[Sca-cooks] Outdoor cookery class post mortum (very long)

Michael Gunter countgunthar at hotmail.com
Mon Jun 11 15:46:19 PDT 2007

The open fire cookery class I held at King's College this
weekend was more attended than I anticipated. I had
expected 6 - 10 people and had 22 sign up. Luckily they
were a wonderful group who tolerated the heat and
smoke and 2 hour class well and with good cheer.

This was my first class on outdoor cookery so I expected
some problems and I learned a lot.
We got on site around 8 am and started setting up and
building the fire. I dug 4 holes for the Cornish Hens and
prepared both regular wood and charcoal. We had a nice
pavillion set up along with a long table for demonstration
purposes. There were benches around the firepit which
also helped with the class.

By the time students began arriving we had two chickens
spinning, one in a Dutch oven roasting and two of the
hens in crusts buried.

Although I did have several pages of class notes for handout
I did most of the talking off the cuff and tried to leave the
discussion free-form with just an outline to keep things on
track. The students were knowledgable, helpful, inquisitive
and a lot of fun.

Things went fairly well although doing an open fire demo
in June in Houston, TX really isn't a good idea. It was bloody
hot. I also caught my nice period shoes on fire a couple of

Because of time constraints, the heat and the fact that the
skillet I'd been promised was much smaller than expected some
of the demo was not included. So we didn't do the griddle bread
and Chicken & Leeks. But what was demonstrated was the Spinning
Chickens, Dutch Oven roasting, Cornish Hens in salt crust and clay,
vegetable packets cooked in coals and period lemon syrup.

Lessons Learned:
Make sure all the tools you plan on using are there beforehand so you
know what you are working with. I wanted to demonstrate cooking
in the pottery frying pan but the two beautiful pans that Mistress
Gwyneth presented me were too small. I did bring a regular frying
pan just in case but decided the real part of that class wouldn't be
done in a modern skillet.

We didn't do the bread mainly because Elizabeth was just too hot
to do it. There are recipes in my handout so that the people can
try it at home.

One important lesson is to get a lot of coals burning before class
begins. I kept running out of coals and had to make more during
the class. I need probably at least three coal chimneys and have
batches of charcoal burning all the time.

Spinning Chickens need to be put closer to the fire. They took too
long to cook because there wasn't enough heat.

The Cornish Hens were an utter failure. Although they were almost
perfect when I tried out the recipe they didn't cook at all during
the class. I realized the loose sandy soil of the teaching site doesn't
hold heat as well as the more loamy soil where I tested the recipe.
Next time I need a lot more fire in the holes. I was really disappointed
in this but the students at least got to watch the preparation of
the salt crust and clay. They just didn't get to see the end results.


The dutch oven roasted chickens have worked every time. They cook
quickly, look nice, taste great and are easy to show and prepare.
I was able to serve this to the students.

Although I didn't get to serve the spinning chickens to the class, they
were served later that night at the pot luck and were perfectly cooked.
Moist breast meat and dark meat cooked through.

The lemon syrup cooked in the pottery pipkin over coals was a huge
hit. It cooked up just right and the students were amazed with the

The veggie packets were simple and cooked very quickly in the coals
so they were also offered for sampling afterwards.

I learned a lot in teaching this and I hope the students enjoyed it
as well. I did get a lot of very nice compliments on it later and even
had the Kingdom Bard come over and ask Elizabeth and I to bring
our stuff up to his area and teach cooking in Feburary.

I most especially wish to thank my lady Elizabeth for her extremely hard
work, dedication, boot in the ass, and belief that I could pull it off.
Mistress Gwyneth & Mistress Clara for making me agree to do it. (And the
great pottery)
The Barony of Stargate for providing the site, pavillion and tables.
And most of all the fabulous students I had. They took all the difficulties
with humor, provided respectful appreciation of what I was trying to get
across and challenged me with questions. I couldn't have dreamed of
better folk.



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