Posts Tagged ‘dutch oven recipes’

It’s cool and rainy and I really want to go fishing.  Unfortunately, however, I am stuck in my small suburban apartment complex doing laundry all day while the birds are singing their hearts out and the lilacs are perfuming the spring breeze.

Stupid domesticity.

I grew up in the woods, so playing barefoot in streams and coming home covered in leeches, building forts in trees and coming home covered in sap, and fishing in whatever body of water had living creatures in it was pretty standard for me as a child.  Since it is generally not acceptable for adults to be building forts (especially when said adults live in the city and don’t have children), these days I stick to fishing… when I can.

When I was a very awkward thirteen years old, my parents decided that we should go on a family fishing trip with another family from church.  Said family lived on a lake, and we all lived in the same, very remote Michigan town full of lakes and streams and summer fishing cottages, so it occurred to me more than once that leaving town to go fishing was a bit odd… but I suppose the trip was more about the journey than the destination.

Then again, the destination was Canada.

We left before dawn, having packed ourselves, our gear, our clothes, and our basic necessities for a week into two fifteen-passenger vans like we were on some sort of school field trip.  I had never been to Canada, but I knew that it couldn’t be that far from where we lived in western Michigan.  …right?

Boy was I wrong.

We drove for hours.  And hours.  And hours.  We drove till the roads ran out of pavement.  We drove till the road signs didn’t have names on them anymore, just bear/wolf/moose crossing warnings.

We basically drove till civilization was naught but a fond memory, and then drove further.  Finally we came to a small town called Chapleau, on a river in the middle of GodforsakenNowhere, Ontario, Canada.  They had electricity there, so that was a bonus.  We reveled in the fact that there was a small general store, and bought a bit of candy, thinking that we would be heading out to some cute little cabin in town any time to get settled for the week.

We started unloading our things from the vans… and started loading them into boats.  The horror was beginning to set in.  Our two families got into the boats, and headed off down the river.  We were on the river for at least an hour before we made landfall.

At last!  We disembarked and started unloading… again.  The men picked up the boats and began carrying them inland, and we did the same with all of the minutiae we could carry.  Portaging, I’m told, is when you carry your boat from one body of water, across some land, and put it into another body of water only to resume the trip you thought was over hours ago.  Back into the river (or lake… or Hudson Bay… at this point, who knows where we were…) we went, and traveled another hour before we finally landed on a teeny little island and set up our camp.

The tents went up, the fire was started, the latrine was dug, and the food was in the trees so as not to be attracting bears.  Now, I loved the Little House books when I was a kid, but seriously… what scrawny, bespectacled thirteen-year-old girl enjoys the thought of living outside where she may at any point on her way to the (hole in the earth covered with two logs and a toilet seat that we called a) restroom, encounter a moose, a wolf, or a bear?  Not this one, that’s for sure.

Leeches?  Fine.  Mosquitoes the size of seagulls?  Sure.  Bears?  Nooooo thanks.  “Camping” had just taken on a whole new meaning in my book.

Really though, it wasn’t so bad after that first grueling day of traversing strange Canadian landscapes, and once I became accustomed to the loons screeching through the night, I even slept well.  The fishing was good, and bathing in the lake in my swimsuit with a bar of Ivory was the most awkward thing I had to deal with all week.

The best parts were after the sun went down and we all sat around the fire for dinner.  You can’t bring a lot of perishables with you when you travel such a long way, so the only fresh food we had—other than that which we caught in the lake—was a cooler full of cubed beef, a plethora of canned goods,  and a whole lot of potatoes and carrots.  Toss it all in a big iron pot over the coals, and by the time you’d gathered extra firewood for the night, the Camp Stew was ready.

I might not be camping today, but a quick trip to the grocery store and this rainy spring laundry-day might actually produce a delicious dinner that, while also being nutritious and satisfying, always brings back memories of that trip and simpler times.

Camp Stew (aka “Clean Out Your Fridge” Stew)

2 lbs. of 1-inch cubed beef (kabob or stew style work best)

1 large onion, quartered

2 cloves of garlic, diced, or 2 tbsp of minced garlic

2 cups of diced carrots

3 cups of cubed red potatoes

2 tbsp of butter or olive oil

1 tbsp of flour

2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce

2 cans of beef broth

1 can of cream of mushroom soup


salt, pepper, parsley, sage, thyme, moss, river water, and/or tree bark to taste

optional add-ins:  1 cup of frozen peas/corn/green beans

In a large Dutch Oven, heat butter or oil over medium heat; add the beef a bit at a time and brown thoroughly.  Add onions and garlic and cook till the onions are transparent.  Stir in the flour and cook a minute or two till it turns golden.

Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and carrots; stir, cover, and simmer at medium-low heat for 2 hours.

Add the potatoes, cream soup, seasonings, and any optional add-ins.  If water is needed to thin out the mixture, add that as well; stir, cover, and simmer at medium-low heat for another hour or until potatoes and carrots are both fork-tender.

Serve with a big chunk of toasted, buttered Amish bread, and enjoy!



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