In an emergency, let’s hope you have food and know how to cook it. But what happens if you end up with a fire, some food staples, and a piece of aluminum foil – can you combine those to make a tasty meal?
By Leon Pantenburg
In a survival situation, food should taste good. When (fill in the acronym) happens, previously-fussy eaters will find that hunger is the best sauce. But the same diet everyday will soon grow monotonous. (Really, how many MREs can you eat before all the entrees taste the same?)
Most people will eat whatever is available because they are hungry. But what about the old folks, little kids and toddlers? Diet monotony, or bland, repetitive tastes can cause them to just quit eating.
Obviously, this is dangerous – without the food energy, their bodies can’t produce warmth, they will grow weaker and their mental outlook and the group morale will deteriorate.
So food preparation in survival situations is important, and tasty food can start with just a piece of aluminum foil. (I carry a big piece in most of my survival kits!)
As part of a survival scenario, consider where you might be when disaster strikes, and what your needs
might be. If I’m hunting, fishing, hiking or participating in some other vigorous activity, then food is fuel. At the end of the day, I want a lot to eat, fast, and taste is not so important. If convenience is the major consideration, I’ll eat whatever is available. Frequently, that might be something like jerky and hardtack.
But if I’m at a Central Oregon Dutch Oven Society outing, a group devoted to outdoor epicurean cuisine, then gourmet-style food prepared outside in a cast iron pot over coals is the reason for being there.
The lowly foil wrap can fit quite well into either category, and a well-prepared prepper or survivalist should know this
survival technique. A wrap is nothing more than food bound up in aluminum foil and cooked over campfire coals or on a grill over charcoal. The wrap can be the main course, a side dish or a dessert. Foil wrap food can be as simple as a foiled baking potato or ear of corn on the cob or as complicated as a delicate salmon fillet smothered with fresh herbs and vegetables.
At elk or deer hunting camp, we frequently prepare a simple foil wrap of sliced potatoes and onions seasoned with some garlic and gobbed with butter the night before. We hunt all the next day, and whoever gets to camp first starts the fire. By the time everyone gets back after dark, there is a nice bed of coals to use with the Dutch ovens and foil wraps.
The wrap is tossed on the coals, biscuits are popped out of the tube into a Dutch oven, and elk or deer backstrap is sliced, dredged in flour and fried. Total time for a great meal is about 30 minutes.
Foil wraps are simple and fun and are a great way to make lunch with your kids. A wrap can make a nice meal to take along on an outing or day hike. A foil wrap stored in a plastic bag can be perfect for a noon meal in the backcountry. And everyone can make their own, dictated by their own tastes.
As a cooking merit badge counselor for Boy Scout Troop 18, I frequently run across youngsters who, according to their parents, are very fussy eaters.
Wraps can change that. Let the youngster decide what ingredients go into a wrap for lunch or dinner, but make sure there are veggies, some soup for a broth and fish or meat. The novelty of building your very own fire, and cooking over it, plus the positive peer pressure of the other kids will overshadow previous food prejudices.
In wilderness cooking, every recipe should start with soap and water or hand sanitizer. Even though the cooking conditions may be primitive, sanitation shouldn’t be, and a case of dysentery or giardia can taint those otherwise great memories.
Food preparation with foil wraps is simplicity itself, and for short day trips, all the cutting and dicing can be done at home. For longer trips, some dishes can be pre-made, wrapped and frozen. Insulate the frozen food well, place it in the bottom of your pack, and it should thaw out in time to make a fresh, hearty meal for the second night out.
To wrap the food, place it in the center of a rectangular piece of heavy duty foil, then bring the long edges together on top. Fold the long edge over once, then continue roll-folding until it’s snug over the food. There should be several inches at each open end that are clear of food.
Then, roll the ends in tightly, compressing the food and making sure that each end has at least three complete rolls. This prevents juices from escaping during cooking and gives you something to hang on to when turning the packet.
Sometimes, depending on what’s cooking, you’ll want to double wrap the packet. To avoid any leakage while transporting, put the completed package in a plastic bag. Then, when you’re done eating, put all the leftovers and used foil in the bag and carry it out. (Sounds like a tasty MRE, right?)
Temperatures for foil wrap cooking are best learned through experience and will depend to a certain extent on what is in the wrap. But a good rule of thumb is that the coals should be hot enough that you can place your hand an inch above the grate for about five seconds, but no longer, without discomfort.
You may put the wrap directly in the coals of a campfire, but make sure the fire isn’t too hot. A good idea is to rake some coals away from the flames and place the wrap directly on them. Obviously, you’ll need to watch the wrap closely.
Food is a critical item among preppers, survivalists, outdoorspeople and anyone who needs energy. Storing and preserving food is a consideration for whatever disaster and/emergency might happen.
But regardless of what stockpiled food you may have or what you cook, a little planning, preparation and foil can make a great meal.
And that’s a wrap.
Try these recipes with your kids, or outdoors beginners to teach the foil wrap technique:
ENGLISH MUFFIN PIES
2 TSP butter or margarine
1 English muffin, split
12-inch square of foil
3 TBS canned pie filling, any flavor
Butter the outside of the muffin and place down on the shiny side of the foil. Top with pie filling. Butter the other muffin half and place on top of the fruit. Roll the foil over the muffin and make sure the ends are securely rolled.
Cook for about 15 minutes, moving the packet every few minutes. When done, the outside of the muffin should be browned. Be careful the filling will be extremely hot. Let cool before eating.
HERBED FISH AND CARROTS
18-inch square of foil
2 whole small carrots
1 TBS of margarine or butter
1/2 tsp of dried herb mix
1/4 tsp lemon pepper or garlic pepper
Fresh fish fillets, about four to five ounces
Lay foil shiny side down on flat surface. Peel carrots and slice 1/4-inch thick. Arrange down the center of the foil. Cut butter into pats and distribute over the carrots. Place fish on top of the carrots and sprinkle the herbs and lemon pepper over the fillet. Cut the remaining butter into pats and distribute over the fish.Fold the foil around the fish and place the packet fish side upon coals. Cook for about 15 minutes, then flip and cook another eight to 10 minutes.
To serve, carefully open the packet; serve directly from the foil or transfer all the contents to an individual plate.
<FOILED AGAIN HAMBURGER DINNER
18-by-24-inch piece of heavy duty foil
1 TBS of barbecue sauce
1/4 small onion
5 ounces of lean ground beef or venison
1/4 tsp seasoned salt or garlic salt
1/2 small baking potato
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into pennies
Fold the foil in half, shiny side in. Place the barbecue sauce in the center. Peel onion, slice and arrange over the sauce. Combine ground meat and seasoned salt, mix well and form into oblong patty, about 4-by-3-by-3/4 inches and place on top of the onions. Peel potato and carrot and slice both 1/8-inch thick. Top patty with potatoes and carrots. Fold foil over the ingredients and be sure to seal the ends very well.
Place packet on grill or coals, and turn and rotate every 10 minutes. Total cooking time should be about 35 minutes.
To check for doneness, open packet. Vegetables should be tender and meat should be medium-well.
TROOP 18 FOIL WRAP COBBLER
White or yellow cake mix
Pats of butter or margarine
This is a beginner recipe that is very popular with kids or first-time campers and adapts the time-honored dump cake to foil.
Place several tablespoons of pie filling on the foil, then top with cake mix and pats of butter. Fold the ingredients into the foil and place on the grill. Cook about 10 to 12 minutes on one side, then flip and cook another 5 to 10 minutes.