In my youth we were required to prepare our own meals as a team when we weekend camped. After a series of burnt eggs, runny pancakes, and charred hamburgers, all accompanied by an enormous post-cooking cleanup process, we eventually got our act together. Our first big success came when we stumbled upon the classic recipe of Foil Stew. This was a great meal and soon became a staple in our menu planning because:
- It was easy to prepare.
- Each person could prepare their own.
- It tasted great and passed any nutrition rules we had to meet.
- Cleanup was a breeze.
So for this post I will give you my version of foil stew that can be created by your youth for a fun and healthy meal cooked in a camp fire.
Foil Stew Recipe
|Start your campfire first so that you have some good coals to cook your foil stews on. See below for some campfire hints.
Ingredients (Makes Four Stews)
Before starting, wash your hands and then wash all the vegetables.
|Cut the carrots and potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Cut the onion into eight sections. (Note: These vegetables can all be prepared at home before the campout. Simply put the cut vegetables in a Zip-Lock bag and store in the refrigerator until time to transfer to the cooler. However, this prep is quick and can also easily be done at the camp.)|
|Next, wash the head of cabbage.|
| Remove the core of the cabbage by making a deep cone-shaped incision at the stem. This will make removing the leaves easier.
My cut looks a little more like a pyramid, but it still works well.
|The idea is to be able to remove the cabbage leaves as close to intact as possible. If they do get torn they will still work, you’ll just need to be a little more careful when wrapping the stew.|
|Take two pieces of 12-inch aluminum foil about 22 inches long and lay one on top of the other. Next, add a leaf of the cabbage on top of the foil. If the leaf is broken, or you get deeper into the cabbage where the leaves are smaller, you can layer the leaves as shown in the picture. Just be a little more careful when wrapping up your meal to keep everything contained within the cabbage leaves.|
|Add one fourth of your potatoes, a fourth of your carrot pieces, and two sections of the onion on top of your cabbage leaf. Break up the onion pieces by separating the layers.|
| Add a quarter pound of the hamburger to your vegetables and season with salt and pepper to your taste. You may add other seasonings as well. It’s your individual stew, after all.
I add the meat by hand and break it up with my fingers over the vegetables. If you do this, be sure to was your hands well with soap afterward.
|Take another cabbage leaf and top your meat and vegetables. The meat and vegetables should be enclosed by the cabbage.|
|Now wrap up your meal. Start by folding one end of the top piece of foil over the vegetables.|
|Fold the other end over the first and then roll the edges together to seal the stew into your piece of foil.|
|Take the packet you just made and give it a quarter turn so that the rolled edges face the ends of your second piece of foil. Now repeat the wrapping process to seal your meal in a second layer of foil.|
|When preparing for your campfire, select wood that is not too large. Limbs that are 1 to 3 inches in diameter are good. The idea is to have a good bed of coals ready to cook your stew packets on when they are ready. Using wood that is too large will mean you will have to wait longer for it to make the coals that you need.|
|This is the sort of fire that you are looking to have when you want to cook your stew packets. I must confess here that I took these pictures in my backyard to write these instructions and I used hardwood lump charcoal to get such a nice looking fire.|
|Place your foil stew packets on the coals. If you have a shovel available, add a few coals to the top of the packets. Let the packets cook in this position for 15 minutes.|
|After the 15 minutes have passed, turn the packets over to cook the other side. Again cover them with a few coals if you can do so safely. Let them cook for another 15 minutes.|
|After the second 15-minute period has passed, your stews are ready to eat. During the cooking process you should have heard the food sizzling as it cooked and begun to smell that great stew smell.|
|When the cooking time is completed, remove the packets from the fire with tongs, a shovel, or some other safe method. It helps to have something you can place them on to carry them to the eating area. Be careful, as a stray ember or two may take a ride with a packet. Check to make sure that all the embers are off the packets before you unwrap them.|
| Open the foil packet and see what you made. It tastes even better than it looks.
We decided in our youth that the purpose of the cabbage was to keep the rest of the meal from burning. In fact, it does seem to take cabbage a little longer and a little more heat to cook than the rest of the ingredients. As adults, we found that the flavor of the cabbage is really good. If some of the cabbage is a little too done, just set it aside with your fork as you enjoy the rest of the meal.
As I said before, this was a regular meal for us as youth. Simple, hardly any cleaning, and it tasted very good. I continued the tradition of cooking foil stew on campouts when we had a family of our own, and our children loved it. In fact, on one camping trip my 8-year-old daughter invited a friend to join us. When the day for us to leave arrived, his mother dropped him off at our house with two grocery bags full of ‘his’ food. The bags contained nothing but processed food and sugar snacks. Since we had already included him in our meal planning, I ‘forgot’ to pack his food with the other camping meals. He was not too upset and enjoyed eating everything that we ate. He especially liked making and eating his own foil stew meal.
I was a little worried about what his mother would say about me giving her back all his special food. When I saw her later at a school function, I noticed she was taking a direct route to talk to me. I braced myself for the potential tongue lashing I might get, and she came face to face with me. “How did you ever get my son to eat cabbage?” she said. “He says he loves it!”