Top Tips and Recipes for Hosting a Thanksgiving Camping Trip
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 fam. If so, we want to make sure you’re prepared with the right recipes and supplies.
Fresh Off the Grid is with us to share their top tips for hosting a Campsgiving gathering.
1. Check the weather
First and foremost, take a look at the forecast—we know Thanksgiving can be chilly, and physical discomfort can ruin even the most well-prepared meal. If it’s going to dump 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 temperatures look cold, make sure you have enough wood to keep the campfire going. Don’t let the weather push you around!
2. Keep your ambitions in check
Everyone wants to go all out for Thanksgiving (as shown by the strange trend of stuffing birds of ascending size inside other birds). However, keep in mind that things can be more difficult when camping. It’s our opinion that a simple, well-prepared meal 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—they boldly attempted to deep fry a whole turkey at their campsite.)
3. 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 Campsgiving experience will be. Pre-measure supplies and put them in individual tupperware 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.
4. Don’t get caught up with “hosting”
This was our biggest mistake. You might want to play the role of magnanimous host, but your best bet is to get others involved. Organizing a potluck-style Thanksgiving is a great way to distribute responsibilities, and it’s well worth a few emails back and forth to sort out who is bringing what. Once you’re at the campsite, be sure to delegate tasks and encourage crowd participation. People naturally want to help out and “do something” while camping, so let them be a part of the process!
How about an instant wow that comes in an edible bowl? This is a departure from typical potato side dishes, but it maintains the comfort and warmth you want in a holiday meal, as savory, sweet, tart, and nutty flavors come together in subtle way. 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)
2 cups arborio rice
4 ½ cups broth
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1⁄2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1⁄2 cup walnuts, chopped
1⁄2 cup dried barberries (Barberries have a unique tart flavor and are commonly found at Middle Eastern grocers.)
Instructions (Prepped at home)
Make sure the pumpkin fits in your dutch oven! It should sit comfortably inside.
Soak barberries in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain.
Melt butter in a skillet set over medium heat. Add dried apricots, walnuts, and barberries. Cook until the fruit is softened, stirring often, for 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, about 20 minutes. Check rice after about 10 minutes to 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 needs seasoning.
Pack in a water-tight container or gallon-sized, zip-top bag and store in cooler.
Instructions (Prepped 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 overfill the pumpkin; the stem 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 it 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 periodically.)
Set the dutch oven directly in the fire pit 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 campfire, and set on heatproof surface. Using a big spoon, scoop up rice, scraping up bits of pumpkin at the same time. Serve immediately.
Peel the pears, but leave them whole and keep the stems on. Slice a small amount of the base off if you’d like them to sit straight up when served.
Pour wine, water, sugar, and spices into a large stockpot over medium-low heat to create poaching liquid. Gently add pears. Slowly simmer for about 30 minutes, or until until pears are deep red in color.
Remove pears from the poaching liquid.
Serve the pears immediately alongside a glass of the poaching liquid, which is, in essence, a mulled wine. Alternatively, boil the liquid until it is thick and syrupy, then drizzle over the poached pears.
Place 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings in a 6 ½-inch Lodge cast iron skillet; place skillet 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 of. bacon drippings together in a medium-sized bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture, then stir 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.
“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)
½ 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 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.
Throw some veggies in the cast iron to accompany your Campsgiving meal. Chock full of fall flavors and loaded with nutrients, this side is sure to keep you warm and feeling good to enjoy the rest of your evening. It’s plenty colorful too, so you know you’re getting your fair share of antioxidants and it looks great in photos.
1 cup heirloom baby carrots
1 cup brussel sprouts
2 medium purple yams
2 cups chopped butternut squash
½ cup dried cranberries
2–4 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Chop the sweet potatoes into disks, then quarter.
Cut the brussel sprouts in half.
Heat up oil in the cast iron.
Once hot, add all veggies to the skillet.
Stir occasionally for 20 to 30 minutes until veggies soften.
Mix in the cranberries and enjoy!
Hip tip: This is pretty delicious as-is, but if there aren’t any vegans in the group, top with a nice, salty cheese like parmesan or manchego. Extend the deliciousness: Crack a few eggs on top for a tasty breakfast of leftovers.
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. Brining takes time and dedication, but it might even give you enough energy for a post-dinner adventure. Recipe by Chef Andrew Gregory of the Woodsman Tavern.
3 1/4 cup cold brew (Alternatively, use 5 cups of water and 1 ½ cups coarsely ground coffee beans to replace this and the water)
1 ½ cup water
½ cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons mustard seed
1 ½ teaspoons coriander seed
1 cinnamon stick
Combine all ingredients, and heat just enough to dissolve the salt and sugar. Do not overheat or boil, as this will change the flavor of the coffee and may make it bitter.
For chicken or turkey, we recommend letting this stew for 24 to 48 hours. This would work with beef and pork, as well.
Prep time: 10 minutes | Refrigerated time: At least 1 hour | Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Serving size: 2
Heading out on an adventure? Bring the flavors of fall and Thanksgiving with you, along with a ton of nutrition. These “power balls” satisfy ALL of today’s trendy food requirements—they’re paleo, vegan, mostly organic, and full of superseeds! Whenever you’re feeling a little down on the trail, pop in one of these bad boys and you’ll be back in front of the pack in no time.
1 cup pitted dates
½ can pumpkin
1 ½ cups almond meal
½ cup plant-based chocolate protein powder
1/3 cup superseed blend (chia, hemp hearts, coconut, cranberries, etc)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Pulse dates, pumpkin, almond meal, protein powder, and spices in a high-powered blender or food processor until a sticky consistency forms.
Mix in superseed blend.
Roll into balls with hand.
Roll balls in additional superseed blend (optional).
Refrigerate and keep cool as long as possible.
Looking for more tips to host your own Campsgiving? Check out the full round-up of hosting tips on Fresh Off the Grid.
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