Cobbler by the Fire
by Katie Binkley
For more years than can be remembered, my family has had a longstanding tradition of going camping together. Both my parents grew up camping with their families in 1980’s style pull-behind pop-up campers, journeying to tiny Texas campgrounds and even to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon. Now, years later, the tradition lives on with our family, and with all my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Most every summer, we return to a rural campground in the mountains of Colorado, near the sparsely populated town of Antonito – our favorite spot since I was little. There, be it in a tent or trailer, we settle down by the Conejos River, gathering around a campfire at night on the riverbank. For the most part, my mom and three aunts cook the food for all the hungry kids, dads, and grandparents. However, each year my Grandpa Mike always finds time to make his specialty – Dutch-oven peach cobbler.
During the campout, when “cobbler day” finally arrives, Grandpa unpacks his heavy, iron Dutch oven and the ingredients for his cobbler. The recipe is remarkably simple – after lining the pot with aluminum foil, Grandpa dumps in canned peaches, cherries, a cake mix, and pats of butter. There is no stirring involved – as it cooks, the cake mix browns on top to become the crust. After the pot is set in the fire and the lid is covered with hot charcoals (which, Grandpa taught me, is to ensure that the cobbler cooks from the top and bottom), my cousins and I break out our rickety lawn chairs and crowd around to wait for it to cook. Soon, the smoky mountain air is tinged with the sweet smell of peaches and pastry. This is the longest part – it often seems as if three eternities pass before the cobbler is finally done, though in truth the process takes about forty-five minutes. We chatter to pass the time, our mouths watering and stomachs rumbling. Finally, once the mixture begins to boil slightly, Grandpa spoons out a generous heap to each of the grandkids.
The cobbler is at first piping hot. The paper bowls in our hands quickly heat up, and we have to hold them by the edges, blowing on them impatiently. The hot, sticky syrup burns our tongues, as we always seem to take the first bite too soon. But the taste of the sweet, rich fruit under the crunchy crust is almost worth the injury. As dusk settles on the mountains, we all snuggle down into our lawn chairs by the glowing fire, listening to the gentle sound of the flowing river and enjoying Grandpa’s treat.
To me, the most important part of Grandpa’s cobbler is the love that he puts into making it for us. Though it is delicious, the significance lies in the fact that it brings our family together, something Grandpa has advocated strongly. I can hear him say to me, after hugging me close, “You’ll never know how lucky you are to have a family that loves you,” or, “These memories will last the rest of your life.” He’s reminded me many times throughout the years to be thankful for my siblings, cousins, parents, aunts and uncles; he’s has taught me that I can always find safety in them. The campfire, to me, is a place of love and togetherness, and Grandpa’s peach cobbler has brought our family around it year after year.
Grandpa’s Peach Cobbler
2 large cans of sliced peaches
1 regular sized can of cherries
1 cake mix, white or yellow
½ stick of butter
Line Dutch oven with aluminum foil. Pour in cans of peaches and cherries. Sprinkle entire cake mix over top. Cut butter into slices and cover the top with butter pats.
Set Dutch oven in the fire. Put 10-12 hot charcoals on top of it. Wait until mixture begins to boil slightly (about 45 minutes). Uncover and serve.
This post was written by Jesse Conrad