Thursday, November 24, 2011

Apple Orange Ham - My Dutch Oven Challenge Entry

I actually tried to make a dish for my Apples to Oranges Dutch Oven Challenge about three weeks ago or so, but it didn’t turn out very well.  It wasn’t BAD, but it wasn’t what I wanted, and it certainly wasn’t as cool as some of the other entries.  I did a pan-fried ham steak with an attempt at an orange/apple glaze.  In the end it was good, but not great.

Well, for our big family Thanksgiving dinner this week (today, actually), I was asked to do a ham.  An idea started forming, so I gave it a shot.  It turned out to be really, really yummy.  It did have several steps to the process, but it was overall pretty easy.  The spices played pretty nicely together.  I did stick with pretty much the sweet end of the spice spectrum, though.  I didn't get to crossover-crazy with the savories.

Apple Orange Ham

14” Dutch Oven

14-16 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • 1 Spiral-sliced, pre-cooked ham, thawed
  • 2 Apples, sliced
  • Cloves, whole or ground

  • 1 large can Mandarin oranges with syrup
  • 1/2 can orange juice concentrate
  • 1 apple, minced
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Nutmeg
  • ½ tsp Fennell
  • 1 ½ cup Brown sugar
  • Minced fresh mint

I started out by lighting up some coals.  I got one of my big 14” deep dutch ovens out and oiled it inside and out.  I put that on a lot of coals, with some on the lid as well, to preheat, and to set some of the seasoning on the patina.

While the Dutch oven was heating up, I cut up the apples.  I sliced them very thin.  I didn’t have any whole cloves, so I just sprinkled some ground cloves onto the apple slices and stirred them up really well.

The ham had been thawing in the fridge for almost a week.  I cut open the bag and drained it, then put the ham on a plate on the counter, lying on its side.   I inserted the apple slices into the spiral slices of the ham.  If I had been using whole cloves, I would have inserted them as well.  I kinda staggered them from layer to layer.  That kept it from bulging out too much.  I did that on both sides, then put it in the dutch oven to cook.

I cooked it for about two hours.  After about an hour, I made the glaze.  I basically just mixed the ingredients.  It wasn’t as thick as I wanted it to be, but it still worked.

I did try something new.  The nutmeg was whole, and freshly grated, and the fennel was ground in my mortar and pestle.  The smell of the nutmeg as I was grating it was in-cred-ible.

So, I just basted about ¾ of the sauce/glaze onto the top of the ham in the last 45 minutes or so of the roasting and let it settle in.  About 15 minutes before taking it off the coals, I put the last of the sauce on.

When it was all done, it tasted delicious.  I could taste all of the flavors intermingling.  I also made a loaf of spice bread, and added some dried cranberries.  that was really delicious, too, and both dishes were a hit with the family.


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Friday, November 18, 2011

How's this for exciting!?

Here's the cover-to-be of my first Dutch oven cookbook, to be titled: "The Best of the Black Pot"!

Seeing this is making it start to feel real!


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Marks Own Dutch Oven Calzone

I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to cook today, until yesterday.  I was running some errands for Jodi, and was at a grocery store.  I saw some pre-made, bake-them-yourself calzones, and they looked really appetizing, even in their uncooked state.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to try a pizza with a crust on the bottom and on the top, and so, for today, I thought I’d do it with the calzones.  It ended up being a pretty involved two-day affair, because I decided I wanted to try an overnight rise on the crust.

I also did the preheating of the dutch oven on the sauce.  I found it did wonders for the patina (which was getting a bit thin on that oven), even just in one use.  I’m becoming more and more convinced.  Of course, when I baked the calzones, I had to assemble them in the 12”, so I couldn’t pre-heat it.  But with breads, you’re baking drier ingredients, so it’s going to strengthen your patina, anyway.

The Crust

  • 1 ½ c. warm water
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 4 c.  bread Flour

The Filling/Sauce

10” Dutch oven
15-18 coals below

  • ½ lb mild italian sausage
  • ¼ lb bacon, cut into short strips
  • 1 link of pepperoni, quartered and chopped
  • 1 full Tablespoon flour

  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded, cored, chopped

  • 6-7 roma tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup or so water

The Calzones

12” Dutch oven
10-12 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • A beaten egg
  • About 2 cups shredded mozarella

  • Freshly grated parmesan and/or myzithra chesses
  • Fresh chopped italian parsley

Like I said, it all started last night.  I have read a lot about how the longer overnight rises are better for pizza, and I thought I’d try it that way.  Spoiler alert: I’m definitely sold on that, now.

I proofed the yeast in water that was hot, but not scalding, to the touch.  I say it’s “shower” hot.  That’s right around 110-115 degrees, and it’s great for waking up yeast.  While that’s getting foamy and frothy, I added the other ingredients to a bowl.  The last bit was to add the yeast/water mix.

I stirred it all up, and found that it was just the right hydration, this time.  I started kneading it on the countertop, and I found I didn’t need to add any more flour in the process.  I say, “this time”, because different flours and different humidities can mean that the flour will absorb more or less water.  You just never know.

I set it in a greased bowl, covered with cellophane, in the fridge.   I knew I wasn’t going to use it until today, and I wanted it to have a long, slow, flavor-developing rise overnight in the fridge.

Then I went and played cards with some friends.

Today, after church, I pulled the bread dough out of the fridge and set it aside in the kitchen, to come up to room temperature.  I also lit up some coals, and put the lightly oiled 10” dutch oven on some coals to season and heat up.  Once it was smoking a little bit, I put in the sausage, the bacon, and the pepperoni pieces.  I used link pepperoni and cut it into small chunks, but you could use sliced pepperoni. I’d still probably cut the slices in half or into wedges.  The sausage cooked, the bacon crisped, and the pepperoni browned.

Once the meat is all done, pull it out, but leave the drippings.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir while it cooks into a roux.  Pull it out as best you can, and then toss in the first set of veggies to sweat and sautee.  Keep the oven hot all along the way with fresh coals, if you need to.

Finally, add the tomatoes and the water, then bring the meat and the roux back in as well.  Let it boil, at first, then simmer, covered.  Give the tomatoes time to dissolve as much as possible.  Maybe as much as an hour.  It should be nice and “sauce” thick.  If it’s still to runny at that point, let it cook a bit longer with the lid off.

Taste it all along the way.  I’ll bet that with all of the sausages and bacon, it won’t need much salt, if any, and probably not many other seasonings.  Some lemon juice might have been great, in retrospect.

Once the sauce was done simmering, I poured it out of the Dutch oven, into a bowl right away, so that the tomatoes wouldn’t eat away at the patina.

I dumped the bread out onto my floured countertop, and cut it into halves.  In retrospect, I’d suggest quartering it.  Each piece should be stretched out wide and thin.  I put a generous amount of sauce over one half of the dough circle.  I piled it on, but left at least a half inch or so to the edge of the dough.  I put a generous amount of shredded mozarella on top of the mound of filling. I brushed some freshly beaten egg onto that edge of the dough, as a sealer.  I folded the dough over, and began pinching and curling the dough halves together.  Finally, I gently lifted the finished calzone into the oiled 12” Dutch oven.

I did that for the other calzone (or the other three, if you take my earlier advice).  Hopefully, there should be a good amount of sauce left over.  Then, I brushed all the calzones with the beaten egg, giving a good coating.  I let that dutch oven sit, to let the dough continue rising a bit.

In the meantime, I’d been starting up some additional coals, and I put those on the 12” lid to heat it up.  After the lid was really good and hot, and the dough had proofed just a little bit, I set a ring of coals below the Dutch oven, and set the lid with the coals on top.

I watched, and maintained the heat with fresh coals, as needed.  I took the bread temperature by sticking the thermometer down in between the calzones, where the crusts grew together.  Taking the temperature of the filling was kinda pointless, as it was all completely cooked already.  I let it get overly done, because I wasn’t sure how it would react to the filling.  That turned out to be a good thing.  It was done perfectly.

Serving was easy.  I cut the two calzones apart, and cut each one in half (that’s why I thought it would be better to make four of them instead of two larger ones).  I served one half, with more sauce drizzled over the top, and with a garnish of chopped parsley, and the grated cheeses.

It was big, filling, and an incredible taste!


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Just When You Think You’ve Got it Figured Out...

I’ve been Dutch Ovening for a while, now.  I’ve gotten into my ways, my style, my groove.  It’s been working, pretty much, for a few years.

But the other day, I read a Dutch oven beginners book that suggested a way of doing things that shook me up, off my comfy chair, and made me rethink some things about managing the patina, the black coating, of my Dutch ovens.  It’s making me re-assess and rethink my whole processes, which will, in turn, change everything I’ve done to date.

...If it works.

Let me back up and explain...

The Patina

What makes cast iron such a great cooking tool is that thin black coating of carbonized oil that’s all over it.  It does so many wonderful things.  It coats and protects the raw iron, so that it doesn’t rust on contact with air and water.  It becomes a non-stick cooking surface to make cleanup smoother and easier.  It makes for better transfer of heat to the food.  It’s really amazing just how great this is.

It has to be maintained, though, and by continuous use and care, it can build up over time to be even better at the jobs it’s made for.

How I Did it Before

So, for all of my Dutch ovening life, I’ve done what I first read in the little pamphlet that lodge included with my first oven.  I seasoned it first, then after each use, I scraped out the food with plastic, rinsed it with hot water and scrubbed it with a plastic brush, then dried it off.  Finally, I’d recoat it with a very thin film of oil and put it away.

Then, when I got it out again the next week, I’d do the same thing.  Cook, scrub, rinse, coat, repeat.

Over the years, I’ve heard many different methods for cleaning and storing Dutch ovens, and many different opinions about those methods.  Most folks were pretty convinced that their method was the right way.  I was, too, but not really.  Sometimes, the patina on my ovens didn’t get better.  Sometimes, if I didn’t use a particular oven for a really long time, it would get a little smelly.

Pre-Heating the Ovens

So, this book suggested that the process shift.  First, light up the coals.  Then, after selecting which Dutch oven to use, coat it, inside and out, with a thin layer of oil.  Put the coals on it and under it and give it 15-20 minutes of preheating.  Let it bake on the layer of oil to help build up the patina, and heat up the cooking surface, ready for the food.

Then add the food and get cooking.

When you’re all done, you’ll still scrape and rinse, but you won’t need to coat it.

This has several advantages.  One, it will reduce cooking time, since the oven is already hot. That’s not that much of an advantage, because it increases the heatup time, so it all evens out.  Still, I can be chopping veggies while the oven heats.

Two, it will build up the patina.

Three, it will sterilize the oven before cooking in it.

Why I’m Not Sure

OK, so I’m going to try this.  I’ve done it once already, and I wasn’t displeased with the results.  I’ll have to do it over time to really be convinced.  Like I said, it will completely mess with my way of doing things.

For some dishes, like those that need assembly or preparation directly in the dutch oven first, that’s not going to work.  You can’t be assembling a pie, or letting bread proof in a super-hot dutch oven.  There are some dishes that you want to build up the heat gradually, rather than dump all of the items into a heated pan.  But for the most part, I’m thinking I like the idea.

I will definitely keep you informed and up-to-date as I discover more.


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.


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