Whether it is hunting camp, fishing camp, or just a “get away from it all with a few buddies” camp, food always seems to play an important part. It does at our camps anyway. I spent this past weekend with a group of buddies at a friend’s cabin and farm. Work and busy lives keep us from getting together more than a time or two per year, so we make the most of it when it happens.
Between rain showers and fishing excursions, we cooked, mostly meat, and lots of it. Starting Friday afternoon, the smokers, grills and gas burners never cooled. We spent the weekend stuffed and lazy. While someone always seems to bring something new to each get together, we have a few standbys that always seem to make the menu.
Poppers are always a camp favorite, be they duck, goose, dove or venison. For an outstanding popper, cut the meat into 1- or 2-inch cubes. I like to marinate the meat for an hour or two before wrapping the poppers. Just choose your favorite marinade and pour it over the meat in a glass bowl, then refrigerate. After marinating, season the meat well with salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning blend.
My favorite poppers contain a slice of jalapeno pepper, a slice of onion, and just a bit of cream cheese. These additions can simply be stacked on top of the meat chunk, or they can be tucked into a slot cut partially through the meat. Either way works, but placing the filling into a pocket helps to hold things together while grilling.
The final prep step for a great popper is to wrap the entire thing with bacon. This is one instance where thin bacon is better than thick. The goal is to brown and crisp the bacon without overcooking the meat inside. Keep the bacon in a single layer and secure with a toothpick.
Grill over hot coals until the bacon is crisp, then turn the hungry hoards loose on them while you cook everything else.
Burgers are always a camp hit. When one of the guys showed up with several pounds of ground elk burger, we were in business. Season the burgers well and make sure to dimple the center with your thumb before grilling to keep them nice and flat. Sear on the hot side of the grill for three to four minutes, flip carefully to sear the opposite side for three to four more, then move to a slightly cooler area of the grill for a few minutes to finish and melt the cheese.
Bacon, sausage, eggs, the old standbys work fine for a hearty camp breakfast, but it never hurts to mix things up a bit. We fried rabbit to go along with the standards. Simply quarter the rabbits into leg and back sections, soak overnight in saltwater, then roll in seasoned flour and fry. I like to fry camp rabbit in bacon grease, but vegetable oil, shortening or lard will stand in just fine if you didn’t cook bacon first.
A two-burner propane stove works well for any frying needs, and it helps to hold the mess down around the main camp area. Don’t have room for a large double burner? The low embers of a camp fire will work for a heat source as well. A handy tip is to rake a bed of embers off to the side of the main fire and cook over those. It will be a lot easier to maintain a constant low temperature by adding or removing a few coals at a time versus trying to cook over an open flame.
Wild Turkey Barbecue
Another buddy always supplies a large pot of wild turkey barbecue when we get together. He uses legs and thighs and cooks them down all day in a slow cooker with a bit of chicken stock and barbecue sauce. After several hours in the slow cooker, he picks the tenderized meat from the bones and shreds it, and then stirs in some of his favorite barbecue rub.
Once we get to camp, we slowly reheat the turkey barbecue over an open fire to give it that smoky camp flavor we all love so well. Trust me when I tell you that wild turkey barbecue will hold its own against anything you get from the nearest barbecue joint.
Try kicking up store bought baked beans by first browning and crumbling some venison breakfast sausage and mixing it into the beans. Add a bit of your favorite barbecue sauce and rub, a squeeze of honey if you like them on the sweet side, and a few diced jarred jalapeno peppers, as well as a tablespoon or three of the juice from the pepper jar. If you can at all, heat the beans for a few hours in a cast iron Dutch oven over an open fire or on the smoker for added flavor.
This time of year, fresh sweet corn is a great side dish option. Shuck and clean the corn, rub the ears with butter, shake on a bit of barbecue rub, then wrap in foil and toss em into the embers at the edge of the fire.
Sound off. Let us hear some of your camp favorites.
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