Recipes from the Reluctant Camper

By Lauren Lampasone, Reference and Research Services
July 7, 2016

Car camping, from the "The Pageant of America" Collection. Image ID: 101826

Summer is in full swing. Maybe you've taken a cruise, a roadtrip, a European jaunt or a trip to the beach, but summer would not be complete without a night spent with only a thin layer of nylon separating you from the starry sky and the cool night air... am I right?

No?! Well to be honest, I haven't always felt that way. I am a reluctant camper. If you are too, all you need is a patient (and preferably more camping-experienced) friend or family member and maybe a few books from the library to get you started.


Camping Gadgets. Image ID: 1135454

Cooking and enjoying food is probably my favorite hobby, so it is exciting for me to have the opportunity to expand my repertoire to the fire pit once in a while. On my last trip I was really happy to have found Campfire Cookery: Adventuresome Recipes & Other Curiosities for the Great Outdoors. While the writing style is a little twee, the suggested meals go way beyond the standard hot dog and marshmallow fare. I ended up making lemon curd (for breakfast with English muffins) and garlic aïoli (for smothering some flame broiled sardines in a baguette) based on recipes in the book.

To be clear, I prepared most of these recipes before I left for the great outdoors. They all keep wonderfully in a cooler for a few days; maybe I will try something more adventurous next time.

Lemon Curd

(adapted from Campfire Cookery by Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young)

1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1/4 C sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice (from those 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)

Whisk egg and yolk, sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Whisk in the lemon juice and drop in the butter pieces. Put the saucepan over low heat and stir constantly with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon. Keep stirring until it is thick enough to pile up when pushed to the side, 10-15 minutes. Don't let it get hot enough to bubble, if it does take it off the heat and stir vigorously.

When it's nice and thickened, push it through a sieve into a bowl containing the lemon zest. Stir it all together. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming; once it cools transfer it to a jar and chill in the fridge for a few hours.

(Note: This is halved from what is in the book, and there are also tangerine and grapefruit variations available there.)

Bast's Grilled Sardines & Lemon Aïoli Tartine

(adapted fromCampfire Cookery by Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young)

1 egg yolk at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice at room temp
1/2 cup olive oil at room temp
1 chopped garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon (or 1/2 lemon's worth) lemon zest
pinch of kosher salt

Whisk together the yolk, salt, and lemon juice; drizzle in a steady thread of oil. If you've made mayonnaise before you know not to add the oil too fast and to stir like crazy. Your arm should end up hurting really bad. Or you can use a food processor and drizzle the oil in through the top. Your call. It's either more dishes to clean or tired arm muscles, as I've discovered. Anyway, continue until all the oil is incorporated and the mixture is thick. Mix in the zest, garlic and salt. Cover and send to the fridge.

You can use fresh sardines (get the book to read the instructions on that) or just use canned (when you're really hungry after a long day of hiking I don't think it matters). Heat them up on a piece of foil on the grill top over the fire. Toast the bread too. Put it all together with the aïoli and enjoy—even your mayonnaise-hating friend will love it. Sardines are brain food!

Where every month is Summer - Camping life in southern California, U.S.A., Digital ID G89F368_034F, New York Public Library

I don't know why, but browsing the energy bar aisle in the grocery store always makes me tired and depressed. So I decided to make my own granola bars (from How to Cook Everything) for hiking with leftover granola (from Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys: Recipes, Strategies, and Survival Techniques.) They turned out very sweet but also powerful enough to get me up a small mountain and back.

No-Bake Granola Bars

(adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe, see below)

1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used apricots and dates and a few prunes)
1/4 cup neutral oil, like grapeseed
3 cups granola (next time I'll use less, they were a bit crumbly)

Put the dried fruit and oil in a food processor and purée until smooth, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides if necessary. (Add small amounts of water if the fruit is dried out and not processing.) Transfer to a small pot and bring to a boil. Put the granola in a large bowl and combine with the fruit mixture; stir until the granola is well coated. Press into an 8- or 9-inch square pan and let cool in the fridge. Cut into squares or rectangles and separate with that press-and-seal type plastic wrap.

For variations on this, including versions without fruit or with nut butter, see How to Cook Everything or the full recipe on

Hiking and Camping

camping in comfort

Camping in Comfort: A Guide to Roughing It with Ease and Style by Lynn Haney
A guide to outdoor gear that actually makes a reluctant camper excited about all the STUFF she can acquire to be more comfy! But the emphasis here is really on making the right decisions based on your needs and camping comfort level. It includes information on tents, sleeping gear, clothing, and cooking supplies. It also offers details on public and private campgrounds, luxury camping resorts, backpacking, bicycle camping, kayak camping, and RV camping, so it is great for experienced campers and newbies alike.

Under the Stars: How America Fell in Love With Camping By Dan White (2016)The Green Guide To Low-Impact Hiking And Camping by Laura and Guy Waterman; foreword by Bill McKibben (2016)Fifty Places To Camp Before You Die: Camping Experts Share The World's Greatest Destinations by Chris Santella; foreword by Mike Harrelson (2016)Basic Illustrated Camping by Cliff Jacobson; illustrations by Lon Levin (2015)Hiking The Road To Ruins: Daytrips And Camping Adventures To Iron Mines, Old Military Sites, And Things Abandoned In The New York City Area—And Beyond by David A. Steinberg (2015)Camping's Top Secrets: A Lexicon Of Expert Camping Tips by Cliff Jacobson (2013)Best Tent Camping, New York State: Your Car-camping Guide To Scenic Beauty, The Sounds Of Nature, And An Escape From Civilization by Catharine Starmer, Aaron Starmer, Timothy Starmer (2013)Camping New York: A Comprehensive Guide To Public Tent And RV Campgrounds by Ben Keene (2013)

Cooking Outdoors

scout's outdoor cookbook

The Scout's Outdoor Cookbook by Christine & Tim Conners
This book was written by and for scouts, as in, girl and boy scouts and their leaders. But even scouting drop-outs like me can use it to learn about cooking techniques and times, and how to best cook for a crowd when you do not have any of the conveniences of an indoor kitchen. "Each recipe includes number of servings, a difficulty rating, a list of required equipment, and a handy icon to let the reader see the cooking method (dutch oven, skillet, etc.) at a glance." Very handy.

The Complete Book Of Outdoor Cookery by James Beard and Helen Evans Brown (2015)The Picnic: Recipes And Inspiration From Basket To Blanket by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson (2014)Campfire Cookery: Adventuresome Recipes & Other Curiosities for the Great Outdoors by Sarah Huck (2011)The New Trailside Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes For The Camp Chef by Kevin Callan & Margaret Howard (2013)Cooking The Dutch Oven Way by by Woody Woodruff (2013)The Wilderness Guide To Dutch Oven Cooking by Kate Rowinski; photography by Jim Rowinski (2012)NOLS Cookery edited by Claudia Pearson; illustrations by Mike Clelland (2012)Food Safety While Hiking, Camping & Boating (2011)The Curmudgeon's Book of Skillet Cooking: More Than 101 Easy Recipes for Jackleg Cooks, One-Armed Chefs, and Practical Housewives by A. D. Livingston (2011)Campfire Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors by Robin Donovan (2006)Backpack Gourmet: Good Hot Grub You Can Make at Home, Dehydrate, and Pack For Quick, Easy, and Healthy Eating On The Trail by Linda Frederick Yaffe (2002)The Portable Baker: Baking on Boat and Trail by Jean Spangenberg (1997)

For more inspiration as far as places to head out to, check out Kerri Wallace's posts on hiking spots near NYC and the Finger Lakes, and Sherri Liberman's postcard from Maine. Where do you like to camp? More importantly, what do you like to cook there?

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Camping out, Lake George, N.Y. Image ID: G91F121_033F