Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanksgiving Camping

When I was abroad last year, one thing I really missed about home was the beautiful natural landscape of Canada.  The diversity from east to west, through the four seasons, and most of it untouched and wild.  Often we don't appreciate what's right in front of our face, until it's not there any more.

All this lofty talk, yet I haven't ventured "out there" since we moved back.  So my partner and I decided to leave the city behind this past Thanksgiving weekend (sorry, Mom and Dad), and instead spend it at Killbear Provincial Park, a scenic 3 hour drive north of Toronto.

It was rainy and chilly, and there was no pumpkin pie or turkey stuffing to be et, but it was worth it.  We cherished moments spent by the warm fire, waking up in a dry tent wrapped up in a snug sleeping bag, hearing the sound of rain drops hitting the tarp, and the ever present fall tree colours.  We went for day hikes, spotted white-tailed deer, climbed over huge rocks by the bay, watched a woodpecker knock on dead logs, picked acorns, and gazed at the brilliant stars at night.

And of course, cooking on an open wood fire.  There's nothing better than the earthy smell of burning wood, and the charcoal taste of hot camp food.  Bannock is a particular favourite; a traditional First Nations staple that is easy to make, very light to carry, and real tasty.  If you lost your utensils in the forest, you can cook it with a stick.  Stick bannock is snack-sized and fun to make; like roasting marshmallows but without the sugar overdose.  But if you do have a skillet on hand, trust me: fried bannock sandwich with eggs and cheese makes for a killer greasy breakfast.  If you like that sort of thing.

Recipe adapted from Parks Canada.
Makes 10 medium-sized pieces.

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3 tbsp cold butter
1 cup cold water
optional ingredients: oil or fat for frying, and/or sugar, cinnamon, raisins

Make at home: mix flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in cold butter until pea-sized pieces are left, as you would making a pie crust or biscuits.  Store in cooler until you arrive at your campsite.

When you're ready to eat, add the cold water to the flour mixture and knead well.  Roll into a ball, cover, and rest 10 minutes.  Divide into 10 pieces.  From here, choose your own adventure: fry on a skillet, or bake on a stick.

Skillet-fried bannock: shape dough pieces into circles, and press flat.  Score lightly with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern.  Heat a skillet over hot coals, and coat the bottom with oil or fat.  Cook dough circles on the hot skillet, a few minutes each side, until golden brown.

Stick-baked bannock: roll dough pieces into long snakes.  If making cinnamon-raisin bannock, flatten the dough snakes and sprinkle a spoon of sugar, some cinnamon and a few raisins down the middle, and fold width-wise so sugar-cinnamon-raisins are left in the centre.  Wrap the dough snake, telephone cord style, around the end of a long stick.  Pinch the ends to secure.  Cook over hot coals, turning to brown on each side for a few minutes each.

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