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Horse-Camp Cooking with a Dutch-Oven Chef

Susie Patton takes the art of camp cooking to a delicious level — with only a Dutch oven!

Susie Patton takes camp cooking to a whole new level with her Dutch-oven skills.
Photo by Sharon Miner

Patton grew up in California and worked with horses her whole life. Her father was an on-the-road rodeo clown who also worked as the rodeo-trail cook using a Dutch oven.

He taught his daughter a few tricks of the trade, and Susie Patton has been perfecting her skills ever since. For the past 10 years, she's been doing so while on overnight trail rides.

Going Dutch
The cast-iron cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid has been around since the early 1700s and was an important piece of equipment for the early settlers, since they could use it for a variety of forms of cooking from boiling to baking.

The shallow pot has short legs to hold it over hot coals. Hot coals are placed directly on the lid providing uniform heat. The favorite use is for slow cooking, but the Dutch oven can provide casseroles and even cakes with the proper recipes.

Sizzle & Fizzle
Patton's favorite meal to cook in a Dutch oven is a meatloaf-stuffed onion complete with a homemade barbeque sauce.

Her worst meal?

"One time at a hunting camp, I made a scalloped potato casserole," says Patton. "But I left it on too long, and it incinerated and almost ruined my Dutch oven!"

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At the hunting camps in California, Patton often cooks for 20 to 30 people who are there to hunt on horseback. The participants are astounded at the venison chili and chocolate cake she cooks in the Dutch oven.

Her breakfast casserole of eggs, potatoes, bacon, and onion is also a favorite.

Other overnight-camping supplies Patton packs are bags of charcoal, a lid lifter to remove the hot Dutch oven top, and a metal coffeepot for making "cowboy coffee" in which the grounds are poured directly into the water and boiled.

One time, at a camp with 10 pack animals, a white mule escaped the picket line. He managed to locate Patton's food supplies and eat all the flour, cereal, and cornmeal.

"That mule's one-man party put a dent in my recipes for that trip!"

Dutch-oven chef Susie Patton packs the right supplies to whip up a perfect camp meal. Photo by Sharon Miner

Hitting the Trail
Patton has ridden and cooked on trails in Nevada and Arizona, as well as California.

She also holds demonstrations with free samples at equine expos, such as the Pomona Horse Expo in Pomona, California. She'll answer questions, share tips, and give handouts to interested attendees.

Patton is a member of Back Country Horsemen of California (www.bchcalifornia.org), whose goals include, "To improve and promote the use, care and development of California backcountry trails, campsites, streams and meadows; to advocate good trail manners. To promote the conservation and utilization of our backcountry resources in concert with livestock transportation."

Here's a three-ingredient dessert from Susie Patton that will amaze your friends.

Dump-Cake Recipe
Ingredients:
1 can of apple pie filling
1 box of spice-cake mix
1 12-ounce can of root beer

Preparation:
Line a 10-inch Dutch oven with quick-release (nonstick) foil.

Instructions:
~ Dump in one can of apple pie filling.
~ Sprinkle the dry spice-cake mix over the top.
~ Pour one can of root beer over the dry cake mix.
~ Do not mix.
~ Put 8 coals under the Dutch oven and 12 coals on top of the lid.
~ Bake until done. (Test with fork.)
~ Cool slightly, spoon out, and serve with whipped cream.
Also works with chocolate cake mix, cherry pie filling and cherry coke.

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