As much as we like our solar-powered cooking options (including our sun oven) for the bulk of the year, we really look forward to the depths of winter to take advantage of our macrowave – the wood-fired masonry heater. An armload of firewood will not only heat our house but give us hot water and cook as much food as we need for a day or more. Got to love those “stacking” opportunities of doing multiple things with one tool and a minimal amount of renewable resources. Even though we relish the warmth of an evening’s fire, we try not to use this option more than necessary. Our passive-solar, straw-bale home needs little additional heating. And even though we cut wood from our land with our electric chainsaw, burning wood pollutes the air, although the masonry heater, with its hot fires, burns cleaner than most. The old saying about cutting wood, that it warms you while you’re cutting it as well as later when you stack, split, and burn it, is true. It also helps to work up an appetite which can be satiated by cooking over the wood fire.
If you take a look at the link to our website, you’ll see a photo of a typical cooking session on our daily winter firing of the stove. We cram as much as we can onto the stove top, moving pots and pans around to the hotter or cooler parts of the top as needed. We can also place pots partially over the firebox and the adjacent masonry surround if we just want a slow simmer. Although baking can be done inside any wood stove (this method is referred to as a “black” oven – you push back the coals and cook on the hearth of the stove), we prefer to bake on the stove top utilizing trivets, spacers, or a cast iron pan under the baking pan and a cover, overturned stainless steel bowl, or the top from our steam canner as an enclosure. A towel or some potholders are helpful to insulate the top of the cover. This method can be adapted to most baked goods or roasted veggies with the exception of loaf breads, which do better when baked inside the firebox. Some trial and error is needed to learn the quirks and attributes of your own wood stove. But the experience of cooking over a wood fire on a cold winter day can be extremely satisfying and a fun way to expand your culinary repertoire.
Wishing you much abundance in the New Year!