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Dutchoven 101's Step by steps with pictures

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Chicken and Dumplings

Been going through pictures and realized I had enough to do this one.  BTW there are pictures from a couple outings here so if some stuff in the background don't look quit right,,,you can come along and be my camera man. ;D

This used a 5 lp bag of leg quarters and two 12 inch deep dutch ovens.

I put the cut up chicken pieces in the dutch oven, I mostly use hind quarters because they can be bought cheap, then cut the legs from the thigh.  They then go in the oven and have enough water put on them to almost cover and then are seasoned to taste.  To make it easier if I'm making two ovens full I put them all in the same oven at first.

Simmer for 45 minutes or so:

Notice the chicken is still firm and pink in these photos:

I then transfer part of the chicken if needed, add vegtables and simmer another hour or so till the vegtables are tender and the chicken is starting to fall off the bone.

I then mix up some biscuits, this recipe will be about right for a 12 inch oven:

Basic Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon salt

Mix well

Cut in 1/4 cup lard or 1/3 cup shortening

I just cut it in by working in with my hands till there are no clumps of the lard.  (Note the reason it takes more shortening is that lard works better and since the are almost equal in good/bad co-lester-all, you are better off with lard for baking)

3/4 cup of milk

Just pinch off some dough of about half the size you want your dumplings:

Roll it a bit in yyer hand to form:

And toss it on top:

Put the oven back on a good bed of coals, leave the coals off the lid and steam for 15 to 20 minutes:

Then serve:

Fruit Pies

Fruit pies using either canned fruit, fresh fruit or dried fruit.  When using canned fruit one will need to either drain the fruit or to add some flour or cornstarch to the juice to thicken it.  With fresh fruit sometimes mixing a little flour with the sugar that on adds will help thicken it if needed.  Dried fruit can be soaked over night or stewed in water for a bit to re-hydrate it.  Most of the methods you use for making your pie in the kitchen at home will work the same outside with the dutch oven right up to the point you get ready to bake.  There are many ways to make pies as to how you do the filling as well as how to make the crust.  I will be the last one to tell you to use my methods rather than doing it the way Grandma did.  Grandma's will work as well in the dutch oven as it does in the oven.

I have recipes for many kinds of pie crust, some use eggs, some vinegar some even add baking powder and/or sugar.  The one I use the most is the most basic, for a 10 inch double pie crust use 2 cups flour add a bit of salt if desired and cut in 2/3 cup of lard.  Add enough cold water to make a workable crust, (2-5 tablespoons depending on the humidity) and let it rest covered about 10 minutes. 

One wants to be careful, if it is going to be hot, get up very early to make those pies.  Since most of us will work out of a hidden ice chest, freeze some water in a plastic jar and use what has melted for the water.  This will help you on a hot morning. 

If you want to use a crust that calls for vegetable shortening, but want to make it work with the more PC lard then simply use 2/3rd's as much lard as vegetable shortening and it will work fine. 

This is my pard Oscar about to embark on making his first pie from scratch and in dutch ovens to boot.

One then takes the dough and divides it in half or in this case in 1/4th's and rolls it out and places the first piece in the pie pan. if it tears or needs patching just put the pieces back together and using a wet finger, seal the edges.  Put the filling in the pan on top of the bottom crust and roll out the top and place it on top.  Seal the edges and the roll it up a bit and tuck it to the sides of the pie.  Most modern recipes has one cover the crust on the flange of the pie with aluminum foil and bake it for 20 minutes and uncover to keep it from burning.  Well there was no aluminum foil in the time period and the PC tin foil was to pricey to waste on such.  The tuck to the side works well. 

One then needs to use a fork or knife and put some vents in the crust to vent the steam. 

Before putting the pies and the trivet in it helps to put the ovens one the fire or a good bed of coals and pre-heat them, this will help bake the pie faster, one will also want to pre-heat the lids also.

The ovens should be set on a good bed of hot coals since pies need to be baked hot.  A good rule of thumb is 1 1/2 to two inches deep.  The trivet is then put in the oven and the pie set on top.   <Note, the trivet in the oven is from another day, we didn't get a picture of the trivet in the hustle of getting things done.>

The lids are then placed on top and covered with a lot of coals.  Use the picture as a guide.  The oven on top is for another project, more on this in a bit.

One then just keeps an eye on them, if the heat is right they will be done in about 35-45 minutes.  Practice will perfect it.

When done they should look like this.

Remove them from the oven and cover with a dish towel to keep the vermin out.  When ready Just cut and serve.  You will notice with our well heaped pies we use a fairly thick crust.

With out thinking I left the proper knives behind, still getting gear sorted, yes that is a Buck Knife.

Back to the dutch oven on top of the pies.

Notice the lard melting in it.  There was some pie crust left because we don't really measure, we just guess.  Well that got rolled out and another peach was cut up and was sealed in the dough and fried.  When using fresh fruit it will cook better if you let the fried pie cool a bit with the fruit inside.

Fruit Cobbler

Perhaps the most popular desert in a dutch oven is a cobbler, they are easy to put together and very easy to bake.  There are many ways to make the crust on it, myself most times I just use a basic biscuit recipe and add extra sugar and put in a little extra milk.  There are also two ways to make them in the oven.  For a person new to this type of cooking, making the cobbler in a separate pan that fits into the dutch oven and sits on a trivet of some sort for baking. We’ll start that way.

Most often I make cobblers in the shallow ovens they work the best.  A good rule of thumb is about 1/4-1/3 the capacity of the oven in fruit.  So a 10-inch shallow will work best with 1 to 1/2 quarts of fruit.  Use this as a guide, one thing about doing period cooking is not to get to hung up on exact measuring, this was a product of the 1890's and the famous Fanny Farmer.  For the most part we've got to hung up on exact and it scares folks away from dutch ovens.

This one I made out of fresh cherries, there were enough on the tree at our farm to make a small cobbler.  I made this one in a separate bowl because I didn't have an oven small enough. 

I picked and pitted the cherries and one can see there was enough juice that no added water was needed.  With drier fruits a little water is needed, amount is not critical.

I added a bit of flour, somewhere around 2 teaspoons per cup of liquid is about right, less will make a more runny fruit, more will make it stiffer.  About half that amount of cornstarch will also work fine.  With canned fruit you  will not need to add sugar.

I then added enough brown sugar to make it sweet and stirred it well and put it in the soup bowl.

Canned fruit will also work, most are period correct, but peaches were the most common.


Just put the desired coals out on the ground the size or slightly larger than the oven, 1- 1 1/2 inch for with the trivet, maybe half with out. 

Set the oven on top and cover with coals, bake for 25 minutes or longer, till the crust is nice and browned.  Any longer than maybe 35-40 minutes will let you know you need more heat next time. 

If it doesn’t brown even, turn the lid 180 degrees.  One needs to just try, make mistakes and learn

And the finished product:

The next cobbler was made with fresh apples; of course one needs to peel them first:

The apple slices were then laid out in a well-greased dutch oven, this is a 12 shallow since there were not a lot of folks to feed that day;:

The spices were then added; I like mine spicy so I use a lot of cinnamon, nutmeg and just a little bit of clove:

Sugar and flour were added on that and then it was stirred:

The crust mixture is then just formed about ½ thick by hand and spread over the top:

I  then bake it in a medium hot oven till done, (about 30 minutes) with all this sugar in the mix be very careful about putting to much coals on the bottom.

My crusts as I said tend to be thicker, it fills folks up well and they love it.  Sometimes when extra's show up and I lack fruit or oven space, I just make more crust.

Another method I use sometimes to save time is to make extra yeast bread dough, either white or whole wheat.  I then use the leftover bread dough for the top.  I let it rise a bit and then bake as above, but when it is getting done I just sprinkle some brown sugar on top and finish baking.


Chicken Fried Steak

This dish often is called Chicken Fried Steak or Country Fried Steak, just depends on who and where you are, like all my recipes, feel free to make this at home on the stove, but it's better outside.  I know I used a 20-inch skillet this time, but it works well if you use your dutch oven for a frying pan also.

One of the big secrets to CFS is to not over tenderize the meat.  Round steak is the traditional, and bottom round works well and is a bit cheaper.  A good meat hammer and a cutting board is needed.  I generally trim the bottom round onto two or three pieces about the size of my hand.  I know everyone talks about this or that place where they got a CFS that covered the whole plate, great, but this works fine, if one ain't enough, then eat 3 or 4.

The meat needs pounded enough to tenderize, but not enough to break down the fibers and make it mushy.

As it gets pounded it goes into a large pan:

While I was pounding the meat, my helper was making a mix of eeg and milk, go about 1 egg for about a cup and a half of milk.  (Canned milk size)

Pour the mix over the meat, stir well and let soak for about 10-15 minutes. (Longer is fine):

Dredge the meat in flour that has pepper and salt added, re-wet with mix and dredge again to make a thicker batter.

I use lard to fry mine, other oils can be used, but won't taste near as good.  To heat up the skillet fast I put it right on the main fire, then moved it a bit later to a stand with enough coals to keep it hot.  One wants your lard/oil, to be hot, but not quite smoking. one only needs about a 1/4 inch of lard in the pan before adding the steak:

Fry till golden brown on each side:

One can make cream gravy out of the drippings by draining any excess grease off, but country sausage gravy is best.  We served mashed taters and biscuits also, so one could put gravy over everything:

Pot Roast

When I am asked what to cook first in a dutch oven, my answer is "Pot Roast"  It is easy, and one can learn a lot from this simple item.  Any size oven can be used, I like a 12 inch deep and recommend it as a first oven.  A 5 pound roast fits well in the bottom and leaves plenty of room for vegetables.  These pictures are of sirloin steaks and you will notice that I used a 12 inch shallow, I was the only one who was going to be eating it so I went that route.  I had a refrigerator handy so I could store the leftovers to reheat the next day.

I like the meat to cover most of the bottom, this allows me to add the vegetables early on and when they sit on top of meat and out of the liquid, they don't get mushy.  I often do this one while I don't have a lot of time to babysit the ovens, because with practice this one can go 2-3 hours with out being tended, if there is no danger of fire.

I take the oven and put in a small amount of lard, just enough to kind of cover the oven bottom.  I then put this right on the fire and heat it to smoking hot.  Be careful if you put the lid on it, till you get experience one could get it to hot and have a flash fire when you open the lid.

When the oven is hot and slightly smoking, I remove it from the fire to save the hair on my arms and just sear the meat away from the fire.  A good sear with a lot of browning will really help the flavor of the meat.  I salt and pepper the meat to taste at this time.

I also add enough water at this time to almost cover the meat.

One then adds the vegetables to the oven or once can cook the meat awhile and then add them later.  I like mine well done, soft,  but not mushy so I add them at the same time and just keep them on top of the meat.  Onions are used all the time, garlic sometimes if I have it.  The garlic is often dropped to the side in the liquid and the onions are sliced and put on the meat.  This one used just carrots and potatoes, but often I use parsnips and turnips also and sometimes cabbage.  I also season the vegetables some before cooking.

 After the vegetables are added we're ready to cook or one can sear the meat, add liquid and set it on some coals to cook while one gets the vegetables ready.

Go over to your fire and get some coals out and spread them out on the ground, I like to start with an in to an inch and a half of them slightly larger than the oven.  You then place the oven on top of these coals.  The amount is not that critical, one will want to watch carefully the first to times anyway, this will get you the feel of it with your different kinds of wood. 

When the oven is sitting on the coals, go back to the fire and get a good shovelful of them again and place them on the lid.  After 15-20 minutes check it, things should be going well, but not at a full boiling, just a good simmer.  When it starts cooling off one can add some more coals, but one won't need as many, just keep is cooking, adding liquid as needed.  A slower cooking temp after getting hot in the first place will make the meat far more tender, also the acid in the onions will help. 

The amount of time to cook will vary with the heat and the thickness of the meat and veggies.  This took about 3 hours to cook, but a thicker post roast will be better if you give it 4-6 hours.  Just before it is ready to serve, maybe 15-20 minutes, I like to brush off all the coals and ash off the top because they tend to insulate a bit.  I Then get a lot of very hot coals and put them on top, this tends to brown the vegetables and put a slight crust on them.

And yes it was wonderful.


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