Although s’mores are rarely added to the inventory of a deep woods packing list, they still find their way to nearly every family camping trip across these United States. And as a woodsman, it’s important to understand that making those family camping trips enjoyable leads to more camping in the future.
An ash covered marshmallow lies in somber indifference on the ground below your feet. Two graham crackers and a small bar of chocolate wait silently for a perfectly toasted accomplice that will never arrive. Your wife conceals her bitter contempt for your manliness with a half-hearted smile. All the while, your children are sobbing uncontrollably and wondering how the man who was once their hero could let them down at a time like this – family s’mores time.
OK. Perhaps this is a bit of an exaggeration. But being able to make the perfect s’more is a skill that is truly appreciated by all who love the sweet, crunchy but chewy flavor and textures of graham crackers, chocolate and roasted marshmallows.
There are a few important steps and tips toward making the perfect s’more. Many can make a solid attempt but only the patient will reach perfection.
Begin with the proper ingredients: marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. Although I’m a believer in wasting as little money as possible, this is not the time to use off-brand ingredients. Spend the extra for quality name-brand products. Quality graham crackers and chocolate are important but having quality marshmallows is imperative! Also, there are a variety of alternatives to these products (i.e. cinnamon graham crackers and coconut marshmallows.) These make for interesting possibilities if you are so inclined.
Before attempting to roast your marshmallow, prepare your other two ingredients. Begin with two separated graham crackers. Place one piece of chocolate on the intended bottom cracker. Some would argue for two or more pieces of chocolate but this will overpower the mixture of flavors. It’s better to use one and allow the properly cooked marshmallow to be the primary ingredient.
Many have microwaved marshmallows for their s’mores. In a pinch, this is acceptable. However, a campfire of sorts is required to attain the proper inner and outer texture for marshmallows. I’ll not detail the intricacies of a proper campfire (that’ll be covered in my upcoming book,) but it is important to allow for a blazing fire to die down a bit leaving you with a few areas of hot coals with little flame.
Selecting the proper roasting stick is imperative. Metal sticks are suitable but as they get too hot, marshmallows will slide off of them easily leaving you with a situation similar to this post’s introduction. Instead, use a still-green branch or sapling of enough length to buck and sharpen. Be certain to whittle enough bark from your sharpened end to allow for an entire marshmallow.
Now, slide your roasting stick through the marshmallow from end to end as opposed to side to side and find a suitable place in the fire for your sweet treat. Children of all ages will invariably catch their marshmallow on fire immediately. But the wise woodsman knows that even if you want that singed texture of a burnt marshmallow, it’s best to slowly cook it near hot coals first to allow the center to cook properly. When you have found your proper location, slowly maneuver and turn your marshmallow so that as many areas as possible reach that rich brown exterior. If you wish to let it catch fire, that’s your call. But this woodsman has found that this isn’t necessary if it is already cooked properly.
Remove the marshmallow from the fire and place it between the graham crackers. Apply enough pressure on the crackers to hold the marshmallow while you remove the roasting stick. Squeeze the crackers together until the soft marshmallow fills the majority of the space between the crackers.
You have now reached the moment of family-camping bliss. It would be nice to say that you can now enjoy the first bite of your perfectly made s’more. But in reality, you’re going to have to pass it on to that crying child that dropped their marshmallow on the ground, in the fire, burnt it to a crisp, or didn’t even bother making one because they knew that they could have dad’s. Don’t worry, eventually you’ll get to make one for yourself.
Everyone is different but I’ve personally found that there is a limit to how many s’mores and marshmallows one can eat per setting. Eating three s’mores alternated between two roasted marshmallows seems to be the magic number. When shopping for ingredients, plan for at least this many per person and you should have enough – with enough left over for mom and dad to sneak one or two in after the kids are sound asleep.
This is my take on how to make the perfect s’more. However, each man has his own estimate of perfection. If you have any other ideas, suggestions, comments, questions, or complaints, feel free to let me know. I’d love to hear about it.