Things just aren’t the same as they used to be. In the old Westerns, the beautiful leading lady would ride up on a horse, her make-up fully intact, hair perfect. She’d slide off the side of said horse into the arms of John Wayne. He’d grasp her 18 inch waist and whisk her off to the camp site where she’d roll her own cigarette and make a pot of percolated coffee on the fire. Wow! Hold the phone! Everything else was lost on me. Percolated coffee? How the hell did she do that? Where did she plug that thing in? Surely camera magic was in play! Women used to be so amazing! (Sure, before I start getting hate mail, I know we’re still pretty damned amazing. We do more than percolate coffee. But you have to admit that there was something about those women…)
After years of apologizing in advance every time I arrived at any campsite for my embarrassing lack of knowledge of all things campy, I decided to take the bull by the …uh… horns, Master the campsite. Yes, I decided to become the “Queen of the Hunting Camp”.
The 18 inch waist was there (plus enough to make a few more leading ladies). I could master the make-up and a cute cowgirl hat covers a multitude of sins. I don’t smoke and rolling your own really leans toward the 70’s. Don’t want to give away my age.
However, I learned that any camp-goers will cheer and make a queen of anyone who will produce coffee in the morning! If that coffee is percolated, heads will reel, people will fall to their knees in awe and praise, everyone will want to have their pictures taken with the “chick who can make coffee in a percolator”.
It is within your grasp to don the title “Queen of the Hunting Camp”.
Here’s what you need:
A GOOD percolator! I bought 2 different cheap ones before I invested in a good quality model. It really doesn’t pay to buy a super cheap one because they have a multitude of problems that might make you want to give up and head for the nearest Starbucks. (Don’t do it. Your reputation is at stake!)
Look for these things:
stainless steel construction throughout (including the insert) – I’ve seen some really nice enameled percolators. These are fine but usually don’t have an insulated handle, glass button top, or sturdy construction of the insert. If you find a great enameled one, look for these elements (and let me know)! They’re really cool and retro. I just haven’t found one that has everything I need.
a sturdy insert that doesn’t wobble, and (this is really important) a lid that fits securely on the insert basket so the grounds don’t spill out
an insulated handle – It gets pretty hot. Mine is made of wood. Keep in mind your heat source. If you are intending to use a campfire or the like, you won’t want any plastic or rubber parts. By the same token, medal handles will require you to have a pot holder or cloth nearby.
a glass button on top – This allows you to see how your coffee is progressing as it perks up through the stem.
When purchasing a percolator, you also need to consider how many cups of coffee you will be preparing. When we go to Wyoming for the family camp trip, there are usually 40 to 50 people at any given time. I was tempted to get a huge honkin’ percolator from Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shop, or Army Surplus to accommodate them all. When we head out to the hunting camp, however, there’s usually just my immediate family, only two of whom drink coffee. I came to the conclusion that I can always make several pots of coffee for a larger crowd and that most of my camping during the year is for just a few people so I decided on the average sized percolator. Some of the larger models can, of course, do double duty as a hot tub.
Making percolator coffee
You will need:
coarsely ground coffee – I’ve made it countless times with regular canned coffee. The problem for me (maybe it won’t bother you as much) is that the grind used for automatic drip coffeemakers is slightly too fine for the basket of the percolator and grounds will inevitably end up in the coffee. By letting the coffee rest for a couple of minutes after it’s perked, and removing the insert before pouring, you can minimize the fiber from your coffee! Most grocers have a “grind your own” section now. If grounds in your coffee bother you, you may consider going this route. Adjust the grind to “Coarse” and it will perc a great cup of coffee sans the stuff in your teeth! My new favorite coffee of choice for the hunting camp is roasted right here in the great state of Texas, Brenham to be exact. Jet Fuel is the variety. Deep, rich flavor. Independence Coffee Company (www.independencecoffee.com) is worth looking into. I love to endorse local businesses! I’m planning on a field trip to check things out (at Blue Bell Ice Cream, too, while I’m in the area)
good water – Bring several bottles of good drinking water just for your coffee. It really does make a difference in how the coffee disperses throughout.
a heat source – Know ahead of time what type of heat source you will be using; grill over a campfire, a camp stove, or a camper cooktop.
Remove the insert from your coffeepot and fill the pot with water, using the coffee mugs from which you will be drinking to measure. Be careful not to fill so full as to reach the insert basket. Keep in mind that most coffee mugs are NOT 8 ounce cups. So a percolator that holds 10 cups will not fill 10 coffee mugs. My ruggedly cute enamalware mugs each hold 2 cups, for example.
Place coffee pot on your heat source so that it will begin to boil while you fill the insert basket.
Remove the lid from the insert basket and fill with one tablespoon of coffee grounds for each 8 oz. of water. Replace lid and place insert carefully into the percolator (it will be very hot at this point). Allow water to continue to boil for about ten minutes depending on how strong you like your coffee.* If using a camp stove or cooktop, once water begins to boil, turn down heat and continue to boil for ten minutes for strong coffee. You can check the progress of your coffee through the glass button in the lid.
I’d like to apologize for what may be considered unnecessarily drawn out and complicated instructions. Before I finally figured out how to be the hunting camp queen, I surfed the web and found many single paragraph descriptions for the perfect cup of camp coffee. They each seemed to leave out some important bit of info. Could it have been a conspiracy instigated by OTHER camping queens? Something to think about!
*Every heat source is different, as is each person’s preference for coffee strength. Sadly, this is really a trial and error endeavor. Don’t give up, however! After several tries, you will have perfected the process!
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