Until recently, I seldom used a tripod for anything more than boiling water. Why go to the effort to make a tripod when you can cook directly over the coals? But I have come to appreciate the heat control a tripod affords. You can hang your pot high over a flaming young fire, and lower it as the fire burns down to a mature bed of coals to maintain a constant heat. Or you can hang your pot low to bring it to a boil, the rise it high to simmer without needing constant attention to prevent scorching your food.
The advantage of this technique became obvious when I used it to make chili on a recent camping trip. My brother and I spent the afternoon lolling about in our hammocks, reading and swilling gin and tonics while the beans simmered unattended for hours.
- large hanging pot or Dutch oven, spoon, ladle, knife, cutting board
- 3 handfuls dried beans rinse and pre-soak beans overnight, or minimum 6 hour. Hot water can reduce soaking time.
- 1-2 pounds meat steak, chuck roast or venison, cut into bite sized strips
- 1 red onion peeled and diced into large chunks
- 2 sticks celery cut bite sized, leaves diced fine
- 1 zucchini chopped bite sized
- 1 bell pepper diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomato (or a half dozen fresh tomatoes, chopped)
- to taste chili powder I used about 4 three-fingered pinches
- 1/2 handful minced parsley
- 2 pinches salt
- 1 pinch basil
- 1 pinch oregano
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- 4 or 5 dashes hot sauce
- more or less unfiltered apple cider to adjust liquid level I used about a cup
- 1 gallon water you will need enough water to rinse and soak beans an enough more to cover the beans while simmering.
- Rinse and drain beans. Start soaking them first thing in the morning, or even the night before. You can shorten the soaking time by starting with scalding water. The older the beans, the longer they will need to soak.
- Around three in the afternoon, drain beans and cover with fresh water in a covered pot and bring to simmer. Reduce heat - if hanging from tripod, raise the pot high above fire. If using Dutch oven, use more coals under than over and renew just often enough to keep at the edge of a simmer.
- While the beans are coming to a simmer, cut the steak into bite sized strips and sear it in hot oil before adding it to the beans. Stir in tomatoes. Allow mixture to simmer for 3-4 hours. Add cider or water as necessary. Do not allow to scorch or boil dry.
- Around six p.m. add spices, herbs, onions and other vegetables and more liquid if needed. The chili will need to cook for a couple more hours. It is done when the beans are tender.
- Start cooking your cornbread about half an hour before you anticipate the chili will be finished.