Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In Dutch

Seems there's a bit of interest in the ol' Dutch Oven, so I'll post a bit of what I know, and a little bit of conjecture.

There are many variations on the theme, but basically Dutch Oven is a three-to-six quart covered pot that can be used in many different ways: on the stovetop, in the oven, or even in a fireplace or campfire. Dutch ovens are made of diffent materials: kiln-baked ceramic, stoneware, Pyrex and stainless steel are all used, but by far the most common material for the Dutch oven is cast iron. It can have one long or two short handles, or even a bucket-style carrying handle, and the handles and lid are both oven-safe. Some dutch ovens even have three short legs, for use in campfires.

It's basically the all-purpose pot that European immigrants brought over with them when America was new, but was modified here in the United States for use in the western expansion.

There's a lot of speculation over the name. The 'oven' part is fairly obvious--an oven is a chamber or enclosed compartment for heating, baking, or roasting food. The mobile nature of early American settlers required that their ovens be mobile as well. The 'Dutch' part is a bit of a mystery. The most likely scenario involves the German artisans who settled in Pennsylvania, known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Dutch, in this case is an Americanization of Deutsche, which is German for...well...German. Most of the westward expansion went through Pennsylvania (where they bought their Conestoga Wagons--the 'prairie schooner'), so it makes sense that they bought their cookware there as well.

As more and more Americans went westward, the basic cook pot was modified to suit the needs of the pioneers. It was streamlined, made shorter and wider, in order to have more surface area to heat the food. The lid was made sturdier, tighter fitting, so that hot coals could be placed on top as well, further quickening cooking time. The big, bulky, old-fashioned kettle was phased out, replaced by this new pot made by the Pennsylvania Dutch blacksmiths. The 'Dutch Oven' was just as neccessary as a good rifle. One of the best manufacturers of Dutch Ovens today is Lodge Manufacturing, and its founder, Joseph Lodge, was one of those Pennsylvania Dutch craftsmen. Their website boasts that some of their skillets and Dutch Ovens made a century ago are still in use.

The Dutch Oven is still one of the staples of many campground. There's even an International Society of Dutch Oven Enthusiasts, which I didn't know about until I went searching for a picture for my last post; whose members, if I may editorialize, need to get a life.*

If you're looking to buy a Dutch Oven, I would reccomend getting a cast iron one. The trick to cast iron is seasoning. If you're really interested, the Lodge website has easy instructions for seasoning and care of cast iron.

However, I confess: I do not have a cast iron Dutch Oven. Mine's Calphalon. Yeah, it's really cool, and I love the whole set. Which was, as I have mentioned, a gift. But if I were to buy one for myself, I'd go cast iron.

As far as recipes...there's lots of good ones on line. Do a Google search on "Dutch Oven recipes, and you'll find a plethora of tasty meals. I use mine primarly for chili. I make damn good chili.

Maybe my recipe will be the next post.

*I'm kidding! I'm kidding! Sheesh--the last thing I need is a bunch of Dutch Oveners on my ass.


Blogger Dear Lovey Heart said...

they do sound likea fierce group, the Dutch Oveners

11:56 PM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Any one who cares enough about a cooking pot to join an International Society regarding it would no doubt have few reservations over reaming me a new one for making fun of them.


7:08 AM  
Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

I went to that International Dutch Oven Society website and was disappointed that there is no NH chapter!

I like the little black pots throughout the website to link to other pages.

I did notice that the championship cook-off (only for those who have "qualified" in their chapter) is in Utah. That sounds about right. We had an au pair live with us for a year who was a mormon and this would be a perfect activity for that group. (This is based on many discussions I had with her about the mormon religion, especially regarding the role of women.)

I'm sure your history and glowing review of the dutch oven will keep them from attacking. I still wouldn't want angry Oveners coming after me...

8:10 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

i can't deal with cast iron. i'd love to have one of those cast iron cornbread pans that makes the cornbread into little corn shapes, but i seriously cannot deal with the seasoning. but, i do have a dutch oven (and ironically, my husband nastily did the other one you mentioned last night...ass) and i love my dutch oven pot. can't live without it!

8:29 AM  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Dutch Oveners on your ass sounds like a p0rno.

3:07 PM  
Blogger mal said...

mine is Calphalon too. I bought it 4 years ago and love it!

6:08 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Bring on the chili recipe.

6:42 PM  

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