Aside from our Pretzel Melts, one of the other most talked about dishes here at Camp is our Oatmeal. The biggest topic of conversation where our Oatmeal is concerned is the trouble people have duplicating it at home.
One such conversation happened just yesterday via email and I thought I’d share the conversation with you all in the hopes that it could shed some light on the secret to making our creamy and filling Camp Oatmeal at home.
I have written to you before in praise of your fabulous food at Ocky. My son is Colin and he just finished his 7th summer session. This year he was fortunate enough to be a Ranger. Even though he spent little time on the Ocky grounds, he was happy to be back to your kitchen. The first thing he said was “ahh Ocky oatmeal.” What gives, what is in your oatmeal. I make homemade oatmeal every day, what do you do different. Colin said it does involve craisins and brown sugar, both are in my kitchen. Do use milk or water, steel cut, rolled, quick??? These are all things i need to know. If I can get him to eat “your” oatmeal before school every day that would be amazing.
Again, thank you for providing amazing food for my camper every year, it is an instrumental part of his camp experience.
Be well and have a peaceful session 5 and enjoy the rest of your summer. See you next year
Well… if I told you how to make the oatmeal just like we do here then what is going to keep Colin coming back to Camp every year?!?!?
I am kidding, of course.
I will tell you what we put in it… but I think there may some tricks to HOW we do it that might take some time to match exactly at home. I have also found that certain things turn out much differently when you cook them in larger volumes and oatmeal is one of them. I’m not sure if it’s the cooking time or the density but there is something about it that is tricky to re-create when you make 1 or 2 servings in a small pot on the stove at home. The entire cooking process here in our kitchen can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes… from boiling the cooking liquid to service. We take it as a slow & methodical ritual and don’t rush the process. It’s the first thing the Chef gets going in the morning, every morning bar none. It’s really like “The Zen Art Of Oatmeal”.
I would say, if you really want to re-create this at home… practice and experimentation is the way to go. Interpret this information and translate it to what will work in your own kitchen. Most importantly, don’t rush it. Slow simmer. Don’t burn the bottom!!
I do use “Quick Oats” but we don’t follow the directions at all. Those of us who make the oatmeal here at Camp have developed an intuitive feel for amounts, length of cooking time and final consistency.
A pinch of salt is always key. You don’t taste the salt but it helps everything on a molecular level. We add a touch of brown sugar to the cooking liquid before the oats go in.
The cooking liquid is a combination of water and milk. About equal parts at first. You cook the oats until they are almost done. There is no measured amount of time because the volume we make (2 to 4 gallons) varies each day and will affect final cooking time duration.
When the oatmeal is just about done we shut off the fire and cover the pot with a lid. This allows the oats to finish cooking and absorb the maximum amount of liquid. Some folks under cook oatmeal, especially in the case of “Instant” oatmeal packets and the end result is a flaky, flat oat that is not very tender. Our oats turn out plump where the individual oats are almost indistinguishable. At service time we take off the lid and assess the thickness. The longer it sits the thicker it will become… and if that happens we will thin it down with more milk before service.
Oh… and we stir the pot… A LOT!! With a wire whip if you must but DO NOT ever scrape the bottom of a metal pot with another metal implement. You will end up with a metallic taste in whatever it is you are cooking. A High Heat rubber spatula works great.
As Colin mentioned to you, we do serve the oatmeal on the counter with bowls of dried cranberries, raisins and more light brown sugar as well as a shaker of cinnamon. All of these can be added at your discretion… although I keep an eye that no one abuses the brown sugar. Sweet is ok but let’s keep it healthy, right?!?!
Our oatmeal is legendary and it is one of two items that gets the most comments and compliments. The other item being the Pretzel Melts.
Our oatmeal has been known to “stick with you” all day. It’s that comfort food that everyone knows and loves. It will warm you on a chilly morning and can be carefully adjusted to your liking with the toppings I mentioned above.
I know this is not an exact recipe… more of a method… but I hope it helps you understand what goes in to our oatmeal and how you might duplicate it at home for Colin… but hopefully we’ll still see him next summer!!