Food on Fire

Carnitas on a Swedish Log Fire

Swedish logs are a sporting way to get a lunch fire going

Caramelized Carnitas ready for a tortilla.
Caramelized Carnitas ready for a tortilla. — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler

Crimson flames licking a skillet have a way of holding your attention, and it’s not just the delicious promise of something seared. There are plenty of ways to make a fire, to make lunch. There certainly is no need to cut the face of a fat birch log with a gas-powered chainsaw, light a fire in one standing end and cook lunch in a cast iron skillet. Being outdoors is good fun and cooking food on fire is part of it. Swedish logs are a sporting way to get a lunch fire going. Sometimes we do things only because we can; besides, it will give you something to talk about on Monday back at the office.

This article will teach you how make an impressive fire out of a single log for a novel cook-top. Let’s cook some lunch.

Three crisscross cuts half the length of the log,
Three crisscross cuts half the length of the log, — Photo courtesy Josh Fowler
Once cut, light a fire in the intersection of the cuts.
Once cut, light a fire in the intersection of the cuts. — Photo courtesy Josh Fowler
Chainsaws are designed to be efficient cutting tools, Use Caution!
Chainsaws are designed to be efficient cutting tools, Use Caution! — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler

Anything you would cook over high heat in a cast-iron skillet, you can cook on a Swedish log. Sear a well-marbled rib steak? No problem. Whistle up a mushroom-Swiss omelette? Piece of cake. Flambé some sour cherries to top homemade ice cream? Well, yes, but no need to get carried away. Here is how you do this one:

Tools

  • 10- to 14-inch Swedish log, also known as Swedish candle (see photo and sidebar directions)
  • Firestarter, suitable tinder or Vaseline-soaked cotton ball
  • Oven mitts or fireproof gloves
  • 10-inch frying pan, cast-iron skillet
  • Steel spatula
  • Matches or lighter
  • Aluminum foil (for tortillas)

Ingredients

1 pound (454 grams) of pre-cooked Pork Carnitas Meat made (possibly weeks) in advance.

  • Buy 5 pounds (2.25 kilograms) pork trim or cubed to your slow cooker. Add 1 cup of water. Start the slow cooker on high. When it bubbles, turn to simmer for 6 to 8 hours. (I do mine overnight.)
  • Remove the meat, drain in a colander capturing the liquid in a stainless steel bowl. 
  • Using clean disposable gloves, separate the meat from the fat. Dispose of the fatty bits. 
  • Separate the fat and stock once chilled. Save the fat for pastry, stock for soup. Both can be packaged and frozen. The liquid is perishable and should be refrigerated immediately and used within a day or two or packaged and frozen.
  • Package the meat in 1-pound (450-gram) packs for the freezer for later use.

8 Corn tortillas, wrapped in aluminum foil and warmed over the fire

1 large Spanish onion, peeled and sliced lengthwise

1 each red and green peppers, topped, seeded and sliced

Your favourite salsa

Salt, black pepper for adjusting seasoning

Toasted coriander, hot crushed chilies—combine and grind lightly in mortar

Cooking fat (lard or vegetable oil)

Side view of skillet on Swedish log.
Side view of skillet on Swedish log. — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler

Method

  • Make a Swedish log from dry wood, preferably birch—see sidebar 
  • Get the log set up to light (or, if you are the timid type, turn the burner on your outdoor stove)
  • Prepare the ingredients above
  • Light the fire
  • Once the fire is underway, place the skillet over the fire and heat to cooking temperature
  • Add fat and sauté onion slices about three minutes until they start to turn translucent
  • Add the pork meat, crushed coriander and crushed hot chilies
  • Brown the meat well
  • Stir in sliced red and green peppers and cook another few minutes
  • Adjust flavour with salt and pepper

Serve wrapped in warm tortillas with your favourite salsa.

These carnitas are delicious. The fire makes the skillet very hot for a nice mahogany finish on the meat. Coriander and hot chilies are a perfect combination to create tongue-tingling, lip-smacking flavour. Caramelized onions, and fresh red and green peppers make this dish something your guests will brag about. Not to mention the stories they will tell about your skill with a Swedish log.

Bon appetit! Time to eat!
Bon appetit! Time to eat! — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler

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