Sweet & Spicy Pig on a Stick: Hot Apps from the Icebox of the Nation

Have you ever smoked a chicken in a quinzhee? For Mike Hedtke, a long-time Scouter from International Falls, Minnesota, (aka "The Icebox of the Nation"), that's just one of the outdoor cooking tricks in his culinary repertoire. 

Sweet and spicy bacon and pork skewers--delicious trail food!

Sweet and spicy bacon and pork skewers--delicious trail food!

Mike, a leader with Troop 150 in I-Falls, is a fellow volunteer instructor for Northern Tier High Adventure's Okpik Cold Weather Leader's School

Mike and I have become accustomed to eating Northern Tier's standard issue Winter trail grub:

  • Breakfast: Pop Tarts and apple sauce packets (boiled so no one breaks a tooth on the frozen treats)
  • Lunch: Bagels, cheese, and meat sticks (distributed during breakfast so you can carry them in internal pockets and get them thawed out by lunch time)
  • Dinner: A boil-in-the-bag dish, like chicken and rice; we then mix soup packets in the boiling water for more warming hydration (and so we don't waste the hot water!) 
  • Snacks: Hudson Bay Bread, a tasty high-energy trail bar often slathered in peanut butter and jelly to really amp up its caloric boost; and some type of Little Debbie treat to keep at your bedside if you need a warming sugar boost when you inevitably wake up to answer the call of nature

This menu is designed to provide plenty of calories for warmth and minimal need for exposed fingers (temperatures on Okpik trips regularly fall to -20F to -30F). These meals certainly keep you fueled, but they aren't necessarily the most exciting to eat.

That's where Mike, the master trail chef, comes in. To spice things up a bit, he brings his own ingredients for various succulent creations. This year, while the gas stoves were chugging away, laboring to heat up our chicken and rice, Mike quickly prepared one of the tastiest appetizers I've ever eaten. Anywhere. His simple, high-powered snack consisted of pork and bacon on skewers, covered with a spicy honey glaze, and cooked on charcoal in a pan. They were outstanding! Not only did they satisfy the taste buds, but the spices and fats were like throwing another log on my body's internal fire.

Sweet and spicy BACON and PORK skewers

1.  The set-up: Charcoal briquettes in a foil roasting pan and a lightweight metal rack (you could use a refrigerator rack) over the top. Build yourself a custom snow kitchen to use as a wind break and keep things organized.

A DIY snow kitchen can keep your gear organized and help block wind.

A DIY snow kitchen can keep your gear organized and help block wind.

2.  The chow: Thin-cut pork chops and thick-cut bacon.

3.  The technique: 

a.  Thread squares of pork chop and bacon on wooden skewers (or you can thread entire bacon strips with the pork chunks alternating so you have a bacon snake skewered up--check out the photo below).

b.  Season with Cajun spice (Mike used Tony C's).

Snaking the pork and bacon on the skewers.

Snaking the pork and bacon on the skewers.

c.  Place on a lightweight metal rack over the coals.

d.  Cook till done.

Use charcoal and foil roasting pans to cook your bacon and pork skewers.

Use charcoal and foil roasting pans to cook your bacon and pork skewers.

Honey and sriracha make the perfect sweet and spicy glaze.

Honey and sriracha make the perfect sweet and spicy glaze.

e.  Melt honey (one bottle) and add sriracha to taste (Mike used 1/2 bottle).

f.  Use the honey/sriracha melt to baste just before serving. (The honey will burn quickly if you cook it much after basting, so Mike doesn't recommend any additional cook time after basting.)  

That's it! Fast, quick, and probably some of the most delicious, high-energy trail foods you will ever eat. Try it on your next outdoor adventure, and let us know what you think!