My family and I often like to rank our favorite seasons here in the South Carolina Lowcountry, and while my kids’ choices shift like the wind, I always lead with fall and winter. Aside from the sporting opportunities (like duck and woodcock), the return of college football, and the blessed quiet of an idle AC, it’s firepit time. By those first few days of October, the wood in my backyard rack, which I make a sport of collecting from neighborhood tree trimmers and post-storm curb piles, has been drying out for nearly a year.
There’s nothing I enjoy more than inviting a handful of friends with kids and dogs in tow to hang out around the pit with some good food, a drink or two, and every manner of ball that the young ones can toss or kick. The main dish is a heaping pot of venison chili that we keep warm on the fire. We always have a bunch of small bags of Fritos for anyone who’s interested in making Frito pie. White bread and cheese are on hand to whip up grilled cheeses for the kids in those nifty little campfire pie irons. And, of course, plenty of hot dogs and s’mores. Guests fill the cooler with local beers (Munkle and Fatty’s for me), and we set a Dutch oven brimming with bourbon apple cider over the flames.
This fall we had a new star in the lineup, my friend Travis Folk’s Duharra Cobbler (named after his South Carolina duck club but also known as a dump cake). It’s a dish that’s as simple as it is tasty—and involves a touch of firepit theatrics. To begin, empty two cans of the pie filling of your choice (Folk is partial to peach) or the freshly made equivalent into a camp Dutch oven, pour in a box of cake mix over the filling, and top with a sliced stick of butter and a hefty dose of cinnamon.
Now the fun starts. Shovel two heaps of coals onto the ground and set the Dutch oven on top. Then add one more shovelful on top of the lid. As for cooking time, Folk just keeps his nose to the air. “When I smell it, it’s done,” he says. (In non-olfactory terms, that’s about twenty to thirty minutes.) We used a pair of pliers to pull off the lid, but there are fancier tools for the job, if you prefer. Then it’s as easy as scoop and repeat.
By now it’s dark outside, and folks begin gathering their stuff before heading home. Soon it’s quiet. But before cleanup, there’s always time for one or two more logs on the fire, and maybe another cup of hot cider. Around here, spring is never far off.