I recently had the privilege of sitting in on a hands-on Dutch oven cooking demonstration by 2-time Dutch oven world champion, Matt Pelton. Traditionally, the Dutch oven has been a “regional” cooking tool. Those of us with pioneer ancestors have been using them for outdoor cooking for generations. Just this weekend, when the family gathered to celebrate the 4th of July, we broke out our own collection of Dutch ovens and enjoyed barbecued spare ribs and peach cobbler for dinner the first night, with Dutch oven hash browns and an amazing sausage/bacon/egg scramble prepared by my brother, Scott. It’s pretty tough to beat the aroma of a Dutch oven meal underneath the blue skies beneath the shelter of pine and aspen trees. It’s even better when the men are doing the cooking while the ladies sleep in!
Dutch oven cooking is not common outside of the Western United States, and anything approaching “international” notoriety is just in it’s infant stages. I expect that we will see Dutch ovens gain popularity worldwide, but for now, they are still a well-kept secret.
Matt Pelton’s job at any cooking demonstration is a 3-pronged endeavor. His audience is there to learn about and taste his award-winning recipes, but Pelton knows that if his students are to succeed, they’ll need more than a recipe. They’ll also need a history lesson, and some instruction in the “science” of cooking, particularly the concept of the chemistry and physics that are involved in heating cast iron to the perfect temperature using nothing but a few charcoal briquettes. Without understanding the details of how to care for and use a Dutch oven, students are much less likely to succeed at making that first batch of peach cobbler, let alone the perfect lasagne or artisan bread. Pelton has been devoted to outdoor cooking since he was a youngster, and even packed a ten-inch Dutch oven into his luggage the first time he left home as a 19-year-old missionary. He used that opportunity to acquire more recipes from cultures around the globe. He has authored several cookbooks, and has distinguished himself as one of the nation’s finest Dutch oven chefs.
Here’s his procedure for a mouthwatering Dutch oven pie:
1. Start with a beautifully-seasoned Dutch oven. The seasoning refers to the process of preparing the iron with a non-stick surface. It turns a beautiful glossy black when the iron patina is properly seasoned and ready for baking.
Next, prepare your pastry dough. We recommend Grandma Joyce’s favorite “No Fail” Piecrust Recipe.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
- 5 Tablespoons cold water
- 1 egg
- Mix together flour, salt and shortening. Mix with pastry blender until quite fine. The shortening will be separated into pea-sized, flour-covered bits.
- Bead together vinegar, cold water and egg, and add to the flour mixture. Stir with a fork while adding. Do NOT over mix. Stir until flour is barely moistened and then gather the flour mixture into 3 balls.
- Makes one single and one double crust. Use in any recipe calling for pie pastry and cook according to recipe instructions.
2. Press a ball of pie pastry dough onto a well-floured cutting board.
3. Roll until pastry is thin. Use a spatula to gently loosen and fold pastry for transfer into the Dutch oven.
4. By carefully folding the pastry, you can lift it easily into the Dutch oven. This prevents “stretching” the pastry, which will cause it to shrink again during cooking. One key to great pastry is to add no more water than is absolutely necessary, and to handle it as little as possible.
5. Next, gently press the pastry into the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven.
6. Fill in any large gaps or holes with leftover pieces of pastry dough, or cut excess from one edge to add to another edge that doesn’t sit high enough in the Dutch oven.
11. Continue adding strips until entire lattice-work is complete. You’ve been doing this since fourth grade. Don’t be intimidated. Weaving with pastry dough is fun! Just handle it GENTLY to keep it from breaking.
16. In Dutch oven cooking, the coal pattern is important. Matt Pelton recommends that the coals underneath the oven rest only halfway under the edge to prevent the pie from burning on the bottom.
Now, it goes without saying, that there is probably no better way to wow a crowd than to show up at an outdoor cookout and produce something like this. But a Dutch oven pie doesn’t need to be cooked out-of-doors, and it doesn’t need to be a recipe you save for a special occasion, although you might want to make this one a tradition. It’s just that delicious. Ice cream is recommended if you are at a location where you can keep the ice cream cold and the pie warm.
- 1½ cups sugar
- 3 Tbs. cornstarch
- 3 Tbs. quick-cooking tapioca
- ½ tsp. salt
- 9 cups of your favorite berries, including blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries, and even a few strawberries (quartered).
- Toss together all ingredients and pour into a prepared Dutch oven pie crust. If making regular 9-inch double-crust pies, this makes enough filling for 2 pies.
Posted by Lynnae