Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Outdoor Cooking

When we started powering down, one of the problems I had to solve was how we were going to cook without fossil fuels or electricity. During the winter, it’s easy. We cook inside on the woodstove. It proved invaluable during the power outage last December, but even when the electric stove is working, we still use the fire heated surface for cooking and heating water for tea. In fact, this evening, part of our dinner was prepared on the woodstove.

During the warmer months, however, when we don’t have a fire in the woodstove, the only option is to cook outside. I have read accounts of people using solar ovens this far north with some degree of success, and, of course, during the summer, when the sun is higher in the sky, the solar oven would be okay, but there are times (like the last couple of years when we’ve had rain every day for a solid month in the late spring/early summer) that the solar oven wouldn’t be much use.

As such, our only option for cooking outside is fire. We hope to build a rocket stove (plans for which can be found at a number of different sites online and can be as simple as a couple of cans or as complex at Kate’s masonry rocket stove), but for the moment, our choice is a fire pit.

On a whim a few years ago, I decided I wanted a brick patio, and so when someone on Freecycle was giving away bricks, we filled up the back of the SUV and hauled them all back to our house. I still don’t have the patio, but we did use several of the bricks to make a very nice fire pit.

In March, last year, Deus Ex Machina built a quickie outdoor fire pit in the back yard during the sugaring season (because you just can't cook that stuff inside). It takes a long time to boil sap down over an open fire, and it requires constant vigilance (i.e. standing outside feeding little sticks into the fire so that it stays blazing), but we ended up with two gallons of outstanding syrup, and so it can’t be called anything, but, a success. We'll do it again, next year, probably the same way.

In May, we used our fire pit on yard clean-up day. We ended up burning most of the assorted construction flotsam and jetsam that always seems to accumulate (there’s more back there, now, and so I guess our fire pit will be getting some more use next spring, too), and it really made a huge difference. We even celebrated by eating dinner outside at our “new” (found) picnic table.

An open fire pit isn’t the most efficient for heating or cooking (although with our cast iron camp stove we made a nice stew over the fire for our “Doomer Dinner Party”), but for now, it’s our best choice for moving our kitchen outside during the warmer months.

Our neighbors just gave us an old stainless steel sink they replaced in their workshop. Hopefully, in the spring, we’ll be able to build an honest-to-goodness outdoor kitchen, complete with a sink, a cob oven, and maybe even a (second-hand) granite countertop.

But I think we’ll keep the fire pit, too … if only for the ambience it provides – and it’s a good place to burn all of that scrap wood, too.

1 comment:

  1. 2 gallons??! Wow, you guys were troopers! We usually make it through one before we give up.