Dutch Oven Delights

See for yourself how an annual gathering of cooks from across the nation is keeping the time-honored techniques of camp Dutch ovens alive and well.

| October/November 2019

DutchOven
Photo from John Gladman Photography

Cooking is a great way to bring people together, and nothing epitomizes this more than the National Dutch Oven Gathering (NDOG) — an annual meeting of people from across the United States and Canada who’ve discovered that a love of food can center around a love of Dutch ovens.

To many home cooks, a Dutch oven is a large, deep pot that churns out endless batches of stovetop soups and chilis for family dinners. Before I visited with the attendees of the 2018 NDOG in Hutchinson, Kansas, I was of the same opinion; a Dutch oven meant my mother’s enormous, enameled Le Creuset pot. That mental image was corrected the moment I stepped into the room for NDOG’s daily group breakfast. Inside was a long row of tables boasting dozens upon dozens of “camp” Dutch ovens, each full of food that’d been cooked on the fairgrounds that morning: French toast, country grits, biscuits and gravy, eggs, and so on.

DutchOven
Photo from John Gladman Photography



To participants of the national and all other regional gatherings, a Dutch oven is a cast-iron or aluminum pot that sits on three short legs. The pots are made for outdoor cooking, and meant to be settled over smoldering charcoal when the convenience of a stove isn’t available, or simply isn’t wanted. The legs allow coals to be set beneath the Dutch oven, while a rim on the flat, handled lid keeps coals on top from sliding off. Heating the pot from the top and bottom means even cooking all the way around, while the number of coals and the way in which they’re arranged results in different cooking temperatures and cooking methods, from baking and roasting to frying and simmering.

Apart from a chance to cook alongside like-minded Dutch oven fans, NDOG is a weekend full of good food, learning opportunities, and friendly competition. When the energetic hosts of the 2018 event, Matthew and Sandi Brandes, announced the winners of the Golden Spoon Awards during breakfast, I realized that our breakfast buffet was the first of those competitions. Once the best sweet and savory dishes of the morning had been honored, the day really began, with classes to observe and more cooking to be done.



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