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qwazse

Fooled to want foil?

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We've all been talked into using foil for lots of campfire cooking.

It's all fine and good if you gather your scrap foil, wash it, throw it in your forge, and roll it into sheets again. But most of us don't have time for that sort of thing.

I've found there's plenty of situations where it (or any other utensil) is unnecessary as long as you can maintain a sizeable bed of coals. This is best done by separating the upwind and downwind side of the fire with a large log. The downwind side is for burning wood to make more coals, which you dig out under the log to bring over the upwind side.  Things cook slower, but better.

  • Corn on the cob. Do not shell! Rinse the husks lightly, and set the ears in coals to roast for about 1/2 hour. Rotate as needed. (P.S., if the fire is on a sand dune or beach, insert ears under the fire. The hot sand will speed cooking.
  • Potatoes. Get a smaller brand and bury in coals. Three inch potatoes will cook in 1/2 hour.
  • Dry-Rub roast beef. Lay on the coals, pull another 1/2 inch layer on top. Slice meat from edge to center as it cooks.
  • Pastry dough. Store-bought? Bury tube in coals. The paper wrapping will burn away, and as it blackens, you can rotate it. Inside is yum!
    • The alternative (especially useful for dough from scratch) is to wrap around a stick. But getting the thickness of dough correct and suspending it close above the coals is a bit tricky.
  • Apples ... yes the thicker varieties will cook while buried half way in coals. Core them and and spices and a little water to the middle while they roast.

Yes, every now and then a husk or one of your vittles will come alight, but that's half the fun!

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On 8/22/2019 at 1:07 PM, qwazse said:

 

  • Pastry dough. Store-bought? Bury tube in coals. The paper wrapping will burn away, and as it blackens, you can rotate it. Inside is yum!
    • The alternative (especially useful for dough from scratch) is to wrap around a stick. But getting the thickness of dough correct and suspending it close above the coals is a bit tricky.
  •  

Sounds like you're talking about those Pillsbury croissant rolls (or biscuits).  If that's what you're cooking, do you ever have a problem with the tube expanding (and maybe even exploding all over the place)??

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1 hour ago, mrkstvns said:

Sounds like you're talking about those Pillsbury croissant rolls (or biscuits).  If that's what you're cooking, do you ever have a problem with the tube expanding (and maybe even exploding all over the place)??

Expanding is not a problem. That's the dough raising. As it expands, it becomes a thermal barrier to the center of the dough. So the real problem is judging when the blob is done all the way through. You have to be willing to accept a blackened crust.

The paper tube does not behave like tin cans, which have to build extreme internal pressures before giving way at the seams -- unless you do the boring thing and poke a couple of holes in the lid. You may have tapped one of those tubes on the table before and noted that dough doesn't go flying everywhere.

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Some may have forgotten that the original scout mess kit design was based on the concept of using it in the fire "dutch oven style".  

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That's the only way we cooked back in the 60s...wood campfires.  No propane or white gas ...no trailers or patrol boxes either...everything went in our backpacks....

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37 minutes ago, scoutldr said:

That's the only way we cooked back in the 60s...wood campfires.  No propane or white gas ...no trailers or patrol boxes either...everything went in our backpacks....

In the 70s too.  I don't believe our troop even OWNED a propane stove. Gathering wood and building a fire was always the first thing we had to do in the morning.

I remember one campout we went on where overnight temperatures had gone below 0.  We woke up and our dish soap had frozen solid so we had to thaw that out before we could even soap our pots to fix breakfast!  

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33 minutes ago, mrkstvns said:

In the 70s too.  I don't believe our troop even OWNED a propane stove. Gathering wood and building a fire was always the first thing we had to do in the morning.

I remember one campout we went on where overnight temperatures had gone below 0.  We woke up and our dish soap had frozen solid so we had to thaw that out before we could even soap our pots to fix breakfast!  

Boy! You sure stoked a lot of memories.

Fires are where scouts, boys, men, gathered for the important lessons of life. Jokes, stories of school, cars, airplanes, movies, and girls (for the older scouts)  were the typical subjects of the patrol campfire. I knew all the words to the movie "Patton" before I saw it a few years later. "Patton" means something different to me than most of other people who have watched it.

And while we imagine ourselves sitting around the red and orange natural combustion, more often than not we stood next to it, as if the smoke and the heat bonded us all that much closer. We stood as close as the nerves in our shins would allow, taking a quick break to quiet the nerves, then back again. The boots back were mostly leather and took a real beating.

Oh, we knew the smell of smoke saturated every inch of our bodies and clothes, but we didn't think about until our moms reminded us when we got home. More often than not I took my camping clothes off in the garage.

We also tested our curious nature by burning the different wrappers and debris found on the ground in camp. The different plastics where especially colorful and interesting in their molted shapes.

There were two scouts in our patrol (Flaming Arrows) who always got up first every morning to get the fire going before revielle. Nothing was said, that was the way it was. I was appreciative of their sacrifice because there is nothing like a warm fire to start the morning.

There is an art to fires, covering up the bed of coals at night before with a little dirt would save just enough embers to get the fire going again the next cool morning without matches.

I know that the sun rose on plenty of warm Oklahoma mornings, but I only remember the cool ones. The ones where scouts popped out of their tents walking strait to the fire in long johns and a sleeping bag wrapped around them. An unexpected cold front drove through one morning bringing six inches of snow on one camp out. I'll never forget the SM walking through camp 5:00 am yelling "don't eat the yellow snow!". I was still young and didn't have a clue what he was talking about. I found myself repeating the same words some 30 years later as a SM. We were a pretty hardy troop, but since the front was not predicted and the highs were in the 70s the day before, most of our scouts weren't prepared for the 25 degree weather. We got up and broke camp. I can't remember if the two scouts had the fire going or not. Probably not, I remember my feet were numb. 

Propane stoves changed the way boys grow into men in the woods. Propane took some of the natural out of building character. 

The fire is the center of the universe for curious boys growing into a men. It was a beacon that pulled us together when the program activities were done. It heated the food that filled our bellies, it kept us warm, even on the warm days. It centered the patrol and kept us always facing each other. It was the hand of mother nature that guided our differences into one.

If those memories sound nostalgic and innocent, I should add the romantic stories around the patrol campfire was the seed for my passion of aviation today. Still, as great as flying is in reality, it has never been as good as we dreamed around the patrol campfire.

Barry

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Very similar memories here. I was the kid who was up early and re-lit the fire using an ember buried in the ash. I was always proud I could go the entire weekend with only using a single match.

Even now, I am usually the first to arise and re-light the fire when I am out with friends (or with the adults on a scout trip). My camping hasn't changed much since my scout days, except for I have learned more and am able to do more advanced types of trips. 

IMO unless there is a fire ban, scouts should be using open fires for cooking and camraderie. Yes, even in sub-zero winter.

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The best thing we ever buried in coals as a scout was a Dutch oven with a cake in it. We were so surprised it came out because we went off to play a game and forgot about it. 

I'm not a fan of eating up to the burnt food. The corn husks make me wonder if there's other food that can be cooked within them, or something similar.

Our camps would not be able to support a camporee's worth of scouts cooking over a fire (not enough downed wood). We'd have to move it around various forests. The forest people would probably love us for removing the fuel. In my first troop I don't remember going to any camporees or any council camps even remotely close.

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our council camps routinely have small logging operations so there is always plenty of the crowns left for firewood. Oddly though, most troops will have a campfire, but still cook on a stove????

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25 minutes ago, MattR said:

..The forest people would probably love us for removing the fuel...

Maybe. But probably not.  It's not straightforward.

There are a lot of issues around gathering firewood that we're becoming more aware of and that are becoming increasingly important as we face ever-diminishing open lands.  

While we might view dead trees or downed wood as fuel ready for gathering, it is also a food source to some species and a habitat for others (think birds picking up twigs to build nests, beavers using branches and logs to build their dams, etc.)  Bugs like termites might directly consume wood, and they, in turn, become food for birds or other animals. There can be myriad complex life cycles that depend on downed wood in a forest.

Of course, it depends. In a large, dense forest that has very plentiful trees, there is more than ample supplies of wood for you to have your fire and the flora and fauna to thrive as it always has. In other places, not so much.  In some places, there has historically been ample supplies, but today, those supplies are no longer adequate, yet there's old timers like us who remember as kids that we were allowed to collect wood. We often criticize the forest service for "over regulating", when in fact, it's simply that we are uncomfortable with the truth that the world is changing and that our behaviors are part of the problem.  Even in areas where downed wood is plentiful, we should take steps to minimize our impact:  a)  don't mess with wood that is obviously a habitat (or suitable as habitat), such as downed logs, b) don't take and burn all the wood in an area, c) be sensitive to the type of area, for example, deep in a forest your gathering of sticks for a fire will have little long-term impact, but in a heavily over-used "frontcountry" park, the availability of down wood is already low and any additional gathering can have an outsize impact on its ability to sustain a healthy ecosystem.  

Despite the threat to some lands, there are absolutely places where your wood gathering would be a service. For the past several decades, US land managers have suppressed natural fires and too much fuel buildup makes those areas susceptible to bigger, hotter fires. Getting rid of some of the excess fuel there would be a good thing. The problem is that most people are not paying attention to the kind of forest they're in and most people have zero knowledge of how to tell how much deadwood a forest needs to maintain its lifecycle, and how much is "too much of a good thing."  The places where scouts and the general public camp most often are the ones where there's "too little", not "too much".

One notable problem that just seems to be getting worse as time goes on is the issue of invasive species destroying our forests. Collecting wood as fuel for fires contributes to that problem because you inadvertently pick up insects, eggs, larvae etc. and move them to another place in the forest ---- or worse yet, take the wood with you to save it for the next campout somewhere far away. Invasives like the emerald ash borer have been spread largely through people moving wood.

I love a campfire as much as the next guy, but I do try to educate myself a little bit about the way that campfires "like we've always done it" may not be sustainable. One way I try to be more responsible about firebuilding while STILL having a fire (because I value the way it fosters cameraderie) is to buy a bundle of kiln-heated wood and use that as my fuel.

Some info on these issues...

* https://www.dontmovefirewood.org/ 

https://thedyrt.com/magazine/lifestyle/where-to-buy-firewood/ 

 

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On 10/10/2019 at 10:08 AM, Eagledad said:

... There were two scouts in our patrol (Flaming Arrows) who always got up first every morning to get the fire going before revielle. Nothing was said, that was the way it was ...

:rolleyes: It's like I'm one of a set of evil triplets! I was in the Flaming Arrow patrol! And, being more lark than owl, I got up before dawn and restarted the campfire.

It was really endearing to my heart when on a crew campout, I woke up early, peeked out of my tent, looked across the field, and saw my daughter and her friend and a campfire coming to light between them.

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