Last issue I wrote a brief summary of the history of the Chuckwagon and the Dutch oven. The impact of the two helped revolutionize the art of cooking and traveling while trailing cattle to market in the 1860’s.
This issue I will go more into detail of cooking with a Dutch oven - the types of wood to use and the amount of heat to use under your oven. I will talk more about the proper care of your Dutch oven and the many types of foods that can be cooked in your oven. Remember anything can be cooked in a Dutch oven.
You can use either wood or charcoal. I prefer to use wood but charcoal will maintain a more even heat source. Wood coals will not last as long as charcoal briquettes and have to be replenished sometimes before the dish is cooked completely. The heat source wood or charcoal is your preference. It may be easier for you to learn with charcoal and then graduate to wood coals. Weather conditions will affect your heat source. Wind will make your coals burn hotter and you will have to watch your oven more closely.
The types of wood that you can use are oak, hickory, or mesquite. These types of wood will burn well and produce good coals. Hickory makes the longest lasting coals.
The amount of heat depends on what you are cooking. Baking you will use about a third as many coals under the bottom of your oven as you do on top. The bottom of your Dutch oven will be closer to your heat source than the lid of the oven will be. Thus the bottom will cook faster than the top. While baking you will need to rotate your oven quarter turns as your food bakes. This keeps hot spots from burning the bottom. When you remove the oven from the coals it will maintain heat for a while and keep on cooking. You will need to remove your baked goods from the oven when finished to keep them from sweating. I am talking about biscuits, breads, cornbread, and cookies.
Frying, braising, and stewing calls for a heat source only under the bottom of your oven. If your heat source gets too hot, merely move your oven to the side of the coals and if you need more heat place coals around the sides of your oven.
Proper care of your oven needs to be exercised. Never pour cold water into a got oven. Cast iron will often crack when this is done. Always use hot water where your oven is hot. Remember to always use a light coat of oil on your oven after cleaning. I use olive oil on my ovens to prevent rust and olive oil will not turn rancid if an oven is stored for a prolonged period of time.
The types of food that can be cooked in your oven is endless. You can cook anything outside in your oven that can be cooked in your kitchen. Meat, vegetables, breads, and deserts all can be cooked in a Dutch oven.
Today we will talk about making a fruit cobbler. The recipe is simple and very easy to cook in your oven.
2 cans Comstock pie filling (apple, cherry, peach, etc)
2 cups flour
2 ½ cups sugar
1 T baking powder
2 sticks butter
Combine 2 cups flour and 1 ½ cup sugar and 1 T baking powder. Mix together thoroughly. Cut into mixture two sticks of butter with pastry cutter or fork until coarse and crumbly. Set topping aside. Line your Dutch oven with foil. This makes your oven easier to clean. Open fruit and pour into oven – add 1 cup sugar and mix thoroughly – smooth fruit out in oven – pour flour mixture out on top of fruit mixture – sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
Bake with small amount of heat under bottom of oven and cover the lid of your oven with coals. Watch top closely for hot spots and rotate lid by quarter turns until top starts to crack. When top browns and starts to crack your cobbler will be done. This recipe is for a 12” oven.
For conventional oven use a 13 x 9 cake pan and cook at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.