Whatchyagot Stew -- camp cooking from Aiiii to Z

Capt. Mike

Great & Not-So-Great Camp Meals.

Have you ever read Patrick McManus's books on camping? Beside's doing serious injury to yourself from laughing so hard, he seems to have experienced some of our camp meals. Now we try hard. We do a lot of regular meals, even roast potatos or cornbread in a Coleman oven. And any disasters just whet our appetities for bigger & better.

This is one of our 'bigger & better' attempts.

We were in Newfoundland and happened to catch lobster season. In a little fishing village appropriately named Happy Adventure, there was one dock with about 4-5 boats and a small processing plant. A little shack at the head said "Fish & Lobster For Sale." I told the lady we wanted a couple of lobsters to cook at camp that night.

"You want a couple of small lobsters?" she inquired. "No, BIG ones!" OK. And here she comes back with a pair of 2½-3 pounders. Live! Folks, a 3 pound lobster is BIG! We put the bag in the back and started off looking for a bakery and some bread. By the time we found this little grocery store that had some slaw and Italian garlic bread, the lobsters where wandering around the cabin. We named them Frick & Frack.

We set up camp that night in great anticipation. We broke out a couple of those mini-bottles of wine we had been saving, a metal cup to melt butter & lemon in, and the BIG pot.

Filled it with water and started it a-boiling. That's when we discovered a 3 lb. lobster doesn't fit into a 1 pound pot! OK, improvise. That was our biggest pot, so I had to make the lobster smaller. I held the claws back and put it in head-first. That made the lobster snap into a ball, almost taking my fingers with it. I could then break off the claws and stack them on top. That overflowed the pot. By the time I got the Coleman refired we were starved. Also meant we had to cook them one at a time.

When the first one was the appropriate color of red, we discovered problem #2. We didn't have any lobster tools! Out comes the Westy tool kit. Channel locks & pliers, a Swiss Army knife, my hunting knife and the tweezers from the 1st aid kit were pressed into service. The cole slaw was lousy, the garlic bread, heated on the Coleman in foil, was burnt on the outside, cold on the inside, and with a little of the wine in us, we sat and giggled like kids watching each other fight the meat out of that big old lobster!

Best lobster ever! Even had a huge jack rabbit hop right into the campground to watch us through the open sliding door. Probably glad we weren't into hassenphieffer!

Too many campers cook for convenience -- canned, freeze dried, burgers & hot dogs. And they don't know what they are missing!
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Capt. Mike

SOS -- just like Momma makes!

My wife makes a version of SOS I actually like. She makes a white sauce and uses thin-sliced dried beef along with some peas & onions plus spices. We put this over toasted English muffins.

I was returning from AK alone. She had flown home from Anchorage -- that work thing back then -- and I was meandering my way home. In camp one night, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to cook, when I spied the package of dried beef. Yea, that's it. The Admiral's SOS.

First, I didn't have any English muffins but now-stale bread will do. I also didn't have any makings for white sauce, but there was a can of chicken gravy in there. It's sorta white. No peas & onions -- oh, well, canned peas & carrots will suffice, along with some dehydrated onion bits. I also didn't have her cayenne or touch of horseradish. But I had black pepper, Tobasco and yellow mustard. Close enough, right?

I dined in style, and except for those minor substitutions and the cramps, it was just like Momma made! Ya gotta cook with watchyagot.

Addendum 6/1/06: I got hungry for my wife's SOS again and there was still a jar of the dried beef in the pantry. It was as superb as I remember it, but . . .! According to our teenager, we were committing child abuse and inhuman treatment. "What is that? Yechhh! It's got peas in it." So she goes for instant macaroni & cheese (A real Yechhh!) but finally puts some on her English Muffin -- after carefully picking out the peas -- and decided it wasn't quite as gross & disgusting as it could be.

I like my Old Man's approach. What is that? "Food, eat it. It's good for you. It prevents injuries." What injuries? "Your Momma made that. When you eat it, I don't knock you upside the head, and you don't get injured."

You know what. He did me a favor. There's so many good foods out there that don't sound or look good right off. Some of 'em sound absolutely disgusting like halibut cheeks, cod tongue, rhamkats (chicken gizzards & hearts), and squid. An old Alaska sea captain tought me Halibut cheeks are the filet mignon of fish. When I kept seeing those "Yes, we have cod tongue" signs in restaurant windows up in Newfoundland, I had to try it. Delicious, pan fried like chicken. An old Southern lady taught me about rhamkats. A pot of gizzards & hearts is cooked all day in a slow crockpot with a sauce of vinegar, butter and several seasonings. They cook down and become very tender & sweet. Then a quick grilling to dry them out and serve with a dipping sauce as appetizer. I usually figure a pound (raw weight) per person and rarely have leftovers -- and that's before the main meal. In South Africa, a friend from Mauritius that owns a restaurant fed me a squid curry and I swear you couldn't tell it from fine veal. I like calimari, too, but have to admit the dried squid in Japan leaves a lot to be desired -- more like fishy rubber bands.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that try anything once. I've been to 54 foreign countries and had some weird food, and most of it was actually pretty good. I'll pass on the Egyptian goat cheese and the Vietnamese fish heads, but the rest? Well I'll just eat it first and then ask, "What was that?"


New member
best westy meal i've had was a few years ago when the local vw 'nuts' ( read: dedicated owners ) used to gather on sunday evenings at a parking lot on the main drag. most of the vw's were the beetle variety with no anti freeze or water in sight ( air cooleds )...well talking about 'how momma used to make' ... my mom had made a large batch of perogies and gave me some for the freezer... yours truly showed up at the informal vw gathering...slid open the rolling door...fired up the stove, and placed into the good old cast iron frying pan, some butter and maybe ten perogies or so out of the propane fridge. while my nostrils were being teased, out came the folding aluminum lawn chair. as we all watched the muscle car car crowd 'muscling' their way up and down the avenue, one of our crowd enjoyed a wonderful supper of butter coated perogies AND was REALLY grateful to be a ' van nut ' not a beetle nut. also i have found the knorr one cup soups to be great... hot water in a cup for 5 minutes with the contents of the knorr packet..... i have not tried them in my westy yet but hope to next year.... they were great on some fresh flax bread.... i am told of an indivudual who takes the bread machine along in the camper for freah baked bread in the morning... ( whilst hooked up to 110 of course )


Jason's Breakfast Burrito Stew:

Sausage (1lb)
shredded hash browns (1 bag) or 3 large potatoes cut into 1x1" squares
eggs (6, scrambled)
cheese (shredded works best, 1 8oz package)
1-2 tbsp butter or oil (can substitute water)
Onions, peppers, mushrooms
Sour cream, guacamole, hot sauce, salsa

On med-high heat in a large pot, brown the sausage about 3/4 done-ness. Add butter/oil/water, and hash browns or potatoes (add veggies when potatoes reach about 1/2 done-ness). Brown sausage and potatoes. Add the eggs and stir until done. Add the cheese, continue on med heat until cheese is melted. Can also add salsa.
Spoon into tortillas, add toppings, roll into burrito, and enjoy!

-Jason D.

Ludwig van

New member
As the camping season here in Manitoba winds down, the mornings can be pretty chilly. A good way to start the day well warmed up is to make chocolate chip oatmeal.

We make it for two as follows: In a pot, put 1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal, a little salt, cinnamon to taste, 4 tablespoons of raisins, and 2 cups of water. Heat and stir until the desired consistency is reached, and spoon into two bowls. Then stir 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips into each bowl. Add milk and optionally a little brown sugar and enjoy. (calories? what calories?)

It's so good, I don't even mind cleaning the pot after.

Capt. Mike

If your kid is hollering for Egg McMuffins at the Golden Arches instead of real food when you're camping, try this.

The idea behind the English Muffin sandwich wasn't bad. But the execution of making it will kill you. Start with Canadian Bacon -- at least the razor thin slice from a heartburn emporium -- doesn't have much 'camping' taste. Because it doesn't have much aroma, which is where much of the taste is. You can't tell it from cheap ham, pressed ham (if it is indeed different). Since honest-to-goodness-from-Canada Canadian bacon is twice as expensive as the fast-food version, ask yourself why they would go that route and then use a semi-recognizable lump of dough for an English Muffin?

Try bacon, paddy sausage or country ham (if you can find the latter up North). If you can't get country ham, at least go for a goodly slab of smoked or seasoned. From the deli counter, not the generic paper-thin stuff in the sandwich-makings bin at the supermarket. It's also OK to butterfly a couple of link sausages. We're trying to avoid the 'pressed meat' substitutes so commonly sold in blister packs for their 'convenience.'

For a couple of bucks you can get a set of egg rings at one of the kitchen stores just like the fast food joints use. (Except individual, not in banks of 48.) We found a set with a folding handle to reduce storage size. Pierce the yolk but please don't try to duplicate that folded sheet of canned eggs!

Next get a good brand of English muffin. Real English muffins are fried, not baked. Then open it by breaking apart with a fork, not smoothly slicing with a knife. Those little 'peaks & craters' one brand advertises do make a difference. When you toast it, do it crispy on the inside so it doesn't soggy up and you squeeze out your makings. Bagels make a fair breakfast sandwich, too.

Pick a cheese that actually has flavor, which won't be a slice of that solidified Cheese Whiz individually wrapped in a pack. Slice it off a real chunk. 'Sharp' is a minimum because the flavor softens a bit when heated. Wait until the very end and then just enough to show softening, so it doesn't melt into a gooey slick on top of your sandwich. It'll continue to soften in the made sandwich. Experiment. Swiss or provalone are good, too.

Finally -- and what is missing at the fast food joints, is to butter -- very thinly -- one side and on the other, put a tiny bit of jelly. It really doesn't matter what kind. It should be so thin you can get a hint of the sweetness but can't really identify it. A fast food packet will do at 2-3 muffins.


New member
Okay folks,

Ever heard of "tin can chicken?" It's the best thing since sliced bread. Take a 3 pound chicken and wrap it in heavy duty foil. Take a 3# coffee can and punch 4 holes in the bottom/side of the can with a bottle opener. Put 13 charcoal brickets inside the can and light. When the coals are ready put the chicken in the can "head down" (if it still had a head). Wait two hours and get ready to eat fall off the bone tender chicken. Great with tortillas and salsa.

I get the can preloaded with charcoal and all ready to go before a trip. Cook the chicken and then throw the can away!

Capt. Mike

Ludwig van: My wife is a big oatmeal eater, but likes the multigrain variety. It's become very hard to find lately -- may have been dropped from Quaker's lineup. She likes frozen blueberries in hers. They defrost in the hot cereal quickly or can be dropped in during cooking. There are a number of dried or dry-frozen berries that can also be added but they need to be added prior to cooking so they rehydrate in the cereal. I like cherry, but cranberry, apple or even banana add to the flavor.


New member
Like most of us here, I've learned through trial and error with my camping meals. Gone are the days of 'Hell's Kitchen on Wheels'; I go for simplicity as well as nutrition now. For days on end camping (Everybus and High Country Bus Festival), I actually write out each day of the week, and write out the contents of each meal. I learned the hard way one year; I limited myself to one meal a day so that the kids could eat at every meal, since I didn't guesstimate the correct amount of food I thought to bring!
Remember the simplicity! My typical menu minimizes prep/ cooking/ refrigeration, so they look like this:

breakfast: instant oatmeal (add raisins or bananas if you want)
bagels (with peanut butter)
oranges, apples, or bananas

lunch: bagel sandwiches (slice of cheese, or pb&j)
with pretzels or peanuts

dinner: Here's where I get something more substantial, and use this as my one cooked meal a day. Chili -- cook one pound of spicy sausage in a pot. Add a can of kidney beans, a can of black beans, and a can of navy beans -- juice and all. I add cumin, black pepper, and Texas Pete to taste. Spaghetti -- cook a pound of spicy sausage in the pot. I know it sounds weird, but try it! Add two cans of spaghetti sauce, and put uncooked noodles directly into same pot. Simmer it all stirring occasionally, adding some garlic and basil to taste.

Both dinners feed four, and minimize the amount of cooking (and utensils to be cleaned).

I always have peanuts on hand for drunk (or sober) snacking, as well as raisins. Plain bagels do for something to keep a belly satiated until dinner.
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Capt. Mike


I've learned to make my own jerky! I found it a great, fat-free & lo-cal snack, especially when I came out of the woods from hunting. But $6-8 for a 4-oz. package was a little steep. So I decided to try making my own. My oven has a 'drying' stage and even a cute little block to prop the door open an inch or two for ventilation. Food dehydrators and driers are becoming less expensive all the time.

A butcher where I get my suet & pork to blend into my venison sausage gave me a starter point -- Allegro Marinade. The "flavorizer that tenderizes meats & vegetables 'naturally'" Whatever . . . basically a bottled, soy-sauce based marinade. Many of the big sporting goods 'outfitter' chains carry ready-made kits, though I sometimes find their price for the kit plus meat make it run more than store-bought.

When I Googled "jerky", I got about 4 million hits, not counting the teenage blogs discussing boyfriends. Jerky Recipes was the first I found. I have some in my Venison cookbooks.

What I did was combine. The Allegro marinade was a good base, but not exactly overloaded with spices. From two vension cookbook recipes, I added a tsp. garlic powder, tsp. dry mustard & a little paprika or cayenne depending on your inclination for heat. You may also want to include liquid smoke. Plus some seasoned salt and course-ground black pepper. This for about 3-3½ lb. of meat.

I used venison "London broils", a flat cut off the rear haunch very much like the London broils sold in the grocery stores. Around here, they go on 'buy one, get one free' sale fairly often. You can really use most any roast cut, but it is imperative you remove all the trimmable fat and any membranes between cuts. Those membranes will dry to a leather-like sheet rather than melt away as they would in a roast recipe. Heavily marbled cuts like a chuck roast are not really suitable.

I cut mine the long way so I end up with strips. Most of the recipes call for ¼", but I try for thinner, maybe 3/16". An electric slicer is best; an electric knife probably better than by hand. I cut mine still mostly frozen to hold slice shape better.

Then, in a covered square backing dish, lay meat out in layers and pour on mixed marinade. Refrigerate. On 2nd day, remove and restack meat strips to ensure even penetration; marinade 2nd full day.

After at least 2 full days in marinade, remove meat and pat dry with paper towels. This will use a bunch! I lay out 3 sheets wide by 2 thick; lay on meat and then press down with 2nd layer of paper towels to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. When dried of excess moisture, lay out in a single layer on a mesh grid. I've got a couple for grilling, including one cast-iron, but even baked-goods cooling racks will work at these temperatures. Folks, don't use galvanized ¼" chicken wire!

As I said, my oven has a drying mode, which incorporates a fan and exhausts via the propped open door an inch. Auto is 120°F, but I up it to 140°F. At this point I will caution that many claim this is insufficient to kill bacteria. See USDA for their suggestions.

I dry for two hours and then rotate racks. I will usually end up drying for at least 4 hours, often 6. You want to remove any 'moist' inner texture but stay short of dried-to-aged-leather.

I vacuum pack in 4-pz. packages. (See "Vacuum packing . . ." in TIPS forum.) I then freeze these vacuum paks for long term storage. Once opened, I usually move to a zip-lock in the refrigerator. The USDA warnings become more important if not stored correctly and not air-tight. If you plan on throwing it in a paper bag and leaving in the Westy for 6 months, better stick with the commercial version.

PS: I've tried the jerky made out of ground meat pressed into ribbons with 'jerky makers -- basically a caulking gun with flat tip. Texture stinks! Part of the fun of eating jerky is the chewy texture and 'gnawing' on a piece.
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New member
My wife and I go camping, on average 50 weekends out of the year... Up until we relocated from the Westcoast (Northern California/Oregon to Connecticut - yes I still ask myself why) we also liked to camp along the pacific, usually on a cliff with a great view of the sun setting... I am a Chef by trade and my wife worked for Goldeneye Vineyards (owned by Duckhorn) so meals in the Westy got to be pretty damned good. The happiest meals tended to be simple meals like Duck Confit slowly cooked till the skin was extremely crispy served with potatoes cooked in duck fat with tons of sweet garlic... duck just goes well with pinot noir.

Other favorites include making cioppino with as much local seafood you can get your hands on. One time up on a very back road 55 miles out a gravel road from the town of Cordova in Alaska we were camping near the Child's Glacier. A large piece calved off and knocked a ton of silver salmon onto the shore. You cannopt waste chances like that... We ended up eating sauteed Salmon with a Rice Wine and Ginger Sauce... I usually keep a pretty well stocked Westy just for this kind of occassion. My wife and I have converted part of our closet to a twelve bottle wine cellar. Please try this recipe for Rice Wine and Ginger Sauce.... It keeps forever, doesn't really need refrigeration and makes an impromptu stir fry out of just about anything... (pork, chicken, veggies, tofu, glacier fished salmon, whatever)

Aswah's Rice Wine and Ginger Sauce

1 cup Rice Wine (available at most larger grocery stores in the oriental aisle... much cheaper if you happen to live near an asian grocery store) - if you can't find rice wine sub dry Sherry
1 cup water
1 cup Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
as much sliced fresh ginger as you like. I would say at least one large piece
as much chopped garlic as you like... I usually put about ten cloves mashed
and lastly, as much red chili flakes as you like.... for me, the garlic, ginger and chili flakes are added in legendary quantities...

anyhoots: bring everything to a boil, than simmer. Strain thru whatever fine meshed strainer you got at home. Mix roughly one tablespoon of cornstarch into a 1/4 cup of water and whick in. You want to thicken the sauce but not make it too thick. Simmer the sauce for 10 to 15 minutes and strain.

Now make whatever stir fry you like... thin sliced pork and scallion over rice... same with salmon, a mess of vegetables and chicken... so easy and so good and so healthy.



New member
Camping menus

Hi everyone:

I'm the proud new owner of an '89 Westfalia and will be hitting the road soon. After a few shakedown cruises I'm planning on a monthlong trip this summer, and am hoping some of you will share some of your tried-and-true menus. I'm especially interested in having a few basic dinners with ingredients that can be easily restocked at any wayside market (like spaghetti and Ragu, for instance.) I'm also interested in fancier meals and breakfast and lunch ideas.

I've already learned a ton by reading this board, and I want to thank you all for so generously sharing your knowledge. I'd heard Westie owners are a good bunch of people, and this site proves it.

Finally, this is only the second time I've ever posted anything on any site, anywhere, so please forgive me if I made any sort of protocol errors.


Capt. Mike

See also "Oven cooking . . ." & "Hot Food . . ." topics in CAMPING TALK forum. There are many recipes in John's CAMPING NEWS forum. Since much of camp cooking hinges on what you can carry and store, see the "Vacuum packing . . ." topic in the TIPS forum.

Gilwell II

New member
Logan Trail Bread

LOGAN TRAIL BREAD: This is a dense, chewy bread, very high in calories & almost impervious to spoiling. It last quite well on the trail. It orginated in 1950 from a U of Alaska trip to climb Mt. Logan. This recipe is slightly different from the original & has an unusually high fat content & is very rich & nutritious. A single 4-inch square gives approx. 718 calories and 10.4 grams of usable protein. The first figures are for half the recipe. Makes two(2) pans. Good for a test run.
1.5 or 3 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 or 3 cups white flour
.25 or .5 cups dry milk
1.25 or 2.5 cups rolled oats
.75 or 1.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 or 3 tsps baking powder
1 or 2 tsps salt
.5 or 1 cup soy grits
.75 or 1.25 cups broken or chopped nuts
1 or 2 cups raisins
.5 or 1 cup of honey
.25 or .5 cups molasses
1 or 2 cups margarine
.5 or 1 cup oil
3 or 6 eggs

Combine dry ingredients in a LARGE mixing bowl & stir well. Combine remaining ingredients in a MEDIUM bowl & beat until well mixed. Fold into the dry mixture and stir until well mixed. [Then give it a few more twists] Divide equally between the 9-inch pans [metal, pyrex, Corning] and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until done. Bread does not rise. Bread is dense and chewy. {Rodale book of practical formulas}
And check out www.bakepacker.com for an interesting cook pot.
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New member
The most joyful dinners would in general be straightforward suppers like duck comfit gradually cooked till the skin was greatly firm presented with potatoes cooked in duck fat with huge amounts of sweet garlic...