February 18, 2022
There was a time when deer camps were a male-dominated experience. A group of guys got together each season to camp, hunt, give each other a hard time, and maybe share a celebratory drink around the evening’s campfire.
Food was often an afterthought. Campfire-warmed pork and beans straight from the can, hot dogs, and tins of Vienna sausages served with crackers—and a healthy debate as to whether one should drink the remaining juice once all the sausages were consumed—were always menu staples.
But hunting demographics are changing. Recent findings by the NSSF show 3,924,000 females hunted in 2019 compared to 2,464,000 who had hunted in 2010. That is a staggering 59.3 percent increase. No longer are deer camps the sole domain of Baby Boomer men. These days, you’re just as likely to find entire families camping and hunting together.
Family meals at camp are also evolving. And everyone knows a meal just isn’t complete without dessert. Camp desserts might be as simple as a campfire-roasted marshmallow or a s’more, but with just a little bit of planning and gear, they can rival anything you might make at home.
Wrap It Up
Aluminum foil is one of the handiest kitchen tools you can add to your camp kitchen. Wrap up your meal, toss it into the coals of your campfire, then pull it out and eat. The same goes for camp desserts. Chocolate Marshmallow Bananas are always a hit. Simply peel and split a banana or two, lay the halves side by side on a sheet of foil, top with marshmallows and chocolate chips, then fold the foil over and seal to make a packet. Place the packet along the edge of your campfire coals or on a grill grate over the fire for 10 to 15 minutes. The heat caramelizes the bananas while melting the marshmallows and chocolate chips into a thick syrup. You’ll need a fork to enjoy these without making a mess, but it’s worth it.
Bananas aren’t the only fruit that can be cooked in foil packets. If you’re a fan of apple pie, try coring a firm, tart apple like a Honeycrisp or Granny Smith. Pack the hollowed-out core with brown sugar and sprinkle on some cinnamon. Top the sugar with a pat of butter and seal everything tightly in a foil packet. The heat from the fire cooks the apple and turns the brown sugar into a luscious caramel sauce.
A good cast iron skillet is a must-have for your camp kitchen, and desserts are no problem as long as you have one handy.
If s’mores are a hit with your camp crew, try making them on a large scale with S’more Nachos.
In a seasoned cast iron skillet, layer graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows in a circular pattern to fill the skillet. Place the skillet directly on your cooking grate, tent loosely with foil, and cook until the crackers are lightly toasted, and the chocolate and marshmallows have melted into a gooey sauce. To eat, simply lift a cracker and dip it into the melted goodness, just like you would a chip with nachos.
In a Slump
Rather go with something fruit-based? Try a slump. Don’t let the funny name throw you. A slump is simply fruit with dumplings. To make camp life easy, bring along a can or two of your favorite pie filling. Blueberry, blackberry, and cherry all work well.
To make your camp slump, empty two cans of pie filling into a cast-iron skillet. The dumplings can be made ahead of time using your favorite biscuit dough recipe, but a much easier method is to use canned biscuits. Simply heat the pie filling to a simmer, then tear the biscuit dough into bite-sized pieces and drop them into the fruit, one piece at a time. Stir often to keep the dough pieces from sticking together.
Once all of the dumplings are in, cover the pan and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the dough has plumped up and cooked through. Serve warm. If your camp happens to have a working freezer, a scoop of good vanilla ice cream goes perfectly with your fruit slump.
The Dutch Oven
No discussion of camp desserts can be complete without a Dutch oven in the mix. With a Dutch oven, you can cook anything you would in your kitchen oven at home. Fruit cobblers are a popular choice. For a quick and easy peach cobbler, try this recipe from Lodge: Dump two 30-ounce cans of peaches in heavy or light syrup into your 12-inch Dutch oven. Spread a package of white or yellow cake mix evenly over the peaches. Next, sprinkle on cinnamon to taste. Finish it up by cutting half a stick of butter into pats and place them evenly over the cake mix. Set the Dutch oven over a few coals and top the lid with 15 to 20 additional coals. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Want a cobbler with a bit more dough? Replace the cake mix with a batter of 2 cups of Bisquick or another baking mix blended with ⅔ cup of milk and ½ cup of brown sugar. Stir the batter mixture into the fruit. Sprinkle
another half cup of dry baking mix and a ¼ cup of brown sugar over the fruit and batter mixture then bake as before.
Dutch ovens aren’t limited to cobblers. Try baking a cake, brownies, or even a pan-sized chocolate chip cookie in one. In the mood for fresh doughnuts? Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in your Dutch oven to 325 degrees. Roll canned biscuit dough between your palms like a preschooler making a Play-Doh snake. Form the strip of dough into a circle by pinching the ends
together. Drop the doughnuts into the hot oil, frying for 2 to 3 minutes, then flipping for an additional 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown. Drain the doughnuts on a plate lined with paper towels, then drop immediately into a mixture of granulated sugar and cinnamon. Shake to coat well and serve warm.
Want the ultimate Dutch oven camp dessert? Try making Bourbon Doughnut Bread Pudding. Tear up 18 doughnuts into bite-sized pieces and add them to your 12-inch Dutch oven. Pour over a custard mix of 2 cups of half-and-half, 8 beaten eggs, a pinch of cinnamon, a stick of melted butter, a teaspoon of vanilla, and ¼ cup of your favorite bourbon. Cover with
the lid, add a few coals or charcoal briquettes, and bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and pour on an icing made from a block of softened cream cheese, 3 cups of powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons of milk, and another ¼ cup of bourbon all whisked together. Sprinkle on a handful of golden raisins. Return the lid, add a few more coals, and bake for another 30 minutes.
Have a fire and a grill grate? Pick up some fresh fruit and you’re good to go. Favorite grilled fruits include peaches, pineapple slices, apples, melons, and fresh figs. The heat and smoke from the fire intensify the fruit’s sweetness. A drizzle of honey before eating never hurts.
To keep fruit from sticking to your grill grate, try these tips. Clean your grate well before cooking because food always sticks to a crusty grate. Give the cooking surface plenty of time to heat up before adding the fruit. A hot grill sears the surface of the fruit quickly before it has time to stick. Pre-heating also results in better grill marks. Finally, give the grill a quick swipe with a folded paper towel soaked with cooking oil. Be careful not to drip oil directly onto the fire and use a long set of tongs to keep your hands safe in case of a flame-up.
Cut your fruit into sections as large as possible—halving works well. Small fruit pieces can get soft and fall apart while cooking. If you want to grill small fruits like strawberries or pineapple chunks, use a skewer to hold the sections together. Try mixing and matching fruits on a skewer to customize to each diner’s taste.
Nothing makes a happy camp like a full stomach. The weather can suck. The game might not move. But if the food is great, everyone will have a good time. From simple to elaborate, these desserts are sure to keep everyone in camp happy. Take these recipes as a guideline. Customize them to fit your friends and family’s individual tastes and start a new tradition at hunting camp.