We’ve been trying to improve out outdoor cooking skills as we look at possibly moving to raw land with no utilities to build a small, green energy home in the woods of Southern Missouri. I have never been very good at keeping a fire going, to be honest. Very good?! Ha! I’m like the anti-fire! I stink at it.
Well, its time to un-stink at it because I may very well need to feed my family with flame of some kind and if that happens, I don’t want us to starve. I liked reading about Bonnie at Not So Modern Housewife preparing this pumpkin soup in its shell over an outdoor fire for her family – yeah, gonna try that now! Annie at Montana Homesteader has some useful tips for cooking on an outdoor flame, too.
One of our favorite books is Cook Wild: Year-Round Cooking on an Open Fire and if you’re interested in learning to cook outdoors (for whatever reason), this is a very inspirational book. She includes foraged foods, too, which is a boon. My only quibble with this book is that it doesn’t, in my newbie opinion, have enough photos of the process of each recipe. I need a little more guidance than I get visually from this book but, otherwise, its stellar. We bought Cooking With Fire and, although I haven’t tried anything from it yet, it looks really helpful and instructive. I’ll review it sometime this summer.
One simple thing we’ve learned to do is toss some potatoes (sweet, Idaho, whatever) on top of the coals to cook the most delicious potato you’ve ever put in your mouth. I don’t use aluminum foil anymore for health reasons and so I wanted a way to bake potatoes in the fire without it – voila! God jacketed the potato just so we could cook it over coals, I’m sure. For those for whom cooking over an outdoor fire is old hat, I’m sure the idea of roasting a mere potato will seem overly simplistic to you. I thank you for your indulgence as I revel in my new found culinary project!
Susanne Fischer-Rizzi mentions in Cook Wild that you can similarly roast an onion and so I tried it. Uber yummy, would be my very scientific report on this experiment.
Its best to use an onion with lots of layers of skin still on it. If you grow your own onions, this shouldn’t be a problem. If you purchase onions, bear in mind that grocers deliberately clean off several layers of skin before they stock onions on their shelves. So, try to look for onions with some decent skins, but even a few layers can be a help in preventing scorching of your roasted onion. I’m dying to try this with a purple onion (my favorite) but I’ve only used yellow onions so far with great results.
Just get a good bed of coals (the hardest part of outdoor, open flame cooking is timing the fire and the coals) and nestle your onion, skin and all, over them. Cook time totally varies but when you insert a knife (watch you don’t get burned!) and it pushes right through, you can know your onion is done.
The flavor of a roasted onion prepared this way is amazing. All the sugars in the onion sort of do this happy fusion dance in your mouth. Plus, the onion comes out all hot and steamy and smooth. I just cut it up and eat it with whatever else we’ve prepared because it makes everything else we’ve prepared taste like manna. You can toss some salad dressing on top or some apple cider vinegar with spices and eat it that way, too.
If you want to learn to cook over an open flame but prefer to start learning with charcoal, Melissa K Norris and MomPrepares both have good articles that can help you out. For more information on outdoor/off-grid cooking options, feel free to visit our post on the subject. I prefer to learn the hard way first and then use the easier way (charcoals) for when I feel lazy or when I’m going on a camping trip. I just can’t afford to buy charcoal all the time and I really feel like I need to learn how to be Caroline Ingalls. Its a mission.
For a fun series on outdoor cooking with kids, please visit our series over at Hobby Farms.com on our editorial blog Farm Sprouts. Here they are in order: Real Food Calzones and Kabobs, Cooking in the Coals with meat and potatoes, Homemeade Fish Baskets and Campfire Dessert – NOT s’mores. Enjoy!
Now, as with any outdoor venture, its important to make sure the kiddos understand the safety rules. We have a toddler and their job, it seems, is to only engage in those activities which could potentially result in their death; or, at the outside, their extreme pain. Our oldest is also a bit of pyro, despite the training she’s received to the contrary. You can be sure we spend a good deal of our time lecturing about fire safety!
Neither do we limit those lectures to the outdoors. Inside our home, we run fire drills every month (at least, that’s the goal). We had a fireman friend come in all his gear and talk to the kids about fire safety. He put on his mask and let them hear his voice through it, assuring them that he wasn’t an alien and that, in the event of a house fire, they shouldn’t hide from anyone looking and sounding like he did. He walked up and down our house and pointed out good escape routes and suggested ways to run different scenarios during our drills. He suggested using a red ball to represent fire and put it different places for each drill so that we could plan ahead of time what we would do depending on where the fire appeared in our home. He made sure to remind us to pick a safe place outside our home to meet up – a neighbors mailbox or the big tree across the street. He also reminded us to have a communication plan in place in case we weren’t all home at the same time and we needed to update family members on what was going on.
This lead us to evaluate our overall emergency communication plan – do you have one of those? We didn’t until a few years ago and it needs continual updating as contact information changes. Wondering why you might need one? Please just visit this video to start a conversation on the subject with your family. For help with getting your family’s emergency communication plan started, just visit this link.
To get you started with your outdoor cooking adventures, you may need these fine products: