For those of us who are married and feel compelled to live more sustainable lifestyles, we know that having common vision with our spouse is essential if we are going to experience success at any level. Next year will mark Nancy’s and my 40th anniversary and I am still growing in my love and appreciation for the amazing woman God has given me.
Nancy is a person that can adapt to almost any situation. When she is in public she is outgoing and vibrant. She genuinely loves people and fully enjoys being with them. When she is on the ranch she relishes the quiet and solitude. I feel blessed to be married to someone that has so much diversity and the unique ability to live in the two very different worlds God has put us in. I think that people who haven’t been exposed to our rural lifestyle would be surprised to learn how proficient she is at doing some rather unusual skills.
One thing about Nancy that few people know is that she is a great Dutch oven cook. She started cooking with Dutch ovens years ago when we worked during the summers for our old friend Pat Armstrong building wilderness trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Nancy cooked for us over an open campfire where she learned to value the Dutch oven. She also used them at home, on the old ranch, both on top of the wood cook stove and in the fireplace.
Years later our family decided to join together and build a mountain cabin here in Idaho. The construction took us three summers during which time we would set up a permanent camp from spring until fall. We used vacation time and my weekly day off to work together as a family. This meant a lot of mouths to feed, and once again, meals that had to be prepared over an open fire pit.
It was during this period that Nancy learned to stack her ovens. Dutch ovens come in a variety of sizes. Nancy uses five different sizes starting with an 8″ pot that holds two quarts up to a 16″ which holds twelve quarts and weighs over thirty pounds empty. Dutch ovens were purposefully designed to be stacked one on the other so that an entire meal can be cooked and completed at one time. Cooking like this takes experience and is nothing short of an amazing art form. Because of the heavy weight of the cast iron pots I’ve had to lend a helping hand and have had a firsthand observation of the process.
When cooking with Dutch ovens, Nancy starts by planning her menu which consists of a main course all the way to a dessert. Generally she prepares the main course in the largest oven. This might be a roast, a leg of lamb or a turkey. In her medium sized ovens she prepares vegetables, beans, or a potato dish and in the small ovens a cobbler dessert. She has also baked biscuits, bread or even an occasional cake. When all the pots are loaded and ready for cooking a pile of white hot charcoal is made ready. Depending on the amount of heat that is needed for each oven will determine the amount of charcoal that is used. When not cooking in the back country Nancy often uses commercial briquettes because they are easier to distribute around the ovens. I’m always amazed at how few of them are needed to generate the heat that is required. Generally she lays out about a dozen on the ground and sets the largest oven on top of them. On the concave lid of the pot she places another layer of coals and sets the next size oven on it. She continues that process until the smallest oven is set in place completing the entire stack. In a matter of minutes things start to bubble and brew. Steam begins to seep out of the tightly fitted lids and with it a magnificent blend of aromas.
When Nancy says it’s time to eat everyone gathers around in the anticipation of seeing the results as she un-lids the various kettles. This ceremony is always accompanied with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and a meal that has lasting memory.
For some great recipes that Nancy uses go to Byron’s Dutch Oven recipes – check out his Honey Clove Turkey – We have used this for our Thanksgiving dinner.