Posted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:33 pm Post subject: Winter Fireplace Cooking
My sense of thrift overtook, after a week of watching the dying back of the evening woodfires my husband was stoking up every night for warmth last week -- a bed of beautiful even heat. Apart for Girl Scout camping, I had no clue what to attempt, so tried simple jacket sweet potatoes, double wrapped in foil. I laid them across the grates, and just went to bed. Voila, in the morning, these sweets were beautifully cooked and a wonder of texture...soft, juicy and really more tasty than oven baking due to slight smokiness from the embers. We ate them for breakfast...great on a cold morning. The next night, encouraged with a bit hotter fire, I threw together a dutch over (using my bright greet Cuisinart kettle with lid, rubbed with liquid soap a la Scouts to prevent permanent blackening in the fire) of pork chops, floated on a bed of onions and white wine, and seasoned with thyme, salt, and pepper. This should have been a simple but beautiful thing by morning, and it certainly smelled good - but the unregulated fire had it's way with the chops, which got too dried out, and the onions were singed black -- so NOT a success unfortunately. Maybe if the dish had been given just a couple hours instead of overnight. Anyway, in this time of economy, why not?? Anybody have any experience or new/old uses of cooking in the fireplace??
Joined: 14 Oct 2005 Posts: 827 Location: Oakland, CA
Posted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:20 am Post subject:
When I lwas in college in Colorado, a group of us would stay at a cabin near a local ski area - VERRRRRRRY RUSTIC! No light, heat or water - just a roof over our heads and a fireplace. I hauled a cast iron dutch oven up each weekend and we would cook our dinner over the fire - to be eaten BEFORE bed. We had a variety of soups and stews - depending on what everyone brought up with them. Often, we would empty the pot into bowls and I'd throw in a batch of biscuits (not cookies) which would be done in time to sop up the end of the dish we were eating! YUM!
I actually was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when we had a fire in the fireplace. We had the combination of cold weather and adequate wind (we have a "Spare the Air"law in California and you can't burn wood fires on days with an inversion or no wind.) and I was tempted to cook over thie fire - but didn't.
So keep experimenting, Smartie. When the fire is very hot, you may need to set the pot off to the side. We usually let it burn down a bit before we cooked the meal - and had happy hour and hors d'oeuvres (beer and chips!) while we warmed up a bit. _________________ L'appetit vient en mangeant. -Rabelais
Joined: 21 Aug 2007 Posts: 551 Location: Central Kentucky
Posted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 3:51 am Post subject:
Some things do lend themselves to long, overnight cooking. Baked beans come immediately to mind. And things like braises can be done by setting the tightly lidded pot in the banked fire.
But, by and large, when cooking on an open fire, just think of it as your heat source. You can cook directly over flames when there is a lot of liquid involved, or when "broiling" meats and the like. Or work over coals, for other things. Or hearth cook, using Dutch ovens, spiders, and the like and raking coals out of the firebox as necessary.
But at least you're on the right track.
Two weeks ago, when we were suffering a climate disaster (an ice storm, followed by freezing rain, followed by up to 6 inches of snow), with no electricity, no phones, and no hope, I really was appaled at some people's inability to cope.
One lady called the local radio. With the power out, they were heating the place by using their fireplace nonstop. "So," she said plaintively, "while we're able to stay warm, we haven't had a hot meal in four days.
Somebody's been burning wood steadily for four days, and can't figure out how to make a hot meal? Is the American pioneer spirit really that dead?
That truly is sad KY---shows a distinct lack of imagination if nothing more. Even Dick and I, during the "great ice storm of 1998" managed reasonably well boiling and frying and such, and great foil wrapped baked potatoes for the many days we were without power, just using the wood stove, which is designed for heating only really, not for cooking. Nothing too inventive but we got by without any real trouble! I mean heck they could have just opened a tin of beans and heated them! _________________ Vivant Linguae Mortuae!!
Joined: 18 Oct 2004 Posts: 1654 Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound
Posted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 6:24 pm Post subject:
She was obviously never a Girl Scout, we learned at a young age how to cook with fire. At the very least a packet of campfire potatoes can be done. Shoot, give me a fire place and I'll give you roasted skewers of Nigerian Fire Sticks, with all that chilie you won't need to bundle. _________________ "It's watery....and yet there's a smack of ham."
Joined: 29 Oct 2006 Posts: 218 Location: Heaven, actually.
Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 8:48 am Post subject:
Ummm... Weenie. Stick. Ketchup. Bag of marshmallows... Hello!!!
Nutritionally complete if you ask me.
We had the same issue with our week of frozen hell coming down sideways at 60 mph this Xmas. We did sweet potatoes over the fire as well.
I only had one caution from the family doc who cautioned me against cooking open foods over actually flaming conifer wood due to some sort of chemical contaminant mumbo jumbo (probably why most smoking is done over hard wood, I suppose).
All said, once the flames and smoke died, it was open season.
My cousin got 8 feet of snow at his place in Evergreen Colorado one year. Got snowed in. Used his gas fireplace to heat up cans of soup and his body at the same time. How hard is that??? _________________ There is only one way to die- With a full stomach and a good tan.
Joined: 21 Aug 2007 Posts: 551 Location: Central Kentucky
Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 3:24 pm Post subject:
Softwoods (i.e., conifers) produce an inordinate amount of creosote and other chemical byproducts when they burn. That's why they are so sooty. And why they're not recommended for fireplaces and most wood stoves (can lead to chimney fires).
Creosote contains carcinagens and other stuff not good for humans to injest. And it tastes like crap when it condenses on foods.
Besides which, softwoods burn very quickly, and leave little behind in the form of usable coals.
So, those are the reasons not to burn them.
But if that's all you have, and it's a question of survival, you do what you have to do.
I've never cooked over a fire, well anything except a barbecue and some toasted marshmallows (as a kid) but I'd definitely try it. My fireplace isn't big enough for a large pot but I could roast some potatoes, maybe cook up some chops, or even a stew so I'm going to try it out. Granted we don't have bitter winters here that often but this one has been a bit cooler than usual.
I can't believe the lady who phoned to say she hadn't eaten for 4 days. I mean why would you starve yourself for that amount of time when surely you have a pot you could heat up some baked beans, spaghetti or even boil potatoes in? Hasn't she heard of a bit of imagination? Goodness me. _________________
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