Nearly a year ago, a dear friend in Missouri gave Ben and I a cast iron dutch oven as a wedding gift. We haven’t had the opportunity to put it to use, until this past weekend. To celebrate our first anniversary we packed up the El Camino and went camping at Homochitto National Forest.
Homochitto National Forest is situated about an hour and twenty minutes from Jackson, and outfitted with a well kept park, shelters, a lake, hiking trails, bike trails, restrooms, an RV area, and primitive camping area. It’s a peaceful place with rolling hills, single track bike loops, and campfire rings with grill grates. We favor the primitive spots because no RVs are allowed and it’s fairly quiet, except for the hum of a nearby oil well pump.
Setting up the tent and sleeping area took all of 10 minutes (our tent and Therm-a-Rests were other great wedding gifts). We biked for awhile and then headed to the shelter area for a dip in the swimming hole, but my main focus of the night was dinner.
It was difficult to locate a simple stew recipe, to cook over a campfire, in a dutch oven. Many recipes called for using dry mixes, lacked in ingredients, and one actually said to just open a can of Dinty Moore beef stew and warm it up. Not my idea of good cookin’.
I put this recipe together after looking at several online and it turned out great. It’s very flexible because you can use beef or venison, beer if you’ve got it, and season to taste to your liking. The cast iron dutch oven is perfect for camp cooking with it’s three small feet, a lipped lid, durability, and handle. It was another great gift because I ruined my Calphalon stock pot on our last camping trip.
Stealing away to the woods was the perfect way to commemorate our first year of marriage. There’s no better way to be reminded how blessed we are; surrounded by trees, soaking up the stillness, enjoying each others company. Here’s to the first year, and many more stews to come.
Campfire Beef Stew
3 T. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 lb. stew meat, beef or venison
3 T. all-purpose flour
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 potatoes, cubed
1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced
2 T. tomato paste
2 c. chicken stock
1 c. beer or water
couple of bay leaves
salt and pepper
Place a pot or cast iron dutch oven over a hot fire.
Melt the butter, and saute the onions until translucent. Add the meat to the pot and let it brown. Coat the meat with the flour and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add in the carrots, celery, potatoes, mushrooms, tomato paste and stir for a minute or two. Pour in the stock and beer (or another cup of stock or water) and mix well. Throw in the bay leaves, and season the stew with salt and pepper at each step if possible.
Cover the stew and let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the heat of your fire. If the fire is uneven, rotate the pot a quarter turn, every fifteen minutes.
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