By KATIE MARTIN
From GRIT magazine
Woodstove cooking is an art form that delivers a double dose of comfort – heartwarming food and cozy cool-weather heat.
We have been heating solely with wood for more than 20 years and have learned to make the most of that heat by preparing some of our favorite meals on the fire.
Many folks believe that a cookstove is required for cooking with wood, but that’s not the case.
A regular woodstove also will provide you with many enjoyable meals.
Almost everything you cook on a regular stove can be cooked on your woodstove.
The slow simmering transforms an ordinary dish into a meal to remember.
Baking potatoes in the woodstove and boiling a nice pot of pinto beans on top readily come to mind, but with a little imagination you can take woodstove cooking to the next level.
First, a few basics.
Cooking in or on a woodstove takes a few extra precautions. One always needs to remember that the surface outside, as well as the coals inside, can be extremely hot.So, a little extra caution is needed.
The simplest things to cook in the woodstove are things you cook on coals.
or sweet potatoes
Pierce potato with fork and wrap in foil. If coals are red-hot, wrap twice in foil.
Cook on coals for 20 to 30 minutes. Use large tongs to place potatoes in stove and to remove from coals.
Cabbage baked in the woodstove is a simple dish, and it’s great with any meal.
1 small or medium head cabbage, quartered
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place each cabbage section on separate sheet of foil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut small holes in each cabbage section and fill each hole with butter.
Wrap twice in foil and place to the side of coals. Bake for 15 minutes, or until tender.
The cabbage probably will burn a little, but it is still fabulous. The caramelized cabbage is sweeter, making it special enough for Sunday morning breakfast.
Just add eggs and toast.
We also make Hobo Pockets (essentially beef stew in foil) from whatever we have on hand.
Fresh vegetables, cut in small chunks
Meat of choice, cut in small chunks
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs, if available
Allow one or more packets per person.
On foil, place whatever vegetables you have on hand, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, carrots, green pepper, corn, green beans, tomatoes or mushrooms.
Place meat (poultry, beef, pork or venison) on top of vegetables; add large pat of butter on top.
Add salt, pepper and any fresh herbs you like.
Close foil and wrap each packet in additional foil.
Place in woodstove on or next to hot coals.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, checking after about 15 minutes.
Use caution when opening each packet as steam and liquid will be extremely hot.
Serve leftovers with rice.
Cooking on top of your woodstove is even easier than cooking in coals. Make sure you have an appropriate pot; any cast-iron pot will work.
The high temperatures of a woodstove make it difficult to cook with some pots.
We keep a kettle on the woodstove all the time to help keep moisture in the air, and it also keeps hot water ready for hot chocolate, hot tea or instant oatmeal.
Coffee also can be perked on the woodstove, but it is not fast. The top surface of our woodstove doesn’t get as hot as some, so coffee may take 45 minutes.
Still, it’s nice to know that the next time the power is out, we will be able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee.
As I write this, pintos are simmering to perfection on our woodstove.
Salt and pepper
4 slices bacon
Rinse beans well and place in pan. Cover completely with hot water and set aside to soak overnight.
Drain, rinse again and place back in pan.
Add salt, pepper, chopped onion and bacon. Again, cover with hot water, making sure the water is a few inches above the beans.
Place pot on back part of stove. I place ours very close to the flue pipe. Hot or cool spots vary from woodstove to woodstove.
Simmer beans for 8 to 10 hours, or until tender, checking every hour or two to make sure there is enough water on them.
If it seems low, add a little boiling water and stir.
Seasoning for pinto beans is really personal preference.
They cook just as they would on your regular stove, only they simmer much slower, which improves the flavor.
A family favorite is chicken stroganoff. This simple recipe eliminates mushrooms; however, mushrooms and/or onions may be sauted and added at the beginning.
1/3 stick butter
3 medium to large chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 small carton sour cream
Melt butter in pan. Add chicken breasts (can be taken right from freezer, washed and thrown in the pot), salt, pepper and soup.
Cover and simmer, checking after 30 minutes, then checking every hour or two.
Add a little additional butter, if needed, to keep chicken from burning.
Cook 3 to 4 hours.
Add sour cream and cook an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour.
If chicken is falling apart and liquid is blending together, it’s done.
Serve over rice or noodles, with a tossed salad on the side.
If you make a big pot and want to freeze some, freeze before adding sour cream. It keeps better.
Soup is another dish that works well on a woodstove.
Once you have all the ingredients in the pot, let the soup simmer all day. I check occasionally to make sure there is enough liquid, but other than that, I leave it alone.
Vegetables (turnips, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, beans, peas, corn, etc.), cut into pieces or chunks
2 stalks celery
6 or more baby carrots, cut into chunks or pieces
1 large onion, cut into small pieces
1 small can whole kernel corn (fresh is even better)
3 medium potatoes, cut into small pieces
5 cups water
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons or 2 cubes beef bouillon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 can stewed or diced tomatoes with juice
Leftover rice, noodles, broccoli or whatever’s in the fridge
Place all vegetables in large pot and add water. If adding meat, brown in butter first, then add to pot.
Add remaining ingredients, and simmer for at least 3 hours.
We usually cook it 4 to 5 hours. Check liquid level every now and then.
Otherwise, let it simmer. I usually put it toward the back of the woodstove as well, where it’s hotter.
If it seems to be getting too hot, move it to the front.
Serve with fresh bread for an unbelievably good meal.
Yields 3 to 4 servings.
Excerpted from GRIT, Celebrating Rural America Since 1882. To read more articles from GRIT, please visit “http://www.Grit.com”>www.Grit.com. Copyright 2011 by Ogden Publications Inc.
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