Thursday, February 23, 2012

Uncle Tom's Homemade Puyallup Style Barbecue Sauce

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I ran out of KC Masterpiece the other day after my wife had put in her order for barbecued chicken. I already had the chicken in the oven, so I ran upstairs, jumped on the Internet and found some interesting looking recipes. Unfortunately, I didn't have all the right ingredients.

So, typical man, I decide to wing it. I call this Puyallup Style Barbecue Sauce so that people in Kansas City or St. Louis won't be offended. This barbecue sauce is my own invention. Try this at your own risk. I take no responsibility if you try it and think your chicken is ruined.

It takes about 10 minutes to mix up and maybe 15 minutes to cook. This makes about two cups of a nice tangy barbecue sauce. 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4+ cup water
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon grape jelly
Put 3 tablespoon olive oil in a little pot on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic powder. Stir just a bit till the garlic powder starts turning brown. Add the brown sugar, vinegar and ketchup. I like Delmonte, but I used Hunts for this time out because you can get it in bulk at Cosco. Add the rest of the seasonings and reduce the heat to medium.

I adjust the recipe to taste. I like a little less vinegar and a little more ketchup. The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons paprika, but I cut it in half because the Cajun seasoning has paprika in it. The Cajun seasoning has chili powder and cayenne.  The Cajun seasoning can be increased to make the sauce hotter. My bunch likes a milder barbecue flavor, but you can add more Cajun seasoning or a touch of plain cayenne if you like it hot. I'm not sure who came up with the grape jelly, but I transmigrated it from another recipe and it got rave reviews, so I ain't messin' with the magic.

Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes until it thickens.  If it's too thick, just add a bit more water to get it to the thickness you like.

I poured the rest into an empty KC Masterpiece bottle and stuck it in the fridge. I think I'll make some more to keep on hand.  I like it with vegetarian chicken too.



Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Cook With a Tin Can Billy


Most campers and hikers do NOT carry canned foods with them on a campout. This has not always been so. Once upon a time, trappers and traders always carried bags of canned good with them. Tin cans are a very reliable way to store food. Cans are durable. It's harder to poke a hole in a tin can than it is to puncture a plastic bag. Besides canned food, especially veggies, tastes better than the dehydrated stuff. If you're looking for variety in your trail diet, canned goods can provide it. All you need is a tin can billy (also called a billy can, tin billy, billycan, billy tin or just plain billy).

The big problem with tin cans is the weight.
I'm not suggesting you load down your pack with canned goods. Obviously you can carry more dehydrated food than you can canned goods. But you still have to carry some sort of pots and pans with you for cooking stuff. The advantage of tossing in a few cans is that they come with their own cooking pots. All you need is a pocketknife, open fire, stick, a piece of wire and a can of beans.

I choose beans for my standard take-along canned goods because I like to eat beans out of door. Out of doors is, after all, the best place to be if you're eating beans. If you've ever seen the movie, “Blazing Saddles” you know what I'm talking about.

You can get all sorts of varieties of beans nowadays. Beyond standard pork n' beans, you can buy everything from barbecued beans to vegetarian beans, beanie weenies, black beans, Navy beans, pinto beans and dozens of other types. If you want a hot, satisfying meal in just a few minutes, I highly recommend taking along a can of beans.

What You Need to Do to Cook Beans In a Can:

Small fires are better for cooking.
 Make a Campfire:
Build a small fire – nothing more than about a foot in diameter. You should be able to sit close to it. If you build a huge roaring fire for cooking, you'll wind up incinerating your lunch, burning off your eyebrows and roasting your fingertips, nose and any other protruding body parts. Build small for cooking. It's easier to control the temperature if you can get close to a low fire.

Do Your Pocketknife Work:
As an experienced camper, you surely have a working version of a Swiss Army Knife. It will, of course have a can-opener. Open the can carefully and remove the top. Use the knife to poke two holes opposite each other and about a quarter inch beneath the rim. Keep the holes small. They only need to be big enough for a wire to pass through the holes. Cut a three or four foot long stick about an inch or so thick. Carve a sharp v-shaped notch about two or three inches from the small end of the stick.

Make Your Bail:
Don't worry you're not going to jail for this. Cut a piece of wire about a foot long. Bend the ends of the wire to make two little hooks. Fold the wire in the middle to make a half-loop with the hooks at the bottom. Hook the wire hooks into the holes in the bean can to make a wire handle or bail. The bail should be deep enough to allow a cooking stick to hook onto the bail and still allow room for you to stir the contents of the can with a spoon. With the bail in place, the whole assembly is called a tin can billy.

Prepare to Cook:
Hang your tin can billy in the notch of the stick. Get close to the fire and dangle the billy over the fire. Don't cook over the highest part of the fire. Choose a place where the flames are low. Over coals is even better. If you're lazy, you can hang the billy in the center of the stick, drive a couple of forked sticks into the ground on either side of the fire and hang the billy so it dangles over a good cooking spot. This arrangement is called a cooking spit. If you want to impress a group of kids you're camping with, make one of these.

Every couple of minutes, stir the beans to keep them from burning. I use a small stick about the size of a chopstick to keep from spilling the beans.  If the beans are sticking, move them further from the fire or to a spot where the flame is lower. Resist the urge to pour on the heat by moving the can closer to the fire. The can's thin metal transmits heat too easily and it is very easy to burn your supper. Cooking over live coals is even better than cooking over a flame as I said.  That's why. Patience here is the name of the game.  You will not regret being patient and slow cooking beans with a tin can billy is kind of a zen experience anyway - a sort of "old man on the mountain" moment with you as the seasoned woodsman, hunkered over your cooking fire.

Recycling Your Tin Can Billy:
Since you don't want to litter the wilderness with your old cans, consider hanging the billy from your pack and reusing it for cooking later. Eat your beans or ravioli or spaghetti-o's early in the trip so you'll have the billy for boiling dehydrated stuff, boiling Ramen noodles or making mac & cheese. Then you save the weight of a cooking pot. You can even shove a raw potato into your can and half bury it in hot coals to bake the potato. When your potato is ready, you can, unlike with aluminum foil, use a stick pluck the billy and potato out of the coals by the bail, thereby protecting your fingers from being singed and avoiding dropping your potato into the flames accidentally. Don't forget to use a pot holder when handling the hot can or bail.

Wildwood Wisdom:
Camp food can get kind of boring and a few cans tucked into your pack can give you a nice treat to look forward to and help lift the morale of your group. I like to take along a can of vegetarian hot dogs. If you don't have space for nice fluffy hot dog buns, toss in a Ziplock ™ bag full of flour tortillas. Take along foil packets of ketchup, mayo and mustard for condiments. You can even get pickle relish in little packets. They pack easily and you only open what you use, so no refrigeration is necessary.

Trust me – a few cans of favorite foods are well worth the weight and cooking with a tin can billy is good retro camping fun! Your kids will think you're a genuine mountain man and a camping genius.

Joy of Camping: Campfire Recipes
Cooking in the Can by Kate White, Gibbs Smith Publishing, 2006

Image credits:

#1 Some rights reserved by emmaheff
#2 Some rights reserved by kalleboo

Illustrations (c) 2012 by Tom King - All rights reserved