Roger Edison has collected a lot of lore and useful information about Chuckwagons and Cowboy Cooking. Here’s a plan for building a cowboy fire box. Admittedly not for leave no trace camping or backpacking the fire box is intended for serious grub!
Take a look around Roger’s website and you’ll find things like this recipe;
Chuck Wagon Beans
Beans have been a hearty food that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Plus there are so many types of beans to select from when making a great dish. This is one way of making a great bean dish which was served along the trail drives from the Chuck wagon. This special recipe is not a chili as it has no hot peppers in this dish. It’s slow cooked and one word best explains why it is worth the time: FLAVOR
- 1 lb bacon
- 3 lbs ground beef
- 3 medium chopped onions
- 1 c finely chopped celery
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 1/2 c ketchup
- 3 Tb dry mustard
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 3 lbs Pinto Beans
- 1/4 c molasses
Soak beans in water for 12 hours just lightly covering
- Preheat oven to 375
- Fry bacon in a dutch oven until crisp, remove, and drain on paper towels
- Brown the hamburger, onion, celery, and garlic in the bacon drippings
- Drain off grease and return to pot
- Stir in broth and remaining ingredients, except bacon
- Cover and cook 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until bubbly
- Crumble bacon over the beans.
Notes: Some beans refuse to soften, no matter what you do to them. You can soak them and cook them all day long, but they remain hard as pebbles. Believe it or not, the bean growers industry actually has a name for this problem; HTC Defect. HTC stands for “Hard To Cook.” Seriously! The main causes of HTC are improper storage and age. If beans have been stored at high temperatures (100ºF or higher) and/or there is high humidity (80%), or they been sitting on a shelf for a long time, chemical changes occur inside the bean and it essentially dies. As a consumer, we can’t tell ahead of time if the beans we just bought will be affected by the dreaded HTC Defect. We can try to avoid this situation by checking the package dating, buying dry beans from a source that’s likely to have fast turnover, and storing dried beans in an airtight container and a dry, dark, cool place.
As dry beans age, they lose moisture, and become increasingly harder to cook. I have been able to rehydrate and cook packaged beans that were 2 years old. However, I had to double the cooking time to get them tender enough to eat, and that probably resulted in a significant loss in nutrients. If there is any doubt about cooking old beans, do a test first. Soak 1-2 tablespoons of the beans and then pressure cook them for the recommended time. If they are not tender at that point, you’ll need to decide if you want to proceed and cook them until they finally get tender, or toss them and buy fresh beans.