Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cooking with Dutch Ovens

One of the things on this week's schedule was a Dutch oven cooking demonstration. And our reliable stand-by recipe is Peach Cobbler, so that's what we started with.The first step is to prepare charcoal so it will be hot when you want it. We love our "charcoal chimney" because it makes this step so easy. Simply place a couple of pieces of newspaper in the bottom, fill the top with charcoal briquettes, light the paper, and wait for 20-30 minutes until the coals are no longer black. While you're waiting, you can prepare the recipe.
1-2-3- Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler
1 yellow cake mix
2 quarts peaches, undrained
3 eggs

To prevent having a huge, sticky mess to clean up, line your dutch oven with aluminum foil and lightly grease it. Combine the cake mix, liquid from the peaches and eggs and mix well. Place the peaches on the bottom of the pan and pour the cake batter over top. "Bake" with charcoal, or even in the oven at 350°, for about 30 minutes. It's done when a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. Serves 12-16.

Here are a few of the things we've learned over the years:

1. Be sure to season your Dutch oven before you use it the first time. To do this coat it generously with shortening and place in a 200° oven for several hours (until it stops smoking). Then wipe it out and keep it in a dry storage place.

2. To determine how many charcoal briquettes you'll need, you need to know the diameter of your Dutch oven. Then prepare twice that many coals. When it's time to cook, place a few more on the lid than there are below. For example, if you have a 12" pan, put 10 below (12-2) and 14 above (12+2) for a total of 24 (12x2). This is supposed to create the equivalent of a 350° oven. If you use more it will be hotter.

3. Don't use soap when cleaning, otherwise you'll have to re-season your pan. Just wash with water, and use salt if it needs scrubbing. When it's dry, re-coat very lightly with vegetable oil and it will be ready to use the next time you want.

4. We love our Dutch oven stand, but it's absolutely not necessary. Before we got it, we'd use the fire pits at our campgrounds, or just place a piece of aluminum foil on the dirt. We also love our lid holders, but a rock works just as well. Just don't put a hot lid on a plastic tablecloth. And if you don't have a special Dutch-oven-lid-lifter, that's okay. You can use pliers or a hammer, just make sure you are using oven mitts as well.

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