I recently participated in a local dutch oven cook-off. I’m not much for competitive anything, but it was for a good cause. I talked my buddy Dave into joining me, so I knew it would be fun. Dave won a prize for a scrumptious pineapple upside down cake. The judges weren’t impressed with my DO Chicken w/ 40 Cloves of Garlic. I guess it’s an acquired taste, like maybe Scotch whisky.
The event got me thinking of the first time I ever saw a dutch oven in action. It was way back in the college days, on a wildlife sciences department field trip. We were out in the Texas Hill Country, west of San Antonio and Austin.
Joe, a classmate raised country in Texas’ Big Thicket area, pulled out a cast iron dutch in the morning. He took a cloth sack of flour, rolled the top down, made a well in the flour and proceeded to make up a batch of biscuits, which he plopped in the oven. Then he pulled oak coals out of the campfire and cooked up what I thought were just about the best biscuits I ever had, except for my Mama’s.
I was highly impressed; this was making food just like the cowboys did. Growing up in Texas, cowboy lore and cowboy ways were part of area history. My Mama raised us boys, in part, on “Cowboy Beans” (pintos cooked long and soft with pork parts) and cornbread. She called them Cowboy Beans to lure us into eating so many without complaint. I still like ‘em.
So, if dutch oven cooking was good enough for those crusty ol’ chuck wagon cooks, it was good enough for me, and I vowed to learn the art. It was several years before I acted on the vow, only after moving to Idaho and discovering whitewater rafting. Of course, the first DO I bought was cast iron, just like Joe and the cowboys used.
Eventually weight and rust convinced me to switch to aluminum. Actually, years ago I bought the same dutch ovens we now carry, the GSI 10” and the GSI 12” model, from a local Army-Navy store. I bought them as a set, because the 10” nests inside the 12”. I’ve been very pleased with the set and have used them to cook many a dish. Never have done Cowboy Beans in them, but sure have served up lots of biscuits and cornbread.
It was a fun trip down memory lane thinking of Joe and those delicious biscuits. And strolling further down that lane, I remembered why we were camped out in the Texas brush. A dozen or so of us were traipsing across the hills shooting cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus). Seems a Canadian university was studying the north-south breeding periodicity of the bunnies and they asked the cooperation of schools from Canada to Mexico to all harvest female rabbits during a particular time period. The females were to be frozen and sent north for analysis.
Well, you can’t sex a cottontail until you have it in hand. That left about 50% of the harvest unusable for the study. Most of my classmates lived in dorms, so I got to keep all the male carcasses. Which leads to the tale of…
The Fuji Pot
To be continued,