By META WEST
Outdoor cooking usually conjures up thoughts of steaks or burgers cooked over a charcoal or gas grill. But for Kate Rader it means more — camp outs, trail rides and camp-style Dutch oven cookers.
She explained, “I had done some campfire cooking in the past but I really got interested when I started learning about Dutch oven cooking. It fascinated me!” Then in 1994 Kate and her husband signed on for summer jobs at Boulder Lake Lodge in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. “I got the job I wanted . . . trail cook and Brant was a camp jack, wrangler and guide. It was the only time I made more money then he did,” she added.
They soon became regulars, taking guests up into the Wind River Range on horseback to camp, fish and just relax. Trips could last a week or more, and Kate’s job included meal planning and preparation. She said, “The guests paid a good amount of money so nothing was spared in preparing their food. It didn't have to be fancy but it had to be good and plenty of it. Everything tastes better when you are camping and appetites are hearty!”
Supplies were loaded on pack mules for the trip and Kate noted, “I liked to supervise so I could be sure the fragile items, such as eggs and fruit, were not packed on the bottom or on the little mule who liked to lie down and roll with her pack on. Some of these trips were at a stationary camp about 17 miles up the mountain and some were traveling camps where we traveled up to 100 miles over a week’s time, and had to pack and unpack every day.”
For the high camp, all of the cooking equipment was taken up at the first of the season. For a traveling camp everything, including cooking equipment and food, had to be packed for the whole trip. All of the meat was frozen and wrapped in layers of newspaper. “It would stay frozen for several days because of the cool night temperatures,” Kate added.
Summer camps consisted of big breakfasts, usually an egg dish, bacon, ham or sausage, potatoes, fruit, juice, biscuits or cinnamon rolls. If guests were fishing, Kate packed them a lunch. Supper was another abundant meal, starting with an appetizer and ending with dessert.
In the fall, the Rader’s took elk hunters up to a hunting camp on the shore of beautiful Lake Isabel. Kate commented, “This was one of my favorite places in the whole world! Some mornings started as early as 3:30 a.m. The hunters would leave in the dark on horseback so they could get where they were hunting before light. They ate a big breakfast and drank lots of cowboy coffee, but on mornings when it was cold and snowing it was hard to get them out the door!”
Kate acknowledged, “Learning to cook in cast iron Dutch ovens takes some time because it's not like setting your oven at 350 degrees. You learn how to regulate your temperature by experience.” Dutch oven cookbooks can be a big help and recently, Kate’s daughter, Annette Satterfield, introduced her to a phone app that tells how many charcoal briquettes to put under and on top of the oven in order to reach a desired temperature setting.
Of course, anytime you venture into the unfamiliar, there just have to be a few out of the ordinary stories. Kate, Brant (a.k.a. “Camp Jack”), and daughter Annette (who happened to be on hand for the interview and backyard cooking) reminisced about a few. Kate recalled their very first Wyoming trail ride and camp out, “We rode horses and led pack mules up a rough and rocky mountain trail. Accompanying the Raders on the seven to eight hour trek was the lodge owner and a family of five who planned to do some fly-fishing. After hobbling the mules and putting the horses out to graze, the crew began to set up camp. Kate was excited about finally having a chance to cook with Dutch ovens; she planned to watch and observe the lodge owner for the first couple of days. However, as they were unpacking the supplies, they discovered that the fishing gear had not been loaded. So, the lodge owner grabbed a horse and headed back down the mountain. Kate managed the steak and potato dinner but things became even more complicated when Brant discovered the mules were gone. He saddled another horse and went after them . . . only to return empty handed when it turned pitch black outside. After cooking for, supervising and entertaining that first group of guests, basically on their own, the Raders figured they were pretty much up for about anything! Oh, yes, the lodge owner eventually made it back with the fishing equipment and the two truant mules, and Kate did receive additional instructions of Dutch oven cookery.
There was also the black bear that managed to unzip the cook tent and ate everything it could, including the entire week’s supply of cheese, butter and syrup. “We’d taken one group back down the mountain and were picking up another plus restocking our food supplies when it happened.” Kate explained. Brant mentioned, “The last thing we expected was a visit from a bear. Normally they don’t go above 7,000 feet and our camp was located at an altitude of 10,000 feet.” Another trip down to replace the missing supplies was out of the question, so Kate simply had to make due. Among other things, she heated up a solution of sugar, water and cinnamon and mixed it with fried apples for a sweet topping on pancakes and French toast that week.
When asked, “Why do you do something that takes so much time and effort?” Kate has a quick response “It's challenging, rewarding and fun! When you lift that lid and see that near perfect loaf of bread, dessert, cinnamon rolls, pizza or breakfast casserole it is exciting every time.”
Kate even has a favorite camping quote that comes from noted outdoor writers, Ken and Jean Fermoyle —"If we were restricted to just one pot or pan for camping or a stay as a castaway on a desert isle, the Dutch oven would be it.” And, Kate adds, “You name it and you can make it in a Dutch oven. You can bake or roast anything that you would in a conventional oven. It is also self-basting. It can be used as a stew pot for cooking items you would normally cook on top of the kitchen range. It is a deep fryer, a steamer, and a frying pan. Turn the lid upside down and it is a grill. The Dutch oven is a slow cooker or crock-pot. You can also stack two or three Dutch ovens on top of each other with coals in between and cook in this manner to maximize the use of your available coals.”
These days the Rader’s Dutch oven and camp cooking is usually limited to vacations with daughters Stephanie, Annette and her husband, Scott, plus other extended family and friends. But after years of experience
Kate offers recipes and advice for those who might enjoy a new culinary challenge. She’s included some of her favorite conventional recipes, too.
Additional Advice on Dutch Oven Camp Cooking . . .
Equipment: Buying a Dutch oven is a lifetime investment. Brant and Kate recommend spending the few extra dollars necessary to buy a really good quality Dutch oven such as Lodge® brand which is made in the USA. Start with the 12" Dutch oven that has three legs – most cast iron pots now come preseasoned. Kate has at least 10 Dutch ovens ranging in size from five to 16 inches. Other needs: lid lifter, heavy gloves, long handled tongs, a small shovel, a lid holder and a tote bag for each oven; parchment liners or foil make cleanup easier.
Cleaning Dutch ovens: If you don't use liners or aluminum foil you can clean a pot by adding hot water and placing it back on the fire for a short time. This will loosen what's left in the pot so it can easily be wiped clean.
Dutch oven storage: Wipe interior of pots with a thin layer of oil. Store in a tote with the lid under the Dutch oven, or crack the lid open (placing a towel, etc. between lip and pot) so the air can circulate.
Heat Source: You get a more accurate temperature by using charcoal briquettes. As a rule of thumb, for a 350° oven you would use 24 briquettes; place 16 on top and 8 on the bottom — this system provides more uniform internal heat and lets the inside act as an oven. Kate advised, “I also heat a few extra briquettes to be on the safe side.” Generally all baking requires more heat on top of the oven than is required on the bottom. Rotate your oven a quarter to a half turn once or twice while baking — this regulates the uneven heat caused by wind and/or the uneven distribution of coals on the top and bottom of your oven.
Recipes: Start with simple ones and practice in your back yard. Kate adds, “It's a creative way of cooking, not an exacting art. Don't be afraid to experiment.”
As far as specific references go, Kate recommends the highly rated free phone app — Dutch Oven Coal Calculator. While there are lots of available Internet recipes she tends to refer back to three favorite cookbooks:
1.“Texas Treasury Dutch Oven Cookbook,” compiled by the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society, 1997 edition.
2.“Trail Cook Book, Trail Cooks’ Favorite Recipes,” by John and Robert Wolcott, 1991 edition.
3.“Dutch Oven Cookbook, World Championship” (collection of championship recipes),
Smokey Brisket Conventional Oven
Kate who grew up in the Elmo community (her maiden name was Meuli) said, “I usually make brisket for our extended family Christmas potluck dinner. There's never any to take home. This is also nice to make ahead and freeze. You can get it out for a fast meal or unexpected company!”
2 to 3 lb. beef brisket
Seasoning Mixture: (combine & mix well)
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 to 3 teaspoons of liquid smoke - to taste
1/8 teaspoon of celery seed
1 tablespoon of soy sauce, optional
Put a piece of wide aluminum foil in roasting pan. Place brisket on foil, fat side up. Cover with seasoning mixture. Wrap and fold edges to seal. Place sealed side up in refrigerator overnight. Bake about 5½ hours at 250° in a conventional oven, or until tender. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing — be sure to slice across grain of meat.
BBQ Green Beans Conventional or Dutch Oven
According to Kate, this recipe gives green beans a lift and is a great accompaniment for about any meat but especially something on the grill. She makes these beans ahead for camping and then reheats them on site.
½ lb. bacon
3 (15 oz.) cans green beans, drained
½ to 1 medium onion, chopped
Cut the bacon into ½” pieces; cook until almost crisp. Combine green beans, onion, and bacon. Stir together and pour over green beans:
½ cup catsup
½ cup BBQ sauce
½ to ¾ cup brown sugar
Bake at 325° for one hour, or cook in crockpot on low all day.
Rader's Taters Conventional or Dutch Oven
A sweet potato adds color and flavor to this recipe the Rader’s daughter, Annette, always makes during family camping trips in Colorado.
Baby or new potatoes, about 3 lbs. – leave skins on & cut in bite-size pieces (Annette uses the fingerling potatoes you buy in a small bag, usually they are Yukon Gold but any variety or combination of varieties would work)
1 big sweet potatoes, peeled & cut in bite-size pieces
Olive oil, about ¼ cup
Butter, about 3 to 4 tablespoons
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients and cook everything together in Dutch oven until tender, stirring occasionally.
Eat 'Em Up! Yum Yum.
Make-Ahead Potatoes Yield: 12 servings Conventional Oven
Kate said, “I found this recipe back in 1997 and it's so good and so nice to make ahead if you are having a big dinner. It's one thing less to do at the last minute and they are even better then plain mashed potatoes.”
10 potatoes (about 4½ lbs.), peeled and quartered
1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream (light or reduced fat works)
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened (fat free or reduced fat works)
6 tablespoons butter, divided use
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon salt
Place potatoes in a Dutch oven or large kettle; add some water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain and place in mixer bowl or other large bowl. Mash well and then add sour cream, cream cheese, 4 tablespoons butter, dried onion and salt. Beat until smooth and the cream cheese and butter are melted. Add some milk at this point until they are the consistency of soft mashed potatoes. Spread in a greased 13”x 9”x 2” baking dish. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter; drizzle over potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika.
Refrigerate or bake immediately, covered, at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes; uncover and bake 15 minutes longer.
If potatoes are made ahead and refrigerated, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
One Pot Pleaser Dutch Oven Breakfast Serves 10 to 12 or more Conventional or Dutch Oven
This is a good recipe for beginners because the oven temperature does not have to be
as precise as with 'real' baking! You can make this in your oven as well but, according to Kate, it tastes better in the mountains!
1 lb. bacon
2 lbs. potatoes, cooked, peeled and diced small, or 2 lb. frozen hash brown potatoes
8 oz. or more of grated Cheddar cheese
Onion or jalapeño pepper (optional)
Cut bacon into 1” pieces. Brown in 12” Dutch oven over medium cooking fire.
Remove bacon from oven. Pour off excess bacon fat and use remaining fat to brown the hash browns. Save back ¼ cup of bacon to sprinkle on top and add the remaining bacon to hash browns.
Beat eggs and pour over bacon-potato mixture. Put lid on Dutch oven and add coals to lid, keeping bottom heat fairly low.
When eggs are cooked, sprinkle cheese and bacon on top. Remove oven from bottom heat, return lid with coals to oven and bake until cheese is melted, maybe 2 to 3 minutes.
Note: This recipe can be successful with as few as 10 eggs. Sausage or cubed ham
can be substituted for the bacon.
So Easy So Good Cinnamon Rolls Yield: 1 dozen rolls Conventional or Dutch Oven
Kate’s love of cooking and desire to try new things led her to experiment with baking the family’s favorite cinnamon rolls in a Dutch oven. She prepares the dough in her mixer when working in her home kitchen but by hand when camping. “They are easy either way and equally as good!” she assured. The recipe came from Vona Schwarz.
Mix together in large bowl:
2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
5 teaspoons vital wheat gluten, optional (pure gluten that is derived from washing
wheat flour to remove the starch; it strengthens the flour allowing for optimum structure in
1 teaspoon salt
Heat to 125° the following ingredients:
½ cup of canola or coconut oil
1 cup milk
¾ cup water
¼ teaspoon Watkins® vanilla nut extract, or use vanilla
Add this to above flour mixture and beat 3 minutes by mixer or hand.
2 to 2½ cups more of flour and mix until flour is mixed in. Don't add this all at once but
in small increments.
Dough should by very soft but able to handle. Knead slightly until dough is blended together. Cover and let rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Turn dough out on a lightly oiled surface. Put more oil on your counter — enough to spread dough out part way with your hands. Flip over and press out until it measures about 18"x10". Spread with softened butter and sprinkle liberally with at least 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and ½ cup brown sugar.
Roll up starting on long side and cut rolls about 1½” thick. (Kate cuts the long roll of dough in half, then each half in six, yielding 12 rolls.)
Put in a lined and lightly greased 14" camp Dutch oven or a deep 9”x13” pan. Take 2 fingers and push down center of each roll. Let rise in a warm place 30 minutes.
Topping: (optional but Kate thinks it is what makes the rolls really good)
Just before baking, heat the following just until mixed together. Pour this over the top of rolls right before they to into the oven.
1½ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup whole milk or half and half
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon Watkins® vanilla nut extract or use vanilla extract if this is not available
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup of finely chopped nuts (optional but good!) —Sprinkle these on top after you pour the topping on.
If you are using a Dutch oven — preheat lid with charcoal briquettes about 10 minutes before you start to bake your rolls.
Bake about 25 minutes in the conventional oven; could be up to an additional 15 minutes in the Dutch oven. It's OK to peek in your Dutch oven but not until after the first 15 minutes as it lets heat out of the Dutch oven.
For the Dutch oven — Kate generally bakes the rolls for 30 minutes with hot briquettes placed underneath and on top of the Dutch oven; then she removes the pot from the bottom coals but lets rolls continue to bake, using just top heat for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Quick Beer Bread Conventional or Dutch Oven
About this bread, Kate says, “This was a Fleischmann’s yeast recipe. I started making it in 1984. It takes just 90 minutes from start to finish and works well in my 12" Dutch oven. When I'm home I make the dough in my bread machine but I bake it in the oven.”
2¼ to 2¾ cups unsifted all-purpose white flour – divided use
1¼ cups unsifted rye flour
4 teaspoons vital wheat gluten, optional (pure gluten that is derived from washing
wheat flour to remove the starch; it strengthens the flour allowing for optimum structure in
¾ cup beer
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon butter
2 (¼ oz.) packages active dry yeast or 5 teaspoons
½ cup warm water (115°)
2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1½ teaspoons of regular salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Mix 1½ cups of the all-purpose white flour and the rye flour.
Heat beer, honey, and butter to 115°. Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl.
Add warm beer mixture, salt, garlic powder to the 1½ cups of white-rye flour mixture.
Beat until smooth. Stir in remaining flour mixture and enough additional white flour to make a soft dough. On floured board, knead dough until smooth, about 4 minutes. Shape into a ball. Place in an 8” round pan, or on a baking stone, or in a 12” Dutch oven. Slash the top of the loaf to keep it from bursting during the baking phase. Grease top lightly. Cover. Let rise in warm, draft-free place for about 45 minutes.
Bake at 375° for 25 to 30 minutes, or until done. Cool on rack.
Note: For Dutch oven loaves, Kate shapes the bread on a piece of parchment paper for easy transfer to the Dutch oven where it rises and then bakes. She also suggests, “Put coals mostly around the outside rim of lid or the middle of bread will get too brown. Bake until nicely brown on top and you can probably check the bottom at this time to see if it is nice and brown.”
Black Midnight Cake Conventional Oven
Rich and dark, this chocolate cake can be mixed in one bowl. Bake it conventionally in a rectangular cake pan, or cut recipe in half and bake in a square pan. This recipe, originally given to Kate by Brant’s mother, has been in the Rader family a long time.
In mixer bowl beat:
1 cup canola oil
2½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Kate suggests using part dark chocolate cocoa
2 cups hot water
Add following to above mixture and beat 3 minutes:
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons vanilla
Pour into a 9”x12” greased cake pan. Bake in a conventional 350° oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Or, cut ingredients in half and pour into a 9”x9” pan; follow the same procedures as listed above, baking just about 20 minutes or until firm in center.
Cool and ice with your favorite chocolate frosting.
Blueberry-Lemon Cream Cheese Cobbler Conventional or Dutch Oven
This soft but slightly crunchy recipe came from the Rader’s daughter, Annette. Although this cake is rich and delicious, Kate recommends serving it with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.
Mix together and stir over low heat until well blended.
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup milk
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Use a Dutch oven parchment liner if you have it. If not, lightly spray or coat the
inside of a cold 12” Dutch oven (or 9”x13” baking dish if using the conventional oven) with oil.
In a bowl mix together:
1 (18.25 oz.) lemon cake mix
Juice and zest of one lemon + enough ginger ale to make ¾ cup
Fold into this mixture:
The cream cheese mixture +12 oz. frozen or fresh blueberries
Pour into the Dutch oven.
In a separate bowl mix together:
1 (17.5 oz.) pkg. sugar cookie mix
1¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) butter, melted
Put on top of last mixture in Dutch oven (baking dish). Place lid on top of Dutch oven (bake uncovered in conventional oven).
Place Dutch oven over 12 briquettes and place 22 briquettes on lid.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes with quarter rotations of lid every 15 minutes (about 45 minutes if baked conventionally). Your nose will tell you when this is done!
Butterscotch Pie Filling with Super Meringue Stove Top / Conventional Oven
Homemade pudding or pie filling is a favorite in the Rader household. This recipe, which came from a friend Alida Casper, earns rave reviews.
1½ cups packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
2¼ cups milk – divided use
4 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue recipe that follows)
2 teaspoons vanilla
Mix the brown sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt together in large microwavable bowl.
Add butter. Add 1¾ cup of the milk, (save the other ½ cup to mix with egg yolks)
Cook 4 to 5 minutes, on high power, in microwave, stirring often with a wire whisk to avoid lumps. (Do NOT leave the pudding to do other things while it cooks.)
Beat the egg yolks and the remaining ½ cup of milk in a small bowl.
Slowly pour egg yolk and milk mixture into cooked mixture, stirring with wire whisk as you pour. Cook again until thick, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly and add vanilla.
Always on the lookout for the perfect meringue, Kate is happy with the results achieved in this recipe she created by trial and error.
4 egg whites
4 heaping (like big spoonfulls!) tablespoons of marshmallow creme
4 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat egg whites until almost stiff.
Add marshmallow creme and powdered sugar and beat until mixture stands in peaks. Pile on pie filling or pudding.
Bake in conventional oven at 350° about 10 minutes, or until meringue is lightly browned.