Why Amazing Camp Jambalaya?
The idea for camp Jambalaya came with the latest hiking/backpacking campout with my son and other Scouts. To see why it’s called amazing camp Jambalya, you’ll have to read to the end. I volunteered to cook dinner for the “geezers” of which I am probably the geeziest. I needed an interesting meal to satiate us and not be incredibly complex to prepare. Stews, chili, casseroles and other single pot meals poured through my head. I searched the internet for ideas. Then it struck me: the meal I cooked the last time I was on our planned route. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what we had.
I remember before the hike pawing through the cupboards looking for ideas. On the back of a Lipton soup mix was an “idea” recipe to use. It was a recipe that sounded pretty good. I “souped” (pun intended) it up a bit by adding some extra ingredients. Of course, I failed to write it down. I had to call my (now adult) son to see if he could remember it. Within minutes I had a text message reminding me that it was sausage, rice and veggies. He affirmed that it was tasty, why else would he remember, and that we were the envy of the others. Hmmm…
Camp Jambalaya – Inspiration
OK, I’ve got to think something up. I was getting desperate, I needed some inspiration or divine intervention… SOMETHING! My inspiration came about a week before the trip. I was helping my younger son who was working on his cooking requirements for rank advancement go through the grocery store exploring all the options and alternatives he had. The crux of these requirements was to demonstrate competency by planning and cooking several meals for his patrol. If everyone made it out alive he would be a success.
Walking down one of the aisles, I noticed a box of Zatarain’s. I’ve always wanted to try something of theirs. I read a several of the boxes, reviewing the required ingredients as well as the complexity of the preparation. My ideal meal is big flavors with simple preparation. If it was OK like that, then I could go crazy with extra ingredients depending on what I wanted to pack in. Jambalaya met the camp requirements. Ingredients were simple: meat, water and their single pouch of rice and spices. The instructions were uncomplicated: place everything in a pot, bring to a boil and then simmer covered until the water is absorbed about 25 minutes. My guess is that I would have about 5 to 6 cups of cooked rice which seemed a little light for five adults.
Camp Jambalaya – make it BIGGER and Bolder!
I did some research on Jambalaya recipes and found all manner of complexity and simplicity. The predominant thing I saw was that most had everything go into one pot to cook. Simple! The “Holy trinity” of Jambalaya is celery, onion and peppers. I decided to add my own trinity.
I increased the meat from 1.5 pounds to 2 (pre-cooked weight sausage; half was spicy half was mild) and 12 shrimp (0.57 lb pre-cooked) I wanted to be able to give each diner 2 and be ready for a last minute additional camper.
Amazing Camp Jambalaya Preparation
Jambalaya Prep at home the night before departure: Grill the sausage and allow to cool. Once cool, cut into slices. I cut the hot sausage on a bias and the mild sausage in circles so that if the color wasn’t enough of a distinction the shape would be. That went into a plastic ziploc bag.
Shell and devein the shrimp leaving on only the tails. Saute in 1TBL of butter and 1 clove of minced garlic. When done, set on a paper towel to cool. Once cool, place in a separate plastic bag.
I used three celery stalks, in a medium dice size. Medium sweet onion, diced. 1 bell pepper equivalent (1/2 of a red one (color) and 1/2 of a green one). Put the diced trinity in quart sized freezer bag(s). Put everything in one big (gallon freezer) bag in the fridge.
Morning of departure: Place the bag in the freezer for 30 – 60 minutes. Flip the bag over half way through the time if necessary. All you’re trying to do is cool the food, not freeze it. Remove it from the freezer and place it in your backpack refrigerator. Mine is a grey fleece pullover. I put it in the pack at about 8:30AM and it came out at about 5PM. We were hiking all day in 65 – 78 F weather. It was still noticeably cool to the touch when I removed it from my “refrigerator.”
Camp Jambalaya Mealtime prep: put the water, spice pouch and as much of the other ingredients into the pot as will fit. My 2+quart pot would not fit everything. I held back the shrimp and about half of the sausage. Stirring became a two man operation. One to hold the pot and stir and one to “backstop” preventing food loss or any man “overboard” Once the pot was brought to a boil, we reduced the flame to a simmer per the instructions (my MSR Dragonfly® makes this easy!). It took us closer to 40 minutes to cook.
Camp Jambalaya serving: I had previously prepared and kept warm cheesy biscuits. The jambalaya was served together with the biscuits.
Amazing Camp Jambalaya cost:
Zatarain’s® Jambalaya Mix $2.24 at Walmart; 2 lbs of fresh sausage from local grocer $6.00; 0.6lb of shrimp (12) was $2.60; Colored bell pepper $0.89 on sale and the green one was $0.79; Celery 0.20; Onion 0.70 Prices assume you buy for a family and only pay for what you use. $12.63 for 5 = $2.55 each. In truth, with the biscuits, I had enough to serve six adults.
What would I do for a trip that was farther and I wanted to use this on the second day? I would freeze the food completely and convert my refrigerator to a freezer by adding a second fleece (layer of insulation)
Amazing Camp Jambalaya results:
The consensus was that the food was great and the meal a “do-over” one even raved and said it was amazing, thus the name. Thank you to Guy Occhipinti for all of the photography.
I hope you found this description informative and useful. The bottom line is don’t be afraid to try something a little beyond what you’ve done before.