Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pizza in a Hole in the Wild

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
-Henry David Thoreau

Who wants pizza?

The empty wilds, trackless woods, and countless stars are the house and home of my soul...but that doesn't mean I can't eat well when out away from civilization. Another weekend was spent at the Busman's place felling 100' loblolly pines which will eventually become a home for him and his family. But for now the creature comforts are only what you can carry in a backpack. Okay, and in a truck capable of offroading. Last time I was there I built a stone oven in the side of a small hill and cooked biscuits, potatoes, and my feet (it got down to 21F that night). This time I had set my culinary sights much!

Camp Cooking

The process started with building a nice fire of seasoned oak inside the oven and feeding it for three hours to get the interior soaked with heat. Luckily this didn't need constant watching, just checking every 30-40 minutes and adding wood as necessary.

The oven.
Camp Cooking

Earlier that day I found some perfect greenbriar tips and a somewhat old but usable oyster mushroom. I've never had a greenbriar/wild oyster mushroom/pepperoni pizza before but it sounded like a great thing to make.


Oyster mushroom! Younger would have been better. At this stage it was pretty chewy.

Instant pizza dough is my go-to source of bread in the woods. All it needs added is some really warm water, a bit of kneading, a dash of oil, and some time to rise. Normally I use it for stick bread or cooking in my pie iron but this time it was actually used for pizza. I let the dough rise inside my truck which was quite warm inside due to the sun shining through the windows.

These go everywhere in the wild with me!
Camp Cooking

I thought one packet would give me enough to make a deep-dish pizza in my 12" cast iron pan but it only covered the pan's bottom. Next time I'll use two packages to have enough to go up the sides of the pan. To help prevent sticking I coated the bottom of the pan with a bit of the dry pizza dough mix held aside specifically for this. I par-baked this crust for ~6 minutes in the hillside oven and then lined the pan sides with giant tortillas. Deep-dish pizza save!

The pizza starts coming together.
Camp Cooking

Contadina makes pizza sauce in a squeeze bottle. What's nice about this is is doesn't need refrigeration. It has a pretty good flavor but a Papa John's spice packet gives it a little more pep.
Camp Cooking

Multiple layer's of sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, then topped with the oyster mushroom, sliced greenbriar, and a ring of pepperoni.
Camp Cooking

The hot coals were pushed to the back of the oven until there was room to put in the pan/pizza. It was in there about 12 minutes, being turned about a third of the way around at minute 4 and 8. The cement door is closed between turnings to keep the heat in the oven and to reflect back heat from the coals.

Into the oven!
Camp Cooking

Out of the oven!
Camp Cooking

There were only two of us and the pizza was THICK! The Busman has a fridge in his bus so leftover pizza for breakfast.
Camp Cooking

Some may say cooking like this takes away some of the bonding with nature that one goes into the woods for. They may be right but I also go into the woods to test myself and my ability to do stuff. I've read about earth ovens but I wanted to try it, not just read about it. As much as I admire Thoreau's, Aldo Leopold's, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's simple bonds with nature, I guess I'm too much of a scientist to follow directly in their shoes. To be isn't enough for me. To be more is my goal.

Adventure! Excitement! Pepperoni!

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