Breakfasts should be easy. They almost always are, when you’re camping, backpacking, or canoeing and must carry all food in and out.
Mark “River” Peoples is Chief Guide at the Quapaw Canoe Company, in Clarksdale, Miss., and has been cooking over cookfires in GSI anodized aluminum dutch ovens for the better part of a decade. He has perfected breakfast oats, and although nothing new, there are nuances and methods for making a bowl of grain that takes form in a way that everyone on his expeditions favors.
Having spent 6 weeks paddling the Mississippi River in the spring and 10 days this fall, I have observed, photographed, and eaten these oats numerous times. This is my recollection of and sharing the Roasted Oats that Mark fuels overnights and two-month canoe-camping trips with. Bacon Variation* at the end!
1 bag old-fashioned rolled oats (32 oz, i.e.: Bob’s Red Mill)
5-6 apples, sliced (red, galas preferred)
2 c. walnuts, chopped
Olive oil (always EVOO)
Bowl additions (optional, to taste):
Boil water in kettle. When water boils, remove from flames, set near the fire. In 12” or 14” dutch oven, heat over coals. Add olive oil just enough oil to coat the bottom of the basin. When hot, after 12 minutes, add apple slices. Cook, stirring occasionally, making sure to brown and caramelize the apples until browning at the skins’ edges. Add chopped walnuts to the basin, stirring, making sure to coat walnuts with oil. (Don’t hesitate to add a little more EVOO.) When everything is coated, remove the dutch from the fire. Add the oats, all at once, stirring to coat the oats evenly. Return to cookfire, stirring frequently to toast the oats with apples and walnuts and oil until they begin to golden and emit a slight aroma. Add boiled water littlebylittle, just enough to saturate oat mixture. Cook-off the water, add more water, cook off the water, until desired consistency. This method ensures more of a stiff porridge, resembling something between a softened granola or cooked muesli.
Add any of the optional bowl additions, or get creative. Quapaw Canoe Company recommends the slightlysour and nevergoingbad Kefir (livecultured milk drink, somewhere between yogurt and whole milk consistency) and some peanut butter. Serves 8-10.
*Variation: If you have meateaters at camp and a lot of bacon, chop bacon into 12” squares. Cook in the dutch oven, stirring frequently to render fat. Remove cooked bacon bits, store in a bowl. Use cooked lard to roast apples, walnuts, and oats for a savory version of the same dish. Crumble bacon bits on top of finished oats
Chris Battaglia is a passionate canoer, explorer, artist, chef, and GSI Outdoors ambassador. He spent six weeks paddling from St. Louis to New Orleans on an expedition filled with cooking, stay tuned for more of Chris' recipes from his adventures. For more camp cookery exploration recipes, and good times, follow Chris on instagram at @chris___battaglia.