Here's a fantastic trick for making tender campfire baked potatoes that don't burn! All you need is a campfire or grill. Summer cooking at its best! (Skip to recipe.)
We are so lucky to be able to spend time at the cabin every summer. It's in the beautiful wilderness of northern British Columbia, along the shores of the clear and very cold Francois Lake.
My dad built the cabin when our kids were little, and we have so many wonderful memories of get-togethers there with sisters and cousins and all sorts of other relatives and friends. My youngest sister got married there, we celebrated my parents' 40th and 50th wedding anniversaries there, countless birthdays, and plain old good times.
The amenities are rustic - two lovely outhouses, and lake water piped to the kitchen sink for cooking and drinking.
Various groups of kids have built tree forts in the forest, tented overnight on the little island, fished, boated, cliff-jumped into the water off the rocks of the big island, picked berries, shot off the potato gun into the lake, and told stories around the campfire.
Every year we make a hike up to the top of the lookout hill behind the cabin. It's a good workout, with several steep sections to climb. The view from up there is breathtaking - you can see all three islands in the bay: the 'big island' and the 'middle island' and if you walk over to one side you can see the 'little island'.
The cabin is remote enough that we are cut off from all the demands of technology. It's a wonderful break. The top of the hill is the only place you can get cell phone reception - so everybody takes a minute to send messages to family.
We have daily saunas in the log sauna hut my dad built. We get all toasty and sweaty, lather our hair with shampoo, then race down to the dock to jump into the freezing lake, the squeals echoing across the water! Francois Lake is so deep it never really warms up much. It leaves you all tingly and clean - a good thing since it's our alternative to daily showers.
The teenagers love to have their saunas and dips in the dark, and we smile as we hear them shrieking as they hit the lake water, while we sit and sip wine around the glowing embers of the campfire.
Each of the children have learned to clean their own fish - my dad's rule was always that whoever catches the fish has to clean it.
Every year new adventures await, and yet the familiar old adventures always have to be revisited, too. Each summer at the cabin is different, yet so familiar.
We eat outside as often as we can - the beautiful view is the best seasoning.
We cook our meals over the campfire as much as we can, too. These campfire roasted potatoes are so simple, yet nothing tastes better as an accompaniment to pan-fried fresh trout, caught just a few hours ago.
The memories of summer at the cabin . . . just the best.
Kitchen Frau Notes: Wrapping these packets of potatoes in tin foil twice, with a layer of wet newspaper in between to insulate them, is the trick to wonderfully tender, melt-in-your-mouth potatoes that don't need much tending as they roast over the campfire (or on your barbecue grill, too). No more burnt-to-a-char foil packet meals!
Heavy Duty aluminum foil works the best here, but if you only have regular foil, use it doubled, and make smaller packets since it isn't as wide.
If you don't wish to have your food against the aluminum foil (also called tin foil) , place a piece of parchment paper between the foil and the potatoes.
Campfire Roasted Potatoes
- 3 medium potatoes
- ½ large onion
- 3 to 4 tablespoons butter
- optional - garlic, fresh or dried herbs
- heavy duty aluminum foil - 18 inches (45cm) wide
- 5 or 6 large sheets newspaper
- optional - parchment paper
Tear off a 2-foot long (60cm) piece of foil from the roll. If using parchment paper, place an 18 inch (45cm) long piece on top.
Use about 1 tablespoon of the butter to spread in a rough circle on the center of the foil or parchment.
Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then slice the halves crosswise into thin slices.
Do the same to the onion. Slice a couple cloves of garlic, if using.
Place the potatoes on the buttered paper or tin foil. Scatter the onions on top, and the garlic or herbs, if using them.
Cut 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter into chunks and dot them over the top.
Sprinkle it all with salt and pepper to taste.
Bring the outside edges of the tin foil together and neatly fold them over several times until they are snug against the potatoes. Roll up both ends, until they snug up against the potatoes.
Lay the packet on top of the stacked newspaper sheets. Roll up the packet with the newspaper, tucking one loose end under and one over the packet.
Now hold the newspaper-wrapped packet under running water, turning it so the water gets every side wet through all the layers, or dunk it into a bucket of water (or the lake) until the newspaper is soaked through. I unfold the ends and let water run in the openings to make sure the inside layers of newspaper are wet, too.
Tear off another 2-foot long (60cm) chunk of heavy duty foil and wrap the package up again the same way.
Place the package onto a grate over a campfire, or directly into glowing coals (if the fire has burned down somewhat). Or place it onto a barbecue grill. Turn the packet several times during cooking.
The tricky part is estimating how long it takes for the potatoes to become tender. I find the 45 minutes to an hour is usually enough, but it will depend on the size of your tin foil packet and the heat of your fire or coals. Because of the insulating nature of the wet newspaper, they don't burn too easily. If the packet is close to hot flames it will cook faster.
We had our packets on for well over an hour, and the edges of the potatoes were just starting to brown a bit.
You can open up the packet, using oven mitts and a fork, if you want to check for doneness, then rewrap the packet and roast it some more if it needs it - just don't flip it over on the grate if you rewrap, as the butter will leak out.
When the potatoes are done, the paper will be dry.
Serves about 4 hungry campers.
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You might also like:
Nature's Gifts: Fresh Trout, Morels and a Side of Bannock
Succotash and a Week at the Cabin
End of Summer at the Cabin, and Finally - Bannock Biscuits
The countless birthday celebrations have been mostly Margaret's as we most often end up there near the end of August! The trip to the lake is exactly as Margaret describes and captures. We are so fortunate to be able to experience the cabin at Francois Lake. We always have lots of great food, wine, spirits, laughter, drama of some sort, late nights, and mostly but best of all warm memories of family time and friends. We sampled the potatoes as presented and they were yummy. The newspaper idea is so great as it avoids the burning that usually happens when you wrap food in just baker's paper and foil. They taste best made with fresh potatoes from Margaret's garden. My heart swarms with emotions and love. Thanks for sharing, Margaret. Love your sis, Nancy.
Thank YOU so much, Nancy, for your lovely comment. Yes, those memories from all our times at the cabin are SO special and I feel so lucky that we have them. The fun and love we all share there are what tie a family together. I hope we have many more times like that. Even as the kids get older, the adventures change but are always special. Lots of love to you, too!
Ditto from your other sis. The pictures and story really do capture the experience. The creative juices that get inspired when we all come together in the kitchen is something I treasure and count on to be able to go away for at least a few months with new ideas of how to make food an experience, not just a necessity. Thanks for all the work you put into your blog, to be so consistently putting out interesting, educational, emotionally invoking, articulate and literarily effective at inspiring!!!! Don't stop please. Love Rosalinda.
That makes my heart sing. Thank you, Rosalinda. I really treasure ALL our times together. And yes, cooking together is absolutely the best - I love the creativitiy, too. It is such fun and feels so natural and grounding. Sharing the ideas and the work, and then eating it all together with the conversation and togetherness (and good wine) is what recharges my batteries and makes me excited to get back into the kitchen again. I just wish we could do it more often! Love to you, and wishing you a great autumn!
What a beautiful place! And the food looks delicious! That is what we like to do when we go camping ! That is real life!
You are so right. Having the chance to get back out into nature puts everything into perspective and totally recharges the batteries. We all need that as often as we can. Being out in nature is the best!