Myself and the lad are fresh back from the deep woods of Cranham Scout campsite in Gloucester. Here we camped in about a foot of thick, curd-like February mud and learned of the further arts of camp fire cookery from Wayne and Beth (and other Chefs!) of Forest Knights Bushcraft School. Whilst my son threw himself into the stream a few times.
SAND PIT FIRE TABLE
The first inspiring idea was the wooden table with a fire on top of it. Er, wooden table? Fire? How do they mix without the obvious happening? In my oblivious state, it took me a while to realise the what I thought was solid wood was actually a wooden sandbox about 6in deep, chock full of sand. Clever. We had our food cooked on this solidly for almost a week and it didn’t burn down. Great if you don’t fancy all the squatting and bending over a fire on the ground, and you can store stuff underneath the table.
The guys then brought in two (already deceased) deer, a muntjac and a fallow, and showed us how to butcher them. Fans of my earlier posts will know that I have already done this, badly, with a roadkill muntjac. So it was interesting to see how to do it properly. the main idea was to completely gut the Deer as soon as it is killed to prevent spoiling (which I didn’t do before). Wayne let everyone get stuck in learning how to do it, but I had to go off and pull my son out of the stream again. Here you can see the two skins after they finished and the meat was carried to the kitchen.
KEFIR SWEET & SAVOURY FLATBREADS
Beth showed us all how to mix kefir, vinegar, bicarb of soda, flour, and either rosemary or raisins into little flatbreads which we cooked in a pan with garlic butter and oil. Delicious on a cold and damp day in the woods! The kefir contains healthy bacteria which help you digest your food, and gives bread that lovely sour-dough taste. Marty got stuck right into this bit, (even if he did have to wash his hands three times before Beth would let him near the dough).
The fallow deer was jointed and the leg joints spread with Jamaican jerk seasoning before they were put in the smoker. The smoker looks like a large metal barrel with metal racks inside, where the meat Is stacked in layers over the internal embers. One of our chefs, Tim, had an electronic control with which he could adjust the temperature of the smoker and time how long it had been in there. It took most of the afternoon to smoke the venison and we ate at 1830.
The muntjac was split in half and tied onto a wooden frame, which was hung over the fire pit. Wooden stakes held out the bottom half. At first it wasn’t close enough and had to be brought down lower to cook. Judging the distance can be tricky. There was also a great design for a wooden stake kettle holder which had notches in the back to adjust the height of the kettle. I was worried the kettle would slip when I let it go, but the tension of the bent stake prevented it doing so.
Every day we were stuffed to the gills with food. English breakfast rolls, which were very generous, were £3.50, and dinner was £7.50. If you didn’t want to buy it you could bring your own food. The whole week’s camping and workshops cost £120 for me and £70 for Marty (child 5-15), and the camp site had showers and toilets. The only downside was that because of the gale forecast we had to evacuate our camping spots in the woods on Thursday and drag our stuff to the other side of the site. Of course, yours truly left half her stuff in the woods, including the hot water bottles, as we spent most of Thursday warming up in TGI Fridays in Gloucester and only moved when it got dark!
To do the Winter Moot again ideally I would want a bell tent with a stove. You can get one for about £300. Though Marty was absolutely fine, I got cold on some nights, especially when we we on the other side without a fire. Good air beds or self inflating mattresses a must, also lots and lots of spare lanterns, as Marty dropped the batteries out of ours and lost my headlamp right underneath the double mattress for three whole days. My ukulele and tongue drum went down a treat too, as did a bottle of Carnivor Zinfandel. When in the woods in Feb, you need the heat in a decent red…