Time-tested favorites from your campfire and kitchen.
David L. Sperling
Preparing shish kebabs on the camp grill.
© Karla St. Aubin
Last winter we invited you to share favorite recipes that you whip up at a campsite, for shore lunch, on a hike, or at the cabin when friends gather to remember old times or launch new adventures. You didn't let us down. Each entry was seasoned with a short story or sprinkled with a little advice that shows how good food is part of the glue that holds together a get-together. Enjoy!
Standard abbreviations are used throughout:
canned pork and beans
wieners, cut into pieces
cubed cheese (like processed cheese that melts easily)
cut-up fresh tomatoes (optional)
Lay out 15-inch squares of aluminum foil on a solid surface like a sturdy paper plate. Set out each item on a buffet line and let each person assemble their own mix of ingredients. Seal and mark each foil dinner. Heat on an outdoor grill or in a moderate oven (350-375°) about 20 minutes. Open and serve on the paper plates, no mess and no clean-up!
Our families have been campers since 1950 from our parents down to great grandchildren. When we get together, there's invariably a campfire and this is an easy to fix favorite. If baked in an oven, place packets on a cookie sheet to prevent spilling or breakage. Our rule is if you break the foil while eating these, you have to do clean-up.
Wanda J. Nelson
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1 lb. butter
About 30 years ago, three friends and I used to take a four-day fishing trip up north. Fishing started on Friday as soon as the tents went up and the food was secured against bears. Slow would have been way too fast an adjective to describe the fishing action, but by Sunday evening, we finally put together a stringer of six 20-21-inch walleyes and looped them to the pier. I melted an entire pound of butter in a big fry pan, cooking the vegetables. Ted was sent to retrieve and fillet the fish. Even though the fish had only been tied up for an hour, all that was left of them was two jawbones! The vegetables with some bread made a decent meal, but the mystery of the disappearance of our fish has made wonderful fodder for our stories over the past three decades!
Kieran J. Sawyer, Sr.
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Crusty Corn Trout
4 cleaned and boned rainbow or brook trout
½ C. all-purpose flour
1 T. water
1 C. yellow cornmeal
½ C. ground nuts (peanuts, pine nuts, walnuts or pecans)
1 t. salt
¼ t. cracked pepper
¼ t. paprika
¼ t. ground cumin
vegetable oil for frying
Put flour in one plastic bag. Mix cornmeal, nuts and spices in a second plastic bag. Shake cleaned trout in flour. Beat egg and water together and dip trout in that mix, then in the cornmeal mix. Heat an inch of oil in a fry pan over coals or medium heat. If the oil is hot enough, a tiny pinch of the breading mix should sizzle and bubble in the oil. Cook trout about five minutes per side, turning once. Drain on absorbent paper toweling. Makes four servings.
I use this both for shore lunches and at home. I've played around with different ingredients, but prefer this original recipe we found in an old cookbook.
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Basting Sauce for Roast Goose or Duck
10 oz. jar currant jelly
½ t. dry mustard
1 T. grated orange rind
1 T. grated lemon rind
¼ C. orange juice
1 T. lemon juice
1/8 t. dried ground ginger
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat and cook until smooth. Turn off heat. Brush on goose or duck several times after the skin has browned in the oven.
This wonderful basting sauce recipe was given to me by Dick Nelson in the early 80s. Dick has since passed away, but he was an avid waterfowler and a real chef. I was his granddaughter's second-grade teacher. Dick and I shared many hunting stories over the years.
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Chicken-fried Deer Steak
2-3 lbs. tenderloin or back straps cut ½-3/4 inch thick
1 C. milk
One sleeve crackers, crushed
1 T. garlic powder (optional)
Cooking oil, just enough to cover the bottom of your pan.
Cut or butterfly the steaks to indicated thickness while half-frozen. Tenderize by pounding slightly with a meat mallet. Beat egg and add milk to a dish. In a separate dish, blend cracker crumbs and garlic.
Heat oil in pan to 300-350°. Dip steaks in the egg-milk mixture. Drain, then dip and cover with cracker crumb mixture. Place one at a time into hot oil then cook three to four minutes per side until medium rare. Serve with fried potatoes.
This recipe is equally good with bear and elk. I got the recipe by watching a Wyoming rancher's wife who cooked for our hunting party nearly 30 years ago.
Vernon A. Denzer
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¾ C. sugar
1 ¾ C. vodka or light rum
2 C. chokecherries
Wash and drain chokecherries. Put sugar and vodka or rum in a clean, quart glass canning jar. Add chokecherries to fill. Close the jar tightly. Invert the jar briefly once a day until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the liqueur to age several weeks to a few months. Decant and seal the liqueur in a smaller bottle. Enjoy in moderation.
When I was a child, we enjoyed eating chokecherries, but an astringent chemical in the fruit would ultimately limit our intake. When my mother heated the chokecherries while making syrup, we enjoyed the flavor without the choking sensation. Heating or time broke down the astringency. Similarly, after picking chokecherries in early autumn and allowing several weeks to a few months for this mixture to infuse its flavor and mellow, the astringency from the chokecherries disappears.
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Ron's Rabbit Patties
2 rabbits, boned and ground (approximately 1 pound)
1 small, finely chopped onion
½ t. pepper
1 t. ground sage
1 C. crushed crackers (approx. 25 crackers)
Place ground rabbit meat in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Form into 4-6 patties. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a fry pan. Cook 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown.
In winter, I hunt rabbits with a couple of friends and our two dogs, Max and Ticker. We get a lot of rabbits, I mean a lot! A few years back, my wife, Janet, told me if she ate another rabbit she was going to start hopping around the kitchen. That meant stopping hunting (Ha! Like that would ever happen!) or finding another way to eat all those rabbits. That wasn't easy given that I like to go rabbit hunting 2-3 times a week or more. I finally realized that every time I went hunting, I needed a sandwich or two. Though these patties are really good served hot with a white sauce with mixed vegetables for dinner, I eat them cold on a bun with mayonnaise. I just freeze a bunch of cooked patties, then pop them in the microwave for a few minutes just long enough to thaw them out before packing my lunch.
Enjoy one of Ron's Rabbit
Patties. © Ronald Cornwell
Ronald L. Cornwell
Town of Hull, Portage County
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2 ½ C. regular rolled oats
½ C. sliced almonds
½ C. shredded/flaked coconut
½ C. sesame seeds
½ C. sunflower seeds
¼ C. whole wheat flour
¼ C. powdered milk
¼ C. wheat germ
3 T. brown sugar (or more to taste)
1 T. cinnamon (or more to taste)
½ C. cooking oil
½ C. honey
½ t. salt
1 C. raisins
Preheat the oven to 300°, then combine ingredients in order: Add the first 10 dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix. In a smaller separate bowl, combine the oil, honey and salt. Gradually mix these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. Grease a 13x9x2 inch pan and spread the mixture into the pan. Bake at 300° for 30 minutes stirring well every 10 minutes. Stir in raisins and bake another eight minutes. Allow granola to cool in pan, but stir it several times. Store in an airtight container. Makes 8-9 cups.
In camp or on the trail, eat it by the handful. If milk is available, serve it as a cereal. If milk is not going to be available, you can prepackage single servings in double plastic bags and add a tablespoon or so of powdered milk. When you want to eat, simply add a little water, shake the bag and spoon it down. Delicious!
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Papa's Homemade Chili
3 lbs. hamburger, chopped beef or coarse chopped venison
4-5 lbs. home-grown cooked tomatoes (about two quarts)
3 medium onions, diced
5 stalks celery, chopped
46 oz. can tomato juice
50 oz. can tomato soup
40 oz. can chili beans
Two 15.5 oz. cans kidney beans, drained
1 T. pepper, ground
2 T. salt
3 T. chili powder
Brown meat in a kettle. Drain and add chopped celery, onion and seasonings. Cover and cook until the celery and onions are soft. While the meat is browning, mix and cook the beans, tomato juice, tomatoes and soup concentrate over medium heat in a 12-quart kettle. Stir ingredients in both kettles often to avoid sticking. Add the meat mixture to the larger kettle. Bring to a boil slowly, then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally but then let mixture simmer on low heat for a few hours until you are ready to eat. Consider serving with crackers, corn chips and sour cream. Makes 10 quarts of chili.
This is the recipe my grandfather, Jake E. Kleiner, served in his diner (Kleiner's Diner in Sun Prairie) in 1914 when he was only 16 years old. The recipe remains a favorite with our hunting groups, neighbors and family. Try it. It's delicious!
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Grilled Shish Kebabs
1 ½ lbs. fresh chicken breasts, cut into about ¾-inch chunks
1 each red pepper and green pepper, cut into chunks
firm cherry tomatoes, slightly under ripe
1 sweet red onion, chunked
Marinade: 1 pkg. commercial marinade mix, teriyaki or another flavor that goes with chicken
¾ C. pineapple juice
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. brown sugar
Mix marinade and pour into a sealable large freezer bag. Cut the chicken into chunks and freeze in the marinade. Cut up other vegetables, place in another sealable plastic bag and refrigerate. When leaving for your trip, place both bags in a cooler. By the time the chicken thaws, it has marinated long enough. Assemble the kebabs for grilling alternating vegetables and a mix of chicken pieces on the skewers. Once the fire is hot, place the kebabs on the grill, turning on all four sides until the chicken is cooked throughout.
We take these on our camping trip each summer. My children (11, 14 and 16) assemble the kebabs while we get the fire ready. The recipe makes six kebabs.
Karla St. Aubin
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6-7 medium potatoes, scrubbed, sliced skin-on into ¼-inch rounds
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 lb. ring Bohemian smoked sausage, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
2 C. fresh asparagus, cut into 1 ½-inch lengths
¼ C. olive oil
parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large skillet and fry potatoes, turning occasionally, until almost tender. Add onion, sausage and asparagus. Cook until the onion is clear and the asparagus is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parmesan or another cheese of choice (optional). Serve with garlic toast. Serves 4-6.
Raymond P. Hach
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walleye fillets, boneless, skin off
1 Vidalia onion, in ¼-inch slices
a few whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
grated parmesan cheese
lemon pepper seasoning
a few fresh lemons, sliced
If whole fillets will fit in the fry pan, keep them whole. Fill a large skillet half full of water. Add a few peppercorns and a bay leaf. Place on a camp stove over medium heat. Place sliced onions in the water, and let them cook down until soft. Place walleye fillets on top of the onions and poach. This really does not take very long, so don't take your eyes off the skillet or go back to the card game. The difference between sushi, poached fish and mush walleye is measured in seconds. You will see the fillets change color to opaque quickly. When the fish flakes, use a wide spatula to gently lift and drain the walleye. Place on a warmed platter. Place a few slices of cooked onion on top of the fillets with a little grated cheese. Garnish with lemon slices, season with lemon pepper and serve with some boiled potato.
A friend, Barry Lindsay, showed me this dish on a fly-in trip 30 years ago. It is an excellent break from fried walleye shore lunches and brings out the true delicate walleye flavor. You can also try this with other colder water fish like perch and crappie, but don't bother with softer fish like bass and bluegill.
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½ lb. seasoned bulk sausage
1 15-oz. can cream style corn
6 large eggs, beaten
Brown the sausage in a skillet. Pour off fat and add the creamed corn, mixing over medium heat. Turn down the heat. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add to the corn-sausage mixture stirring frequently and folding in the same manner as making scrambled eggs, cooking until eggs are set. Place in a warm serving platter. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chive and serve as a side dish with walleye shore lunch.
My friend John Kracht introduced me to this dish. It was one of his mother's depression era favorites that kept her family well fed during those lean times. The original recipe called for bacon instead of sausage, but our group prefers sausage. Try it both ways and decide what works best for your group.
David L. Sperling edits Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.