Dutch Oven Night held at Mt. Pisgah
MT. PISGAH - They left their kitchens behind and headed to Mt. Pisgah State Park to cook outside.
This week, people took part in a Dutch Oven Cooking Night under the hilltop pavilion at the park.
"This is popular because you're bringing families together in the great outdoors for a recreational activity revolving around food," said park naturalist Nicole Harris.
Michelle Harkness, the instructor for the program, offered cooking advice to the 65 people in attendance. As she talked, smoke rose from a hot bed of charcoal into the summer air.
"Just like home, put a pinch of this, a pinch of that," she told the participants.
"If something is missing or there's not enough or too much, you adapt like in your own kitchen," she explained.
The Friends of Mt. Pisgah State Park sponsored the program, and provided the groceries for the people to use in their recipes. It's the third year the program has been held.
After everyone arranged their ingredients in their Dutch Ovens, the ovens were placed over the beds of charcoal, where meals like Shepherd's Pie and Chicken Cordon Bleu baked in the heat.
Dawn Birdsall of Burlington chose the squash casserole recipe. She was busy slicing up the colorful food to put into her Dutch Oven.
"I have a lot of squash in my garden," she said. "I thought it would be cool to learn how to make it."
Harkness liked the simplicity of the Dutch Ovens.
"I don't need anything manmade other than this cast iron pot," she said. "If everything would shut down, I could still cook."
"It's like a self-contained oven," said Harris. She noted that Dutch Oven cooking goes back all the way to early American times.
Harris said Dutch Oven cooking was popular when the Civil War broke out and soldiers needed a way to cook that fit their lives in the military.
"They would take wild game, maybe other wild things they found, and create tasty dishes," she said.
She noted that Dutch Oven cooking is an activity that engages mind and muscle. You exercise your mind by following the recipes, and get physical by lifting 10-20 pounds, depending on the weight of the Dutch Oven.
"It's something to do in the summer," she said. "Here, you're not dirtying the kitchen. It keeps the heat out of the house."
Jennifer Casler from Columbia Cross Roads was making Shepherd's Pie in her Dutch Oven.
She liked this method of cooking, not to mention the taste it brings out in the food.
"It's just more fun."
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: email@example.com.