Mountain pies have always been one of my favorite summer foods. Depending on where you’re from, you might have called them campfire pies, hobo pies, or jaffle pies. I only knew these outdoor treats as mountain pies, possibly because that’s where we cooked them—at various Girl Scout and family campsites throughout the southern Alleghenies in western Pennsylvania. (Gotta love regional colloquialisms!)
Regardless of the name, I’m sure you’re not shocked to learn that as a kid, I considered cooking mountain pies to be pretty much the best thing about camping. (Campfire songs were a close second. Camp showers? Way down on the list.)
Since I hadn’t camped in decades, I’d nearly forgotten how much I loved these simple little sandwich pies, but now that I’m an adult with access to beach houses and fire pits, it’s not impossible to make mountain pies in a non-camp situation. I used our weekend on the lake in New Hampshire to introduce a whole slew of friends and family to this old favorite.
Unlike regular foil-wrapped grilled cheese sandwiches cooked directly in the coals, true mountain pies require a pie iron to make a crispy, melty meal. A pie iron, hinged at one end with long handles on the other, lets you squish your pie together and hold it safely in the flames from a distance.
My advice is to get two from the get-go: they’re available from a number of outdoor gear companies as both lightweight aluminum pie irons (with nonstick coating) and heavier cast iron varieties(some of which need to be pre-seasoned before using). Choose your pie iron based on what you can handle; you’ll have to lift and hold it over a hot campfire for a few minutes, so cast iron might be a little too hefty for the younger set.
Once you have your pie irons in hand and your campfire a-blazing, how you fill your mountain pies is completely up to you. Watch the video and read on for step-by-step instructions on how to make mountain pies.
How to Make Mountain Pies
Generously butter two slices of sandwich bread—white or whole wheat, it’s your choice, though I tend to think the paler slices crisp up more effectively—and place buttered side down in each half of the pie iron.
Choose your filling—savory or sweet—and dollop on one of the unbuttered sides of the bread slices. Some of our favorite combos:
- pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and optional “toppings” like pepperoni slices, ham, or diced green peppers
- Cuban-style ham and cheese with pickles
- classic cold cuts or charcuterie
- pie fillings like cherry or peach; we used canned versions as kids but now I bring homemade pie filling to the party
- peanut butter and bananas
- cream cheese and jam
Feel free to mix and match and create your own combinations, but stick to a few tablespoons or slices of each filling until you know the correct ratio. Don’t overfill or your innards will start to ooze out the edges of the pie and burn as it cooks. Mmmmm, burnt.
Hinge the pie iron closed and carefully place in the fire.
If your campfire still has flames, hold your pie iron directly into the fire, flipping occasionally so both sides of the mountain pies cook evenly. (Don’t get distracted chatting with your pie-making mates or you’ll have a charred pie. I know from experience, dude.)
If your fire’s down to the coals, gently place the pie iron in the coals and let it rest, flipping once or twice. It’ll take a little longer to cook, but it’s still possible to get a nicely browned pie if you’re patient.
Get a plate ready and carefully un-hinge the pie iron, using tongs if necessary to remove the mountain pies. Each half of the iron will be searingly hot, so don’t let anyone touch them until they’ve cooled down! Or run down to the lake/stream/nearby body of water and dunk them in to cool the pie irons immediately. That’s what we started doing at the lake house and it worked marvelously.
When the pie irons are ready to make another batch of mountain pies, fill ’em up again and eat to your heart’s content. Then get ready for s’mores.