Participants cook up good things at Dutch oven event
"Anything you can cook at home, you can cook in a Dutch oven."
That's how instructor Luann Sewell Waters of Wynnewood began her four-hour, hands-on workshop on cooking with Dutch ovens. She made good on that promise by letting 20 individuals make eight different recipes. When they were done, they feasted on everything from creamy chicken and bacon enchiladas to cinnamon rolls.
Participants got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear a scholar tell them what a Dutch oven is and some of the lore behind this pioneer-style cookware. She also described variants and useful accessories, all in an outdoor setting at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
Waters was quick to pose the question, "Does anybody even know why they're called a Dutch oven?"
She offered what she considers the most likely of three different stories: Cast iron has been around since 600-700 A.D., but it was the Dutch who perfected the casting process by figuring out a way to pour iron more smoothly.
Paul Revere is credited with giving Dutch ovens a flat lid. Waters said there is also a kitchen Dutch oven with a flat bottom and a domed lid. It's possible to use those outdoors, but woodsmen or camp ovens are handy for beginners because they have three legs underneath that give spacing for wood coals or charcoal. The flange on the flat lid allows for easy placement of coals on top of the oven. The inside of the lid has nodules on which condensation collects, thus allowing the juices to drip back down into the tough meat below and make it more tender.
Like cast-iron skillets, Dutch ovens are definitely "heritage cookware," Waters said as she noted that George Washington's mother put in her will who was to inherit her cast-iron furniture. One of the 12-inch Dutch ovens used in Waters' demonstration is 150 years old and she said it still cooks like a dream.
Proper cleanup is what makes them last. She prefers using Crisco to season them, but others use different types of oil. For storage, the lid should either be removed or separated from the pot by folded paper towels or foil, as the least moisture can cause rust.
Dutch ovens are important in re-enactments, whether it's colonial times, Lewis and Clark, mountain men, pioneers moving west, Civil War soldiers or the chuck wagon cooks on the cattle drives.
At least three states use Dutch ovens as a state symbol Texas, Utah and Arkansas.
The Dutch ovens used in the workshop had a bale, or a wire handle for picking them up and moving them. There are also spider skillets or Dutch ovens with handles up to four feet long.
"If somebody said, OK, you have to get rid of all of your cooking pots and pans except for one thing, keep your Dutch oven because it's probably going to be about the most versatile. You can cook outside if you need to," Waters said.
Say an ice storm causes a power outage that lasts for days. You can still fix a hot, nutritious meal for your family.