Hunger is the best seasoning they say, which is likely why everything tastes better when you’re camping. When my stomach is rumbling after a long day in the backcountry, it’s hard for me to believe that as humans, we have the capability to survive for up to three weeks on nothing but “Hudson’s Bay Sauce.” By the way, “Hudson’s Bay Sauce” was a term used by the Voyageurs in the fur trade area to describe a diet of nothing, as in, they were on a diet of “Hudson’s Bay Sauce” because they’d run out of food. Needless to say, this is a situation that’s best avoided which is why good food planning for your trips is key. But no one wants to spend the whole day cooking when in the backcountry. Complicated recipes are impractical and cut into your schedule. Add the lack of refrigeration, weight restraints, and little time for preparation, camping food often gets a bad wrap.
It doesn’t need to be that way though. If you love your food (and who doesn’t), these simple and delicious recipes will make your taste buds dance with joy well into a multi-day backcountry trip!
Note: Cans and bottles are prohibited in the backcountry of Ontario provincial parks. Save weight and stay within the rules by choosing the powdered version of some of the following foods like gravy. Or, empty cans into reusable containers before heading out on your trip.
1) Fry Bread
This is Bannock cooked a little differently. Prepared this way it’s puffy, chewy, cooks a lot faster, and is sure to please. The ingredients will also keep for weeks.
- 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) powdered milk
- 1 cup (125 mL) water
- 1/2 cup butter, margarine, shortening or other animal fat (Bacon grease will suffice)
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- In a pot or bowl, mix all the powdered ingredients together. Add the fat last (it’s easier if you can melt it).
- Pour in water and mix with fork, don’t knead. Ideally, the dough should have a fairly dry consistency so it doesn’t stick to your hands when working it.
- Pick the dough up and flatten it into a thin round disk like you were making a small pizza.
- Add cooking oil to a pan and heat it over the fire or camp stove.
- When oil is hot, slowly lay the dough in oil.
- Flip when one side is golden brown.
- Remove when both sides are golden brown and let cool.
- Cooking speed depends on the temperature of your oil but it usually takes about 7 minutes total.
- Serve plain, with honey, maple syrup, jam, peanut butter or just butter.
Feeds two (or one hungry voyageur)
Note: This recipe can also be prepared without the inclusion of an animal fat.
2) Camp Poutine
Take credit where credit is due, taking this Canadian classic recipe on camping trips is my personal idea. Expect rave reviews from friends.
- 3 Potatoes
- Cheese Curds (recommended) or grated cheddar cheese
- 1 can of gravy (powdered gravy can substitute)
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Slice potatoes into French fries.
- Heat up lots of oil in a frying pan. (a pot will also work).
- Slowly add fries to oil and stir until golden brown (at this point the smell is epic).
- It’s best to use a basket spoon to stir with. Don’t worry if the fries break up in the process, trust me, you won’t care when you eat it.
- Leave gravy by the fire to heat up. If gravy is in a can, punch a couple holes in it before you begin heating it to prevent it from bursting.
- Scoop fries out of pan using basket spoon, letting them drain in the process.
- Add salt and cheese to hot fries.
- Pour hot gravy on fries and stir a little as cheese melts.
3) Cheeze Pitas
These can be eaten cold like a sandwich or heated over the fire as a far more delicious option. These are a great thing to pack for lunch as preparation is fast. Cheese and pita will last for weeks and pita won’t get squished like most bread. Vacuum seal pita and cheese for long trips.
- A sausage that does not require refrigeration like hard salami, summer sausage, or pepperoni.
- For one sandwich, slice cheese, sausage, and onions.
- Add to pita.
- Add mustard.
- Fold pita over and eat.
- Or, heat up over fire on a long handled forked stick until pita is toasty and cheese is melted.
4) Pan Fried Fish Fillets
Possibly the ultimate table fair for camping. And it’s relatively easy to prepare…if you can catch a fish that is! This is great for Bass, Perch, Walleye and Pike.
- Fresh fish fillets
- Fish Crisp, pancake mix, or flower
- Vegetable oil
- Thoroughly coat fillets in Fish Crisp (if you don’t have Fish Crisp use flower or pancake mix).
- Heat up oil in pan. Don’t place fish in the pan until the oil is hot. You can test the heat of the oil by flicking a bead of water in it.
- Lay the fillets into the hot oil and try not to drool when you hear the satisfying sizzling sound.
- Cook until golden brown on each side, flipping after about three minutes.
- Let cool and serve plain, with tartar sauce or ketchup.
5) Chicken Quesadillas
Need I say any more?
- 1 Freeze Dried Mountain House Chicken Brest.
- Monterrey Jack Cheese
- Flour tortillas
- Powdered sour cream
- Following the directions on the Mountain House packet, boil water and add to packet, let sit for 12 minutes.
- Remove rehydrated chicken breast and dice.
- Shred a plethora of Monterrey Jack Cheese.
- Add chicken and cheese to tortilla and fold over, or use a full tortilla for both the top and bottom.
- Heat in greased frying pan until cheese is melted and tortilla is lightly toasted.
- Let cool.
- add water to sour creme and stir.
- Slice quesadilla into triangles and dip in sour cream to eat.
Note: Mountain House Freeze Dried Chicken Breasts also come with instant potatoes on the side.
6) Grilled Trout
There are several ways to cook trout while in the back country. This is my personal favourite and it’ll likely be yours once you try it!
- 1 gutted trout (leaving head on is optional”
- Slice onions into large rings and place them in fish basket grill.
- Place Trout on top of onions and then lay more onions on top of trout.
- Close fish basket grill and cook over the fire.
- The meat will fall of the bone perfectly when cooked and the roasted onions will complement the trout which often has a delicious smoky flavor.
Note: Don’t have a fish basket grill? Grill your trout with onions over a fire on a regular grill like pictured.
7) Pancakes and Ready Crisp Bacon
Pancakes are a traditional and moral boosting camping meal. Add bacon to the mix and you have the breakfast of champions. To spice it up even more, add some wild blueberries, raspberries or strawberries to the mix. The beauty of Ready Crisp Bacon is that is comes pre-cooked, and requires no refrigeration when in its packaging. It also provides ample fat and protein, key elements for tough backcountry trips. Oh ya, and it’s also delicious.
- “Just Add Water” Pancake Mix
- Ready Crisp Bacon
- Maple syrup
- Grease for the pan
- Add water to pancake mix while stirring until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Frantically beat the mix until it’s laden with bubbles throughout. This will make your pancakes fluffy.
- Pour batter into hot greased pan (use butter for your pan for extra flavor).
- Add fresh berries.
- Flip once the bubbles in the middle of the pancake burst.
- Simultaneously heat Ready Crisp Bacon on a grill over the fire or drape bacon slices it over a stick and heat over the fire.
- Remove pancake from pan when golden brown on both sides and add a healthy dose of maple syrup.
8) Corn in the Coals
This has got to be the easiest, and one of the most delicious back country camping meals around. It’s not only an easy way to cook corn, it’s also the most delicious, and the coolest way too. Corn is great to bring on trips because it keeps longer and bruises less easily than many vegetables.
- Soak fully husked ears of corn in the river or lake for about 3-hours.
- Get a nice fire going and let it burn down to a thick coal bed.
- Place the soaked corn directly on the coals and rotate every couple minutes.
- When the husks begin to char the corn is done.
- Husk the corn, add butter and salt, devour.
9) Potatoes and Onions in Tinfoil
These vegetables keep well and don’t bruise easily which makes them great things to bring into the back country.
- Get a good size fire going.
- Cut up potatoes into even sized pieces.
- Slice up onions into rings.
- Spread out tinfoil and rub cooking oil, butter or margarine all over it.
- Lay the vegetables out on the tinfoil and shake a healthy dose of seasoned salt on them.
- Wrap the tinfoil around them and add a second layer of foil.
- It’s best if you roll the tinfoil together in the middle and at either end.
- Lay the it into the hot coals of the fire and flip after about 15 minutes. It usually takes about a half hour or more to cook.
- Remove from fire open and let cool.
- Serve as is or with ketchup.
Note: Add sliced carrots to the mix for some extra flare.
10) Crepes with Fried Peaches
Another decadent favorite that can be served several different ways.
- Just Add Water Pancake Mix
- Canned Peaches
- Icing sugar
- Maple syrup
- Strawberry jam
- Mix pancake batter to a very runny consistency by adding a lot of water.
- Cook in a greased frying pan.
- Dice up some canned peaches and fry beside your cooking crepe
- When crepe is cooked, roll the crepe around some warm, fried peaches and add your choice of toppings. (warning: you may blow up because it’s so good!)
Note: It’s always good to wear a pair of thick leather work gloves if cooking over the fire as they allow you to pull things in and out of the fire without getting burnt.
By Jim Baird
Jim is an adventurer from Ontario. He is almost always out in the backcountry exploring the wilderness along with his canoe and his dog “Buck”. Learn more about him here.