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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Dutch oven Cook-Off

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A contestant prepares a dish for the judges, below, to sample and judge.Photos by Steven Looney
Jambalaya, cornbread, or turtle cake sounds like something you would order in a restaurant -- right?

Those are just a few of the items cooked at the Mammoth Spring State Park, on Saturday, March 7 when the Mammoth Spring Chamber of Commerce and Mammoth Spring State Park sponsored the second annual Dutch Oven Cook-Off.

Six teams were entered in the competition using a classic form of cooking -- the Dutch oven.

A Dutch oven is a thick-walled iron (usually cast iron) cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid. A camping, cowboy, or chuckwagon Dutch oven has three legs, a wire bail handle and a slightly concave, rimmed lid so that coals from the cooking fire can be placed on top as well as below. This provides more uniform internal heat and lets the inside act as an oven.

The cast-iron cookware was loved by colonists and settlers because of its versatility and durability. It could be used for boiling, baking, stews, frying, roasting and just about any other use.

The ovens were so valuable that wills in the 18th and 19th centuries frequently spelled out the desired inheritor of the cast iron cookware.

Assistant Park Superintendent Glenda Pryor said, "Each of the six teams in the competition, are required to prepare one item each, from three different categories for judging."

The categories were breads, main dish and deserts. Teams entered in the cook-off were from Koshkonong, Mammoth Spring, Rogers, Ark., and one team from Oxford, Miss.

Pryor said, "The bread has to be done on the inside, not burned. It must be an even golden brown and has to be a yeast or sourdough base."

Wood chips or charcoal (no gas) could be used for cooking and everything had to be cooked in the Dutch oven.

Pryor said, "It has to be cooked in the Dutch oven and served in the oven in its entirety. In other words, you can't just take out a bowl to send to the judges. They have to see the entire pot, to make sure you didn't take out a burned piece or something like that. They have to prepare an item for each category."

A team from the Arkansas Parks Department cooked items for demonstration using the Dutch oven, plus prepared one big pot of beans on a gas burner to go along with the cornbread they cooked in the Dutch ovens. They were not entered in the competition. The dishes the parks crew cooked in their Dutch ovens were for the public to sample while the competeing teams were at work on the dishes to be judged. Members of the parks cooking team were staff members from other Arkansas State Parks in the area and volunteered to assist Superintendent Pryor.

Each competing team came up with completely different recipe items than their competitors in each category.

Dishes were judged on taste, texture, appearance and degree of difficulty.

The bread dish recipes cooked for judging were, Cheesy Batter Bread, Overnight Refrigerator Rolls, Sourdough Banana Bread, Nutty Bread, Darin's Best Cornbread and Easy Rolls.

In the main dish category, dishes consisted of Southwest Chicken and Beans, Black Pot Jambalaya, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Tennessee Whiskey Marinated Pork Shoulder Roast, Pioneer Beans and Beef with Gravy over Rice.

In the desert category, contestants came up with some beautiful presentations and great recipes. Rum Cake with mixed fruit of kiwi and strawberries, Carmel Pie, Apple Dumplings, Turtle Cake, Old fashion Sweet Potato Cobbler and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.

The judging panel consisted of Outdoor Life radio hosts Tommy Garner and his wife Wanda, Ashlie Hueter, chef/owner Derrick Baldridge of the Kopper Kettle restaurant in Hardy, Glen and Mario from the culinary program at Ozarka College and Hardy Mayor Nina Thornton.

After the judges sampled each dish of the different categories, the public could purchase small tasting cups and sample each of the Dutch oven dishes.

After the judges tallied votes, ribbons were presented for second place, with a trophy and check being the prize for first place in each category.

An award for showmanship was judged on campsite cleanliness, hospitality and information, plus site appearance. The trophy for that category went to Dutch Treats of Rogers, Ark.

The winner of the bread category was Sourdough Banana Bread from the Hardways Camp crew of Koshkonong, Mo.

The main dish category winner was Black Pot Jambalaya made by Dutch Treats and the trophy for best desert went to the Carmel Pie of the Hot Pockets crew from Oxford, Miss.

The event was held at the main pavilion at the Mammoth Spring State Park.

For information about upcoming events at the park and other parks in the state of Arkansas, stop by the information center to pick up a state map and information package, or go on line at: http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/mammot....

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