Backcountry Survival Baking 200 Years Ago

Bread: The Great Survival Food

Today’s story and the recipe come from the Australian Outback.
In Australia, we also call the Backcountry the Bush. Being aware of the different meaning of the Bush in America. , I’m choosing the word Backwater and Outback and not “The Bush”  to describe our down under remote and very rural areas.
During the days of early European settlement, before roads and railways. Drovers moved sheep and cattle across the country. In large mobs stock walked along river systems and indigenous trade routes. Wide tracks of common land where for anyone to graze as long as they moved 6 miles a day.

Early Australia was built on Baking, Damper

Stockmen call “The Drovers” would move their animals for weeks sometimes months. In times of drought, Drovers and their animals would only return home when the rains came, and the grass grew.
drovers source
Today, the Birdsville Track, Tanami Track, and the Canning Stock Route are for tourists. Stock are transported by road and rail along routes where they once walked.
Traveling with The Drovers and the stock were dogs and pack-horses. A particular breed of dog, the Australian Kelpie would muster stock and keep guard at night.
Provisions were carried in a Tucker Box containing no more than flour, tea, and salted beef.
Damper was created by The Drovers, as a filling hot and delicious bread. Cooked around the evening campfire and served with lashings of bush honey.
Damper remains a favorite of campers today. Served with butter and golden syrup or jam and cream.

7 Delicious Backcountry and Camping Bread Recipes

“The Traditional Drovers Damper”
3 cups of flour
1 cup water
Pinch of salt.
Make a well in the flour and salt. Add the water and mix the ingredients with a knife.
Move some campfire coals to the edge and place an empty greased heavy cooking pot to warm. Place the damper dough in the pot with a lid. Return to the fire’s edge and cover with hot coals and cook for 3o minutes.
Damper remains a popular treat for homesteaders and campers. A few modern amendments have been introduced with lemonade and beer.

Warm Beer Damper

4 cups of flour
A can or 375 mil bottle of Full Strength Beer, room temperature or warmed by the fire.
The Method remains the same as “The Traditional Drovers Damper” for all recipes.

Lemonade and Raisin Damper

4 cups of Flour
½ cup cream and ½ cup of Raisins
A can of Lemonade Soda, diet or regular

Rosemary Cheese Damper

4 cups self-raising flour
2 tspn white sugar
2 tspn rock salt
grated rind of 1 lemon
1½ tbsp chopped rosemary
2¾ cups milk
olive oil spray
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan

Damper on a Stick

Kids love cooking Damper, and an Aussie favorite is to make the “The Traditional Drovers Damper” and divide into 8. Get the children to take their portion and wind the piece of stiff dough around a stick. Heat the dough from the heat of the fire, don’t place too near as the outside will burn. When cooked, dip in honey or other syrup.

Lemon and Oregano Damper

2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
 50g butter, chilled, chopped
 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
 3/4 cup milk
 This damper is perfect with a rich beef gravy casserole.

The Cast Iron Boys Traditional Christmas Damper

2 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Sprinkle with salt
1/2 cup mixed fruit
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped cherries
Milk, enough to combine
1. Place all dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. Combine dry ingredients using a wooden spoon.
3. Gradually stir the milk in to form a moist dough.
4. Cover a trivet in aluminum foil and place into your camp oven.
5. Place dough on the trivet, and place camp oven lid on.
6. Place Heat Beads® under and on top and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the damper is cooked

The Drovers had a key role in building Australia. Many poems and stories have been written about them.

The Drovers Wife by Henry Lawson

Across the stony ridges,
Across the rolling plain,
Young Harry Dale, the drover,
Comes riding home again.
And well his stock-horse bears him,
And light of heart is he,
And stoutly his old pack-horse
Is trotting by his knee.
Up Queensland way with cattle
He travelled regions vast;
And many months have vanished
Since home-folk saw him last.
He hums a song of someone
He hopes to marry soon;
And hobble-chains and camp-ware
Keep jingling to the tune.
Beyond the hazy dado
Against the lower skie
And yon blue line of ranges
The homestead station lies.
And thitherward the drover
Jogs through the lazy noon,
While hobble-chains and camp-ware
Are jingling to a tune.
An hour has filled the heavens
With storm-clouds inky black;
At times the lightning trickles
Around the drover’s track;
But Harry pushes onward,
His horses’ strength he tries,
In hope to reach the river
Before the flood shall rise.
The thunder from above him
Goes rolling o’er the plain;
And down on thirsty pastures
In torrents falls the rain.
And every creek and gull,
Sends forth its little flood,
Till the river runs a banker,
All stained with yellow mud.
Now Harry speaks to Rover,
The best dog on the plains,
And to his hardy horses,
And strokes their shaggy manes;
`We’ve breasted bigger rivers
When floods were at their height
Nor shall this gutter stop us
From getting home to-night!’
The thunder growls a warning,
The ghastly lightnings gleam,
As the drover turns his horses
To swim the fatal stream.
But, oh! the flood runs stronger
Than e’er it ran before;
The saddle-horse is failing,
And only half-way o’er!
When flashes next the lightning,
The flood’s grey breast is blank,
And a cattle dog and pack-horse
Are struggling up the bank.
But in the lonely homestead
The girl will wait in vain –
He’ll never pass the stations
In charge of stock again.
The faithful dog a moment
Sits panting on the bank,
And then swims through the current
To where his master sank.
And round and round in circles
He fights with failing strength,
Till, borne down by the waters,
The old dog sinks at length.
Across the flooded lowlands
And slopes of sodden loam
The pack-horse struggles onward,
To take dumb tidings home.
And mud-stained, wet, and weary,
Through ranges dark goes he;
While hobble-chains and tinware
Are sounding eerily.
The floods are in the ocean,
The stream is clear again,
And now a verdant carpet
Is stretched across the plain.
But someone’s eyes are saddened,
And someone’s heart still bleeds
In sorrow for the drover
Who sleeps among the reeds.
Henry Lawson