Happy Labor Day

By Keith Fisher.

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well being of our country. Labor Day: How it Came About—what it Means

While serving a mission in Canada years ago, I enjoyed the Boxing Day Holiday. Celebrated on December 26, I was told it’s the day set aside for the servants: mail carriers, waiters, gas station attendants, and etc. It’s the day you prepare a Christmas box for the people who serve you.

In America, where business is the national religion and successful businesspersons our heroes. Please take time to remember that without the American worker, business would’ve foundered hundreds of years ago. Capitalism would be a byword. Providing employment and a living wage for Americans must be the purpose of those heroes. Be careful that the profit margin doesn’t get in the way of your duty, and remember who really blessed you with your success.

Labor Day, by tradition, is the last great party of summer. It marks the beginning of the season when we prepare for harvest, cooler temperatures, and shutting ourselves indoors. The Holiday doesn’t have to be the end of your outdoor cooking experience, however. There will be more holidays ahead, hunting season, and much more camping to do before you winterize your summer gear.

As for the Dutch ovens, I cook all year. I enjoy the peaceful loneliness of shoveling snow from the patio, and leaving my pots to simmer while I step indoors to get warm for a second. I learned to keep my head back from the lid, when stirring, lest my glasses fog up. Trust me, it will be worth it, when you sit down to eat a Dutch oven Christmas dinner. All your guests will praise your efforts and admire you.

Several years ago on the deer hunt, I was camp cook and had planned to make shredded pork enchiladas for supper. A storm came in that morning, and by afternoon, a blizzard was upon us. I estimated the winds to be forty miles an hour. (I’m sure I overestimated, but it was a strong wind.) I set my jaw, braced myself against the wind, piled coals on the windward side of the lid, and started roasting a pork loin. That evening the wind died down, but it was freezing. I shredded the meat, rolled the tortillas, placed them in a Dutch oven with sauce and cheese, and 45-minutes later, we had a wonderful dinner. Deer hunt would never be the same. Warmed over chili was out, and I became a hero.

On another occasion, I actually did shovel the snow from the patio, set up my kitchen, and made sweet and sassy chicken, rice, and a great vegetable stir-fry for Christmas dinner. My grandmother even loved it, and she always made a traditional turkey dinner for Christmas. I have too, many times, in Dutch ovens, but the oriental Christmas Dinner will live in my family’s memory for years to come.

The point is to keep using your Cast iron. No need to put it away—but if you must store it for the winter, check the seasoning. If it’s rough and dry put a light coat of oil on. If it’s smooth and shiny you will probably be okay, but to be safe against rust, put a thin layer of oil on. (You can heat up the iron in the spring and burn off any rancid oil if needed.)

Next, you need to prop the lid open to allow the moisture to escape. Roll up a piece of paper towel or tin-foil and place it between the lid and the oven. I remove the lid entirely, and store the oven separate from the lid. (In a coming blog, I’ll talk about storage boxes and other ways to store cast iron.) It’s also a good idea to place a sheet of paper towel loosely in the oven. It will collect moisture and prevent it from settling on the iron.

But remember: A Dutch oven kept hot, with food in it, gathers no rust.

Sweet and Sassy Chicken

  • 5 chicken breasts
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • Your favorite sweet and sour sauce
  • Tabasco sauce and Cayenne pepper to taste

Dice onion and peppers and sauté with a dab of olive oil. When soft, add chicken breasts and stir. When chicken is done, 165 degrees, cover with sauce and sprinkle Cayenne and Tabasco to taste. Let simmer until serving.

Serve on a bed of rice and dip extra sauce on top.

Return to the Neighborhood.


Anybody know any Campfire Songs?

By Keith Fisher

Dinner was delicious, the dishes are done, and the Dutch ovens are put away. The sun has set and twilight is coming on. The kids settle down to sit in front of . . . what? Burning charcoal briquettes on a raised metal table is one thing, but you can’t light a fire here, in the middle of this parking lot.

A few years ago, when I began to see ads for portable fireplaces, I laughed. I couldn’t imagine anyone finding a campsite in the wilderness, pitching a tent, and lighting a fire in a fold out fireplace. It reminded me of something I’d seen Goofy do in an old Disney cartoon.

I forgot about the idea until about seven years ago when I parked my camp trailer in the parking lot at the Davis County Fairgrounds. We’d come for the Dutch Oven Convention. The potluck dinner had just ended. We gathered in our lawn chairs to swap stories and enjoy the company. My friend pulled out his homemade portable fire pit.

I watched him build a fire and enjoyed the warmth and fascination, while camping in a parking lot. I was sold on the idea, and I begged my friend to let me borrow it the following year. I brought out the marshmallows and the kids had a wonderful time too.

Since then, I’ve seen many types and sizes of portable fireplaces for sale--limited only to your imagination. A word of caution, however, it’s hard to pack a clay Chiminea in the back of your truck but, it's also hard for a large group to stand around a Volcano stove.
Perhaps you should think about a barrel half. A twenty-gallon steel drum may be a little large, but a ten-gallo
n seems to be just right. Make sure you know what you’re doing, or find someone who does, then cut the barrel in half the long way, and lay it on its side. Now, you don’t want to scorch the grass or melt the asphalt below it, so fashion legs to the bottom. Also I recommend some kind of cover or screen, something you can contain the fire with, so the forest doesn’t burn down when you’ve gone to bed.

I think you’d be surprised how many uses you can find for your new portable fireplace. It gives a whole new meaning to leave no trace camping. I love to haul mine out on the driveway, and invite the neighborhood to come and roast marshmallows or hot dogs.

Another note of caution: Check with your forest ranger before trying to use one in a fire restricted area. It is safer than an open pit, but it’s still a fire and you don’t want men with fire extinguishers invading your campsite.

I can’t leave this subject without mentioning my old friend, propane. There are many kinds of propane fireplaces on the market. Although you may not want to spend all night in front of one, they can be a quick source of marshmallow roasting fun, even when it’s too hot to burn a fire. Have your s'mores, then just turn it off. Go to bed or watch the stars. No smoke, no ashes, no fuss.

Good luck, and remember, campfire songs don’t count as church hymns and you might discover things about your family and friends you never would have sitting in front of the TV in your motor home.

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