Backcountry Cast-Iron Skillet Recipes

Some chill, hungry day this winter, give this trio of woodstove cast-iron skillet recipes a try.

| January/February 1986

  • Skillet Cornbread
    Cornbread cooks wonderfully in a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop.

  • Skillet Cornbread

Following a trapline some 70 miles through the Alaskan outback in winter — as we've done for several years now — is guaranteed to make you as hungry as a bear. Consequently, one of our favorite indoor winter activities is cooking. But because of the logistical problems created by living a long way from anywhere, both our bush home and our little trapping cabin are equipped with only the most basic of kitchen appliances — a cranky old wood cookstove in the former, and a crude heating stove (fashioned from a cut-down 55-gallon oil drum) in the latter.

So far as food supplies go, we do pretty well as hunter-gatherers: We usually have an abundance of wild berries, game, and fish, as well as vegetables from our summertime garden. But store-bought food — that's another matter entirely. After paying $0.32 per pound to have everything from whole wheat flour to pickle relish flown in to our bush home, we still have to sled the stuff another 24 miles by dog team to our trapping cabin . . . all of which, we sometimes think, should provide great motivation for dieting.

It's of necessity, then, rather than by choice, that our trappers'-cabin meals tend to be simple, one-dish concoctions, each of which provides a couple of hearty dinners and at least one trail lunch before the cast-iron cook pot must be refilled. One of our favorite such meals is moose stew, which is made with cold-stored potatoes, frozen carrots and peas, dried onions and parsley, and ample portions of the main ingredient. Among the more mundane meals are beans and corn bread, fish and rice, and chili with corn patties. Main courses rarely get much fancier than that.

But on lazy days spent around the cabin, we sometimes go all out and make exquisite desserts — such as pudding thickened on the stove top, pies, tortes, or even ice cream placed outside to harden on the cabin roof, safely above the reach of our team of perpetually hungry huskies. (Sometimes, when it's 50-below-nothing outside, we can actually freeze up a batch of ice cream right in the cozy comfort of our cabin, simply by placing the mix in a drafty corner under the table.)

We realize, of course, that few of our fellow MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers cook exclusively on oil-drum heating stoves or even on wood cookstoves, and fewer yet often have the pleasure of dining on moose stew (a great loss, we assure you). Nonetheless, some of the wholesome, easy-to-prepare, delicious recipes we've come up with to meet the demands of our life in the Alaskan bush can be prepared just as easily on the most modern of kitchen ranges, and are guaranteed to taste every bit as good under any circumstances — modern or Spartan — anyplace in the world. We've chosen three of our favorites, a bread and two desserts, to share with you here.

Stove-Top Cast-Iron Cornbread Recipe 

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp sugar (optional)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 egg (or 2 tablespoons powdered eggs blended with a little water)
1 cup milk (fresh or reconstituted milk powder)
1/3 cup cooking oil

11/19/2007 6:30:19 PM

This recipe is amazing. I currently live in a place without an oven and was desperate for cornbread. This recipe is the perfect solution!

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