A tip from Bradford Angier, one of the godfathers of outdoor writing. This is from "How to Stay Alive in the Woods" first written in 1956, it is common knowledge how to use a watch to find north, but if we reverse the principle it is also possible to set your watch by using a compass.
Living in a city (a small one none the less) I rarely get chance to have a fire and it just didn't feel right making my first bannock without one. Fortunately I was invited to New Hampshire to make maple syrup. This was the perfect excuse to try out my frying pan bread skills.
Bannock is an easy to make, no nonsense bread. Although it has Scottish roots it was also a favorite among native Americans as well as hikers, woodsmen and outdoors types. I came across a great number of recipes online and in various publications, they all have a similar base with other flourishes. The most detailed documentation was in Bradford Angier's "Home in Your Pack."
Angier's basic recipe and his method are as follows.
I made a double batch and also added: fresh blueberries, 3 tablespoons of butter and an extra pinch of baking powder. These are all Angier's recommendations for a tastier loaf.
I cooked exactly as advised and the results were fantastic. Crusty and toasted on the outside, fluffy in the middle with small blueberry explosions. Awesome with a little butter and some maple syrup. Looking forward to experimenting with different flavors. Cheese and olive spring to mind.
So the verdict is in. A few weeks ago I went about creating "Treeless Maple Syrup" - this was a recipe of Bradford Angier's that I found in “Taming the Wilds.” As advised I left it to mature and this morning the frying pan went on and the secret pancake mix was made up.
The syrup had taken a strange turn, the sugar all sank and solidified leaving a strange coloured liquid on top. I gave it a good mix and it became thick and caramel like. Once on the pancakes it was actually surprisingly good. A little gritty and extremely sweet, without any hint of potato. My fellow diners both found it "passable, with a weird texture" I was very happy the results. It doesn't really shine a light on maple syrup but a servicable replacement if you cant get hold of the real stuff.
Maple syrup season is nearly upon us and we have been invited to a syrup cook-out in New Hampshire, so my maple syrup adventure continues.
Although not a self confessed tea lover Bradford Angier did sing its praises highly and took enjoyment in the ritual. In "Home in your pack," published 1965, he descibes his tea needs simply.
Angier also goes into some detail about the place tea holds for many a northern woodsman.
I think that Angier paints a vivid picture of the ritual and while today a fire might not always be appropriate and tea bags may be favoured the tradition lives on. Angier was a great and prolific writer, all of his books are worth a look if you can find them.
After pack weight, trail food would have to be one of the most talked about hiking subjects. I am fascinated by the creative recipes written in older hiking books. The most interesting come from a time before commercial hiking food, when hikers managed with some fresh produce and dry staples, adding to their larder by hunting and gathering. Most recipes are fairly predictable rabbit stew, fish, beans and breads.
There is one recipe, however, that stuck in my head more than any other. Treeless Maple Syrup from Bradford Angier's 1967 publication "Taming the Wilds."
This recipe is for those living outside the North East who do not have access to maple trees.
It can then be bottled.
Being a newcomer to New England, and not having had the chance to make my own maple syrup yet, I thought I would give it a try. I'd love to report it was incredible but as per Angier's instructions I am leaving it to mature. An initial tasting was accurate to Angier's prediction, realising my "worst fears" flavour wise. He advised placing it in a dark place for several days the results of which he promises will be surprising. I shall report back once ready.
UPDATE: Results are in.