Dutch Oven Goodness

We welcome a guest blogger to Arkansas Outside, Lisa. For full disclosure, Lisa is my wife but nepotism is not how she got this gig. Lisa is a great writer and an even better cook. So basically, she bribed me with some cobbler. I love cobbler! – Joe

A few weeks ago we made a trip up to Northeast Arkansas for a bit of camping and cooking fundamonium. Over the past few years I think my home kitchen cooking has progressed significantly. I wish I could say the same for my camp cooking. It’s not as if I’ve ever made a camp meal that is inedible, my family of iron guts doesn’t work that way. But every now and then I wish I had the same inventiveness around a campfire as I do in my kitchen. Which led us to….bumpahbah … A Dutch Oven cooking class. You see, my spouse has partaken in many a Dutch Oven meal in conjunction with his job. I know what you’re thinking. “Lucky *%#*ard “. But  his days are not all wine & peach cobbler. That’s what he keeps telling me anyway. That, and how much he loves dutch oven cobbler. Loves it.  I was willing to go take a class in part to get him to stop telling me how much he loves cobbler. Dutch Oven classes are a fairly regular part of many program schedules in our beautiful Arkansas State Park system. We chose to visit Davidsonville Historic State Park near Black Rock. Reason A: we hadn’t been there as a family before and B: we’re those odd folks who try to fit education into vacations and with Powhatan Historic State Park close by, we were sure to get a good lesson in Arkansas history along with a belly full of cobbler. Need I mention that all conversation in our house revolved around that darned cobbler for about a week leading up to the trip? Davidsonville is a great place to visit, I highly recommend it along with Powhatan but I can’t digress, cause we have to talk about that cobbler.

Getting oriented....and hungry.

Getting oriented....and hungry.

When we arrived at the pavilion for the lesson there were at least 12 other people in addition to our party. Park interpreter Krystal had the coals going and ingredients laid out for 3 different dishes. That’s right, we weren’t just whistling cobbler here. We were making chili, sweet cornbread and apple cobbler to boot. The spouse would think he’d died and gone to camper heaven if I made this meal for him.

Krystal started out by teaching us how to care for our ovens, how to season them, how to clean and store them and other accessories you might need besides the oven itself. I should mention here that for a very reasonable fee, my daughter and I attended the class, ate a huge meal and  got our own 4 qt oven to take home along with the 3lb weight gain. Amen. After giving us the cast iron care lecture she says “okay everybody split up and pick which recipe you want to make!”. I went for the chili table. Just kidding. Of course I went straight for the cobbler. So did a lovely woman who was there with her 2 teenage boys. Apparently the boys’ grandmother had signed them up for this because, and I quote “I’m tired of doing this, they need to learn”. My small one immediately fell in love with our partner because she calls us “sister” as in Whatchya think sister? Do we need a bigger bowl, sister? If she had been any sweeter I think my kid would have asked to be adopted.
Almost ready...

Almost ready...

The recipe was a simple one, look for it at the end of this meandering opera. It includes Sprite. That’s right Sprite, sister. We soon had our ingredients mixed and our oven ready to hit the coals. The boys had attempted to tackle the cornbread and were doing good, but they were slow. Grammie got her hands in it after making sure they had learned enough to at the very least, appreciate her cooking efforts, and oh my ever loving gravy, that was some of the best cornbread I have ever eaten. Sorry Momma. We got a math lesson while the magic happened inside the ovens. Learning how many coals to place where is apparently a science that I will have to learn. Wait, no I won’t cause people have been doing this long enough that I have a handy dandy chart that tells me exactly how many briquettes to place where to get the right temperature in the oven. Okay so there’s obviously gonna be fiddling but I’ll worry about that when/IF I decide to cook anything other than cobbler. The food was done, we lined up for grub and we ate like starving Huns. God Bless Krystal, she even had fritos, cheese and sour cream for the chili, and a cooler with ICE CREAM to go with the cobbler. We made such good little piggies of ourselves I might have been embarrassed if I thought we’d run into sister& her family ever again. That was about the time I found out they were camping 3 spots down.

Another use for the fire pit on the deck!

Another use for the fire pit on the deck!

We haven’t had a lot of need for cobbler since that trip but Easter Sunday my folks were coming to dinner and I thought it was prime time to test out my new toy before we carted it on a camping trip only to find out that I didn’t learn my lesson as good as those boys. Of course, I didn’t take the time to go back and look at the recipe before going to the store. I didn’t have enough pie filling, I got the wrong flavor cake mix, even my oven was 2 qts too small for the recipe as it was written…blah blah blah. So I just did what I always do-Improvise! I had a jar of Peach Chunky in the cupboard. Anyone who’s ever been to The Ozark Folk Center knows the Chunkies, apple chunky, peach chunky, I’m chunky. I think that bit of spiced chunky added just the right flavor and no one noticed that the cobbler was yellow cake instead of white, it ate just fine. Since we wouldn’t be around a campfire or a fire grate, we used our fire bowl. It worked great! Looks like we won’t have to wait for camping to get more use out of our new oven. Chicken and Dumplings anyone?  So the magic happens even when you screw it up. I think I could be good at this.Easy Dutch Oven Cobbler from www.cooks.com
1 white cake mix
1 12oz can of Sprite or 7-Up
2 cans of pie filling
Pour pie filling into a 6 qt dutch oven. In a separate bowl mix soda and cake mix just until moist and lumpy. Pour over the top of the filling. Bake with 20 coals on top and 10 on bottom until the cake is golden color. Serve Hot. With Ice Cream!
For more on Dutch Oven Cooking visit the International Dutch Oven Cooking Society at http://www.idos.com
And the Arkansas Dutch Oven Society http://www.arkdos.org/dnn/
More about this trip was explored in Camping Trip to the Foothills of the Ozarks Part 1 and Part 2. Happy Cooking Ya’ll!
This didn't last long, mmmmmmmm.

This didn't last long, mmmmmmmm.

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