Come join me to see how we cooked a whole meal on the campfire using only local Alberta products. The porterhouse steak grilled directly on the coals was a surprise and a highlight, being just lightly smoky and done to juicy, tender perfection, as well as the fruity, slightly floral kombucha cocktail, 'Sweet Rhuby', made with locally distilled craft gin, rhubarb-honey syrup, and a light and lovely Edmonton brewed kombucha. (Skip to recipes.)
Earlier this summer I started an exciting project, and I hadn't yet got myself organized to tell you about it. It's my delicious new outdoor culinary adventure, 'Campfire Cooking'. I asked my friend Sabina, fellow food enthusiast, amazing home chef, and talented artist, if she would be my partner-in-crime with this project because of course, such adventures are always more fun with a friend. And if that friend is as crazy about being creative and adventurous with food as I am, then the fun is exponentially multiplied
With all the pandemic restrictions coming and going during the last year and a half, Raymond and I have been doing our entertaining as outdoor meals prepared over the firepit, and hence this project was born.
Sabina and I have come up with a plan for cooking at least one meal a month completely over the campfire. We get together and plan our theme and the menu, do the shopping, then spend the afternoon of our designated day doing any advance prep work. We then take turns at our firepits each month, grilling (and enjoying) the meals while we sit out by the crackling fire with a drink in hand (husbands get to join in and be our taste testers and drink pourers ;). It has become the highlight of each month for me, and we've been excited coming up with different themes and ideas for many campfire meals to come yet. We're hoping to continue late into the fall, maybe even do a winter campfire cookout, too! August was our third Campfire Cooking adventure, which I'll share with you today. (Previously we did an Eastern European menu and a seafood menu, which I'll post about later.)
For this month's theme we chose 'Local Alberta', and we set ourselves the task of cooking the entire meal with only products grown or made in Alberta. It was an exciting challenge and opened our eyes to the many fantastic local products Alberta has to offer. From our homegrown garden vegetables to handcrafted canola oil, southern Alberta sugar, locally distilled spirits and wines, to the world-famous Alberta Angus beef, this meal was a knockout! The only ingredient we couldn't source from Alberta was salt, so we allowed ourselves to bend the rule slightly and used lovely small batch local sea salt from Vancouver Island in the neighbouring province of British Columbia.
Scouting out all the local products to use for this dinner was enlightening and rewarding. I had a great time talking to the butchers in our Stony Plain Freson Brothers as they explained the special qualities of Alberta beef and what makes it so sought after worldwide. They cut two beautiful porterhouse steaks for our dinner. Then off to Edmonton where I enjoyed talking to the fellows at Strathcona Spirits in helping me pick out the Seaberry Gin to use for our signature cocktail. They directed me to Boocha, Edmonton's first kombucha brewery, tucked into its funky little backstreet location near Whyte Avenue where I was invited to taste test some of the delightful kombucha flavours. Brian helped me narrow down the delicious selection to their bright lavender kombucha to add a floral note to our new cocktail. Poking through a variety of other local shops provided us with everything we needed for our tasty campfire cooking menu showcasing many of Alberta's fantastic products.
Look at this amazing menu:
Our Local Alberta Campfire Cooking Menu
'Sweet Rhuby' Rhubarb Honey Kombucha Cocktail
Zucchini & Alberta Gouda Fritter with Oat & Dill Seed Crumble and Quick Pickled Carrot Ribbons
Sour Cherry Honey Granita
Ember-grilled Alberta Black Angus Porterhouse Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce and Sour Cherry Sauce, Baked Potatoes with Herbed Sour Cream and Bacon, Grilled Tomatoes and Patty Pan Squash with Basil Oil and Crispy Breadcrumbs, Grilled Green Beans
Individual Grilled Corn Puddings with Clotted Cream, Whipped Cream, and Local Wild Chokecherry Syrup
We started out the meal by sipping on the light and fruity rhubarb, honey, gin kombucha cocktail. The addition of a few drops of Alberta wild herb bitters rounded it out with a rich complexity. A great way to whet our appetite for the delights to come. Our first course was a herby, creamy zucchini fritter, fried crisp in a skillet over the campfire, then topped with a slice of Alberta-made gouda cheese and a crumble of butter-fried prairie oats punctuated with dill seeds from the garden. As a fresh and tangy counterpart, we quick-pickled thin ribbons of fresh carrots - what a divine combination.
An icy granita made of sour cherries and honey provided a bright palate cleanser before the main course.
That coal-grilled steak was a revelation! The ash from the coals didn't stick to the meat as the steaks cooked right on top of the glowing coals. Thick, prime quality porterhouse steaks only needed a liberal sprinkle of salt and pepper, and were then laid onto the well-burned embers to sear and gently sizzle to perfect doneness. We let them rest, then served them with our homemade chimichurri sauce loaded with garden herbs and a drizzle of a tangy sour cherry sauce made from Sabina's cherries. We baked potatoes in foil on top of the grill rack and cooked up a pack of wonderful dry-salted bacon. We dolloped the baked potatoes with sour cream laced with a variety of chopped fresh garden herbs and then crumbled the crispy bacon on top. We grilled up some fresh garden tomatoes and zucchini and drizzled them with basil oil and a sprinkling of crispy fried bread crumbs. We couldn't resist grilling up a handful of fresh green and yellow beans, too. A glass of red Saskwach Blackcurrant and Honey wine was a fitting accompaniment to the steak and grilled vegetables, being rich and complex in flavour.
Dessert was a delightful corn pudding/cake baked in individual little cast iron skillets. Sweet corn cobs were picked fresh from the garden and then grilled to provide smoky bits of kernels that popped amongst the creamy corn pudding base. We topped them with big spoonfuls of prairie clotted cream, whipped cream, and a dark tangy sauce made of wild chokecherries. It was a spectacular end to our campfire meal. We enjoyed it sitting in the dark around the crackling fire, sharing laughs and stories and sipping a glass of sweet Alberta honey wine.
So Many Wonderful Local Alberta Products Used
All products used in this campfire meal were produced locally, in Alberta, except for the salt*, which is from Vancouver Island in the neighbouring province of British Columbia. Local Alberta retail outlets shopped at were: Blush Lane Organic Market - Edmonton, Homegrown Foods - Stony Plain, Freson Bros. - Stony Plain, Italian Centre Shop - West Edmonton, Liquor on Macleod - Spruce Grove, Strathcona Spirits - Edmonton, Boocha - Edmonton, The Silk Road Spice Merchant - Edmonton
Fruits and Vegetables
From our Yards and Gardens: zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, corn, squash, chokecherries (syrup), sour cherries (syrup), rhubarb (syrup) fresh herbs (parsley, dill, chervil, tarragon, chives, garlic chives, basil, lavender), dill seeds, edible flowers (borage, marigold, oregano)
Alberta Garlic - Freson Bros. Grocery (Stony Plain, Alberta)
Meat and Dairy
- Porterhouse Steaks - Freson Bros. Grocery, Butcher Shop (Stony Plain, Alberta)
- Dry Salted Bacon - Old Country Sausages (Raymond, Alberta)
- Medium Gouda - Sylvan Star Cheese (Red Deer, Alberta)
- Sour Cream (18% Milk Fat) - Bles-Wold Yogurt, Crystal Springs Dairy (Coalhurst, Alberta)
- Butter - Foothills Creamery (Calgary, Alberta)
- Ghee - Chinook Cheese (Calgary, Alberta)
- English Clotted Cream - Chinook Cheese (Calgary, Alberta)
- Milk - Rockridge Dairy (Ponoka, Alberta)
- Cream - Rockridge Dairy (Ponoka, Alberta)
- Eggs - from our chickens
- Organic Canola Oil - Highwood Crossing Foods (High River, Alberta)
- Organic Rolled Oats - Highwood Crossing Foods (High River, Alberta)
- Organic Unbleached Flour - Highwood Crossing Foods (High River, Alberta)
- Premium Light Spelt Flour - Hockley Valley Whole Foods (Canmore, Alberta)
- Panko Style Bread Crumbs, Gluten Free - Kinnikinnick Foods (Edmonton, Alberta)
- Honey - Bee Maid Honey (Spruce Grove, Alberta)
- Sugar - Rogers APEGA (Taber, Alberta)
- Apple Cider Vinegar - homemade from our own apples
- *Sea Salt, Fine - Vancouver Island Sea Salt (Campbell River, British Columbia)
- *Finishing Salt/Raincoast Flor de Sal - Saltwest (Sooke, British Columbia)
- Badland Seaberry Gin - Strathcona Spirits (Edmonton, Alberta)
- Lavender Kombucha - Boocha (Edmonton, Alberta)
- Alberta Botanical Bitters - Wild Life Distillery (Canmore, Alberta)
- Saskwatch Blackcurrant/Saskatoon Honey Wine - Spirit Hills Honey Winery (Millarville, Alberta)
- Haskap Honey Wine - Grey Owl Meadery (Alder Flats, Alberta)
- Saskatoon Berry Dessert Wine - Field Stone Fruit Wines (Strathmore, Alberta)
Campfire Cooking a Roaring Success
Our Alberta Campfire Cookout was a flaming success. We discovered so many amazing Alberta products that added to the delicious combination of flavours in this multi-course meal. Eating outdoors with the breezes rustling the trees and the birds chirping a soundtrack in the background alongside the crackling fire provided an unforgettable setting. The hint of woodsmoke was the best seasoning and our hearty appetites appreciated every flavourful nuance. Can't wait to do it again!
Coal Grilled Steaks
(from 'How to Grill Everything' by Mark Bittman)
- 1 large porterhouse or rib eye steak, 1-1½ inches (2.5-4 cm) thick, for every two people served
- glowing hot wood coals
Build a fire and let it burn for at least one hour, or better yet, two. Use nice big logs so you get a good hot base of glowing red coals. Rake the coals together to be as level as possible or adjust the logs to provide a relatively flat surface for the steaks.
Bring the steaks to room temperature, trim off excess fat so it is between ¼ and a ½ inch thick. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the steaks.
Using tongs, place the steaks directly on the flattened bed of glowing coals. Cook them for about 5-7 minutes per side (1-inch thick steaks will need 5 minutes, thicker steaks will need up to 7 minutes), turning them once half way through, until they are to your desired level of doneness. Set the steaks onto a grill set near the fire, but not directly over. Cover with foil or an inverted bowl and leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice into strips and serve with Chimichurri Sauce.
Alberta 'Sweet Rhuby' (Rhubarb Honey Kombucha Cocktail)
- 1½ oz gin
- 2 oz lavender kombucha (or other favourite kombucha flavour)
- ½ oz rhubarb-honey syrup
- 3 drops Alberta Botanical Bitters (or other favourite bitters)
Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake for 30 seconds, then strain into pretty cocktail glasses or martini glasses. Garnish with a sprig of fresh lavender, if desired.
Makes 1 'Sweet Rhuby' kombucha cocktail.
- 2 cups (250gms) chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup (240ml) water
- ½ cup (170gms) liquid honey
Combine the rhubarb and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and stir in the honey. Cool, store in fridge for up to 2 months.
Makes ~1 cup (240ml).
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