Open Fire Beef Stew

Today was very warm for the middle of January. Even though it was a little windy and we had scattered showers, I wanted to cook something on the fire. I started preparing this at about 1:00 in the afternoon. After I put all my ingredients in the pot, I let it warm up on my woodstove then started my fire outside. Here’s how to fix beef stew on the open fire.

Ingredients:

1 lb beef stew meat

1 onion

2 stalks celery

2 carrots

1 sweet potato

2 garlic cloves

One Pint tomato puree (from my canned tomatoes)

½ stick butter

Parsley

Salt and pepper

The first part is done on the stovetop, not the fire. (I mean, it can be done on the fire, but I just used the indoor stove to quickly get the first part done.)

Start out by browning the beef stew meat in oil. (I used leftover bacon grease, but any cooking oil will do.) Heat the oil for a minute, then salt and pepper the meat, and brown on all sides. This just takes a few minutes if the skillet is good and hot. Transfer the contents of the skillet (meat and grease and all) to the stew pot.

Chop veggies. I kept them in larger pieces, because this stew will be cooking for a while and I don’t want it to turn to mush. Add all the veggies to the pot. Add the garlic, minced.

Fill up the pot with water. I used about 4 cups for my pot, but just make sure everything is covered by an inch or two.

Pour in the tomato puree. I used a pint of my canned tomatoes for this. I just blended them up with an immersion blender. I suppose you could leave them whole, but my little boy complains about seeing tomatoes in his food.

Add the ½ stick of butter. Sprinkle in about 2 tbsp dried parsley. Salt and pepper the whole stew. Stir it up good, and get ready to put on the fire!

It would be a good idea to have the fire prepared ahead of time, but I was busy doing other things and didn’t start it on time! So, as you can see in the picture, I just set my pot on my hot woodstove and let it kind of warm up while I was getting my fire ready.

Fire Starting 101:

Find dry kindling. Damp kindling will stall the process considerably. (This I know from experience. I learn the hard way sometimes.)

Today, I shoveled about two heaping shovels full of coals from my woodstove to speed up my fire. I added my coals to the kindling, and we were on our way to a good fire. I slowly added bigger pieces of wood until I had a good fire going.

Usually we have to start all the way from scratch, meaning newspaper, twigs and lighters! But my coals from my stove moved me forward several steps!

(Some of you may be wondering where my boys were during this process. They were playing on porch, swinging in swings, and sitting in the stroller.)

So once the fire has coals built up, it’s time to put the pot on the fire! My beautiful tripod set and S hooks were made by my very talented blacksmith father, Donny. Thanks Daddy! Some daughters like jewelry or whatever, but I like iron-work. Speaking of this, I have to take a minute to talk about my stew pot. The pot belonged to my great-great grandparents on the Abbott side. My daddy got the pot, cleaned it up, and re-seasoned it for me for a Christmas present several years ago. I love cast iron, but I especially love it if it is a family heirloom! This pot may have been used as a flower pot the last part of the 20th century. But once cast iron is cleaned up and taken care of, it’s like brand new. So now I cook in it! I love it.

Back to the stew. This stew is not something you can just leave for the rest of the day. I run out every half hour or so and make sure it’s boiling properly, while also making sure I have plenty of wood on the fire. I give it a stir, too, and make sure it’s not sticking. (Also make sure there is still plenty of liquid.) After about 5 hours on the fire, it’s dinnertime! I taste it, make sure the seasonings are just right, and we eat.

A note on timing for cooking on an open fire: Unlike an oven, where the temperatures are constant, the open fire is obviously not constant. The only temperature I know to describe the open fire is “hot”. So, if you have your pot on a hot fire for several hours, you’ll know when the stew is done. Check the meat for tenderness, and once it’s to your liking, it will be perfect. Cooking on the open fire is not very hard. It just takes time and hot coals.

What are your favorite open fire meals? Share your experiences with us!

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