Yesterday afternoon I made pirogies and Spring had them with sour cream. I boiled and then lightly fried them with some onion slices. Because she so enjoyed the pirogies, I set aside the half I was going to have for myself, wrapped them up and put them in the fridge for her dinner today.
I thought for a few minutes, and then I grabbed my cooking kit, some bits and pieces, the beagle and some dinner ingredients and headed out into the backyard. I decided to practice cooking rice with my camping pot and stove. Rice is easy to carry and a great base for other flavours - but rice can be tricky to cook even in your own kitchen, so I figured this would be a good test of my abilities and good experience for when I am in the field.
Monty promptly settled down with Tigger and watched the birds fly by and the cats wander about the neighbouring yards and then he groaned with happiness while chewing on his toy.
I laid out my kit on the lawn. In the photo above, from bottom and moving clockwise: a) Flint & Steel & Tinder fire-making kit; b) stainless steel bowl (49 cents from the nearby thrift shop) - which I use as a lid for the pot; c) aluminum pot with handle (which fits nicely into the bowl); d) butane/propane camping stove (poor for cold weather but convenient for short daily hikes in the warmer seasons - trouble is you can't accurately gauge the amount of fuel left in a cannister and they're not refillable); e) 'Chinese Style' pork belly strips - basically spiced, smoked, cured thick bacon which does not require refrigeration and so can be carried on a hike or camping trip without concern of spoiling; f) 250 mL or 1 cup worth of dry long grain white rice; g) wooden spoon carved from a branch; h) carbon steel plastic soft grip Mora knife; i) and in the center, a 1000 mL or 2 pint Nalgene water bottle.
I went to a nearby Chinese supermarket earlier yesterday afternoon to pick up some fruit and bulk bags of rice - the prices are excellent - and as I wandered by the butcher's counter reminiscing, I saw a pile of these pork belly strips in plastic vacuum bags in a basket.
I picked one up and decided to grab a couple more to bring with me on trips.
They looked good and fatty (good for calories and as a replacement to bringing butter or margarine) and nice and spicy.
I slid one length out of the package and diced it up into small chunks.
They smelled nice, but not very smoky - not like bacon I am used to.
I dropped them into the cupful of dry rice I had poured into the pot.
It looked really good. I was thinking of eating it as it was.
But then I thought about next steps and got distracted.
Monty began to get very curious at this point and it was all that I could do to keep him away from my 'kitchen'.
I shook the rice about and coated the bacon, hoping that the rice would be coated in some of the fat, and help the cooking process.
I poured two and a quarter cups of water (about 550 mL) of cold water into the pot.
I stirred it all about with my spoon.
I figured that the saltiness of the preserved pork would sufficiently season the rice.
The next step was simply to get the stove lit.
I grabbed a small section of charcloth from my Flint & Steel tinder kit.
Placing this at the top of the flint, I struck down fast and hard with the steel striker.
The steel striker is a great piece of kit - I am so glad I got it.
The flint had grown a bit dull, so it took me about a dozen strikes until I got a spark. On the thirteenth strike (or so) the charcloth caught a spark and began to glow.
I placed the ember into the tinder bundle of semi-dried grass, dead juniper needles and tiny twigs and began the blow. The grass generated a huge amount of horrible smelling smoke and the flames that had emerged quickly died. I tossed the awful-smelling charred smoking mass away.
I looked around the backyard, but after the thunderstorm the night before, there didn't appear to be any dried tinder laying around. Then I had a flash and realized why the small bundle of jute twine was in the tinder kit can after all.
It was there to turn the charcloth ember into flames! (duh)
So I tried again - and this time I guess I'd picked up the knack and a couple of strikes later on the flint, my charcloth caught a spark and began to glow hot.
I wrapped the jute twine (which I had tried to tease apart and rough up a bit to make a good nest) around the charcloth ember and within a few seconds had a flame.
Merging old and new, I opened the gas nozzle on the stove and dropped the flaming twine onto the element and the stove began to heat.
I then placed the pot containing the rice, pork and water onto the stove, covered it with my metal bowl and laid my spoon on top to keep it from getting mucky as I tidied around.
I put the stove on a low flame and left it alone for 20 minutes.
Steam began to emerge and Monty stood careful guard as the aroma of bacon and pork began to permeate his sensitive nostrils.
He hadn't had dinner either.
As soon as I would look away, he would rush up to the stove and sniff and I would warn him away.
He eventually found a comfy spot and demonstrated a stoic patience.
At around the 20 minute mark, I turned off the stove.
It looked ready.
It smelled ready.
The pork was nicely mixed with the rice, and the rice was fluffy, and did not at all adhere to the pot (which I had worried about a bit because of the spot heating from the stove flame).
To my surprise, the dish lacked seasoning. I expected there to be spices and salt but while the pork tasted excellent, the rice was a bit bland. Ah well, now I know. Salt and pepper next time in my kit.
This was a successful trial, because now I know if I am to cook this while out in the woods, I will know just how to make it correctly. It is always best to make mistakes at home while testing out your kit, before experiencing any issues out in the field.
I ate my dinner and when I was almost finished, I poured in some water to cool the remainder of the pork and rice and handed the bowl to Monty who was very appreciative.
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