By Tim H. Martin
Making s'mores around a campfire should be a fun and simple activity, but the kids all too often end up with charred marshmallows, grit in their teeth and singed eyebrows.
Raise your hand if you've ever gotten impatient and stuck your marshmallows too close to - or even worse - into the roaring flames.
A couple of ants stuck to your char-mallow, but you picked it up, burned your fingers and ate it anyway, didn't you?
I'm not judging. I'm a firm believer in the five-second rule, and I've eaten my fair share of campfire treats containing bug legs. But, through the years, I've learned a thing or two.
Here are simple tips for making off-the-grid campfire S'mores.
Cook over Coals, Not Flames
If you watch Dutch oven experts at work, they prepare a place to the side of the main fire. They heap coals in that spot for the actual cooking. When the heat needs to be turned up, they add embers. To cool things, they remove some. It's the coals they want, not the fire.
Bring a Shovel
Most of us own shovels. It's what many experienced campfire cooks use to move coals. If a full size shovel is too big to take along, borrow the small ash scoop from a fireplace tool set.
For roasting sticks, leave the coat hanger wires at home and cut firm, green sapling limbs, bamboo or cane upon arriving at the campfire. Dead sticks catch fire, break and leave bark in your marshmallows, so use a hatchet, pruning shears or pocketknife to make good roasting sticks.
A Bucket & Gloves
If the campfire is going to be really big, you'll need to cook a distance from the heat. Bring a metal gardening bucket (the kind with handles), your shovel and leather gloves. Shovel a few coals into the metal gardening bucket and use leather gloves to carefully carry the bucket away from the campfire to roast your marshmallows. It doesn't take a lot of heat to roast marshmallows or weenies, so there's no need to take many coals. Just make sure the bucket has a solid bottom!
My Campfire Revenge Story
When my son was small, we attended a church campout where the H.D.I.C. (Head Dad In Charge) instructed all the boys to roast marshmallows and weenies over an enormous campfire the devil himself wouldn't have cooked over. The boys would have needed 14-foot sticks, but they still tried.
They'd run up to the fire, turns their little faces away from the heat and extend their marshmallows toward the flames as long as they could stand it. When their marshmallows burst into flames, they'd retreat a few feet and try to quickly blow them out before the molten mallow plopped to the dirt. When the bag of marshmallows was empty, they sadly resorted to eating cold, marshmallowless S'mores.
When I tried to put a stop to the madness, the H.D.I.C. made it clear he didn't appreciate my advice, or anyone else's, around HIS campfire. He seemed to be one of those guys who knew everything there is to know about everything; you know the type.
Being the new dad, I respected his game plan, stepped back and quietly watched the torchfest continue. Luckily, I'd reserved several clean marshmallows for my son and myself, just in case.
Thirty minutes later, after the inferno died down, I shoveled aside a few beautifully glowing embers and produced the reserved marshmallows while the H.D.I.C. looked on. I'd cut two bamboo canes for roasting sticks, and my son and I began turning the marshmallows ever so slightly above the coals.
When the marshmallows turned an even, golden brown, just to the limits of a semi-solid state, I slid them between our Hershey-loaded graham crackers and told my son to eat slowly.
I made sure the H.D.I.C. was watching as we nibbled into our warm sandwiches of oozy chocolatey goodness. Golden mallow perfection puffed from between the crackers as we bit down, and melted Hershey bar drizzled down our chins. I might or might not have even groaned a little as I licked the remnants from my fingers, just for show.
Maybe it was just plain unchristian of me to reach into my cooler and pull out an icy jug of milk and two tall glasses.
But, it's like my mamma always told me; revenge is a dish best served cold.
Traditionally, S'mores are constructed with two graham crackers on either side of a square of Hershey's chocolate bar with a large roasted marshmallow between them. If you want to take your S'mores to the next level and be the envy of the campfire, bring a few other ingredients: peanut butter, bananas, ice cream sprinkles, vanilla frosting, Rice Krispies. You can try different types of chocolate bars, too: Ghirardelli's, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Godiva, M&Ms or Kit Kats.