June 13, 2012
Cooking s'mores over a campfire is a wonderful summer pastime for kids and a great memory for adults. But your entire outdoor menu doesn't have to be limited to chocolate and marshmallows. You can cook a complete and healthy meal using a campfire that you build yourself. Fire needs three things: fuel (wood), flame and air. The first step to building a fire can be done at home by making your own fire starters. Here are two different types you can make:
Egg fire starters - Create your own fire starters by filling cardboard egg cartons halfway with dryer lint or sawdust. Pour enough melted candle wax into each compartment to fill it up. You will use one of these "eggs" for each fire.
Trench candles - Roll several sheets of newspaper into a long candle shape. Cut several 8-inch lengths of string, and tie each around the roll at 3-inch intervals, leaving enough string on the end to hold and dip the "candle." Cut the roll between the strings. Dip each trench candle into melted candle wax, and hang by the string to dry.
Now you are ready to head outside into your backyard or on a camping trip. When building a fire, it is best to use established fire circles or fire pits. If none are available, clear the area of leaves and debris. Make sure there are no roots nearby because fire can travel into the roots and underground, only to pop back up farther away. Dig a circle until you hit mineral soil. Always have a bucket of water ready to put the fire out. Remember, a new law requires that all outdoor campfires must be small.
If you didn't bring fire starters, you will need another kind of tinder-any material that catches fire when lit with a match, such as wood shavings or dry pine needles. You also will need kindling-pencil-thin sticks or branches that you find on the ground, and fuel wood-three- or four-inch-diameter sticks of wood.
Reminder: Only build fires under adult supervision! To build your fire, place a wad of tinder or a fire starter in the center of your fire circle, and place kindling around the circle by building a log cabin. Lay the fuel wood on top of the kindling, leaving lots of space for air to circulate, and have an adult light the tinder. For cooking, be sure to wait until the coals are glowing. You may need to add more fuel wood to get the fire hot enough.
When you are done cooking, make sure that your fire is completely extinguished. Burn the remaining wood and charcoals until they become ash. Stir the ashes with a long branch, sprinkle with water, and stir again. You may need to repeat this several times. When you can no longer feel heat from several inches above the ashes, the fire is extinguished. If there are any remaining hot spots, sprinkle them with water.
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You can create your own outdoor cooking tools with a large coffee can, some wire, wire screen and charcoal briquettes. To make a tin can charcoal stove, you will need a large tin can with the top removed, two pieces of sturdy wire screen, a punch can opener, a foot-long piece of wire for a handle and charcoal briquettes.
-Using the can opener, punch air holes around the top and bottom edges of the can. Six holes for each should be sufficient. Push the ends of the wire through two holes at the top opposite each other to make a handle, and twist the ends so that the wire can't slip out of the holes.
-Cut a piece of wire screen about equal to the circumference of the inside of the can, and push it halfway into the can. To use your tin can cooker, set it on a cleared area of the ground.
-Place a fire starter on the screen inside the can, and pile the briquettes around it. Make sure you leave enough space for airflow. Have an adult light the fire starter.
-Cut a square piece of wire screen larger than the opening of the can, and set it on top of the can. Your cooker will be ready to use in about 30 minutes. Place a pot on the screen and start cooking.
-You also can use the sun to make certain foods. To make a solar cooker, you will need a pizza box and some aluminum foil. Check out this previous issue of Outdoor Discovery for instructions on how to make a solar cooker.
Now that you know how to build a fire, it is time to start cooking. Here are some recipes for a delicious and healthy meal:
Chicken and rice-Place two raw chicken breasts on a large piece of foil. Mix two-thirds of a cup of uncooked rice with one can of condensed cheddar cheese or mushroom soup, and pour on top of the chicken. Wrap tightly in the foil. Place on the coals, and cook 20 minutes per side.
Corn on the cob-Husk several ears of corn, spread them with butter, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Wrap each of the ears in foil, and place them on the coals for 10 minutes.
Baked apple-Cut the core from an apple, leaving the bottom of the apple intact. Fill the hole with brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins (or chocolate). Wrap the apple in foil, and place it in the coals for about 30 minutes.
Orange cake-Cut off the top of an orange, and scoop out the fruit. Mix some cake batter according to the directions, put it in the hollowed-out orange, and replace the top. Wrap the batter-filled skin in foil, and place it in the coals for about 15 minutes.
Read Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
Upcoming DEC Events
Free Fishing Weekend
Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24
No freshwater fishing license is needed to fish anywhere in New York this weekend.
Programs at Stony Kill are now offered by the Stony Kill Foundation; there are no DEC education staff at the site due to fiscal constraints.
Open Barn Tour
Saturdays and Sundays, June 23, 24, 30 and July 1 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
40th Anniversary Celebration
Saturday, June 16 from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Join us for a good old-fashioned lawn party in celebration of Five Rivers' 40th anniversary. There'll be family-oriented activities and music all afternoon, with official ceremonies at 2:00 PM.
Flowers of the Solstice
Wednesday, June 20 at 7:00 PM
Family Fun: Catch a Fish
Saturday, June 23 at 10:00 AM
Bring gear if you've got it; we have a limited number of rods and reels available for loan. Parents and children must accompany each other. Registration is limited. Call 518-475-0291 by Friday, June 15 to register or for more information.
Family Fun: Explore a Stream
Saturday, June 23 at 2:00 PM
Parents and children must accompany each other. Wear foot gear that can get wet (no flipflops, please). Space is limited. Call 518-475-0291 to register by Wednesday, June 20.
Thursday, June 14 from 3:00 to 4:30 PM
Call 518-456-0655, or go the Albany Pine Bush website to register. Cost: $3.00/person, $5.00/family, children under 5 free.
Western New York
Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
Thursday, June 14 and 21 at 4:30 PM
Enjoy a one-hour program for kids featuring a different, fun, outdoor activity each week. For children in grades K through 5. No registration required.
Summer Solstice Stroll
Wednesday, June 20 at 8:00 PM
Thursday, June 21 at 10:30 AM
For children age 3 and under.