Just because you can't pack up your at-home kitchen and take it camping with you doesn't mean the menu for your outdoor adventure has to suffer.
"Our campers, we see them cooking a variety of different things and our campers actually get very creative with what they cook on the fire. Anything you can cook at home, some people cook on the fire," Prince Gallitzin State Park assistant park manager Tim Yeager said.
Like other camping spots in parks across the country, the Prince Gallitzin sites are equipped with grated fire rings for campers to use.
Mirror file photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Jeff Stephens fires up burgers on his family’s new grill while camping at Prince Gallitzin State Park on June 12.
While campers will cook on the camp fire directly they also bring portable gas grills for cooking, Yeager said. Some camping trailers even have outdoor stoves built into them.
Cooking on an open-flame does take some judgment.
"You have to let a fire cook down so you don't want big flames shooting up like how a fire is when it first starts," Yeager said.
Safety tips for outdoor cooking
Prince Gallitzin State Park assistant park manager Tim Yeager said to use common sense when it comes to cooking outdoors, such as not touching the hot grate or griddle after it has sat on the fire, using leather gloves or pot holders when needed, and keeping hot dogs sticks in plain sight.
And speaking of those sticks, "one of the things we encourage campers to use instead of using sticks is purchase a metal hot dog stick You can keep on re-using, you can take them home and wash them up really easily. That way you're not taking a branch off a live tree to cook with," he said.
"You want to let it cook down so there's nice hot coals with just a little bit of flame. You want to try to regulate that flame and you really want to go after a nice hot fire to be able to keep on flipping whatever you're cooking to make it at the right temperature and get it done properly."
A griddle on top of the grate can let you cook such tasty treats as pancakes and eggs and bacon, he said.
S'mores and hamburgers and hot dogs aren't the only camping food staples.
"One of the old classics is mountain pies on the fire," Yeager said. "You can make a variety of different flavors."
Lauren Kudlawiec shared a mountain pie recipe she came up with last summer.
The Ebensburg resident who teaches at Penn Cambria High School took second place in "The Great American Cookbook Competition" on the "Rachael Ray" television show this year and is currently writing her first cookbook about healthy and affordable cooking.
She demonstrates recipes on WTAJ's "Central PA Live" every Wednesday, and writes the "Tasty Words" column for the Mirror.
"My family loves to make mountain pies around the fire. My mom would load up the serving tray with fixings and we would load up our pizza pies with cheese and sauce. Last summer, I put my own twist on the timeless campfire treat by using Reuben sandwich filling," she said in an email. "I like to make my own dressing, but you could buy store bought as well."
If you're looking to purchase a mountain pie maker, check out a store which sells camping equipment.
The mountain pie makers made of cast iron "are the best buy," she said.
Reuben Mountain Pies
Homemade Thousand Island Dressing (makes 1 1/3 cups)
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup no-sugar added ketchup, like Heinz Simply Ketchup
1/4 cup dill pickles, minced
2 tablespoons pickle juice (from the jar of the pickles)
Two dashes of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to season
Olive oil cooking spray for the mountain pie makers
1 loaf of whole wheat or square rye bread, slice with at least 16 slices
1 pound lean corned beef or turkey pastrami
1/2 pound Swiss cheese
One 14 ounce can of sauerkraut, drained
Build a nice large fire. Wait until you have a significant amount of red coals below the burning wood to ensure your mountain pies have enough coals to cook them properly. Usually this will take about 1 1/2 hours to build up enough coals.
Meanwhile, make your thousand island dressing. Combine the light mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, pickle juice, garlic powder and season with salt and pepper. Whisk together until a dressing forms. Set aside while you build your mountain pies.
Take two pieces of bread and spray each piece with the olive oil cooking spray. Flip over, as that side will face the mountain pie.
On one slice of prepared bread, layer on 2 slices of corned beef, 1 slice of Swiss cheese, 2 tablespoons sauerkraut and 1 heaping tablespoon of Thousand Island Dressing. Top with the other piece of bread. Keep the olive oil sprayed-sides facing out.
Coat the mountain pie makers with additional cooking spray. Place the sandwich inside the maker and secure it closed.
Place in the hot coals for 2-3 minutes per side.
Check them after 2 minutes; you can always cook it longer if needed. The bread should be golden brown. Carefully place the finished mountain pie on a plate and repeat the process with the remaining ingredients. Serve mountain pies with the remaining dressing for dipping.
Servings: 8-9 mountain pies
Nutritional Information: One mountain pie with one tablespoon of dressing for dipping: calories: 346; total fat: 16.8 grams; saturated fat: 6.5 grams; sodium: 1,290 milligrams; carbohydrates: 25.9 grams; fiber: 4.5 grams; sugar: 6.5 grams; protein: 30.2 grams; cholesterol: 56.1 milligrams.
More camping recipes are available from the Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation recipe booklet, which can be downloaded online at paparksandforests.org. Click the Browse & Shop or store tab, scroll to the publications section.
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.
Follow her on Twitter (@AmandaGabeletto), Facebook (Amanda Gabeletto Altoona Mirror) or on her Mirror blog "House of Gab" at www.altoonamirror.com.