by Steve Peterson
A total of 15 dishes were placed in black bowls on tables at Oak Grove State Park.
They were the result of hours of planning and recipes leading up to a Dutch Oven baking gathering held for the second straight year at the park near Hawarden, on a very Summer-like Sept. 29.
“It’s not the competition but the friendship and fellowship and learning the art of Dutch Oven cooking, which is very easy once you get started,” said Sunday Ford, Sioux County Conservation Board Naturalist.
Josh and Tom Roder of Granville took home the apron given to the winner after judging, but the real winner was spreading the Dutch Oven cooking style.
“Delicious” was the most common description as the nine participants and their companions dined at Turkey Run Campground about 6:00 p.m.
Shawn and Joanne Munns of Hawarden were busy making a pot roast at their site.
“We just love it but we’re kind of new at this. You wait for the last hour to put in the vegetables,” said Joanne.
“We like the temperature of the fire to be between 275 and 300 degrees. It’s experimenting and trial and error, a crap-shoot,” said Shawn.
Don and Marie Mulder of Ireton were in the early stages of making their pork stew, and a peach cobbler dessert, at the last of the nine sites participating. They said they often bring their camper and camp at Oak Grove. Their relatives just bought them a tripod, which helps stabilize the pot as its ingredients are cooked.
“We love it here. We always come Friday afternoons about 5 p.m,” said the Mulders. “I used to cook outside all the time when I worked with the Cadets. It’s fun.
“If you can hold your hand over the fire for five seconds, it’s about 350 degrees,” said Mulder.
Gert Coetzer can probably claim the distance of farthest traveled for the Saturday night event. He is from Cape Town, South Africa, and came to Le Mars for a job at Wells Blue Bunny earlier this year.
“This is the way we cook in South Africa,” said Coetzer as he set up the oven using wood.
Amy Grooters of Boyden got some help from Ford’s daughter, Brooke, in peeling apples for her apple crisp.
“I attended women in the outdoors programs and this is how I got started,” said Grooters, a retired school teacher. “I put raisins in the apple crisp. I’m making polish sausage, meat and potatoes, too,” she said.
Dallas Dohlmann travels throughout southern Minnesota and Northwest Iowa as a member of Dakota Dutchers of Sioux Falls, S.D., a group that meets monthly and exchanges recipes and is open to the public,
Dohlmann showed a trick of using an egg carton and wax to distribute wood shavings.
Although not a problem this day, sometimes a heavy wind can mean a challenge for charcoals. And while some said they have used Dutch Ovens on Christmas Day, at 35 to 40 degrees, it simply takes longer if it’s cold.
Many said they enjoyed the thrill of meeting new people at these Dutch Oven cooking events.
Oak Grove State Park’s Turkey Ridge and Deer Run campgrounds will be busy again on Oct. 13, Trick-or-Treat night at the park.