Author Topic: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove  (Read 4975 times)

Offline Cedar

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Most years I do a January food challenge for myself. Two of them I have posted on TSP.


Just now, I consulted with SP, my daughter, about our January Food Challenge for 2018. I was thinking on it last night, wavering between vegan, Civil War cooking, solar oven, etc., and I think we will have a combination challenge this year. I was inspired by many things, but strangely one was inspired by my dumpster diving a couple of months ago.

WAIT!! Before you freak out... Remember that huge dumpster full of books we took around 100+ books out of?  One, well two, of the books we saved from the landfill were written by two.elders who were in their 70s in 1976. I cannot find alot of information on them other than they were local folks from Dexter, Oregon. They wrote this interesting two set of books called, "From the Ground Up".  I had never heard of them before jumping, climbing, and digging around in that dumpster. I am lucky I actually found both volumes. The books are hand typed. Both have their autographs in them in blue pen. Glenn & Kathleen Simmons are their names. I figure that they were born around 1906, and would be around 112 years old if they were alive today.

The books are so conscience stream of thought, slightly political, granola without being too hippyish, lots of good advice, lots of funny advice, random trivia... But I want to honor these kindred folks and help.keep their memory alive. Maybe none of their kin exists who remembers them, there than maybe some unmarked family photos. I tried to look them up on FindAGrave, but no luck.

The year's January 2018 Food Challenge in our household we decided will be to cook every meal from recipes out of their books for all of the month, in or on, our 1927 wood cookstove, including the warmer ovens, in order
 to honor these pionerrs in their own right, Mr and Mrs Simmons. I want to use the recipes out of their books for the supper meals, SP wants to have different breads and cookies baked in it. Although I have been cooking on the stove since November 4th, it was the mere basics, nothing not to write home about. I have not been brave enough to bake in it yet to date.

Now I have to measure the oven and buy a cookie sheet, as I don't have any anymore.


« Last Edit: December 28, 2017, 02:14:19 PM by Cedar »

Offline Polar Bear

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2018, 09:31:23 PM »
Any updates?

Offline Cedar

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2018, 10:30:05 PM »
Yes. But I wanted to post it with pics, which I can't upload yet without going somewhere with the laptop which has internet. I cheated today, as I had to travel, and I am horribly sick, so I got some hot spicy sushi to clear my head. I was even desperate enough for benedryl a bit ago.


Offline Chemsoldier

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2018, 06:42:55 AM »
Feel better

Offline archer

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2018, 11:46:14 PM »
get better cedar!

Offline LvsChant

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2018, 07:50:59 AM »
Yes! Hope you get well soon... can't wait to hear how it is going...

Offline Cedar

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2018, 11:28:27 AM »
Sorry this took so long to get posted. Between living off grid, my computer dying one day, my cell phone the very next, having to rewrite this, losing pics.. it has been horrible to get it posted. I lost quite a few of the recipes, and I might take time to write them again later... .but for now, here it finally is.

January 2018 Food Challenge

Each year I try to do a "Food Challenge" to myself. This is all meals and desserts of a certain era or theme. Some years it has been an entire month of strictly World War II British War rations, three meals a day, including cooking methods. Sometimes it is just eat out of my Panty for the entire month and not buying anything for any meal. This summer I intend to do a month of only cooking out of a Solar Oven. Most of the time I do it to learn something new, to go out of my 'normal' go-to meals, learn history, learn different cooking methods, and to challenge myself to things I normally would not eat, such as pig tongues (which are delicious by the way).

This year, I actually was inspired by multiple things. One was a set of books handtyped by a Dexter, Oregon couple who are long gone, but their words live on... by the challenge of cooking on our 1927 Home Comfort wood cookstove, including baking, and by the limitations of having a on again-off again propane/AC/Battery refrigerator and freezer which is not working well for some reason. By the lack of electricity to our place, and cooking by flashlight for dinner meals, with a 18x12" table/workspace.

I have cooked on a woodstove for many years, but not officially in a wood cookstove with a real oven, although many of my Canadian friends use them daily, I just never learned to cook on their ovens, as they always had something on the go on them anyway. My oven even has a working thermometer, which is still a guestimate, due to having to judge between 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, such as to figure out to where is 350F between the 3 and 4.

I ran my first test run of baked good through the oven on the 1st, and it came out quite good. I did not use a 'heat sink' of a pot full of water on the top shelf of the oven, but I did bake on the floor of the oven, which is apparently what you do with baked goods in a wood cookstove. It did come out to perfection, even if it took way longer than 20 minutes to cook at 350F-ish. Remember, it is like a crock pot kinda.

Once you get used to a wood cookstove, it is actually not very difficult to cook on/in at all, but there are a few rules.

1. Think of it more like a slow cooker, versus a modern day gas or electric kitchen stove. You have to build the fire, get it going, and then start switching dampers around. This is SLOW FOOD, not FAST FOOD.

2. Each woodstove and cookstove have a personality. Even two of the same make, will be slightly different from each other.

3. Have lots of kindling, newspaper. Don't use cardboard in the cookstove. have alot of small wood, and brush up on your Tetris game, as sometimes it feels like that getting wood in that small firebox, is a challenge without popping an eye off the top of the hob. Don't do that. It will get smoky in your house.

4. Learn the oven, and the parts of it. It will help you in the long run.

5. At first you will think that this stove is a pig and eats alot of firewood. It does... and it doesn't. You will get used to the rhythm of it. It will not hold a fire overnight. At least this one will not.

6. Utilize that lovely warmer up above the stove. We dehydrate alot of things up here, mostly orange peels, mushrooms, and herbs.

7. If you know you are going to be home late, set kindling and such in the firebox, so it is ready to light when you get home, and make sure the woodbox is full and nearby. After twice of digging under a tarp and climbing through a literal 8 foot tall (although it is shrinking) mountain of firewood to pick out the right sized pieces for the woodcookstove (they were cut before I got this stove), trying not to fall in the woodpile, holding a flashlight, slogging back over slash to get back to our abode.. you just learn to prefer to do this in the daylight and while it is not raining.

Parts of the Cookstove

1. Warmers
2. Stovepipe (don't touch the damper on this one after you set it all set)
3. Hob (surface of the stove you cook on, with the 'eyes)
4. Firebox
5. Oven
6. Ash sifter
7. Front draft
8. Yet another cleanout spot
9. Another cleanout spot
10. Place for pans (which I never use)

The Red arrows are the three dampers. I only mess with the one on the back of the hob to the right side of the stovepipe, and the one below the firebox.

Most people think that the 'eyes' of the stove are the burners. They aren't. They are for cleaning the ash out of the stove's innards, and the far left ones for building a fire in the firebox. The firebox is usually always to the left, and the top eyes and the middle part between them, if removed when the stove is cold, seems to be the best way to lay a fire for the next starting of it. I finally figured that out after two weeks.

I took this pic to show the woodstove pipe guys what happened. This rust happened in 3 days time.

The arrows show all of the cleanout spots.. but dont forget the stovepipe 2-4x a year as well.

The burner is actually the whole top of the stove, which is called a 'hob'. Because of the firebox being to the left, the hottest spot to cook on, is the left rear. The coolest spot is the right front. So you just move your pots and pans around accordingly. It is actually much easier than a electric or gas range.

Our stove is made for coal or wood. We set the grate at just the skinnier setting for wood, not the wider setting for coal. The ashbox is directly below the firebox, as is one of the three dampers. One damper is on the stovepipe (never mess with it), one is on the back of the hob (keep it closed and shoved to the back when you start the fire - pull it forward when the stovepipe is warm and drawing well), and the third is on the stove front, under the firebox.

On the eye lifter (if you have one, and you will need one), there is a decorative square on it. That decorative square is actually functional. It is what goes on the square knob on the front of the cookstove to change the grate from wood to coal, and vice versa. I just use it to wiggle the grate to knock the ash down to the ashpan.

If you are lucky, you will also have the original ash scraper like I do. If you don't, don't despair.. they would be so easy to fabricate. You will need to make sure your cookstove is ash free before you run it. You need to empty the ash pan every other day, and you need to scrape down the various internal parts of the cookstove. Spots you never realized existed. The first time I cleaned my stove out, I got three ashpanfuls of ash. It was interesting that the firebox ash is greyer than the black/brown/red ash which is around the oven, but it makes sense if you think about it. When I have cleaned it since, once a month, I have only gotten one small ashbin full. Someone may not have cleaned it often before I bought it.

My ashpan does not fit snugly. I have no idea if it ever did. It catches most of the ash and burning bits, but when the stove is cool, I use the original ash scraper, the little dustpan and mini broom, to clean the stove, including all of the ash which missed the ashpan. There are little doors and spots all over the stove for cleaning it out. You will also have to place all of the 'eyes' and bits off the hob on a piece of newspaper on the floor to get to everything on top of the oven, but under the hob.

The ash swirls around the oven, so the ash starts insulating the oven, so it will not cook well if it is coated all over the outside of it with ash. So once a month you are supposed to clean it out. I do mine every 2 weeks or so. I also think if it does not get cleaned, you will be possibly getting more smoke or fumes into the room. as it does not seem to draw as well. When it is not drawing up the stovepipe well, smoke will come pouring out the eyes and the hob. 

To start the oven, open the damper on the front of the stove to let air in, close the damper on the back of the stove hob to have the smoke go directly up the stovepipe. Leave the chimney damper alone. Start your fire in the firebox, as you would normally make a fire, but when the fire is going good, and the stovepipe is warm and drawing good, open the damper on the hob so that the heat swirls around the oven, and not straight up your stovepipe. I have failed to remember to do this in the begining a couple of times, and your stove will not heat your space, nor cook your meal. You will only forget a couple of times.

Season the top of the hob lightly daily, and more heavy once a week and when you are not going to use it for awhile. I have been using coconut oil as it is what was at hand. It can smoke, so you might want to do it when you can open a window.

This is when I was working on seasoning it for the first time. The first time it had been seasoned in at least 5 years?

My new stovepipe leaked, so after I had my cookstove nicely seasoned, it leaked for 4 days over the holidays when I was gone, so now I have to wire brush it and reseason it again. So if you see some rust in some of the photos on the hob, I have not gotten back to it yet. But I did have it all pretty there for awhile, all nice and black, other than one of the eyes which seems to be stained. And your hob can stain.

Grrrrrrrr... I was mad. I had it looking nice before this

There is a bit of a learning curve to a wood cookstove, but honestly, it has been really fun to cook on, and I am ready to expand my knowledge of cooking and baking other things in it. It certainly has not been a hardship.  I MIGHT even waterbath can something into jars on it someday.

Day 1
We went on our First Day Hike which is a tradition that my daughter and I started three years ago. It is put on by our State Parks (and most states do participate in it), but we were told to meet in the wrong parking lot, and along with 40 other people we were all at the wrong trailhead. My 8 year old daughter and I decided to take the closer trail and cut into the group further up ahead since we did not know where the other trailhead was. Unknowingly, we did an extra 5 miles, for a total of 9.8miles, and a 2,321 feet elevation change. Which took 4.5 hours, plus driving time. So by the time we got home, we had homecanned chicken vegetable soup to warm our cold tired bodies, and went to bed. Not a great start to my food challenge, but still within the rules of the game, since the Simmons canned up and wrote about canning up soups. But being that it was 7:30pm when we got home, I had to start the wood cookstove, and get it warm enough to cook, we were tired from the adventure of the day, so we ate quickly, got warm and went to bed at 8pm without even really heating our little abode. The next morning it was 41F in here, instead of our normal 53-63F when we woke up.

We have no running water in here, so I dump all of the dirty dishes into a 5 gallon bucket to haul into the trailer to heat the water to wash the dishes. Sometimes I leave them until the next day I have to admit. I need to wash them during daylight hours, or turn on the generator in order to have light to wash by. Today was one of the days I did not do the evening dishes.

Day 2
Today's dinner worked out MUCH better. Ham Jambalaya. It is one of the recipes which is out of the "From the Ground Up" Books by the Simmons, that I found in the dumpster with thousands of other books. Mr and Mrs Simmons wrote these books in 1976 when they were in their 70's. The books are handtyped on a typewriter.

It also worked out well, as we had leftover ham sausage from New Years. I made enough for our lunches tomorrow. In their book, the couple keep saying in their recipes, "Or use what you have on hand".. so I went with their advice, although that is my normal mode anyhow. I see recipes as more of a guideline, and apparently they did too.

Our generator lost its cord (I dang near fell on my bum) on New Year's Eve Day, so that took priority in getting it fixed today. Then dinner was on the go, just a bit after dark. Once again cooked by flashlight. I do have kerosene lamps, but with a 8 year old and a cat, I prefer not to use them in this space, which is large, but still small at the same time. We live in 288 square feet, on two floors.

With the cookstove being cold by the time we wake up in the morning, we have breakfast and lunch at work/school, so weekdays are when we are doing only dinners, and weekends we are doing all three meals, plus "bread"s, snacks. That is a drawback from cooking on the cookstove, but leftovers are making up for our lunches and breakfasts during the day.  But hopefully this week, I will be able to bake some breads for sandwiches for lunches.

Ham Jambalaya Recipe

I just absolutely love all of the handtyping in these two volumes.

Day 3
Pad Thai for dinner.

Day 4

Day 5

Cedar's Cornbread Experiment (again)

1 cup cornmeal
1.5 cups Masa flour, as I was not going to dig for wheat flour
1 egg
1/2 stick butter
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt

Melt the butter in a bake pan. Add the egg and milk. Stir up. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well. Bake around 350F until it slightly browns on top. It was really good, but I probably could have added another bit of milk. It seemed like it took forever to cook. Probably as we were hungry.

Day 6
Lamburger's and fries. Not homemade buns sadly.

Day 7
Tacos with Lamburger

Day 14
Tortilla with lamburger. Do not cook tortilla on the hob. Just don't. If you are wrong at the temp, you will be scraping it off for 2 days.

Day 18
Locally caught Rainbow trout I caught and froze last summer (was down in neighbor's freezer)

Day 20
Ham. You can see the hob is seasoned nicely in this pic.

Not trusting the thermometer on the stove oven door (although I know it is right now), I started using a oven thermometer

Day 21
Sunday omelette, cheese, spinach and bacon

Day 25

Day 27
Saturday morning Pancakes

Day 28
Real Mac & Cheese getting mixed up for lunch and dinner (and lunch the next day)

Day 31
Soup again, made from mostly dehydrated vegetables and stock.

All in all, I have not found it difficult at all to cook on the wood cookstove. I have only burnt the tortilla I put onto the hob of the stove as an experiment.... which failed.. and it took 2 days to get it all off.

It is enjoyable, it seems to make the foods taste better. It is slow food in todays fast world. I really like it. This stove was the best $250 I ever spent. I will be using more of the summer recipes in the books when my gardens are going strong this summer.

« Last Edit: March 10, 2018, 11:39:19 AM by Cedar »

Offline Applejack

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2018, 06:36:21 PM »
Cedar that it great that your stove is working out. The pics look great also. I remember my great uncle living a lot like you are. The stream he had running through the back yard was some of the best tasting and coldest water I have ever had. He had an old timey ice chest for cold stuff. He would use dry ice for it. He also used a wood burning cook stove. I was in my early teens when we would go stay with him during summer...  He lived at the base of blue ridge mountains.. Even in 90 degree weather upstairs you had to use a blanket as the mountain air was always cool. I would love to have that place but it is gone now.

Offline David in MN

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2018, 08:26:03 PM »
You have the rare ability to properly toast bread on the burner. Imagine the BLT where the bread has been near scorched on the inside but the outer crust is still soft to bite into. Unlike a modern toaster only one side will be toasted and making it so that the inside controls the moisture wicking and how much you scrape your mouth biting in.

Oddly enough an old school cast stove (like grandma used) has a lot in common with a modern professional stovetop with its hot spots, cool areas, etc. I have to simulate this with a modern stove running 3 cast iron pans so I can fry apple pancakes, keep the cooked ones warm, and fry over easy eggs (which should start cool and move warm). I did this this morning.

We don't often enough appreciate that this one machine turns out flapjacks, eggs, biscuits & gravy, then keeps the stock simmering, warms the house, and makes the most amazing grilled cheese to dunk in the soup. And all for pennies.

I think if you are clever you will find ever more uses. It's far better than a modern range. Residual heat was used for stocks and mulled wines. I'll never forget when grandma gave me a glass of mulled wine at 14 but then offered the advice, "you can't soar with eagles if you've been hooting with owls".

That stove always had a cup of coffee or a ladle of stock and in Wisconsin winters you needed both. And after a couple hours digging the snow to the chicken coop that mulled wine was a saving grace (in a coffee cup so dad wouldn't know).

And in the summer it would be hot sothe water was boiling before we picked the corn. Boil it briefly, dunk it in warm butter on the stove, and enjoy paradise. If you've never had corn on the cob boiled fresh dipped in butter in July in Wisconsin...

All these memories are around grandma's stove on the farm. I'm the last generation to see it and she'd probably slap me silly for getting emotional about something that was pure function.

Offline Stwood

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2018, 10:41:31 AM »
Both of my grandmothers used woodstoves when I was small.
My mothers side used her's up until she moved in with my folks.
Dad's mother stored her stove in the shed when they modernized, moving off the farm where I was born, into town.

I have my grandmothers woodstove. We have a place for it (tiled area) in the shop addition. Just haven't ever set it up.

Offline surfivor

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2018, 12:37:36 PM »

Wow, look at all that food. Someone must be getting spoiled from all the good cooking

Offline Bradbn4

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2018, 01:16:51 PM »
That is some good food there.  I have fond memories with my mother and grandmother cooking on the old wood stove.  We later moved the old wood stove to a semi-burnt down house we used when then the farmhouse was rented out.  That stove kept us warm, kept us fed during the winter months in Wisconsin.

Offline Prepper456

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Re: Cedar's January 2018 Food Challenge to herself - Wood Cookstove
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2020, 12:57:09 PM »
thank you for this excellent post now i want to get a cookstove