Tell Black Friday to take a hike, and get outside this Thanksgiving.
Depending on where you’re located, camping for Thanksgiving could sound crazy, or crazy awesome. Without walls to put boundaries on your gathering, perhaps you’ll be inspired to go for a post-turkey (or, veggie turkey) adventure instead of passing out on the living room floor only to miss quality bonding time with the extended fam.
Before taking our word for it, make sure you’re prepared! Fresh Off the Grid recommends the following important tips for hosting:
Check the Weather
First and foremost, check the forecast. If it’s going to be dumping rain (like it did on us in Banff), then you’re going definitely going to want to bring a pop canopy or rain tarp. If it’s going to be cold, make sure you have enough wood to keep the campfire going all day long. Physical discomfort can ruin even the most well prepared meal. That being said, don’t let the weather push you around!
Keep Your Ambitions in Check
Everyone wants to go all out for Thanksgiving, as shown by the trend of stuffing birds of ascending size inside other birds. However, keep in mind you’ll be camping and everything is more difficult when camping. It’s our opinion that a simple meal that is well prepared is vastly more impressive than spilling a tittering cauldron of cooking oil on yourself and having to rush to the emergency room. (This nearly happened to the family next to us in Banff who boldly attempted to deep fry a whole turkey at their campsite.)
Prep What You Can at Home
While this might feel like cheating, the more work you can do in the comfort of a modern kitchen, the better your overall experience will be. Pre-measure supplies and put them in individual zip lock containers. If you’re marinating anything, get it started the night before. Essentially, anything that can be done in advance, should be done in advance.
Don’t Try to “Host”
This was our biggest mistake. You might want to play the role of magnanimous host, but your best bet is to get people involved. Organizing a pot luck style Thanksgiving is a great way to distribute the responsibilities and is well worth a few emails back and forth to sort out who is bringing what. When you’re at the campsite, be sure to delegate tasks and encourage crowd participation. People naturally want to “do” something while camping, so let them be a part of the process!
- Prep time: 10 minutes
- Cook time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings
- 4 firm pears
- 1 bottle red wine
- 3 cups water
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup sugar
- Peel the pears, but leave them whole and keep the stems on them. Slice a small amount of the base off if you’d like them to sit up straight up when served.
- Pour the wine, water, sugar, and spices into a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Gently add the pears to the poaching liquid. Let the liquid heat and slowly simmer for about 30 minutes or until until pears are deep red in color.
- Remove the pears from the poaching liquid.
- You can serve the red wine poached pears immediately along with a glass of the poaching liquid, which is in essence a mulled wine. Alternatively, you can boil the liquid until it is thick and syrupy and drizzle over the poached pears.
- 2 tablespoons butter or bacon drippings
- 1 cup white cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- 1 cup buttermilk, or more if needed
- Place 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings in a 6 1/2-inch Lodge cast iron skillet and set in the oven while it preheats to 425°F.
- Whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk the egg, buttermilk, and the remaining 1 tablespoon bacon drippings together in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture and stir just until combined. The mixture should pour like pancake batter; if not, add a little more buttermilk.
- Pour the batter into the hot skillet. Bake until the crust is dark golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot, no chaser.
“Salad” of Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Sherry by Lodge Cast Iron
“There is no better dish than this one to show you the importance of cookware,” declares Kelly English, chef-owner of Restaurant Iris in Memphis. “Go ahead…I dare you to try to cook this on anything but Lodge cast iron. This is the salad that my entire menu was built around.”
- 2 pounds Brussels sprouts (Kelly gets his from Woodson Ridge Farms in Oxford, Mississippi)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1/4 pound sliced bacon (Kelly likes to use Benton’s hickory-smoked country bacon from Madisonville, Tennessee), cut across into strips
- 2 shallots, minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of very salty (salty like the ocean) water to a boil.
- Trim the stems of the Brussels sprouts, then cut them in half through the stem. Blanch the sprouts in the boiling water until tender but not mushy, about 2 minutes. Drain, then shock the sprouts in ice water to stop the cooking and drain again.
- In a small bowl, make a vinaigrette by whisking the oil and vinegar together until it thickens (emulsifies).
- In a Lodge 15-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon; when it begins to crisp and the fat is released, add the sprouts. Cook, stirring a few times, until the sprouts start to take on good color, about 1 minute. Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme, toss to combine, and cook, stirring, until the shallots become translucent.
- Pour over the vinaigrette to coat the salad (still in the skillet) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
Campfire Roasted Pumpkin Rice by Dirty Gourmet
Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 20 minutes
Roasting time: about 1 hour (varies on campfire and pumpkin size)
How about an instant wow side dish for your Thanksgiving table that comes in an edible bowl? This Campfire Roasted Pumpkin rice is a departure from typical potato side dishes while keeping the comfort and warmth you want from a Holiday meal. Savory, sweet, tart and nutty flavors come together in subtle way that will leave you pleasantly surprised. This recipe has been campified from a traditional Armenian dish called ghapama featured in Issue 14 of Lucky Peach magazine.
- 9 inch sugar pumpkin (with a nice big stem)
- 1 1⁄2 2 cups arborio rice
- 4 4 1⁄2 cups broth
- 1⁄2 tsp salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1⁄2 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1⁄2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1⁄2 cup dried barberries
- 1⁄2 tsp salt
Directions (At Home)
- Make sure the pumpkin fits in your dutch oven! It should sit comfortably inside the dutch oven diameter.
- Soak barberries in warm water for 10 minutes and then drain.
- Melt butter in a skillet set over medium heat. Add the dried apricots, walnuts and barberries. Cook until the fruit is softened, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a pot, bring 4 cups of broth to a boil and add the arborio rice with 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt. Simmer with lid slightly ajar until rice is cooked, approximately 20 minutes. Check rice after about 10 minutes and make sure there is still some liquid. Add 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup of water or broth if necessary.
- Add nut and fruit mixture to rice and mix well. Add salt to taste if mixture still needs seasoning.
- Pack in water tight container or gallon sized zip top bag and store in cooler.
Directions (At Camp)
- Get a nice campfire going to build a bed of hot coals.
- Wash and dry pumpkin. Cut a lid around the stem and set aside. Scrape out insides of pumpkin leaving only the firm flesh.
- Set the pumpkin in the dutch oven and scoop the rice filling into it. Don’t over fill the pumpkin the pumpkin lid should still close tightly.
- To cover the pumpkin and create an ovenlike condition, use a 10 inch cast iron skillet as an improvised lid by turning it upside down and placing over the dutch oven. If the pumpkin is too tall, get creative and build a foil cover that will be easy to open/remove and put back on (you’ll need to check in on the pumpkin during the process).
- Set the dutch oven directly in the fire pit with coals using your lid lifter. Place hot coals on top of the cast iron lid. Rotate 1⁄4 turn every 15 minutes until pumpkin outside is slightly soft to the touch and the inside flesh is soft.
- Remove from the campfire and set on heatproof surface. Using a big spoon, scoop up rice, scraping up bits of pumpkin at the same time. Serve immediately.
Tip: Barberries have a unique tart-like flavor and are commonly found at Middle Eastern grocers.
Recipe by Andrew Gregory, the Woodsman Tavern
If you’re cooking up a turkey, or, heck you just love the taste of coffee, try coating your main dish in Stumptown’s cold brew brine. Fight the tryptofan, AND you might even have enough energy to go for a post-dinner adventure.
- 3 1/4 cup Cold Brew
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 T salt
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 1/2 T black pepper
- 1 1/2 T mustard seed
- 1 1/2 T coriander seed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup heirloom baby carrots 1 cup brussel sprouts
- 2 medium purple yams
- 2 cups chopped butternut squash
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2-4 cloves of garlic
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Chop the sweet potatoes into disks, then quarter.
- Cut the brussels sprouts in half.
- Heat up oil in the cast iron.
- Once hot, add all the veggies to the skillet.
- Stir occasionally for 20-30 minutes until veggies soften.
- Mix in the cranberries and enjoy!
The Dessert (or drinks)
Cook time: 5 mins, Total time: 5 mins.
- 1 cup milk (we used coconut milk powder, 1 tablespoon + 1 cup water)
- 1 tablespoon Nutella
- Optional but highly recommended : 1 toasted marshmallow
- Heat the milk in a small pot until just barely simmering, being careful not to scorch it if using dairy milk.
- Stir in the Nutella until completely blended.
- Serve in a mug with a just-toasted marshmallow.
Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 15 minutes
2 or 3 apples (we prefer Fuji), sliced ¼” thin
½ tablespoon oil or butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1.5 oz bourbon
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup granola
- In a 8″ cast iron skillet, over medium heat, saute the sliced apples in a bit of oil or butter until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the spices, bourbon, and sugar, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the sauce thickens and the apples are tender, 5-10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and sprinkle the granola evenly across the top. Enjoy straight from the skillet or serve in individual bowls.
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1/2 can pumpkin
- 1 1/2 cups almond meal
- 1/2 cup plant-based chocolate protein powder
- 1/3 cup superseed blend (chia, hemp hearts, coconut, cranberries, etc)
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice