In 2011, Breville appliances got a big shot in the arm when the film “Fat, Sick and nearly Dead” was released to Netflix viewers, doubling the sale of their juicers. Thirty years earlier, the heir to the company’s considerable fortunes made in appliance design and manufacture, brought to the market a signature product that might not have fit so neatly into a health-based trend: the toastie maker. The appliance, a plug-in way to make what Americans call a grilled cheese sandwich, has become an icon in the UK and several former colonies—but before the toastie maker, mainly in South Africa and Australia, there was the jaffle iron; a clamp-together cast iron affair to be filled with bread and anything else the inspired outdoor cook could dream up, cast into the embers of a fire, and left to work its magic. In the U.S., the toastie maker never really caught fire, no pun intended. We’ve hewed close to the humble origins of the jaffle, or pudgy pie, or pie iron.
The season to be out-of-doors is full upon us and so we load the car with all manner of food and shelter and head to the woods. Once there, unless the season has been so dry as to prompt otherwise, we invariably light something on fire, on purpose if we have our wits about us. Because these are institutions of our summer lives and you may well find yourself ensnared in one or more of them, I write to praise the pie iron as an essential part of camping well, far more so than any fancy cookstove or visual media you might own. It is primitive, elemental, just like being in the woods should suggest. More to the point, it renders anything in its jaws succulent, kissed with woodsmoke, and crisp in all the right places. Come, dear reader, and pull up a plate near the fire.
Grilled cheese sandwiches, s’mores or s’more-inspired things, pudgy pies (which can be anything that would otherwise fill a pie crust, between two slices of generously buttered bread). All of these are wonderful. But you should stray. Here are a couple of ideas to set you on your way, all with ingredients you’ll find at the Co-op (including the pie iron):
Sesame Tofu and Bok Choy on English Muffin
- 1 lb. Willy Street Co-op sesame tofu
- 2 heads baby bok choy
- 1 pack Food for Life English muffins
- Sesame oil
- Sriracha sauce
Directions: Wash and cut up bok choy into julienne and douse lightly with sesame oil and sriracha (or more sriracha, as you please). Oil up your pie iron and clamp the tofu steak and bok choy between the two halves of the muffin. Clamp the sandwich in the iron, fasten, and leave in the campfire for 5 minutes or so.
Blueberry-Maple Stuffed French Toast
- 1/2 lb. cream cheese
- 1/4 c. maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 pint fresh blueberries
- 8 slices bread of your choice
- 8 Tbs. butter, unsalted
Directions: In a bowl, mash together first four ingredients roughly with a fork or spoon and spread between slices of bread for four stuffed sandwiches. Butter generously and put (probably one a time, but maybe two) into pie iron. Cook in open pit fire for 4-6 minutes. Add more butter or maple syrup as you please.
Willy Street Co-op has a good selection of Rome cast iron cookware for the campfire, and many more possibilities to go with them—one of my low-maintenance favorites is cooking our housemade sausages in the iron instead of grilling, for great juicy interior and a crisp, browned, crust—come check it out when you’re packing for camping this summer