A true cast iron dutch oven is good for car camping, kayaking or horse camping. (But maybe a bit much for backpacking.)
Baking in the wild: camping with a Dutch oven
By Katy Wilkens, MS, RD
I baked some great desserts on a recent 8-day, 65-mile kayak trip around Orcas Island. Once you get the hang of Dutch oven cooking, you can create just about anything you would make at home.
One benefit of kayaking is that carrying a true Dutch oven is easy. I’m talking about the black cast iron type, with three long legs at the bottom that hold your “oven” above the coals, not a colorful, boutique model. You can’t backpack with a Dutch oven, but you can take it car camping, horse camping or kayaking.
For baking, it’s best to have a pan that fits inside the Dutch oven. I use a metal cake pan or spring form pan. You need to raise the pan off the floor of the oven, so air can circulate around your food. I use three canning jar lids, or a small barbecue grate. Even rocks will work, but you need flat ones, or your cakes will be lopsided.
To “set the thermostat” on your Dutch oven, use the “plus three, minus three” rule. Measure the diameter of your oven and count charcoal briquettes. My Dutch oven is 14 inches across. To get to a temperature of 350 degrees, add three briquettes to your oven diameter for a total of 17 pieces of charcoal on top of the oven. Subtract 3 from 14 and place 11 briquettes below your oven. To vary by 25 degrees, just add or subtract the number of briquettes, top and bottom, by two.
Leave out salt and use your favorite low-sodium baking powder and baking soda in the following recipes. You’ll get great tasting, salt-free desserts that will keep your heart and kidneys healthy for future kayaking and hiking trips.
Dutch oven gingerbread
½ cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons low-sodium baking soda
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
2¼ cups of flour
2 beaten eggs (fresh or powdered)
1 cup dark molasses
1 cup hot water
At home: put all dry ingredients into a zipper lock bag. I use powdered eggs or egg replacer, but you can use fresh eggs, which can keep several days unrefrigerated, or pasteurized egg substitute, which you can freeze if you have a cooler. Pack the molasses in a small, disposable container with a screw cap, and double bag it.
In camp: Start coals. Get Dutch oven hot, put dry mix into greased cake pan. Add molasses and one cup of hot water to dry mix and stir until lumps are gone. Put pan in Dutch oven, put coals under and on top of lid. Bake 30-40 minutes. Check occasionally, but not too often – heat is lost when you check. If you can smell the gingerbread, chances are it is close to done. Test with a piece of straw or grass stem. Remove from heat, let sit 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8.
Calories: 399; Carbohydrates: 68 grams; Protein: 5 grams; Sodium: 43 milligrams
Rich’s pineapple upside-down Dutch oven cake
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla (vanilla powder works great, and keeps longer)
1¼ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1½ low-sodium baking powder
2/3 cup powdered milk
1 egg (fresh or powdered)
2 tablespoons butter, for greasing
1 small can pineapple rings
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
At home: Cut butter and vanilla into flour, then mix with all dry ingredients in zipper lock bag.
In camp: start coals and get oven hot. Grease pan. Put pineapple rings on bottom. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Add water to mix in zipper lock bag and squeeze to mix. Add fresh egg if you haven’t used powdered. Squeeze into cake pan, over pineapple. Bake about 30-40 minutes, checking occasionally but not too often. If you smell it, it’s probably done. Check with straw or grass stem stuck into center. Remove from heat, cool 5 minutes. Turn out onto a large piece of aluminum foil to serve. Serves 8.
Calories: 399; Carbohydrates: 67 grams; Protein: 7 grams; Sodium: 71 milligrams
The recipes in this column are meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.
[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. She has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.]