How to cook a turkey on a campfire

Thanksgiving is a great time to go camping.   You have extra time off of work, the kids are out of school, and the fall air is cool and crisp.   The only downside to camping may be that you risk missing out on the Thanksgiving feast.  But as you well know,  at PahaQue we love cooking outdoors, and we think that a Thanksgiving meal is even better when enjoyed  outdoors on a camping trip with family.   Of course camping out of a tent , or even camping out of your trailer provides a unique set of challenges when preparing Thanksgiving dinner.    The primary one being: How to cook a Turkey when  when you are camping?  If you have a a large motorhome, you  may not have any issues, but even  a large R-pod doesn’t have enough space to roast a 12lb bird, so we prefer to head straight to the campfire.   Of course there is always the option of deep frying your Turkey when you are camping, but the gear and oil  required for that job is bulky, and can take up a ton of space in your car or your  teardrop trailer.  Not to mention that fact that all of that hot oil can be dangerous.  So we prefer this alternative to  deep frying a turkey, one that is  healthier and less dangerous to boot.  We learned this method from Little Guy Trailers a few years ago.  How to cook a Thanksgiving Turkey on a campfire:

1024px-RoastTurkey.jpg

Supplies you will need:

  • A shovel and rake ( rake optional)
  • A turkey of course
  • Olive oil
  • Your preferred spices ( rosemary, salt, etc)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cheesecloth
  •  A nice big fire

Step 1: Start the Fire

The first step to cooking a turkey on a campfire is planning ahead with plenty of fuel for the fire.  Have a big pile of wood ready to go, and get that fire going enough to create plenty of hot coals.   You’ll need to dig a 2X2 foot hole next to your campfire, as that’s where you’ll cook your bird.

STEP 2: Prep Your Bird

While that  campfire is burning, you can clean and prepare your turkey.   Just clean it up and rub it down with the same spice mix you would use if you cooked your turkey at home.   If you love stuffing, just stuff the turkey as you normally would, and then get ready to protect it from  direct contact with the coals.

Step 3:  Protect Your Bird

Once the bird is rubbed and stuffed, you’ll need to wrap the turkey entirely in the cheesecloth, and then wrap the turkey in three to four layers of aluminum foil.  This step is important, as it will protect your bird from the coals.   We’ve always wanted to try getting rid of the cheesecloth, and wrapping it in cabbage leaves.   This is how we cooked our “trail burgers”  back in our boy scout days.  We like the idea, but haven’t been brave enough to try it.  If you decide to try the cabbage leaves, let us know how it goes!

Step 4: Move your bird

Once your coals are ready, take your shovel or rake and put about half the coals in the bottom of the whole you dug earlier.  You’ll want a couple of inches of coals, and you’ll want to spread them evenly across the bottom of the hole.   Then use the shovel to carefully place the turkey on top of the coals, and follow up the turkey with the rest of the coals.   Try to gently cover it as completely as possible, and  its ok to use some of the dirt to build up a little wall around the edges.

Step 5: Wait

Since a 10-12 lb turkey takes around 3 hours too cook, you’ll have some time to relax before you start preparing the rest of your meal.  For anything over 12 lbs, just add 15 minutes per lb to the cooking time.    After you have relaxed and recovered from all that digging, campfire building, and rubbing, you can start preparing the rest of your meal.  Fans of the blog know that Cooky Jason’s  grilles, scalloped potatoes will go great with a campfire cooked turkey.

Step 6: Chow down

When the time is up, use your shovel to carefully remove your bird from the coals.  You won’t want to set it down  directly on the table, as the  bird and the coals will be extremely hot.   We like to set it down on a nice tree stump or flat rock.   Unwrap the turkey, using great care to watch our for steam and hot air escaping from the foil.  Then transfer to a carving board, carve it up, and enjoy!

Winter Camping Tips

Here are some handy cold-weather camping tips that can make camping more comfortable through the fall/winter camping season. Stay warm!

1. Keep hydrated during the day and avoid drinking lots of fluids at night, so you won’t have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

2. Eat a big dinner with lots of calories. Calories are a unit of heat, without them the furnace won’t burn hot.

3. Keep a snack with you for the middle of the night, so if you do wake up cold you can replenish lost calories and warm back up again.

4. Go to bed warm. Warm up by taking a brief hike around camp or doing some jumping jacks. If you wrap a frozen salmon in a sleeping bag, will it stay frozen? Yes, because your sleeping bag will insulate cold or heat, just like a Thermos.

4. Select a protected campsite out of the wind and off the valley floor and other low areas where cold air settles. A good rule is to be about 50 feet above the valley floor.

6. Fluff up your sleeping bag with vigor to gain maximum loft before you climb in.

7. Use a good insulating pad between you and the ground. Studies show that what you have under you is more important in keeping you warm than what is on top of you.

8. Wear a stocking hat to bed, you lose most of your body heat through your head.

9. Keep your nose and mouth outside your sleeping bag. Your breath contains a great deal of moisture that can cause dampness to collect in the bag as you sleep. To keep your face warm, wear a balaclava or wrap a scarf around your face.

10. Roll the moisture out of your bag each morning when you get up (roll from foot to head), then leave it open until it cools to air temperature. If weather permits, set it out to dry.

11. Use a layered sleeping system (i.e. sleeping bag, liner, half bag, bivy sack). A layered system helps to remove the frost buildup that naturally occurs when your body warmth meets the cold air (a concern if you’re staying out multiple nights).

12. Avoid overheating at night and make sure you go to bed dry. Being too warm produces perspiration, so vent your bag if needed or take off your stocking hat.

13. Make sure your feet are as dry as possible before going to bed. This can be done by having a pair of dry sleeping socks in your bag for sleeping only. Also, you can “dry” wash your feet with a good foot powder that contains aluminum chlorohydrate, which helps dry the skin and reduce perspiration.

14. Wear loose fitting clothing to bed so it doesn’t restrict circulation.

15. Keep your sleeping gear clean. Dirt clogs air spaces in the material and reduces insulation value making it harder to stay warm.

16. If you have cold feet, sleep with your feet together in an elephant foot or half bag. It’s a bag that uses the principle of the buddy system, where the feet share heat instead of being isolated, much like mittens are warmer than gloves. The bag slips over your feet and legs and then drawstrings pull it shut or you could just use a fleece jacket wrapped around the same area.

17. Fill a water bottle with hot water before you go to bed and then strategically place it at any cold spots in your sleeping bag. Just make sure it has a screw on lid like the Nalgene bottles. A variation of this is to use disposable heater packs or hand warmers, which costs a little extra money. Or, in the old days they would take some heated rocks from around the campfire and place them in a wool sock. Just make sure they’re not too hot. (Editor’s note: If using this old-fashioned method to keep warm, make sure that the rocks are completely dry before heating. Trapped steam may cause so much outward pressure that the rocks may explode.)

The Gear Doctor – April 2015

SPRING CLEANING TIME!gear doctor B

Spring has sprung!  Time to get out the tents, sleeping bags, stoves, lanterns and sleeping pads and check them after their seasons in storage.

TENTS

Set up your tent and inspect for tears, mildew and zipper pull function.  If tent is torn, you can try stitching the tear yourself with nylon thread.  If it has a small hole, you can use “K-Tape”, readily available at the local REI store or on Amazon.  REI also has a repair service for rips and tears, but the turnaround time can be as long as 6 weeks.  Give yourself plenty of time for the repair to be finished in time for your trip.  If tent has mildew or mold, take a cup of Borax and add to a 5 gallon bucket of water.  Set up the tent and wipe it completely down with a washcloth soaked in the Borax/water solution and rinse thoroughly.  Allow to dry standing up.  Vinegar works better, but can leave a residual smell, so use what you prefer.  Check all zippers to see that they function properly.  Zipper tape can be lubed with dry graphite or Tri-Flo lube, found in bicycle shops.  Lube inside each zipper pull for easy sliding.

SLEEPING BAGS

Take out of storage bag and lay flat overnight.  Check for tears and smells.  If you notice holes or tears, you can use K-Tape to stick over either one.  If sleeping bag smells, wash in a front loader or top loader with no agitator, using a mild detergent on LOW cycle.  Tumble dry on LOW in dryer.  For synthetic bags, one cycle should be sufficient.  For down bags, you’ll want to place 3 sets of balled up socks inside the dryer with the bag, and fluff the bag after each cycle has finished.  Place back inside the dryer for further cycles until down has lofted, and bag is completely dry.

STOVES/LANTERNS

Check O-rings on gas valves, and lube with suitable grease, such as silicone.  Attach a fuel bottle and test the flame starter.  If there is a clog in the line, you may need to replace the tube or valve.  Replace mantles on lanterns and burn them according to directions, so the lantern is ready for use upon arrival at your campsite.

SLEEPING PADS

Check for leaks/holes and patch any with appropriate patches and Seam-Seal.  Allow patches to cure and dry for 24 hrs before rolling up and storing in sack.  If there is evidence of mildew, follow directions with Borax as per tent cleaning.

Starting your trip with repaired/checked gear will ensure a positive, memorable experience!  There’s nothing worse than getting to your campsite with gear that doesn’t function.  And there’s nothing better than being outdoors in a clean, dry tent and getting a good night’s sleep in a clean sleeping bag.

HAPPY CAMPING!

—the Gear Doctor

We are very pleased to have Anita Hudson Easton back on our writing staff as author of our monthly Gear Doctor.  Anita is a 30 year veteran of the Outdoor Industry and is an expert in the design, manufacturing, care and maintenance of outdoor gear!

Camping Resolutions for 2015

Camping Resolutions for the New Year

How many of you have made your annual resolutions for the new year?  Things such as losing weight, saving more money, and being less stressed, for example.  All good things, but not ones that should necessarily require a resolution to achieve.

So we’ve put together a tangible, achievable list of resolutions that are sure to bring joy and a sense of fulfillment.  No, we are not talking about your weight or pocketbook – we’re talking about camping.  So here you go:

1.  Camp More Often – sure that sounds easy, but we know that it is not always easy to just grab your gear and escape. In order to achieve this resolution, you may consider searching for local campgrounds and backcountry that is ideal for quick one-night trips and that require less gear and preparation time.  Many of us tend to overlook local camping sites when we plan our trips far from home.  Hey, one night of camping beats not camping at all!

2.  Plan One Big Trip per Year – Camping is arguably the most cost-effective vacation you can take, and also the most relaxing.  But it usually takes a day or two to get into the groove, shed the cares of everyday life, and feel the rhythm of being outdoors.  Go to sleep when you’re tired, wake when you’re rested, eat when you’re hungry.

3.  Plan, Inspect, Prepare – taking time now during the winter months to prepare your gear, and to make necessary repairs ensures that you are ready to go, for one night or for longer, when camping opportunities arise.  This is also a good time of year to replace or upgrade  your gear as many manufacturers are clearing out last years inventory in preparation for the 2015 camping season.

4.  Take the Back Roads – your camping adventure doesn’t have to wait until you arrive at camp.  It can begin the moment you leave your driveway.  Do some homework before you leave – find the old roads and you’ll find lots of great history and things to see along the way.  Drive the interstates, and you’re bound to arrive at camp stressed and worn from the journey.  (We once drove from Salt Lake City to San Diego on old roads – the things we saw and learned on that trip could fill a book).

5.  Try New Recipes – many of us like to stick to our old ‘tried and true’ recipes, usually for the sake of simplicity, but you don’t have to be stuck with hot dogs and baked beans for dinner every night.  By doing some easy planning, and pre-trip food prep at home, you can eat like a king besides the fire.  And everyone is happier when they eat well.

6.  Buy an Inexpensive Telescope – or at the very least bring binoculars.  Since a fair amount of our waking time in camp is spent at night, don’t miss the free star show overhead every night.  Some telescopes are programmed to point automatically to night sky objects, and can provide an entire ‘tour’ of the night sky.  At the very least, there are free smart phone apps that instantly turn any novice into a celestial expert.  Binoculars can provide a great view of closer objects such as the moon.

So there you have it – 6 easy resolutions that are sure to make your year better, and your camping trips more enjoyable.

Happy Trails in 2015!

The Gear Doctor for January 2015

Throwing a sleeping roll and a tent into the back of a pick-up and hitting the road without a care in the world is one of the best parts of camping. But putting a little time and energy into planning your camping trip helps ensure that your precious vacation time is not spent driving around at midnight trying to find a safe, legal spot to lay your head.

Step 1

Match the amount of time you have with the distance you want to drive. Driving always takes slightly longer than you think. If your GPS unit tells you the drive is six hours long, give yourself at least an extra hour for impromptu coffee breaks, tourism and getting lost. Don’t plan campgrounds too far away from one another or you’ll spend too much time in the car and not enough time enjoying the scenery from your campsite.

Step 2

Pick out your stay places on a map and check for facilities in the locations you desire. Pick up a state map that marks the locations of state and national campgrounds and check online for private camping facilities.

Step 3

Make reservations either online or by calling the campground. Many facilities fill up during the heavy travel season in the summer, so it pays to get your spot secured. If you are traveling with an RV or a trailer, check to make sure the campground accepts your vehicle length and is easily accessible. Some campgrounds are situated off winding, dirt roads that aren’t recommended for large vehicles or trailers.  If you plan to backcountry camp, be sure to research the area you intend to visit for trail access, firewood collection, etc.

Step 4

Get your vehicle checked out before getting on the road, including the spare tire. Make sure you have the equipment for changing a flat, as well as extra oil and water. Trips that take you down long back roads may not have cell service, so prepare a solid emergency kit in case you get stuck.  A 12-volt tire pump and a can of Fix-A-Flat can turn a major hassle into a minor inconvenience.

Step 5

Call the local ranger station or highway patrol before heading out to get any information on road closures or hazards. Traveling into the remote countryside can find travelers staring at washed-out roads or getting stuck in the snow, even in the spring. Know where you’re going and what to expect to avoid unpleasant surprises. Do not rely solely on GPS units to map your journey in unfamiliar territory, and pay attention to the weather forecast.

Step 6

Pack a cooler carefully.  The less time the lid is open, the longer your ice will last.  Easy access to beverages helps reduce the amount of time digging through the ice for a soda.  Freeze as much food as possible, such as meat and extra water – this helps maintain your ice linger as well.  Pre-plan meals and combine the ingredients into one large bag, so accessing each meal from your cooler is quick and easy.  Wrap food in double plastic bags or airtight plastic container to avoid getting wet or soggy.

Step 7

Carry a little cash. Some gas stations and stores in remote locations only deal in cash or can be prone to having their card machines out of service. Likewise, have a few checks on hand for paying campground fees in no-host camps.

Step 8

Load your vehicle safely. Do not over-pack or tie it down with equipment it’s not designed to carry. Use a proper cargo rack, or rent a vehicle that can haul your stuff safely. In that vein, know that you will often have to park your vehicle at beaches and trail heads unfortunately prone to thievery. Make sure valuables are either out of view, well locked-down or with you at all times.

Excerpts from Nikki Jardin/USAToday.com

Cooky Jason’s September Tip – Breakfast in Camp

Cooky Jason’s World Famous Herbed Egg Scramble

OK, I’ve been getting emails from you guys asking for more breakfast recipes. So we’ll start out with a simple scramble that can just as easily be done at home as at the campsite in a Dutch oven in a skillet on the grill. Of course everyone knows how to scramble eggs. The idea here is all the fun variations. Here are some of the ways I do it…

(This will make about 12 servings. You can of course divide the portions accordingly for less campers.)

Major Players

  • 1 lb pork sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red and 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 ½ to 2 lbs shredded hash browns. (Yes, you can use packaged and frozen hash brown potatoes. But it’s easy enough to do yourself. Take 2 large russet potatoes and run them through a medium grater. The important thing after that is that you gather the shreds up in your hands and squeeze all or at least most of the moisture out of them. Very important.)
  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 16oz shredded cheese (Again, this is where it’s fun. Havarti, cheddar, pepper jack, parmesan, mozzarella, etc… Or combinations are good, too.)
  • 1 cup freshly chopped herbs (Parsley, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, thyme, savory, or any combination you like)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Let’s get to it.

Over medium-high heat start by browning off the sausage and breaking it up. When it’s no longer pink (8 minutes or so) add the onion, garlic, and hash browns. After about 5 minutes the hash browns should be showing some color. Then add the bell peppers, and salt and pepper. You can also add some sliced mushrooms here if you want. After about 10 minutes, add the herbs and pour the beaten eggs over the top of the sausage/hash brown mixture. Cover your Dutch over or skillet and bake until eggs are firm, around 25 minutes. Then sprinkle with cheese and recover for another 3 to 4 minutes. Garnish with chives or green onions and serve. Come and get it…

Questions/comments/requests/suggestions/limericks/thoughts on life/childhood stories? Feel free to drop me a line at jasonr@pahaque.com.

Cooky Jason’s August Tip – Dutch Oven Cooking

Dutch Oven Cooking – by Cooky Jason

 So you picked up your very first Dutch Oven and cooked your first dish. To your dismay you find that the bottom was overdone and the middle was a bit mushy. What’s the secret to cooking award winning dishes with the Dutch Oven? Well in my opinion it all comes down to controlling the heat. Most folks will agree that regulating cooking temperature is the hardest thing to master when learning to cook in a Dutch oven.

Charcoal – For starters always use high quality briquettes. Everyone has their favorite and my briquette of choice is Kingsford. Most Kingsford users will agree that the briquettes are packed tighter than most other brands which minimizes popping and spitting. Kingsford charcoal also burns longer than other brands. Kingsford charcoal will generate good heat for roughly an hour, so for recipes that take more than an hour to cook, remove the remaining briquettes and ash from the oven and replenish them with new briquettes. Since the Dutch oven is already hot, you will not need as many briquettes as when you started cooking. Removing 2-3 briquettes from the top and bottom of the Dutch oven usually does the trick.

Cooking Methods When Using a Dutch Oven
There are four different methods of cooking with a Dutch Oven over a campfire – each achieved by altering the source of heat. Remember not to rush the cooking process. If you allow adequate time for the oven to heat up before adding the food, and keep the coals manipulated to maintain the temperature, you will have great results.

Roasting – In roasting, the heat from your coals should come from the top and bottom evenly. You will place coals on top, as well as pulling the coals up under the pan to create an even heat. Place the same amount of coals on the lid as under the pan. Roasting is best achieved at high temperatures and short cooking times. This will seal in the juices.

Frying and Boiling – When frying and boiling, all the heat should come from underneath the pan. The temperature should be high and kept even during the cooking process.

Baking – Baking requires cooking mostly from the top. You should place the coals on the lid and underneath the pan at a three to one ratio, with most of the coals on the lid. You will want to watch baking foods very carefully.

Simmering and Stewing – Most of the heat should be from the bottom of the pan. The coals should be placed on the lid and underneath the pan in a four to one ratio, with the bulk of the coals underneath the oven. Regulate the heat in stewing and simmering by moving hot coals underneath the pan

Number of Coals to Use to Achieve the Desired Temperature
Here’s a secret that even most seasoned outdoor cooks don’t know: You can prevent burned bottoms, raw tops, and dried-out foods by using properly sized and spaced coals to control the interior oven temperature. Virtually all baked goods can be baked successfully at 350°, which is the ideal temperature for a Dutch oven.
The number and placement of the coals on and under your oven is critical.The optimal number of coals used for any oven is based on its diameter. For example, if you are using a 12-inch oven, you will need two coals per inch, a total of 24. More coals will likely burn your food and less may necessitate too long a cooking period. To determine how many coals go under and how many go on top, remember the magic number 2:
· 2 coals per inch of oven diameter
· place 2 more coals than the oven size on the lid, and
· place 2 less than the oven size under it.
Example: For a 12-inch oven, 12-2=10 coals under the oven, and 12+2=14 coals go on the lid, for a total of 24. The same formula applies to all ovens. A 10-inch oven should have 8 coals underneath and 12 coals on the lid. A 14-inch oven should have 12 coals underneath and 16 coals on the lid.
The placement of the coals is also an important part of proper heat regulation. The proper layout for coals or briquettes under the oven is circular. Coals should be approximately one inch apart in a circle under the oven. Never place coals directly under the center of the oven. If you do, you will create a hot spot and burn whatever you are cooking. By placing the coals in a circle, the natural conductivity of the oven will distribute the heat evenly and effectively.
The coals on the lid of the oven should also be placed evenly in a circle along the flange of the outer lid. However, four of the coals should be placed toward the center of the lid, two on either side of the handle. This coal placement will produce an even, consistent temperature within the oven of approximately 350° and maintain that heat for up to two hours.
In the event that you need to generate a higher temperature inside your oven, “cheat up” the coals. Additional coals placed two at a time, one on the lid and one under the oven, will add another 50°. Two additional coals top and bottom would bring your oven’s temperature up to 450°. It is extremely rare to need a temperature of 450°, and you should never need one higher than that.

Questions/comments/requests/suggestions/limericks/thoughts on life/childhood stories? Feel free to drop me a line at jasonr@pahaque.com.

The Gear Doctor for July 2014

The old adage, “Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you” is an important truth to live by for campers, and one that is seldom more true than when it comes to your tent. At the end of a long day you’ll want your tent to be clean, comfortable and able to adequately protect you from the elements. Follow the suggestions below and you’ll have a tent that will take care of you and give you years of service.

When you get a new tent, always open it and set it up before you take it out in the wild. This allows you to practice setting up your tent and become familiar with the procedure before heading out into the wild.

Proper Storage – Let’s face it, unless you’re camping every weekend or hiking around the country, your tent will spend the majority of it’s life in storage. Proper storage will help extend the life of your tent.

1. Make sure it’s dry – nothing will start the downward trend of degradation in your tent like the mold and mildew caused by storing it when it’s not completely dry. If circumstances force you to break camp in the rain or when the tent is still damp, take it out and set it up to dry and air out as soon as you can.

2. Fold or roll it differently – folding your tent, or even rolling it, the same way every time you store it will cause creases to develop. Over time, those creases can and will result in damages to the material.

3. Store the poles and stakes in their own bags – every tent I’ve ever seen has a separate storage bag for the poles and stakes. Use them. Otherwise you could poke a hole or cause a rip in your tent.

At the Campsite – following a few simple guidelines will help prevent damage and extend the life of your tent.

1. Check your campsite before pitching your tent – make sure you’re not placing your tent on top of rocks, roots or uneven ground that can cause damage to your tent and an uncomfortable night for you, and that the nice, flat, smooth area you find is not the lowest point on the campsite. Otherwise you could be flooded out in a storm when all the water runs downhill into your tent.

2. Use a custom footprint – this helps protect the exterior floor of the tent as well helping to prevent water from gathering under the floor.

3. Keep it clean – Inside. Remove your footwear at the door to avoid tracking dirt and water inside the tent. The new PahaQue TentRugs add a layer of protection, comfort and warmth to your tent floor, and make cleaning out your tent super easy!

4. Keep it clean – Outside. There is almost no way to avoid getting dirt, stains, bird droppings, tree sap droppings and lots of other various things on the exterior of your tent. Always use clean water and a soft rag or sponge to clean up those stains or dirt as soon as possible.  Mild detergents are okay but be careful not to damage the tent fabric coatings.

5. Make repairs as soon as you see the problem – keep a tent repair kit on hand which contains at least a tube of seam-sealer, fabric repair tape,

Your tent is your shelter in bad weather and your protection from the elements in the great outdoors. With proper care, a quality tent can last many years and provide you with many days and nights of clean, warm, comfortable shelter