Commendable or accursed, according to how it is used. Nothing quite equals it in baking beans. Savory in some boiled dishes. When fried, as a piece de resistance, it successfully resists most people's gastric juices, and is nauseous to many. Purchaseable at most frontier posts and at many backwoods farms.
Small ones generally are tough and too salty. Hard to keep in warm or damp weather; moulds easily. Is attractive to blow-flies, which quickly fill it with " skippers," if they can get at it. It kept in a cheesecloth bag, and hung in a cool, airy place, a ham will last until eaten up, and will be relished. Ham will keep, even in warm weather, if packed in a stout paper bag so as to exclude flies. It will keep indefinitely if sliced, boiled, or fried, and put up in tins with melted lard poured over it to keep out air.
Cuts from large hams are best. Of limited use in pick-up meals. A notorious thirst-breeder. Not comparable to " jerked " beef, which, unfortunately, is not in the market. (For the proc^ ess of jerking venison, see Chapter XV).
Canned Meats and Poultry of all descriptions are quite unfit for steady diet. Devilled or potted ham, chicken, tongue, sausage, and the like, are endurable at picnics, and valuable in emergencies, as when a hard storm makes outdoor cooking impossible. Canned corned beef makes a passable hash.
There is a great difference in quality of canned meats. The cheaper brands found in every grocery store are, generally, abominations. Common canned " roast beef," for example (which has never been wasted at all. but boiled) is stnngv, tasteless, and repugnant. Get catalogues from well-known grocers in the large cities who handle first-class goods.
Never eat meat that has been standing in an opened can: it soon undergoes putrefactive changes. A bulged can (unless frozen) indicates spoiled contents. If ever you have to treat a case of ptomaine poisoning you will not soon forget it.
These are wholesome enough, but the fluid kinds are very bulky for their meagre nutritive value. However, a few cans of consomme are fine for " stock " in camp soups or stews, and invaluable in case of sickness. Here, as with canned meat, avoid the country grocery kind.
Soup powders are a great help in time of trouble — but don't rely on them for a full meal. There are some that are complete in themselves and require nothing but 15 to 20 minutes' cooking; others take longer, and demand (in small type on the label) the addition of ingredients that generally you haven't got. Try various brands at home, till you find what you like.
Shredded codfish, and smoked halibut, sprats, boneless herring, are portable and keep well. They will be relished for variety sake.
Not so objectionable as canned meat. Salmon and sardines are rich in protein. Canned codfish balls save a great deal of time in preparation, and are sometimes welcome when you have no potatoes for the real thing. But go light: these things are only for a change now and then, or for emergency use in bad weather.
To vary the camp bill of fare, eggs are simply invaluable, not only by themselves, but as ingredients in cooking. Look at the cook's timetable at the end of this volume and observe how many of the best dishes call for eggs in making them up.
When means of transportation permit, fresh eggs may be carried to advantage. A hand crate holding is, dozen weighs about 24 pounds, filled.
To test an egg for freshness, drop it into cold water; if it sinks quickly it is fresh, if it stands on end it is doubtful, if it floats it is surely bad.
To preserve eggs, rub them all over with vaseline, being careful that no particle of shell is uncoated. They will keep good much longer than if treated with lime water, salt, paraffine, water-glass or any of the other common expedients.
On hard trips it is impracticable to carry eggs in the shell. Some campers break fresh eggs and pack, them in friction-top cans. The yolks soon break, and they will keep but a short time. A good brand of desiccated eggs is the solution of this problem. It does away with all risk of breaking and spoiling, and reduces bulk and weight very much, as will be seen below.
Desiccated eggs vary a great deal in quality according to material and process employed. Condemned storage eggs have been used by unscrupulous manufacturers, and so, it is said, have the eggs of sea-fowl. I have tried some brands that were uneatable by themselves, nor did they improve any dish I combined them with. On the other hand, I have had five or six years' experience with evaporated eggs made by an Iowa firm which make excellent omelettes and scrambled eggs and are quite equal to fresh ones in bakestuffs and for various other culinary purposes. They are made from fresh hens' eggs (whole, but with sometimes more yolk added) by a strictly sanitary process. A 1 -lb. can, equal to about 3 dozen fresh eggs, measures 6x3x3 inches and weighs 1 lb. 5 oz. gross. It costs little more than fresh eggs, and the powder will never spoil if kept dry. Of course, it cannot be used as fried, boiled, or poached eggs. For omelettes, etc., the powder must soak about an hour in cold or lukewarm water before using; it can be used dry in mixing dough. Thanks to this invention, the camp flapjack need no longer be a culinary horror.
Desiccated eggs made of the yolks only are merely useful as ingredients in cooking.
Sweetened condensed milk (the " salve " of the lumberjacks) is distasteful to most people. Plain evaporated milk is the thing to carry — and don't leave it out if you can practicably tote it. The notion that this is a " baby food," to be scorned by real woodsmen, is nothing but a foolish conceit. Few things pay better for their transportation. It will be allowed that Admiral Peary knows something about food values. Here is what he says in The North Pole: " The essentials, and the only essentials, needed in a serious arctic sledge journey, no matter what the season, the temperature, or the duration of the journey — whether one month or six — are four: pemmican, tea, ship's biscuit, condensed milk. . . . The standard daily ration for work on the final sledge journey toward the Pole on all expeditions has been as follows: i lb. pemmican, 1 lb. ship's biscuit, 4 oz. condensed milk, 1/2 oz. compressed tea".