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Using Your Dutch Oven to Cook Like a Native

Cooking with a cast iron Dutch oven takes skill and practice to create a well done meal.

Once your craft has been mastered, using Dutch ovens may become your preferred way to cook. They can be used in a number of ways: on an open flame, in a pit over coals or on a wood-burning stove. The thick iron takes quite a bit of time to heat up, but it holds temperature for a long period, providing for the ideal cooking mate for full-flavored meals.

Native Americans were known to cook with a similar style associated with Dutch ovens, except their cookware was made with thick pottery rather than cast iron. And instead of using coals, they would surround their cookware with stones that were so hot that they were known to break in half during the heating process.

The application of low and consistent heat was needed to not crack the pottery or burn the meat or vegetables, which is why most of the original recipes are well adapted for Dutch oven meals.

Here are two recipes adapted from Native American history that you can try in your Dutch oven, either on your next camping trip or when you’re just practicing at home.

Poyha

This dish was originally made with buffalo berries and wild onions. The convenience of modern grocery stores makes many options available for this recipe. It is similar to what we would recognize as meatloaf and is typically served with Indian fry read (recipe below).

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, bison)
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 3 slices of chopped bacon
  • 28 ounces whole kernel corn (fresh or thawed)
  • 2 cups chopped green seedless grapes
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • paprika (optional)
  1. Pulse corn kernels in blender or food processor just until chopped, not minced. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix corn, grapes, eggs, onions, garlic salt, black pepper and paprika (if using) until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Heat oil in the Dutch oven and brown the meat and bacon. Drain the meat and add to corn mixture. The remaining oil and fat can be left in the Dutch oven to keep the meal from sticking.
  4. Add cornmeal to the mixing bowl and mix with your hands. The mixture should be moist but not runny.
  5. Pack the mixture into the greased Dutch oven and cover. Cook over coals for about 45 minutes or in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  6. Cut into slices and serve with fry bread.

Dutch oven pot on charcoal cooking food.

Indian Fry Bread

This recipe can be made gluten and lactose free by substituting almond milk and gluten-free flour. It can also be easily doubled or tripled for larger groups.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon iodized salt
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of high heat oil (canola, coconut, sunflower or vegetable)
  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and slowly add the milk while stirring.
  2. Place the combined batter on a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.
  3. Cover the kneaded dough with the mixing bowl and allow to rest for 10 minutes, but do not exceed 1 hour.
  4. Heat the oil in the Dutch oven to the point that when water is dropped into it that it sizzles and pops.
  5. Divide the dough into fourths and roll or pat into a 1/2-inch thick patty
  6. Add one patty at a time to the heated oil, flipping to the other side after 2 minutes and removing after a total of 4 minutes. Both sides should be evenly golden brown.
  7. Carefully remove each piece and place on an absorbent surface, such as a paper towel lined plate.

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Using Your Dutch Oven to Cook Like a Native