If you love the idea of being in the great outdoors but the thought of eating another dinner consisting of hotdogs and granola makes you shudder, fret no longer.
Turns out, it’s possible to make everything from lasagna to cake in a campfire, and a workshop being put on by a Yukon wilderness guide in May will show you exactly how to take your camping culinary abilities to the next level.
“Most people associate cooking in an outdoor setting, they associate it (with) instant stuff, like freeze-dried stuff that you can buy in a pouch and these kind of things, and I think there’s a lot more to camp cooking than just pouring water in a plastic bag,” Fabian Schmitz, founder of adventure company Bushcraft Yukon, said in a phone interview from his home near Fox Lake on April 3.
Although Schmitz is leading the class, he said he picked up his own campfire cooking skills without any formal training, mostly learning by experimenting and motivated by a love of food and cooking in general.
“I think that cooking is really important … People enjoy it quite a bit, not just the eating, but also the preparation,” he said. “When I’m out there with my groups on a canoe river trip or something like that, it’s always a big thing (when I start cooking) … I’m taking the lead, but then people love to participate and help (with the) cooking and then they’re always amazed about the stuff you can actually make, the stuff you can create on a campfire.”
Some of his greatest hits over the years, he said, include big pot roasts, pizzas, one-pot pastas, and a variety of breads and desserts, all made from raw ingredients he brings into the bush, and with the occasional assistance of tin foil or a Dutch oven, if the trip allows.
“Lasagna’s really nice if you cook it in a Dutch oven … (Dutch ovens) have this little lip on the top on the lid, so you can actually place coals on top of it so you get a top heat instead of just heat from the bottom,” Schmitz explained.
“With that, you can create all kinds of different cooking scenarios, basically, and you can make great lasagna in the Dutch oven on a campfire, or use the Dutch oven for baking bread or making the pizza.”
Not every attempt at a meal or snack has gone according to plan, though.
“Once, I was on a canoe trip with my girlfriend on the Yukon River, a long trip, and … I had an idea that I could make, like, a dirt oven basically,” Schmitz recalled, saying that he had intended to use the oven to bake a loaf of bread.
Three-and-a-half hours later, the loaf looked perfect on the outside, Schmitz said, but when he cut it open, the inside was still completely uncooked and doughy.
“So that didn’t work, but I think that’s the fun part too, you know? Try new things. Go out there, experiment and see what works and what doesn’t work,” he said.
“… I find all the mishaps that happen in the kitchen, and not just at home in the kitchen but also in an outdoors kitchen next to my campfire, I think they’re usually quite beneficial because then you learn something and just change it up for next time when you try again.”
Workshop participants, though, won’t have to worry about mishaps — Schmitz said he’ll be equipping them with tried-and-true recipes for a variety of camping scenarios (what you can bring, and by extent, what you can cook, will differ depending on if you’re on a backpacking trip compared to staying at a drive-in campsite, for example).
Besides actually cooking a variety of dishes on-site, Schmitz said participants will also learn practical planning skills, like how much food to bring per person (“You don’t want to haul in stuff you don’t end up needing”), prepping ingredients, what pots and equipment work for different kinds of trips, how to start a fire and how to build different kinds of fires for different kinds of cooking.
“I hope at the end of the day, everyone will have a good little collection of recipes that they can apply depending on what their interests are in outdoor sports,” he said.
While the workshop is still about a month away, Schmitz said based on the immense interest, he’ll likely be offering a second one later in the season — so don’t be too surprised if, the next time you’re in the bush, you suddenly catch a whiff of a freshly-baked loaf of bread.
Bushcraft Yukon’s camp cooking workshop is happening May 4 at Schmitz’s property near Fox Lake, rain or shine. More information is available at facebook.com/events/406769736772727
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org