This year we decided to try cooking on our temporary outdoor fireplace while we boiled our sap into maple syrup. Cast iron is perfect for cooking on coals. Being pack rats, we just happen to have a vintage cast iron twelve-inch three-legged Dutch oven that someone gave us a couple of years ago because he thought it was too heavy to use. This thing is really heavy, so he had a point.
We had never tried hearth cooking, beyond some basic toasting and corn popping, so this was definitely a challenge.
When we built the fireplace, Michael added a brick hearth in front this year to accommodate our dutch oven. It was just a platform made from bricks at the front of the firebox and slightly off to one side.
When we had a nice bed of coals going in the fire, we shoveled some of them out onto the hearth, then set the dutch oven on top of them to heat up. Once it was hot, we added a quarter stick of butter to the pan. After the butter melted and just slightly browned, we spooned in corn bread batter.
We then placed the lid on the dutch oven and heaped more coals on top of the lid. The idea was that the heat from the coals would bake the corn bread.
We let it sit for about twenty minutes, then carefully removed the lid by using a fire place hook to lift it off the dutch oven. Voila, corn bread. It was astonishingly delicious.
We also made boxty on our bed of coals, in honor of St Patrick’s day. We burnt it slightly, but we didn’t care because by then we had spent several hours drinking rum-laden hot sap in the cold air. It tasted perfectly fine.
This is the corn bread recipe I used, adapted for kitchen rather than hearth baking. It is my family’s favorite corn bread.
RECIPE: Corn Bread
- 1 1/4 cup white flour
- 3/4 cup corn meal
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 5 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
In separate small bowl beat:
- 1 egg with 1 cup milk
Add wet to dry, plus:
- 2 tbsp melted butter
Mix until just combined.
Bake at 375 degree in a buttered pie dish or cast iron pan for 30 minutes or until lightly browned around edges.