_Dutch Oven & Cast Iron Cookery

Serves: 5



The guy who coined the term "Dutch oven" is no longer with us, so it's impossible to ask him how he came up with the term.

Many stories and theories exist which try to explain it, but my favorite relates to the purchase of Manhattan Island from Native Americans by Dutch traders. As the history books tell us, this parcel of real estate sold the first time for a mere $26 in beads and other trade goods. I think it's a reasonable assumption that one or two three-legged cast iron cooking pots might have been included in the trade.

It's an established fact these three-legged cast iron pots were one of the trader's mainstays. I'm sure these old traders had a name for them, now long forgotten, replaced by a satisfied customer as the "Dutchman's Oven." Now shortened to Dutch oven or simply referred to as a "Dutch."

In your travels stop at any museum with a display on the movement west by Americans-whether a display of the trappers in the 1830-50 era, pioneers on the Oregon Trail, or jitneys loaded down and headed west to escape the Dust Bowl, search out the kitchen display and in every case you'll see a Dutch oven. Dutches were designed and manufactured when most of the people in this country lived in skin tents or log cabins with sod roofs and outdoor cookin' was the norm and not the exception! The old Dutch, which started life with three stubby iron legs, often ended up having its legs amputated in order to be used indoors on a wood burning stove.

Dutch ovens and cast iron cookware in general have changed very little since the settling of this country. As electric and gas stoves replaced wood and coal stoves, modern America began a search for something better to replace cast iron cookin' equipment.

First they used different and usually lighter metals. Then some whiz kid decided the answer to every cooks' dream would be a skillet with electric coils in the bottom. These first two generations of improvements came with a cost. Food tended to stick, which just irritated the cook, but caused dishwashers to get real peeved. Around the corner waited the latest in technology to save us from sticky pots and pans. Yup, as a result of man going to the moon we ended up with all sorts of spin-off technology which yielded the "nonstick" cookware we have today.

Let the TV pitchmen say what they want, I know of not one instance where the "nonstick", "nontoxic", miracle coating doesn't wear off during normal use. By contrast, those Dutch ovens which were traded for Manhattan could still be around today with just normal care. From my perspective, a lot of time and money was spent to improve something which didn't need it.

Anyway... as our nation began to urbanize after WW II it seems our collective national psyche demanded we modernize our camp kitchens as well. Translated-when the "nonstick", "nontoxic", miracle coating wore off a pan in the house, it was relegated to the camp box. In the west, civilization took longer gaining the upper hand. Westerners have a long held tradition of preserving our heritage. This in part saved the old Dutch oven suffering the same fate as corsets.

The 1950's and 60's saw the "American Urban Renaissance" going full bore. By this time about the only place you could find a Dutch was in a sheep camp, an outfitter's wall tent, or an old line shack. Outdoor writer, Ted Trueblood of Idaho often mentioned Dutch oven meals cooked in camp in his articles for "Field and Stream."

The Dutch appeared to be headed down that long inevitable road to obscurity until the United States Congress intervened. Yes, you heard correctly, Congress, though unintentionally, did contribute to the salvation of the venerable old Dutch oven. Who knows, whether intentional or not, it may be the only thing they ever saved. How, you ask, did Congress contribute to the salvation and popularity of the old Dutch oven? In 1968 they passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

When signed into law, river running on western rivers was just coming into its own. Though both commercial and private boaters relied on Dutch ovens for their river kitchens, I credit the commercial boaters for bringing to the forefront our old friend, the Dutch oven.

Early on, river outfitters began to promote "Dutch Oven Cuisine" in their advertising. For folks experiencing real wilderness for the first time, gourmet meals cooked and served in such rustic conditions came as a complete surprise. Through the 1970's and '80's all types of outdoor recreation boomed. The trusty old Dutch saw its opportunity for salvation and jumped on the bandwagon.

Now, over three hundred years after a Dutch trader kicked in a couple of three-legged cast iron cooking pots as booty in a real estate trade, the Dutch oven enjoys wider popularity than ever before. It has made the move from back country to backyard and weekend cookin'.

Though this book touts itself as a "Camp Cookin' Book," suburbanites should find it applicable to backyard or pool side entertaining as well. Dutch oven cookin' offers unlimited alternatives to the same old backyard barbeque fare. So, take that Dutch out of your camp gear and enjoy it even more in the backyard and hey, using the Dutch doesn't have to stop with that - take it inside and use it in your newfangled electric oven. Camp cookin' recipes work great everywhere!

A Back Country Guide to Outdoor Cooking Spiced with Tall Tales

This _Dutch Oven & Cast Iron Cookery recipe is from the Cee Dub's Dutch Oven and Other Camp Cookin' Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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