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Around The Campfire, Issue #003 -- April 2009
March 20, 2009

Around The Campfire

April 2009 Issue

March 20, 2009

Welcome to Around The Campfire, a monthly newsletter devoted to camping fun, safety, and of course great camping food!

Have questions or suggestions? We love to hear from you! Please contact us with any questions or suggestions you may have.

In this issue you will find featured:

  • What's New At Your Camping Guidebook: New articles posted to in the last month
  • Choosing A Dutch Oven: What features to look for when choosing a new Dutch Oven
  • Recipe of the Month: Dump Cake...An Oldie But Goody!
  • Monthly Activity: Keeping A Camping Journal

What's New At

This month we continued looking at Coleman tents, turning our attention to the larger cabin tents. The Coleman Weathermaster series of tents are older, roomy, and still fantastically comfortable tents at lower prices, as well as the more modernized versions, the Coleman Weathermaster Elite tent with built-in screen room and remote-controlled ceiling light!

Also new is How To Wash Dishes, where you can learn a step by step method to wash your dishes with a minimal impact on the environment, so you can get away from paper and plastic disposables on your camping trips.

We are also looking for YOU to help us by sharing your favorite campgrounds and why you love them! It is really easy to do, just fill out the form, click submit, and then you have your own page on!

Don't forget to get all of your camping questions answered with our feature, Ask Camping Jewel. This is an interactive format where you can submit your camping questions and we will directly answer your question. You can also use this feature to share your favorite camping tips and ideas to help other beginning campers. You can find this feature directly on our home page,

Remember to keep up to date with the website by subscribing to our RSS feeds. This lets you know of any new information, and brings this updated information to you.

Find out more and subscribe by clicking the "What is an RSS feed?" link located on the top of the right side of any page at Your Camping Guidebook.

What To Look For When Choosing A Dutch Oven

What exactly is a Dutch Oven? According to, a Dutch Oven is large pot or kettle, usually made of cast iron, with a tight-fitting lid so steam cannot readily escape. It's used for moist-cooking methods, such as braising and stewing. Dutch ovens are said to be of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, dating back to the 1700s.

As we discussed in last month's issue, Dutch Ovens can also be used for frying and baking as well. In fact, with a good Dutch Oven you can cook nearly everything at camp that you cook at home. We're talking fresh homemade bread, deep dish pizza, your favorite meatloaf, roast chicken and veggies, hot fruit cobbler and more! The only thing we use our gas camping stove for when we are camping is to make coffee and to boil water for pasta, hot chocolate, etc.

There are Dutch Ovens made for home kitchens and Dutch Ovens made for camping kitchens. Obviously we are going to talk about the features you need for your camping kitchen Dutch Oven!

LEGS: Right off the bat this is probably the most noticeable difference. The home kitchen Dutch Ovens do not have legs on them. They have a flat bottom to go on the stove or oven rack. Your camping Dutch Oven should have three legs. This is so it can stand over the coals or woodfire when you are cooking. The legs should be at least an inch high and thick and sturdy. You want them to be able to support the weight of your Dutch Oven when full....and other Dutch Ovens once you start stacking!

LID: The lid of the camping Dutch Oven has a flanged rim or lip all around the outside of the lid. This is to hold coals on top and keep the ashes from falling off. It is important that your lid be tight-fitting and lie flush against the bowl or kettle part of the oven all the way around. This is so that the steam created inside the oven stays inside the oven, keeping your food moist.

The lid of camping Dutch Oven is relatively flat (to hold the coals without dumping them of course!) and when you pick it up and turn it over, the underside with have a slight concavity to it. It comes in handy in a pinch as a griddle...we have made fried eggs on it many times!

HANDLE: On top of the lid there will be a small handle. This handle should be a molded part of the lid with a loop, or have an empty space under it. You don't want it to be a solid tab, it is important it has the loop! You will use a lid lifter to hook into the loop to lift the lid off of the oven when you are cooking to check on the food, and of course to serve it, so this loop is a vital feature.

BAIL: The bail is the wire handle you use to carry the Dutch oven around with. Most kitchen Dutch Ovens do not have a bail. This is another important part of the would be really disappointing to say the least (and I am being mild in my choice of words here!)if the bail broke while you were carrying your masterpiece to the table and spilled its contents all over the floor! You want the bail to be a thick and sturdy piece of wire, not flimsy and bendable. It is important that the loops where the bail is attached to the oven be molded on, not riveted on, as rivets can eventually rust, weaken, and break. Ideally you want an oven that allows the bail to easily clear the side of the oven to be out of the way when lifting the lid, yet will stand straight up on its own as well, away from the heat.

SIZE: Dutch Ovens are rated in sizes that refer to the diameter of the oven. They come in sizes from a tiny 6 inch, 1-quart oven that will feed one hungry person or two smaller appetites, to the hefty 16 inch, 12-quart oven, big enough to feed an army...almost! When first starting out, a good recommendation is the middle of the road 12 inch, 6-quart oven. It is reasonable enough to handle and big enough to be able to roast a chicken or make some great stews or desserts in it for a family. When you are learning to use your oven, before you are comfortable adjusting and tweaking, you will find that most Dutch Oven recipes are made for this size oven.

MATERIAL: For many, the big debate is aluminum versus cast iron. Aluminum does have some advantages, as far as weight, rust, and cleanup...but for us, hands down, we are die-hard cast iron fans. For one thing, I don't like to use aluminum pots and pans at all for health reasons...and cast iron is better able to handle the heat. We are such big cast iron fans that we own no Teflon, Calphalon, Circulon, or any other frying pans at home....all of our skillets or frying pans at home are cast iron too!

MANUFACTURERS: Finally, I am going to touch on Dutch Oven manufacturers. There are many out there. But the best quality Dutch Ovens are made by Lodge, Camp Chef, and Maca. As I have mentioned before, your Dutch Oven will last you many fact it will outlast you! Yes, good quality cast iron is going to cost you a little bit more. But that being said, you will never have to replace it. Ever. You may find yourself adding more your collection (it is addicting!) but you won't have to replace it....not even if it gets all rusty and pretty much can always be saved! So....while Camp Chef and Maca make very good Dutch Ovens, I will tell you that all of our cast iron is Lodge. Lodge has all of the quality features I mentioned above...and you can't go wrong with it.

So now that you have all this wonderful information on Dutch is a (as my daughter would say) fantabulous recipe to try out in it! Enjoy!

Recipe of the month: Dump Cake

Dump cake is the quintessential Dutch Oven recipe. I would venture to guess that it is the first recipe most will make in their new Dutch Oven...easy yet delicious. And on years of campouts I have found out that dump cakes are kind of like opinions...everyone seems to have a different one and thinks theirs is the best!

So here that being is my dump cake recipe...which of course I think is the best one! I have been making this recipe far longer than I have been camping...but of course it adapted so easily to the Dutch Oven that it quickly became a camping staple. Hope you enjoy it as well.

Jewel's Dump Cake

1 20 oz can cherry pie filling
1 21 oz can crushed pineapple (don't drain juice)
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup shredded coconut

Before you start putting your dish together, go ahead and get your charcoal started with your charcoal chimney starter so that your charcoal is ready when your dish is assembled.

  • First, open the can of cherry pie filling and dump that into your Dutch Oven. Spread it around so it evenly covers the bottom of the oven.
  • Now open the can of pineapple and dump that, juice and all, over the top of the pie filling, and spread it around as well.
  • Next open the box of cake mix, and dump the dry mix all over the two layers already in the Dutch Oven.
  • Next layer is the butter. You will cut this into pats and place the pats evenly all over the top of the cake mix.
  • Finally sprinkle your pecans over the top of the butter and then sprinkle your coconut over the pecans.

And that is it!

Now cover and place your charcoal. Based on a 12' Dutch Oven, you can put 8-10 briquettes in a circle underneath the oven, and 16-20 briquettes on top. The cooler the temperatures outside the more you will need. Let this cook for about 45 minutes. Pay attention to your charcoal in case you need to get more started before your dish is done cooking.

Of course you can mix and match different flavors of fruit, cake mix, and pie filling to your liking. This combination happens to be my favorite. The quantities for the nuts and coconut are quite flexible....quite frankly I never measure them...for their layers I just sprinkle them quite liberally.

Keeping a Camping Journal

A travel or camping journal is an excellent momento of your trip that in years to come will be enjoyed by you, your children, your grandchildren, and who knows who else! I would imagine that when Lewis and Clark scribbled down notes about their findings during their expedition, they had no idea how these journal entries would help to record their historic trek and one day be shared with the entire world.

A camping journal is not just for kids! For the adults, at its most simplistic level, use it to keep basic information about the campground itself, what you liked, what you disliked, names of the staff, restaurants and activities close by, using this as a reminder of a fun time or as something to refer to when you return to this campground in the future.

However, at a deeper level, it is an excellent daily reminder of what you did, where you went, whom you went with on this camping trip, and a keepsake of your interactions with your family or friends. This is especially wonderful when you are camping with your young children. It is a great way to sit back and take a few minutes to really think about your day rather than finding yourself at the end of your vacation having sped through the week at a hectic pace without remembering half of your trip.

Today there are many electronic journals available where you can log in and upload photos, journal entries, and even pinpoint on maps where you are....and instantaneously share these with friends and family back home. These interactive travel journals definitely have their advantages and are loads of fun.

However, there are also great advantages to taking a little time to slow down your pace and get back to a simpler way of life, and this involves a paper camping journal. For the adult journalers, you can keep your notes in a beautiful leather-bound travel journal, a basic composition book, or simply on notebook paper which you will tuck into your camping planner notebook...which in and of itself will become a treasure in years to come.

Or use these camping journal pages I created for you to print out and enjoy, for kids or adults. Make a master copy to keep in your camping planner notebook...then print as many copies as you need. Create a special section in your notebook with a divider to keep all of your camping memories together, and once your journal is filled out, punch holes in it and slip it into your camping journal pages in your camping memories section.

Keep in mind that your camping journal can be much more than just words scratched out onto the paper....put keepsakes and momentos of your trip onto these pages. Add tickets to that wonderful aquarium you went to along with some notes of what you saw. Sketch a beautiful flower that is native to this area. Tuck in that fortune you got in your cookie from one of your meals out. Pick up little things you find, reminders of your trip, along the way...anything can go in here. Children have a wonderful way of taking to this concept and pack their journals full of special memories.

On those late night sightseeing days when it is too hectic to write a complete entry don't force yourself to write a detailed version of the day or your journal keeping will be more like a chore than a treasured accounting of your trip......BUT in order to keep up with it, be sure that no matter how tired you are, discipline yourself to take a few minutes to just jot down a few main keywords about your day. Then, when you more relaxed, the rest of the journal can be filled in another day, on the way back, or even when the camping trip is over.

To me there is nothing like a paper journal that years later can be dug out or happened across in a closet or desk and enjoyed by one and all...taking you and your family members back on an emotional trip through a wonderful family experience. I know finding letters from my great-grandfather to my grandmother was a wonderful treasure...a rich journey back in time along my family tree! What a legacy you might leave for your family. And who knows how media will change in the future....what you use as electronic storage today may become outdated and not easily accessed in the future. Your paper journal, however, will last through the ages and is far better at withstanding the test of time.

We hope you have enjoyed this issue of Around The Campfire. Until next month's issue I wish you great camping!

Yours in Camping,

Camping Jewel

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