Made in a Dutch oven, this popular dessert can give modern travelers a delicious visit to the past.
By Greg Detterbeck, F496s
Campfire cooking can add to the adventure of any RV trip. Dutch-oven cooking, in particular, dates back hundreds of years and can be a fun method of preparing food outdoors today. One tasty dish to cook in a Dutch oven is an apple pie, a traditional treat that also has a long history. Changes in pie ingredients through the years are interesting to note. It’s the story of “from then to now” that is so fascinating.
Flour in the mid-1800s was “bolted,” or passed through a series of fine silk screens that separated the meal into three grades. The finest ground was flour. Middling, which was sometimes called “shorts,” came in second. Bran was the coarsest. At that time, flour was not the bleached white and presifted version we know today.
Apples often were dried to preserve them.
Sugar was obtained in various forms: crushed in boxes, or in cone-shaped sugar loaves. Recipes at that time called for “pounded loaf sugar” or “finely pounded loaf sugar.” It took quite a bit of effort to bust up a loaf of sugar. Another form of sugar available in the 1800s was raw. This was the cheapest form, since it was expensive to separate white and brown sugar and difficult to remove the juice (molasses). Stores often had a portable sugar mill where the customer or a grocery clerk would do the grinding.
Shortcuts. Frozen piecrusts appeared in the mid-1950s and in the 1960s. Piecrust sticks, which looked like a stick of butter, were popular several years ago, but not now. Refrigerated crusts or frozen pie shells are the way to go today. One other advantage we have over past generations is that we can line the Dutch oven with aluminum foil for easier cleanup.
Back to basics. A movement wherein campers want to venture into that rustic, frontier-like challenge of doing it all by hand is upon us. They don’t use a mixer or a food processer to make the pie dough, and they do not use pie filling from a can, or that halftime oven in their RV. To honor that method, here’s a recipe for a camp-style apple pie cooked in a Dutch oven.
Dutch Oven Apple Pie
7-8 cups baking apples, thinly sliced and peeled
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Pastry dough for a double-crust pie
Line the Dutch oven with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lime juice. Combine the dry ingredients. Add the sour cream, egg, and vanilla. Add the apples and lightly toss. Place the bottom crust (which should be 2 inches larger than your Dutch oven) in the Dutch oven and press firmly against the sides. Add the apple mixture and spread evenly over the bottom. Add 2 tablespoons of butter in pieces over the top of the apples. Place the top crust over the apples and down along the sides so that the bottom crust can fold over the top crust. Seal with your fingers. Cut steam vents in the top crust.
To estimate the number of charcoal briquettes you will need, take the Dutch oven diameter and add three briquettes for the top; subtract three briquettes from that to figure the number to use underneath. So, for example, a 12-inch Dutch oven would require 12 plus three briquettes, a total of 15, on top. Underneath, one would place nine briquettes (12 minus three briquettes equals nine).
Bake the pie for 45 minutes to 1 hour.