Campfire Gumbo

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A note before we begin: The word gumbo derives from a west African word meaning okra. African slaves brought okra seeds to America. That brings up 2 points:

  • If it doesn't contain okra, it's not a gumbo. It's a stew.
  • If you know a racist who likes gumbo, enlighten that ignorant person.

You will need a 5 or 7 quart cast iron Dutch oven.
I suggest a Lodge 5 quart Dutch oven #8DO2 or 7 quart Dutch oven #10D02.

Camping tripod

I used a take-apart, portable tripod I made myself. Click here for construction details.

This gumbo recipe fills a 5 quart Dutch oven. I cooked it over a campfire, so spills were no
problem. If you cook it on your kitchen stove, use a 7 quart Dutch oven and avoid a messy cleanup.

Cost = less than $10.00.   Feeds 6 - 8 hungry folks.

Here's what else you'll need:
  • 4 lbs of fish or fowl   I used chicken, a fryer. You can substitute anything that swims or flies, i.e., duck, goose, guinea fowl, alligator, catfish, bass, etc.
  • 4 oz smoked pork sausage, thinly sliced

  • ¼ cup cooking oil
  • ¼ cup flour

  • 3 cups okra, ¼ inch slices
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped

  • ½ gallon water

  • 1 14.5 oz can of stewed tomotoes
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 10 oz cans diced Rotel® tomatoes or tomatoes w/green chilies  Yankees may use 1 can w/chilies, 1 can wo/chilies

  • 3 tbsps red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt  (Watch your sodium. The tomato products are loaded with it, 3250 mgs total.)

Boiling The Meat
A Cut-up Fryer Boiling
STEP #1: Use the ˝ gallon of water and boil the fish or fowl meat–not the pork sausage–until tender. I boiled the cut-up fryer for 1 hour. If you use tender meat or fish such as catfish or bass, boil for only about 5 or 10 minutes or just long enough to convert the ˝ gallon of water to ˝ gallon of stock. The stock is as important as the meat, which will be added near the end of the cooking process. If you cook fish too long, it will disintegrate.

STEP #2: Remove the pot from the fire, save the stock, and set the meat aside so it will cool.

STEP #3:Make a roux (or use commercial roux). Return the now-empty pot to the fire and add 1/4 cup of oil. When the oil is hot, add 1/4 cup of flour. Stir vigorously for several minutes, closely watching the color of the flour. When it turns a nice medium brown, you have a fine roux and you had better quickly cool down the roux or you'll burn it and have to start over. Adding Flour To Hot Oil
Adding Flour To Hot Oil
 Stirring The Roux
Stirring The Roux

NOTE: Do not add cold or cool liquid to a hot cast iron pot. The pot will crack. Either remove the pot from the fire and let it cool, or do as I did at this point and add the veggies and then the spices.

Adding the Veggies And Spices
Adding The Veggies And
The Spices
STEP #4: Quickly add the veggies and the spices before you burn your roux.

Stir the veggies and spices for about 1 minute or until the onion becomes translucent.

Note: Add only 1 cup of okra with the veggies. Save the other 2 cups to add with the meat. The 1 cup will cook to pieces and thicken the brew. The 2 cups added later will remain somewhat whole.


STEP #5: Add the tomato products.

STEP #6:: Add the stock, all of it. Then lower the heat and allow mixture to simmer at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

While you're waiting, debone the fish/fowl meat, if it has bones. Throw away the bones and fat. Tear the meat into bite size chunks.

Adding The Tomato Products
Adding The Tomato Products

Now, while the next 2 hours pass and the pot simmers and all of those different flavors combine and react with each other, I'd pop the top on a cold beer if I was you, and I'd sit back and relax and watch the fire and the pot and I'd wonder about the meaning of life and how the pore folks live. I can tell you for sure that some of us live pretty damn fine. At least we eat mighty fine.

Adding Meat And Okra
Adding The Meat And
Ready To Simmer Another Hour
Ready To Simmer The
Last Hour
STEP #7: After 2 hours of the pot simmering and you relaxing, add to the pot the chunks of fish/fowl meat, the 4 ozs of thinly sliced pork sausage, and the remaining 2 cups of okra.

Simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. By now you'll probably be famished, but wait that hour–you'll be glad you did. You may need to add water during that last, long hour. You may not. I didn't.

The ResultsI hung my pot over the fire at 3:45 pm and removed it at 8:15. Y'all, it was mighty fine eating and well worth the 4+ hours of waiting.

Serve with rice, a dash or 2 of genuine Tabasco® sauce, a chunk of white onion, a jalapeno or 2, and crackers or cornbread. Chase it with ice cold beer or dry white wine.

Man, you talk about good eating! You'll be amazed at the taste of this gumbo made with readily available spices. The key is the long simmering time which allows the natural flavors time to react with each other.

A suggestion: Genuine McIlhenny Tabasco Sauce® adds more than just hotness. It is hot, for sure, but it contributes an oak-cask-like flavor to gumbo that can't be beat. If you can't find it locally, order some from their web site before making this or any other gumbo.

Another suggestion: If you prefer to thicken your gumbo with filé, eliminate the 1 cup of okra in STEP #4


My granddaughter, E. Claire Ganey, 3 days before her 9th birthday and eating this same gumbo 2 days after the cooking. She likes to put her gumbo on her cracker, as you can see. A few seconds after I snapped this photo, Claire said, "Oh, this is wonderful."My Granddaughter, Claire Ganey
Even though she's the world's most precious child, E. Claire Ganey suffers from diabetes. Visit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation web site at for more information.

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