Every Memorial Day weekend for the past eight years there has been a DOG at Rumsey Park. Not the wagging tail kind, but the kind that might make you wag your tail if you had one. The DOG is a Dutch Oven Gathering and the food the participants produce is tail-wagging wonderful. Think chicken enchiladas topped with perfectly melted, lightly browned cheese; beautifully baked bread; pineapple upside down cake and more.
John Swenson and Mac Feezor are Payson’s own Dukes of the Dutch Oven and they have been organizing the DOG over the years. This year, they were encouraged to try to have something on a monthly basis and Swenson said they might try to do something in the fall if there is enough interest.
Swenson has been doing Dutch Oven cooking since 1972. He started when he was a Scout leader, learning from someone and doing a lot of self-teaching.
“I made a lot of mistakes… Like putting too much heat on the bottom and not enough on the top,” he said.
He explained the rule of thumb for good camp cooking with a Dutch Oven is to have twice as many coals on the lid as under the pot.
Swenson doesn’t participate in the Dutch Oven cooking contests, but he does a lot of cooking with the utensil. Recently he was up on the Rim with a crew that cooked for a 60-member boys’ camp and a 90-member girls’ camp. The biggest group he has cooked for was 320 people, with the help of a crew. He also uses it at home in the oven.
“Anything you can cook in a regular oven at home, you can cook in a Dutch Oven,” he said.
The best kind to use in camping is one with the three legs that lift it a little above the coals. The flat-bottom kind is better for cooking at home. Dutch Ovens come in a range of sizes, starting at eight inches in diameter and going up to 20 inches. There are also some specialty sizes out on the market, but they are more often just for decoration, he said.
Swenson’s favorite Dutch Oven dish? Cakes — pineapple upside down cake, a boxed spice cake mix combined with apple pie filling, a chocolate cake mix and cherry pie filling, a yellow cake mix with peach pie filling. He said he also likes a Mountain Man Breakfast made in a Dutch Oven. This is eggs, sausage and potatoes, all mixed together and baked in the utensil.
He said the time it takes to cook something in a Dutch Oven is about the same time it takes in a regular oven.
Swenson said anyone interested in having a Dutch Oven Gathering in the fall can get in touch with him. Call (928) 472-3331 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.