Outdoor Cooking

text by Steve Vose

I offer a word of caution when working around open flames. Be sure to have a fire extinguisher, water hose and shovel handy should the flames escape the pit. Carefully remove any hazards that may cause an individual to trip or fall in the pit area. Wear fire retardant clothing that will not combust if hit by an errant spark. NO FLEECE JACKETS! Heavy welding gloves are also invaluable. Lastly use your head and think, as there will always be unforeseen hazards.

Those uninitiated with the art of cooking anything outside need to understand that cooking in this manner is an art form. Using a difficult to regulate heating source is a skill that I have honed over the years. Some of these acquired skills I would like to share in hopes that you pass this tradition on to your family and friends.

Maybe I am a bit of a caveman, but for me there is a primitive allure associated with cooking over the open flames of a wood fueled fire that cannot be duplicated by a kitchen stove or gas grill. It stirs something deep in my soul to gather firewood, build a fire pit and organize a strategy for the food preparation. Cooking outside for me is a labor of love, this is not LOW stress cooking this is NO stress cooking, a time for relaxation and reflection.

There are several good baked bean recipes out there in cyberspace and several I have mentioned in previous blog posts including: Hot and Spicy Baked Beans and Grandmas Bake Beans Enjoyed Outdoors. What I have not until NOW blogged in any previous post is my Grandmother’s actual award winning bake bean recipe. After much consideration, I have decided that I should share so everyone can enjoy it, after all, I know Grandma would have wanted I that way.

The secret to making great baked beans on a fire pit is time and temperature. Beans cook best with a slow, constant temperature . . . not necessarily an easy task over an open fire. With practice, however, even a novice will quickly learn to tame a raging fire and make it into a valuable cooking tool. Hmmm, I think I smell future blog post. 

Grandma’s Baked Beans
2 Pounds of Kidney Beans
4 Cups of Water
2/3 Cup of Molasses
1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar
1 Large Vidalia Onion, Finely Chopped
2 Packages of Salt Pork
2 tbsp. Prepared Mustard

Directions: 
Put all ingredients in a Dutch oven and slow cook for 3-4 hours.

Hints: 
– Soak and par-boil baked beans ahead of time. They can be frozen as well if needed.
– Adjust fire to simmer the beans and make sure they do not boil over
– For a “kick” add 1 ½ Cups of “Sweet Baby Rays” BBQ Sauce and 6 tbsp. of finely chopped chipotle chilies
– Stir and monitor bean frequently
– Monitor bean doneness by checking the consistency of the bean about every ½ hour. Beans should be soft but not to soft.
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When the beans are about 45 minutes from being done, you should start preparing the bread.

Bannock Bread 
1 Cup White Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 cup Dry Milk Powder
1 tbsp. Shortening
1/2 Cup Water

Directions: 
Put all ingredients in a 1 quart Ziploc bag and mix until no longer lumpy. Use a knife or scissors to cut out one corner of the Ziploc bag and squeeze the bag contents into a frying pan. Spread evenly with spoon.

Hints: 
– Try adding ¼ tsp. Sugar
– Coat your pan with olive oil or cooking spray for a non-stick surface
– Add water SLOWLY! Sometimes 1/2 cup is a little too much!
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There is of course nothing better than washing down a hardy meal with a steaming cup of Maine guide coffee.