View Full Version : Wilderness cooking

March 8, 2009, 09:35 PM
I didn't know where else to put this, so mods move to wherever you see fit.

Here's my problem. A friend and I are going on a camping trip next week for 6 days. We will be in the Sipsey Wilderness Area of Bankhead Nat'l Forest in Alabama.

We're taking a hatchet, my Marlin 60, and a pot to boil water in for drinking, a knife for each of us, and a few other things, but nothing as far as a tent, food, sleeping bags, etc.

We know there will be lots of small game (squirrels mostly, rabbits, etc). And I wanted to know if anyone had any input on how to prepare the food. Including field dressing, methods of cooking, and any way to season the meat without traditional spices.

I apologize if this is the most pointless post on here in a while, but we thought it'd be a nice break from the non-stop studying we've been doing while I've been working on my mechanical engineering degree.

March 8, 2009, 09:38 PM
Might want to take a case of MRE's in case the m-60 fails.

March 8, 2009, 09:39 PM
I dunno if this is what you were looking for but I was reading in an air force wilderness survival manual and there was a field gutting method for rabbits. I guess you have to grab them by there bellys and hold them above your head with there butt sticking up in the air. Spread your legs and swing them down as hard as you can while squeezing there stomach. The guts are supposed to come shooting out there rear. I have never tried this so its just a suggestion.

March 8, 2009, 09:49 PM
May I toss a suggestion at you?

You might consider researching what a civil war or cavalry trooper or mountain man or prospector might have had along.
Seems like Dixie Gunworks catalogue talks about making hardtack.

I'm talking splitpeas or lentils or dry beans,hardtack,and salt pork.

Or pemmican or alm.onds and dates but most voyagers carried a little something.

Boiling water works fine,but you may want a backup of purification tablets or a Miox.Water can be real important and giardia sucks.A little backup plan like some betadyne and antiseptic ointment could keep a silly little injury from going septic in a couple days.
I live in Colorado,and I have been away from chiggers a long time.We do have a lot of Rocky Mountain Ticks,and between Lymes disease,spotted fever,and Rocky mountain tick fever,some old time powdered sulphur is supposed to work.Little bugs probably scarier than bears.
An oilskin or poncho is rather useful

Watch for crows or magpies.You might be able to rob something dead from them.

You also might get some advise fom rangers,etc about what is plentiful forage,and how it was processed. Rosehips,serviceberry and the like are vitamin C.Salt was always a precious commodity.There is a prep process for acorns or camas roots,etc before you can use them..
And,little things like hunting seasons and such might be good to check into.
Wilderness areas can be a bit touchy regarding impact issues,and a ranger with a spotting scope may be watching you from 2000 yds.You gonna use toilet paper,or just be right handed?

Now,go do it,have a ball,and let us know how it goes!!

B. Lahey
March 8, 2009, 10:01 PM
Don't forget about the epic tradition of the shorelunch.

Bring a cast iron skillet, some crisco or veggie oil or lard (or use leftover bacon grease from breakfast), and fry up some fresh-caught fish on the campfire. Old Bay seasoning is a must. Fillet the fish, dip them in egg (or reconstituted milk if there are no eggs left), drag them though the spiced breadcrumbs/crackercrumbs/beerbatter/your choice of breading, and fry until golden brown.

One of the best meals ever, particularly if you catch some walleye or sunfish. Shorelunch bluegills are as good as it gets. You can eat the fins too, but be sure to get them crispy. Lakebacon.

The skillet will ome in handy for breakfast also.

March 8, 2009, 10:30 PM
Thanks for the quick replies fellas. We're bringing insect repellant, because even now the mosquitoes are unbelievable, so chiggers and the like shouldn't be a problem.

Dry beans are a really good idea now that you mention it. Keep the ideas coming! I'm specifically looking for details of prepare small game through extremely basic ways like boiling, cooking over a spit, etc.

No toilet paper. We'll be using what my eagle scout friend (the guy going with me) recommends. A stick with all the bark stripped off. I hope this isn't some cruel joke.

March 8, 2009, 11:10 PM
First, spray your clothes down with Permanone, kills mosquitos and ticks. Next, a high-deet content bug spray for your skin. Now to your original question, may I suggest a Calphalon or similar aluminum pot, (lighter than cast iron. take a small bottle of cooking oil and some salt & pepper, you really need this. Cleaning squirrels&rabbits- cut off feet, tail, cut a ring around their middle(not thru the flesh, just the skin. Put your fingers underneath the skin on each side and pull until you have skinned him. cut the head off and insert your knife just barely thru the meat between his hind legs and slit him right up the middle to the neck. pull out guts, quarter, salt and pepper and brown in you skillet with a little oil.

March 8, 2009, 11:29 PM
I know you said no spices, but you really should throw a little bottle of garlic salt in a pocket. Nothin like some fire roasted antelope (or any other wild game) with just a splash of garlic............can't wait for the elk hunt to get here again.

March 8, 2009, 11:32 PM
make sure you both keep on you several ways to start a fire... waterproof match's a BIC lighter...the original kind. flint and steel, magnesium fire start ect. have at least two IMO.

bring some vegies w/ you that will hold up. potatoes, you can eat raw if it comes down to it. carrots. these types of veggies are very hardy, and will be fine in your pack for 6 days unrefrigerated no problem.

its going to really suck w/o any type of shelter i can assure you that. i'd suggest bringing at the very least a tarp type thing you can rig up as a wind/rain break and make into a shelter.


very basic fishing gear i'd also suggest. even if it is just some 8lb test and some hooks. bring stuff like rice/beans that you can just throw in water and cook. and will last dry and unrefridgerated.

when you cook on a fire, cook on the hot coals not in the fire itself. in the fire itself you will burn the outside of the food and the inside will still need more cooking.

as for preparing squirrels. an easy way to skin is to cut at the base of the tail and into the meat a bit up the back. say 2 1/2" or so, then cut down alittle down the sides of the animal from that flap...like infront of the back legs going down to the belly. now put the squirrel on its back, step firmly on that flap of skin you made...pinning it to the ground... grab both back feet and pull steadily straight up. this should peel the skin right off, up to the back of the front legs. now get your finger in there and pop out each front leg. now step on all that skin, and get your finger up under the skin in the back legs and pull back. now you just cut off all four feet, and cut the head off. you gut it like a fish basically just make a cut from A-hole :eek: all the way up the belly, through the sternum to the neck. pull out the guts and you're good to go.

if that method fails just make a circle cut around the center of the squirrel you hook your fingers under the skin and pull towards the back, while your buddy does the same for the front.

i'd skip the whole water boiling thing if you can help it and get a small water filter. they work amazing and can fill up a 12 oz bottle in around a minute, takes much less time than boiling water and letting it cool. and it tastes like no-name brand bottled water. if you dont want to do that...look this up i'm not sure on the amount....but i think you can put a couple drops of bleach per bottle of water, and it will kill all the evil stuff in it.

you should pick up a good survival book. has soooooo many ideas, and is very interesting.

avoid cotton clothing. once it gets wet its insulation goes down the toilet and takes a long time to dry. fleece and wool are good choices.

well before night fall, collect your fire wood. once you collected all that you think you need get at least 3x's more...trust me on this one.

squirrels if you aren't familar will be like chewing on a car tire unless you cook slow and low. so ideally i'd boil/simmer them for an hour and 1/2 or so if at all possible. or cook them as slow and long as you can.

if you fold up one of those 'baked ziti trays'...those aluminium ones. it fits right in a pack...light weight and can be unfolded and used to cook on, hold water...reflector for rescue :eek: ect. you can also bring an untreated piece of gutter guard type material for cooking...

with cooking over a fire if you are going to put the meat of whatever it is on a stick and cook it... get greenwood to do this or soak regular sticks in h20 for as long as you can before hand.

finally dont forget to have fun and RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT! don't leave anything that wont fully biodegrade fast in the woods. there is nothing that kills a beautiful spot in the woods for me more than finding evidence of another person being there. like they say pack out what you pack in.

March 8, 2009, 11:52 PM
On the beans,your average bag of pintos or red beans will take a long time to cook.REI and such sell parboiled dried beans with a 10 min cook time.
It is not my favorite thing to eat,but for a primitive pack ration,oatmeal is a bulk starch and protien fuel food .Chicken bullion cube and some sage,or even chili powder change it's character some.It still sucks,but its food.

It occurs to me,with one pot,cooking and boiling drinking water a somewhat problematic,as boiled possum grease in the canteen may case a gastric disturbance.I use one pot for water and another to cook.Over wood,they will soot up,so a bag is good.
Boiled game may not be the finest cuisine,but it is a prefered method of cooking in survival conditions.Cajun seasoning mix is a good thing.

If you ever read Michener's Centennial,try to fing some Lapasng Souchong tea to take along.Any tea or coffee will civilize the trip a lot.

On a rabbit,if you cut just through the abdominal wall about navel to pubic bone,squeeze the chest cavity with your left hand,up under the forelegs,and then take the right hand and squeeze the middle,(this is head toward you,tail away,then swing lika a baseball bat,they will field strip.You can nick a startre tear in the skin in the middle of their back,then tear the skin in opposte directions like you were taking shirt and pants off them.Then detail clean.

You are definitely going to want means to wash your hands.

You haven't much time,but plants like dandelion,mustard,burdock,marsh marigold,nettle,pokeweed,can be food,but some parts may be poisonous or require a couple of boilings.

March 9, 2009, 12:07 AM
I took your advice and picked up a small container of Tony's (goes on everything ;)). Great advice guys! Will boiling brown meat just like regular open flame cooking would?

March 9, 2009, 12:30 AM
No,it won't brown,and unless you can make a cream gravy or something,it will suck as far as being delightful to eat.Primitive survival wise,you will capture broth,stock,marrow,etc.

If you make a fire,have some coals built up,you can roast on a rock ,make kabobs,or whatever backyard bbq idea you can come up with.A huge south american mauser bayonet replica would make a dandy spit.If you have flour and oil.you can flour,brown,and braise and even make bannock.There are ways to pit cook a possum and have a luau,but if you are thinking of a quick twig fire and getting the meat cooked done and efficiently,bland yucky grey boiling in a pot works.

March 9, 2009, 12:58 AM
I'd search out some locals, you'd be suprised at what there is to eat (good too).

My Dad was really good at this stuff. What kind of wood to use on the fire, etc. I retain about half of his knowledge but locals have filled in many gaps.

Big Bill
March 9, 2009, 01:10 AM
How to Clean / Skin a Rabbit HD


Disaster Survival: How to Catch and Eat a Rat


Squirrel Trap & Hobo-Fishing - Ray Mears Extreme Survival - BBC


B. Lahey
March 9, 2009, 03:00 AM
When you are cooking on a campfire, use hardwood. Nothing is nastier than food cooked over pine.

For everything from beans to small game, you may want to get a dutch oven. It's just a big kettle you can pile coals on top of.

Dust a little flour with salt and pepper on some rabbit/squirrel chunks and fry it in the bottom of the dutch oven with a little grease/oil until it picks up some color, then add some taters, onions, or whatever you have, and add the liquid of your choice (wine, beer, stock, water, whatever) while mixing in and dissolving the little crusties on the bottom from the game chunks. Stir it up well, the fried game flour scum is your roux (tasty thickener). Then slap the lid on, pile coals on top, and wait quite a while. When the potatoes are done, the rest will be done too.

Extra spices improve things. Why anyone would go out in the woods without an assortment of spices is mystifying to me...

March 9, 2009, 04:31 AM
G'day. I think you will like to have salt to put on tour food. I have cooked fish wrapped in foil many times while fishing, my father often does this. We would use an old 'MILO' tin to carry our coffee, sugar, plastic cup, small UHT milk, matches and toilet paper in our fishing bag. The Milo tin would protect the contents from the fish and water. When we wanted to have lunch we would light a small fire and use the Milo tin as a 'Billy', then cook some fish wraped in the foil.

As far as skinning rabbit. If you can pierce the skin enough to get a couple of fingers in. You will be able to rip the skin off the animal. Smash the leg bones with the back of your knife blade so you can cut through. You should slice open the belly and remove all the internal organs. Make sure you get all the 'beads' from the pelvic area. It usually pays to cut the pelvic bone to get them out. Cut off the tail and head. It will probably pay to wash the rabbit at this stage, then cook and eat.
You could try cutting the Rabbit into pieces, (back leg[drum stick], spine from rib cage back, front leg[wing]) then wrap in foil and place in hot coals until ready. (Just like baked potato, only different.)

March 9, 2009, 05:11 AM
before you become an item on the evening news I have to ask. Have you ever cooked anything? Have you ever cleaned a fish? Cleaning a rabbit is the same process. I don't want to take you from your trip because that is how you learn but maybe find someone who is an experienced camper to lead the first time.

Mosquito spray does work on chiggers very well. I had good luck with a two phased attack. I bought "frontline" pet treatment and ran a bead of that around the ankles of my shoes and boots. I also wore flea collars on my ankles. People laughed but in three days of walking in Alabama quail fields not one tick not one chigger. Try it at home before you to just to make sure you're not sensitive to it.

Bring food options. You can buy good stuff at the grocery store like pouches of tuna and chicken that need no refrigeration. Also treat yourself. Buy some big ole steaks and freeze them hard. On the morning you leave wrap them in a pair of clean wool socks and drop them in your bag. By supper they will be about 80% defrosted and will taste great.

The method described above works well but instead of smashing leg bones pull the skin down until the joints are exposed then just cut the tendons with a knife. The joint just come apart then. Bring a good fixed small knife with a three inch or so knife. Bring a good folder as back up and have some sort of way to resharpen the knife. One of those folding pocket diamond stones will be fine.

Adventurer 2
March 9, 2009, 09:17 AM
We're taking a hatchet, my Marlin 60, and a pot to boil water in for drinking, a knife for each of us, and a few other things, but nothing as far as a tent, food, sleeping bags, etc.

My advice to you is to bring everything you need to survive and keep it in your vehicle. Do not attempt your survival retreat out of reach of your vehicle - come on a stick for toilet paper ??? At least bring a bar of soap. Personal hygiene is going to keep you healthy. Anyone can go several days without food, but if you are not used to it you will have NO ENERGY. If you haven't prepared and cooked wild game/fish in the field I predict diarrhea or worse.

If you want to do this bring everything you need (keep it for a backup in case things don't work out). If you don't bring what you need save everyone time and money and just tell search and rescue when and where they can pick you up.

March 9, 2009, 10:05 AM
Yes I have experience cooking. Yes I know how to clean a fish (every male in my family is taught to do this the first time they go fishing). The friend accompanying me is an eagle scout and an extremely experienced camper/backpacker as well as being familiar with the area. I left out a bunch of things that we were bringing that I thought were irrelevant to the topic (soap). Our goal was to bring everything we need and weed out the things that were unnecessary.

I took some of the given advice last night and we picked up 2 pounds of rice and some beans.

I can take care of myself in the woods. My father taught me how to hunt and fish. The point of this thread was to get advice on different ways to prepare food that one would come across in the wild.

March 9, 2009, 01:34 PM
in that case look up in cabelas or bass pro for one of those square two sided grilling racks. The kind yyou open up place the food between the two grates and then cook over the fire. They work great with small game and fish

Heres a link,. http://www.yardandpool.com/Non-Stick-Grill-Burger-Basket-p1695.html

It may not be as rustic as using a green stick as a spit, but they make it easy to cook them to perfection.

March 9, 2009, 03:16 PM
Skinning squirrel the easy way...

March 9, 2009, 06:30 PM
Hey Savage,will you PLEEEAASE take a cam corder,shoot a rabbit and film cleaning it per cracked91`s post:D.

March 9, 2009, 08:47 PM
I do want you to have a great trip,and I love beans and rice.
I know from experience if you are someplace on a mountain and puy plain old dry beans and rice in a pot and simmer it.......

Long before the beans are done,the rice melts to an oatmeal like glue.It doesn't boil right.It sticks to the bottom of the pot and burns.

So you have Cajun Blackened rice with beans,very rare.If you run out of bullets,you can use the beans.And,that delightful "smoked "taste...aaahh,heaven.

It is interesting,the effect of eating half cooked beans.You won't miss the tent,and you'll tend to want to lead on the trail.
Might want to play America's test Kitchen in the back yard

March 9, 2009, 09:02 PM
I'd take some "backup" food. You don't want to go hungry if your luck or hunting skills are lacking.

Theoretically, I'd say boiling the meat and drinking the broth would be the most nutritious... might taste like crap, though.

I've tried "roughing it" before, but you've gotta take baby steps. I have a tendency to overdo my experiments out there, and I've suffered the consequences. Best of luck to ya!

March 9, 2009, 09:19 PM
And,little things like hunting seasons and such might be good to check into
Yup. Down south the game wardens take such matters really seriously. Unless you plan to bring enough money to bail out of jail when the man catches you hunting out of season (http://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/season-limits/seasons.cfm) I'd recommend leaving the rifle at home.

Instead try carrying some fishing line, hooks and cane poles as well as a small bag of cornmeal-flour-salt-pepper mix, a small jar of grease/oil and a cooking pan. People have been cooking fish like this since Andy Jackson passed through. And yes, the colonials had all four ingredients. But now fishermen need licenses to fish as well.

Maybe broil some grasshoppers? :eek:

March 9, 2009, 10:05 PM
When my 2 boys were young we went fishing a lot in the summer. One of their favorite things to do was to eat fish on a stick.
I would gut the fish and then stick a stick in its mouth an shove it down into the body cavity. Then we would each roast our own fish over an open flame.
The scales and skin of the fish would protect the meat. When it's done in a short time you just pull back the charded skin and have fresh and tasty fish. We never used seasonings, but salt or powdered fake butter would be good.

ps. be careful of the bones, I ate fish almost every day when I was a kid, so the bones were no issue.

March 9, 2009, 10:16 PM
To the OP:

I hate to tell you this, but the squirrel and rabbit seasons ended on the last day of February. There's a hog hunt going on right now in the Black Warrior WMA, but that ends tomorrow.

If the biologist or the game wardens catch you poaching, you're gonna get legally worked over real hard. You might want to reconsider packing in a few days worth of food, and tackle to fashion a rudimentary fishing pole.

March 9, 2009, 10:44 PM
Just found that out. Guess that messes up the plans pretty bad.

B. Lahey
March 9, 2009, 10:55 PM
Fish are your friends. They taste better than squirrel anyway.:)

March 9, 2009, 11:01 PM
Unfortunately, my friend has been going here for several years now and has never been able to catch a fish where we're going.

March 9, 2009, 11:32 PM
Hey friend, the Sipsey Wilderness Area is as close to virgin North American forest as you'll find. In that part of Alabama over five inches of rain fell in one day this week- the water is still high. The Sipsey River is Earth Headquarters for Cottonmouths, and they are out. Try to find a copy of the Discovering Alabama program by Dr. Doug Phillips that covers the Sipsey. It can be purchased from U of Alabama Productions( or whatever) It will be filled with a tremendous amount of Sipsey experience and general woods lore. You might try googling for walking trails in Alabama, I think there is something there about walking the Sipsey. If things look really tough, there are several restaurants, motels, and supermarkets nearby! Good Luck!

March 10, 2009, 04:31 AM
Don't scrap your trip!! Take one mountain house meal per day,plus a power bar and some of the little electrolyte tubes.Then fish,too.At least you have a fallback plan.If you catch fish,great!!

If you want to feel tougher than that,Spam and oatmeal!!

A poncho and poncho liner are good,relative to nothing.Somebody said 5 in of rain?
It will be good experience.Just commit to having a good time.You might read up on a Colorado fellow,Alferd Packer.Is your friend a Democrat?

March 10, 2009, 06:11 PM
haha my friend is just about as far right as they come. He wants to go since this will most likely be his last camping trip till he enlists in the Army.

March 10, 2009, 10:18 PM
You know, I've been on trips like that.

Never intentionally though. A buddy and I used to spend a lot of time outdoors when we were teens, and we'd oft-times run out of food when we decided to stay longer than we originally expected.

Mostly, it becomes survival first, and there isn't much fun about it. Eating quail, dove, rabbits and such with no seasonings isn't something you'll look back on with fond memories.

I can remember my buddy talking me into getting a fire going once, and he'd go up the mountain with his shotgun to get a bunch of quail. After the fire had died down a few times, and I'd taken him more shells a time or two, he finally came back with two little quail.

No salt, cooked on a green stick held over the fire, and he ate his nearly raw because he was so hungry. Luckily, another hunter came by just after Daniel finished his quail, and offered me some salt to go on mine. :D

I much prefer such trips to include a dutch oven, some 'taters, onions, a can of mushrooms and another of cream of mushroom soup, and about a dozen quail.

You simmer the quail in the mushroom soup, thinned with a can of water, with mushrooms and a bit of onions added to the mix. While that's cooking, wrap a couple of 'taters in foil, and let them bake in the fire.

When it's all done, eat the potato smothered with the gravy that the quail were simmered in, and founder yourself on as many quail as you can eat.

Works just as well with rabbits and/or squirrels.

Some Bisquick is really nice to have along, too. Dutch oven bisquits go pretty good in the morning with gravy on them from the quail fixed the night before.

Yeah, I can rough it, but I won't if I don't have to!


March 10, 2009, 10:41 PM
Roots and snails... You got slugs down there? You can eat em' if you boil them for 20 minutes.

March 11, 2009, 12:45 AM
Hey Savage, when you said all the men in your family are taught at a young age to clean fish my estimation of you went way down on the scale, in my family the women clean the fish and game so we the men can spend more time on the important stuff mainly huntin & fishin. LOL I generally take a lot of Lipton/Knorrs or whatever dried soup, Ramen noodles, quick cookin rice, oatmeal, raisins, corn meal & flour mix in a ziploc and freeze dried veggies and a container of olive oil plus spices in ziplocs everything is light and doesn't spoil and a Katydn water filter. Hey have fun but be safe and smart.