy Professional Reading Program

Here's a book review from the U.S. Navy Supply Corps Newletter:

The Messman Chronicles by Richard Miller is the latest work added by the Advisory Group to the Navy Professional Reading Program Supplemental Reading List.

A synopsis of the book from the Navy Professional Reading Program Web site states that despite racial discrimination and second-class status within the enlisted corps, the U.S. Navy’s mess attendants, officer’s cooks and stewards compiled a proud legacy of combat service in World War II.

The heroism of a few like Doris "Dorie" Miller became well known to the American public, but most have long been forgotten. This book tells the story of those thousands of unheralded sailors of African descent who served in frontline combat with fellow "messmen" of Filipino, Guamanian and Chinese ancestry from the first day of war to the last.

Messmen and Stewards were recognized for their service during a ceremony held at the Naval Academy in September 2008. The Messmen Memorial Marker is a tribute to the messmen and stewards who served with distinction at the Naval Academy midshipman's mess.

Both the ceremony at Annapolis, Md., and the addition of The Messman Chronicles to the reading list highlight the accomplishments of U.S. Navy mess attendants, officers' cooks and stewards, and add to a proud legacy of service for today's Culinary Specialist community.

Spearheading the effort for the ceremony and addition to the reading list was Master Chief Culinary Specialist (SW) Thaddeus Wright, Commander, Naval Surface Force, Atlantic Fleet (CNSL) , Force Culinary Specialist. With the support of SURFOR leadership and the Navy's Chief Petty Officer Mess, CSCM Wright was committed to make sure that the contributions and combat service of the Messmen would not go unnoticed.

Capt. Dana Weiner, CNSL Force Supply Officer noted, "I did not appreciate how challenging it was to get a book added to the Navy's Professional Reading List, but Master Chief Wright’s persistence was relentless, not unlike the Messmen featured in the book."

The Navy Professional Reading Program was developed to encourage a life-long habit of reading and learning among all Sailors. The books included in these collections can provide readers with a deeper understanding and appreciation for naval heritage, the profession of arms and the complex modern world in which we operate.

For more information on the Navy Professional Reading Program, visit

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Special report: Pricing charcoal briquettes in Northern California

By Don Mason

The other day I checked my charcoal supply and found that I was a little low. So I checked some store and newspaper ads to find the best deal. Following are some prices that made me say, “My-my!” I suggest you do some checking before you pay too much.

Red Bluff (California) True Value Hardware
2 Twin Bags: 15 pounds per bag or 30 pounds total.
Sale price: $10.50 x 8.25%*=$0.86
Total is $11.36 or 37 cents per pound

Wal-Mart (newspaper ad)
2 Twin Bags: 12 pounds per bag of 24 pounds total
Sale price: $9.50 x 8.25%*=$0.78
Total is $19.28 or 43 cents per pound

Redding (California) Costco
2 Twin Bags: 16.5 pounds per bag or 33 pounds total**
Price: $16.99 x 8.25%*=$1.49
Total is $18.49 or 58 cents per pound

**The new "Kingsford Competition Charcoal" bag gave me the impression that you are getting 42 pounds. You are getting 42 pounds of heat out of 32 lb of charcoal. What?

Has anyone used the new Kingsford Competition Charcoal? If so let us know what you found.

If you find a better prices, please let us know and we will spread the word.

*California Sales Tax in Northern California

Navy culinary specialist is a master at cake decorating

By Lt. Melinda Johnson, SC, USN, Supply Officer USS San Antonio (LPD 17)

Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW) Adrian Dorsey has made his mark on USS San Antonio with his creativity and skill in designing and decorating cakes. Whether it’s a Navy event, re-enlistment, birthday or Tiger Cruise, he is sure to create a great cake.

He has designed and decorated cakes that amaze everyone. For the ship’s commissioning anniversary, The Alamo was his choice. Not only did it have the intricate detail, but it was draped with the Texas flag.

St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated underway in Irish style with a cake that looked exactly like a Lucky Charms cereal box all the way down to the detail of net weight. When San Antonio hosted her very first Tiger Cruise, Dorsey dazzled all friends and family with a huge Tony the Tiger cake. Surface line week was marked with the replica of the Navy NASCAR. Re-enlistments are a special time for all involved and special care is taken with every re-enlistment cake.

Dorsey recently exceeded anything anyone could have even conceived for the ship’s Change of Command. He planned and prepared for this special day for months; his intent was to impress both the outgoing and incoming commanding officers.

The ceremony was marked with a one and a half foot wide and six foot long exact replica of San Antonio. This replica was complete with radar, RAM launchers, boat valley, stern gate, gun mounts and flight deck markings. There was no detail forgotten!

Dorsey began his art techniques at the Art Institute of Houston before joining the Navy. He joined the Navy and served on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

While serving as a Food Service Attendant he found his calling for cooking, baking, and decorating. His inspirations and dedication are a direct result of his mentors but he is most motivated by the sheer delight and smile of Sailors and Marines that benefit from his work.

While stationed in Spain he was infamously known as the "Cake Man" and was sought out for any occasion. The Navy Food Management Team, when they opened their new offices in Norfolk , Va., sought out Dorsey and asked him to prepare the Grand Opening cake and devoted his own personal time during pre-deployment leave to grant their request.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chef's luncheon on ship

You can learn a lot from these chefs, even when you're just watching ...

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (April 29, 2009) Patrick J. Fagen, executive chef at Pine Tree Golf Club, and assisting chef Jason Boekholder prepare the main course during the Fleet Week Port Everglades 2009 Celebrity Chef luncheon while Culinary Specialist 1st Class John C. Scherr, the wardroom supervisor aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), looks on. Local chefs prepared meals for Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and guests aboard the Fleet Week participating ships.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph R. Wax.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dutch oven macaroni and cheese

I find that it takes about 1-quart cheese sauce to properly moisten 1-pound dry macaroni, when cooked, for macaroni and cheese.

1 pound elbow macaroni
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup minced onion
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 bay leaves
1 quart milk
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterrey jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
Kosher salt and while pepper, to taste
2 cups croutons, crushed

Cook macaroni according to package directions at home. Drain water. Cool macaroni in cold water. Package in zipper-top bag and refrigerate.

If desired, Melt butter in a 12-inch Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and sweat until soft. Do not brown onions or butter. Blend in flour, mustard, paprika and bay leaves. Cook until mixture is smooth and buddly.

Gradually add milk, whisking constantly. Cook sauce over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes while stirring until smooth. Gradually mix in cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add pasta to sauce and mix thoroughly. Top with croutons. Place lid on Dutch oven and bake approximately 25 to 30 minutes with coals for 350 degrees. Serves 10 to 12.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Pioneer Day in Fall River Mills

The annual Pioneer Day Celebration will be held on June 6, 2009 in Fall River Mills, California. This is always a fun event that celebrates the heritage of the Fall River Valley.

In addition to the Pioneer Museum, there will be a working blacksmith shop, old engine display (working and non working), craft booths, lots of food and additional activities and of course, the Dutch Oven Cook-off which is always a local favorite.

The event will be held at the Fall River Mills Museum grounds right next to State Route 299 on the west end of town.

Dutch oven cookoff details

No registration fee!

This will be a 3 cookoff with main dish, bread and dessert.

Awards include 1st, 2nd and 3rd place plus Public "Tasters Choice" in each category.

You will have a 12'X12' cooking area with one table. You will be cooking in an open area and it is recommended that you have a E-Z up type of shelter for your area.

Weather: Usually the mornings are very pleasant and sunny. The wind begins to pick up about 12:00 noon and can be a problem. Be prepared to protect your cooking area.

7 a.m. setup
8 a.m. cooks meeting; cooking starts
11:30 a.m. judging begins
12 noon Tasters Choice begins
1:30 p.m. awards announced

Awards: Plaques for 1st, 2nd and 3rd each category, plus $50.00 for Peoples Choice main dish.

If you have any questions please contact:

Jim Geiger
(530) 873-4863

Monday, May 04, 2009

Fried chicken thighs smothered in gravy

Fried chicken is pure comfort. Smother chicken in gravy and the comfort rating climbs through the roof. With mashed potatoes, this is one of the finest camp meals around. I'd only rate chicken fried steak higher.

That's just what I did two weeks ago at the 3rd Annual IDOS Region II Dutch Oven Gathering at the Stockton Delta KOA campground. My original intent was to cook chicken fried steak, but I couldn't find enough beef cube steam at my local supermarket. So I switched to chicken thighs as they were on sale in large packages.

I didn't write a recipe down for this dish. I started the chicken around 3 p.m. Since meal time was at 6 p.m., I could've started frying the chicken at 4 p.m.

Here are my notes as I wrote them in my camp cooking notebook:

  • Purchased 2 packages of chicken thighs with 12 pieces each.
  • Soaked 24 chicken thighs in 1 quart of buttermilk overnight in 2 Rubbermade containers; placed the chicken in the ice cooler.
  • In camp, drained off the buttermilk.
  • Combined 2 packages of Ranch-style dressing mix with about 3 cups of all-purpose flour.
  • Heated 1/4-inch vegetable oil in 17-inch Lodge skillet over a bed of hot coals.
  • When oil was hot, dredged each chicken thigh in flour mixture and placed in hot oil, skin-side down.
  • Fried chicken until golden brown on each side, 12 pieces at a time.
  • As chicken browned, moved the pieces around in the skillet to compensate for cold and hot spots.
  • Baked chicken in camp oven with 2 Lazzari coals on the lid only; couldn't use bottom coals because camp oven was on grass.
  • When browned, placed chicken in 14-inch Lodge camp oven.
  • To make gravy, added leftover flour mixture to hot oil to make blond roux; stirred as roux cooked for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Built gravy with 2 quarts milk and 1-quart chicken stock.
  • This was too much gravy for 24 pieces of chicken, but would've been okay if I'd made mashed potatoes.
  • Drained excess oil from camp oven, then poured gravy over chicken and continued cooking until meal time.
The chicken smothered in gravy was one of the most popular dished at meal time. I only took four pieces (and a bunch of extra gray!) home, which made a couple of good lunches during the week.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Camp coffee

I'm reminded of a 2003 piece that was written about what chuckwagon cook Kent Rollins had to say about camp coffee. The October 29 issue of the Chef2Chef Recipe Club said this about the Oklahoma wagon cook and his coffee:
Cookie’s first thing on the fire, and the last thing off; was for sure - The coffee; and some say - the most important part of a camp meal! Cowboy’s savored the aroma of smoky coals and aromatic scent of brewin’ Coffee in the air and the best of the cooks not judged by their cookin’, but by the tried and true brewin’ techniques learn’d along the way.
Like the coffee being poured by Dave Herzog last week at the IDOS Region II Dutch Oven Gathering, the wagon cook only knew one one method to make camp coffee. He boiled it. No "percolating, bubbling, gurgling and spewing drip coffee makers" allowed.

I perfected my coffee boiling technique under the watchful eye of Gunnery Sergeant Tingle at the U.S. Marine Corps 29 Palms base in July 1985. Seabee and Marine Corps cooks brought a 15-gallon pot of cold water to a boil. After cutting the heat, the cook poured a three-pound can of coffee grounds over the water and let it brew undisturbed.

Ten minutes later -- more or less -- the cook sprinkled a quart of cold water over the hot coffee to settle the grounds. Then using caution so not to disturb the settled grounds, the cook dipped the coffee into a waiting vacuum jug.

I can't say that cowboy cook developed the technique. It probably dates back to the early days of coffee. The cowboy process is the same. You need a "old large coffee pot, water and three handfuls of Cowboy Coffee." Here's the process:
Put enough water in the ole coffee pot to come up to the spout. Boil the coffee until your desired strength which can be determined by the color. The longer it boils - the Stronger it is. Pull off the fire and pour 1/2 cup of cold water to settle the grounds. Let set about 2 minutes and its ready.
The Recipe Club email recommended that you use "fresh roasted beans ground just before using," coarse-ground for boiling.

I bet Dave got a jolt from the coffee that was prepared by wagon cook Randy Brown. I sure did.

But, that's what it's supposed to do. It's coffee, "Guaranteed to get you goin’ in the morning."

Basic Dutch oven bread

I have since revisited the recipe for Dutch oven bread. I revised the mixing and kneading technique. The ingredient quantities haven't changed.

I started my bread last Saturday around 11:30 a.m. by dumping the flour and other dry ingredients into a large bowl. Since I advocate weighing the flour when baking, I find pre-weighing the dry ingredients at home saves me the trouble of dragging my scale to camp.

I weighted the flour into a large zipper-top bag at home. After adding the sugar, salt and instant yeast and closing the bag, a quick knead or two evenly distributed the dry ingredients among the flour.

The dough quickly came together in camp. It takes me about 250 strokes to completely knead the dough by hand in camp.

The dough starts to come together by the 80th stroke with a smooth surface. That's my signal to watch the amount of much flour I add to the dough.

As you approach 180 strokes, the dough will stiffen slightly. I usually do a window pain test around the 225th stroke to see how it's shaping up. Once I'm satisfied, I place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl or Dutch oven to ferment.

A word about charcoal briquettes and hot coals
Over the past couple years, I've slowly moved away from counting coals when cooking in Dutch ovens. I can't tell you how many coals I used to bake the bread.

Although I may be able to give the number of shovels I used, that won't help as we likely use differently-sized shovels. In the words of chuckwagon chef Kent Rollings, you must practice, practice, practice. In time, you'll learn to gauge heat by sight.

The recipe contains a reference to an approximate oven temperature. If you prefer to count charcoal briquettes, base the number of top and bottom coals on one of the popular temperature charts.

For bread, I know from experience (in temperate weather) that I need to set the Dutch oven over a light bed of coals and cover the lid with a good shovel or two of coals. Sorry, but there's little science here -- just good old cooking by touch and feel.

Instead, I light a pile of Lazzari mesquite charcoal and let it burn down to a bed of coals. The large chunks of mesquite, with many four- and five-inch diameter pieces in the bag, split and break into charcoal-sized coals as it burns. Once you have sufficient coals, transfer them to the Dutch oven with tongs or a small shovel.


I modified this recipe from American West Dutch Oven Cooking (Amazon link), published in 2000, by former world champion Dutch oven cooks Kent Mayberry and Brian Terry. It's a reliable recipe that uses a ratio of 3 parts flour to 2 parts water. That's the equivalent to 60 percent moisture (from water and egg whites) when the flour is figured as 100 percent.

Use this recipe as a foundation for most any flavor. On several occasions, I've worked an 8-ounce jar of pesto into the dough. The pesto gives the bread a nice green color and bright Italian flavor.

This recipe is written for the 14-inch deep Dutch oven, which will hold a 5-cup bread recipe (the measure of flour). Five cups of bread flour is approximately equivalent to 25 ounces. Cut the recipe in half for a 12-inch deep camp oven.

25 ounces bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups warm water
2 eggs

At home: Combine flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large zipper-top bag. If measuring flour, use 5 cups.

In camp: Mix water and egg together and combine with yeast and half of the flour mixture in a large bowl. Beat with wooden spoon until smooth. Mix the rest of the flour until smooth.

Knead by hand on a floured work surface. I find that it takes about 250 strokes to properly knead the dough. Cover and let dough rise in a warm spot until double in size, about 60 minutes. Punch dough and knead until smooth. Form as desired.

Place in a greased 14-inch deep-style Dutch oven. Grease top with melted butter. Let rise 30 minutes or until double in size.

Bake with coals for approximately 400 degrees until browned. Remove bottom coals after 15 minutes and finish baking with top coals only. When done, remove coals and cool bread.