Cooking Techniques

Cooking fireside

Outdoor cooking differs substantially from kitchen-based cooking, the most obvious difference being lack of an easily defined kitchen area. As a result, campers and backpackers have developed a significant body of techniques and specialized equipment for preparing food in outdoors environments. Such techniques have traditionally been associated with nomadic cultures such as the Berbers of North Africa, the Arab Beduins, the Plains Indians and pioneers of North America, and have been carried down to and refined in modern times for use during recreational outdoors pursuits.

Currently, much of the work of maintaining and developing outdoor cooking traditions in Westernized countries is done by the Scouting movement and by wilderness educators such as the National Outdoor Leadership School and Outward Bound, as well as by writers and cooks closely associated with the outdoors community.

The type of food common in outdoors settings is somewhat different compared to household foods, and also differs depending on the type of cooking activity. While someone at a public campground may have easy access to a grocery store and be able to prepare plenty of recipes with fresh meat and vegetables, someone on an extended trip into the backcountry will not be able to carry large amounts of fresh food, due to the extra weight from high water content, and will have to rely heavily on food with a low water content, such dried meats and vegetables, packaged dehydrated camping foods, and starches such as ramen, polenta, and dried potato flakes. Wilderness experts in both categories sometimes make use of locally available wild foods as well, particularly wild vegetables and fruit but also occasionally fresh fish and wild game; however, it is not unusual for camping food, especially backcountry food, to be partially or totally vegetarian.

Camping food is often very high in fat and carbohydrates to provide energy for long hikes, and hikers (much like soldiers) must rely heavily on energy-packed snacks such as trail mix, chocolate, energy bars, and sports drinks. Water can also be at a premium, so important parts of a camper’s pantry include chlorine or iodine-based water disinfectants as well as drink mixes to mask the flavor of the chemical treatment.

Recipes are often designed with significant planning and home preparation in mind, with certain ingredients mixed at home and then cooked on the trail; to that end, there are a number of providers of freeze-dried food, both ingredients and full meals, to the outdoors market, and just-add-water instant meals (including hot cereals, pasta or rice in sauce, and instant soup) from the supermarket are popular as well. Alternatively, some wilderness experts advocate bulk rationing, in which each hiker is given a selection of raw ingredients and prepares a meal from scratch on the trail.

From Wikipedia.

Tear-free onion cutting

The onion (Allium cepa L.) (Latin ‘cepa’ = onion), also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is a vegetable and is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium.

This genus also contains several other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion (A. fistulosum), the Egyptian onion (A. ×proliferum), and the Canada onion (A. canadense). The name “wild onion” is applied to a number of Allium species but A. cepa is exclusively known from cultivation and its ancestral wild original form is not known, although escapes from cultivation have become established in some regions. The onion is most frequently a biennial or a perennial plant, but is usually treated as an annual and harvested in its first growing season.

The onion plant has a fan of hollow, bluish-green leaves and the bulb at the base of the plant begins to swell when a certain day-length is reached. In the autumn the foliage dies down and the outer layers of the bulb become dry and brittle. The crop is harvested and dried and the onions are ready for use or storage. The crop is prone to attack by a number of pests and diseases, particularly the onion fly, the onion eelworm and various fungi that cause rotting. Some varieties of A. cepa such as shallots and potato onions produce multiple bulbs.

Onions are cultivated and used around the world. As a food item they are usually served cooked, as a vegetable or part of a prepared savoury dish, but can also be eaten raw or used to make pickles or chutneys. They are pungent when chopped and contain certain chemical substances which irritate the eyes.

The onion plant (Allium cepa) is unknown in the wild but has been grown and selectively bred in cultivation for at least 7,000 years. It is a biennial plant but is usually grown as an annual. Modern varieties typically grow to a height of 15 to 45 cm (6 to 18 in). The leaves are yellowish-green and grow alternately in a flattened, fan-shaped swathe. They are fleshy, hollow and cylindrical, with one flattened side. They are at their broadest about a quarter of the way up beyond which they taper towards a blunt tip. The base of each leaf is a flattened, usually white sheath that grows out of a basal disc. From the underside of the disc, a bundle of fibrous roots extends for a short way into the soil. As the onion matures, food reserves begin to accumulate in the leaf bases and the bulb of the onion swells.

In the autumn the leaves die back and the outer scales of the bulb become dry and brittle, and this is the time at which the crop is normally harvested. If left in the soil over winter, the growing point in the middle of the bulb begins to develop in the spring. New leaves appear and a long, stout, hollow stem expands, topped by a bract protecting a developing inflorescence. The inflorescence takes the form of a globular umbel of white flowers with parts in sixes. The seeds are glossy black and triangular in cross section.

From Wikipedia.