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Heat and eat! Get double-duty from your woodstove.

For most COUNTRYSIDE readers, the ultimate focus of the entire year s worth of energies and toil is geared toward "cooking up ways" for the clan to comfortably survive year-round as self-sufficiently as possible.

While every season has designated activities and the instant gratifications associated with them (summertime's harvest and enjoyment of fresh veggies from the garden you cultivated, or autumn's sale of the pumpkins from your patch), for Jim and I here at Timberlakes Farm (tucked so deep into the rural woods of the Missouri Ozarks that most folks can't find us), nothing quite so exemplifies the rewards of our homesteading efforts than the winter months. During the cold-weather season, all the ingredients of a year well-labored and well-lived seem to blend together in a comfortable and cozy fashion at the heart and hearth of our log cabin--the woodstove. No matter how cold or how egregious the elements may be outdoors during these cold-weather months (while sometimes grumbling throughout our chilly chore-duty, "What in the heck are we putting ourselves through this for?"), the woodstove's waiting to greet us when we step inside the door.

Not only does it welcome us "home" with a bear-hug of warmth, it also beckons us into the comfort zone, with the aromas of dinner simmering on its top-plate ready to be served when we're ready to eat!

Over the years (closing in on 25 now) we've developed quite the symbiotic relationship with this stove--a regular no-frills no-thrills ordinary Federal Airtight.

Simply put: We feed the stove with the firewood that we've harvested and cut, and it feeds us back working double duty around the clock to heat our home and cook our meals.

First woodstove cooking experiences

Back in the olden days, I had a small wood cook stove I called "Alfie," and that should date me pretty fine (a 1923 model with oven and actual cooking plates and all). That's where I got the handle on--and learned to love--cooking on a woodstove.

We built the log cabin and Jim, with a few good strong buddies in tow, erected it from the ground-up, with the aid of wheelbarrow-mixed concrete footings and wood he harvested from our forest. The logs were transformed into saw-milled 6 x 6 logs. Then we purchased a wood stove specifically for providing the only source of heat for our 2,000 square-foot living quarters. Little did we realize then that we would be able to turn out meals of the finest kind on its flat stove-top surface.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

How the heat woodstove expanded to a cooking-energy source

At first, I shied away from using the heating woodstove for cooking purposes. After all, I was used to "Alfie," and I didn't even entertain another woodstove cookery choice. But, because ever since 1969 (okay, so now you know my age!) I've embraced JD Belanger's self-sufficiency concepts and followed them to the "letter." (By the way, they really, really do work--I've banked a lifetime of it and there's still some money in that bank!) I began to view our efficient woodstove, which was cranking out so much heat dependably hour after hour, as a possible food-cooking vessel, as well. In the beginning, I just simply experimented now and again, after all, we did have the electric stove-top range and oven for back-up, if things went awry. But, oh my goodness gracious, the results turned out to be incredible, and for the last decade at least, all of our family holiday meals have been cooked to perfection on this woodstove. It's turned out to be so cool, in such a heart-warming fashion! During the holidays, everybody gravitates to this silly little woodstove anyway.

On Thanksgiving, all the clan is standing up beside it, warming their winter-socked toes and relaxing while they wait for the big feast. At Christmas, on Jim's handcrafted stone-work mantle behind it, hang embellished and personalized Christmas stockings, completely stuffed with Santa's promises.

Little woodstove helped us to survive

Here's the crazy thing, all the time we are preparing for the future--even though we can't perceive what the future has in store.

Little did we know that not only would this stove be an energy-efficient heat source, but would double-truck as a cooking source. But then this efficient little puppy took on the starring and critical role in our survival this past January when a major ice storm left us without power for a total 16-day run. While others throughout a massive part of southwest Missouri were relegated to leaving their homes for temporary shelters during this crisis, we were pretty darn lucky!

The woodstove gave us a light source to read by and comforting warmth. It boiled water for our drinking, cooking, bathing and washing clothes by hand. And on top of all that, the woodstove cranked out super meals while we were out busy chain-sawing our way out of our front and back doors, up our rural and then major roadway and highway veins and venues (and helping our neighbors do same).

How to cook on your woodstove

Cooking on an ordinary woodstove surface is much easier than you might think and although it's a lengthy process (similar to a slow-cooker), bear in mind that the meal is cooking itself (also similar to a slow-cooker) and doesn't require your constant attention.

Essentially you just have to adjust the pots and pans to match the heat sources underneath. In other words, if you want to fry, sear or bring foods to a bubbly boil, you'd be placing your cook pot or skillet over the hottest part of the stove top (on our stove, it's directly over the center plate). If you want something to just simmer, you simply move or place the pot nearer one of the top edges or a cooler part of the stovetop. (Ed. note: Using a cast iron trivet works well for this, too, especially if you have a small or bi-level stovetop.)

A good way to find out your stove-top's various temperature spots, especially if you're just beginning to experiment with this type of cooking, is to place a pot of water or tea kettle on the stove and check how it's doing as you move it from spot to spot. A whistling teapot is a good barometer, because it lets you know almost immediately where the hot and cool places are.

If your stovetop seems to heat fairly evenly, you adjust the fire to create varying degrees of heat in the center of the stovetop or one side or the other.

All and all, though, it's fairly simple and worth your experimentation, particularly if you're already heating with wood, whether in a free-standing stove or even a fireplace insert with a flat top surface.

Of course, a bonus about cooking on a woodstove that's already providing efficient heat is the money-saving factor. But the greatest rewards come from two directions: (1) The ease with which the stove does all your cooking (technically, it works just like a big crock pot or slow-cooker, especially if you use cast iron pots, skillets and pans with cast iron lids); and (2) the pleasure of smelling, watching and sopping up the goodness of the foods you harvested, raised, hunted, fished, gathered or cultivated come to full life on top of your woodstove. What can you cook on top of an ordinary woodstove? Just about anything and everything, I've discovered!

With the right cookware (and I do stress the cast iron) you can even bake cakes, make up some skillet cornbread, and turn out biscuits. More importantly, if you can get hold of a cast iron roaster that has a latticed top, you can also roast red meats, pork, chicken, turkey and wild game. Soups and stew, of course are an absolutely delicious given. If your mouth is watering and you're ready to get started, here are some easy tried-and-true recipes for you to experiment with.

* I've only outlined some of the many things I've learned to cook on a woodstove stove-top. But I've got a whole slew of them up my now-41-year-long woodstove-cookery sleeve. If you have a special favorite you want to cook, e-mail me. If I have it in my repertoire and experience, I'll happily share it with you anytime! By the way, I always cook for four (never did get over the girls--now 40 and 37 with families to boot--growing up and leaving home. And then, there could always be company showing up. So adjust/multiply according to your family and serving sizes.
Ham (or Coon, Chevon,
or Venison) And Beans

 1 ham bone with a good amount of
meat on it (or packaged chunks of ham
in an amount to your liking), or 1 leg
portion of raccoon, or 1 leg portion of
chevon, or I small venison roast.
 Water
 1/2 onion, chunked
 Sprinkle of garlic powder, or a tablespoon
of minced garlic
 Few shakes of pepper
 Few shakes of salt
 1 teaspoon lemon juice or a few
shakes of dried lemon-pepper
 1 bay leaf
 1 teaspoon dried sage or a few shakes
of dried savory
 1 package of dried beans (I prefer
white, but brown beans are great too.)

In a large pot, place meat plus
seasonings and enough water to
cover. Place pot with lid on hottest
part of your stove top and allow to
boil or hard-cook for 2-3 hours, or
until meat just becomes tender to a
knife or fork pierce (add water occasionally
to cover, if necessary). Add
beans and water to a level at least
1/2 that higher than the ingredients
and allow the mix to continue to boil
or hard-cook for about an hour (add
water if needed).

At this point add the chopped onion,
move the pot to a slightly cooler
spot on the stove top and allow the
beans to cook (can be bubbling, but
not at a hard boil) for 1-2 hours until
they become tender. Again, beans can
be tricky, so add water occasionally,
if needed.

Season to taste and serve hot.

Homemade Hearty and
Heart-Warming Chicken Soup

 1 whole chicken (hopefully one you
raised and dressed)
 1 tablespoon chicken boullion powder
or paste (or 2 cubes)
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 Shake of black pepper
 1 teaspoon sugar
 Water
 1 cup sliced fresh carrots (or I pint
canned or frozen)
 2 stalks celery, sliced into rounds

Place chicken in cast iron pot
(with lid) with enough water to cover.
Add salt, pepper and sugar. Place pot
on hottest part of woodstove top and
allow to boil for approximately 30-45
minutes. Add the carrots and celery,
move pot to a cooler part of stove
top and allow the soup to simmer
until chicken (while still remaining
firm) is tender enough so that the
thigh joints separate easily from the
body. Remove chicken, and place
in container to refrigerate until cool
enough to handle. Continue to cook
vegetables until tender.

Once chicken is cool enough to
handle, remove meat from bones.
Just before serving time, transfer the
chicken meat to the pot and allow
to simmer for a short while until
chicken has warmed to the soup
temperature.

Serve hot.

Beer Deer (or Beef) Roast

 1 venison roast (or beef roast)
 4 bacon strips
 1 can beer
 2 beef boullion cubes (or 1 tablespoon
beef boullion powder or paste)
 1 whole onion, cut into 8 chunks
Generous sprinkle of garlic powder
or 1 tablespoon minced garlic
 Sprinkle of pepper
 Generous sprinkle of dried herbs
(sage, oregano, marjoram, savory--you
pick)
 1 bay leaf
 2 tablespoons grated horseradish
(for sauce)

Place roast in cast iron roasting
pot or Dutch oven. Pierce top of roast
with a knife and insert the bay leaf.
Tuck onion pieces around roast, then
pour can of beer over all. Sprinkle
roast with garlic, pepper and herbs.

Drape bacon strips over top of
roast. Place roasting pot or Dutch
oven over hot part of stove and allow
to reach a boil; then move to a slightly
cooler part of stove top and allow to
simmer (still bubbling). Cover and
cook until meat is tender to a fork or
knife pierce. (Depending upon size
of roast, this can take up to 3-4 hours,
but it's worth the wait!)

Once roast is done and tender to
your liking, remove from pot and let
sit on cutting board or other surface
for about 10 minutes before cutting
into slices.

While roast is setting, add horseradish
to the juices in the pot and
simmer, stirring at least once or twice
to fully combine.

Serve slices of roast drizzled with
the warm sauce.

Beef or Venison Stew

 1-2 pounds beef or venison roast, cut
up into stew-meat-size chunks
 About 1 cup flour (white or whole
wheat)
 1 large onion, chunked and separated
into two equal parts
 Vegetable oil, butter, or lard
 Few shakes of salt
 Few shakes of pepper
 Garlic powder or minced garlic
 A couple tablespoons dried herbs
(oregano, sage, basil, marjoram, savory--your
choice)
 2-3 fresh potatoes, cut into quarters
(or 1 quart canned potatoes)
 2 cups vegetables of your choice
(fresh, canned or frozen carrots and
green beans)
 1 pint stewed/canned tomatoes
 1 packet brown gravy mix (or 2 tablespoons
beef bouillon powder or paste,
or 4 cubes beef bouillon + 2 tablespoons
flour) dissolved in small amount of water
to fully mix
 1/2-1 cup mushrooms (canned domestic,
or dried/frozen wild)

In a deep cast iron skillet placed
over the hottest part of your stove
top, melt the vegetable oil, butter,
or lard (enough to cover the bottom
surface scantly).

In a plastic bag place the flour,
salt, pepper, garlic powder or minced
garlic and herbs. Shake to combine.
Place meat chunks inside the bag
with flour mixture and shake again
to fully coat. Brown meat in the
hot oil/butter/whatever and while
browning, stir in 1/2 of the chopped
onions.

Once meat is browned, add in the
tomatoes, all of the vegetables, the
mushrooms and stir in the dissolved
brown gravy/beef bouillon to fully
combine.

Allow this stew mixture to come
to a bubbly boil on the hottest part
of your stove top; then move to a
spot where the stew can simmer for
2-4 hours.

About 10 minutes before serving,
add the other half of the chunked
onions.

Serve hot.

Christmas Goose
(or Thanksgiving Turkey)

 1 large (preferably wild, but domestic
is okay too) goose or turkey
(skinned)--your choice of size to feed
your crowd
 1 onion, cut in half
 1 stalk celery, cut in half
 1 bay leaf
 A few slices of dried apple, if you
have it on hand
 24 pats of butter
 Water
 4-8 strips bacon
 Minced garlic or garlic powder
 Sprinkle of salt
 Sprinkle of pepper
 Sprinkle of dill seed

In the cavity of the goose or turkey,
place the onion, celery and dried
apple slices (optional) and I strip of
bacon.

Place turkey or goose in a large
cast-iron roaster (dabbed with a few
pats of butter) situated over the hottest
part of your stove top.

Sear all sides (making them slightly
browned only on the very top
surface, not deep into the flesh) of the
bird, turning to make sure all surfaces
have been covered.

Once the bird is completed seared,
turn it breast side up, sprinkle it
with the seasonings, and place the
remaining bacon strips over the top.
Add enough water to reach a height
of about 1-inch from the bottom of
the roaster.

Allow this to cook on the hot part
of the stove top until it bubbles, then
place a solid lid on the roaster pan
and shift it to a cooler spot where it
can cook and simmer (it's okay if it's
still bubbling slightly, but you don't
want it to be sizzling--and make sure
you're not scorching the bottom of
the fowl).

Allow the fowl to cook for a
long time--maybe even up to 6
hours--checking occasionally and
turning it over once or twice (breast
up/breast down) to ensure thorough
aloneness.

Depending upon the fattiness of
the particular bird, you may have
to remove some of the cooking liquids
and juices. Save them back in a
separate pot to make your favorite
gravy later.

Once the legs can be easily moved
away from the body cavity and the
juices (upon piercing with a fork or
knife) run clear, the fowl is done. You
may cook it somewhat longer, as long
as you have a secure lid in place.

Serve hot with your favorite
traditional sides (which can all be
cooked on your wood stove as well)
and gravy mix.

Country Potato Soup

 1 large onion, chopped to medium
size chunks
 2-3 tablespoons margarine (or 2-3
strips of bacon)
 4-6 potatoes cut into 1-inch chunks
(skin on or skin off, your choice)
 2 tablespoons minced garlic or generous
dose of garlic powder
 Sprinkle of dill seed or dill weed
 1/2 cup milk

Place a good-sized cast iron pot
or Dutch oven on the hottest part of
your stovetop. Melt the margarine
or fry the bacon. Once all is melted
or fried (transfer the bacon to a paper
towel to drain), put in the onion
chunks and garlic and cook until onion
is translucent, but not brown.

Add the potatoes, dill weed or
seed, salt and pepper, and cover with
water.

Allow this mixture to come to
a boil on the hottest part of your
stovetop. Once it starts bubbling,
move the pot to a spot on your stovetop
where it can simmer. (With potatoes,
make sure there's only a slight
bubbling otherwise the taters will
burn on the bottom and you're out
of soup--literally!)

Travel over to the woodstove occasionally
to stir up the soup mixture
and to add water, if needed.

If you like a thin potato soup,
you'll be ready to add the milk when
potatoes are fork-tender. If you like a
thicker Soup, wait a little longer.

Whatever your preference, when
the soup reaches your desired point
of readiness, move the pot to the very
coolest part of your stovetop, add the
milk, stir, and allow to slow-simmer
for just a short while until all ingredients
are warmed to your desired
serving temperature.

Serve hot or very warm.


Mock Clam-Fish Chowder

Got some fish fillets that are gathering a little more freezer-bum than you find acceptable? Chop them up into small bits and allow them to thaw. Turn out the same recipe for Potato Soup above, but add some slices of fresh celery along with the potatoes.

Then, just a few minutes before the soup is done (before you add the milk), toss in the fish bits and about three squirts of Worcestershire sauce (and if you happen to have some canned or frozen minced clams or mussels, by all means add them).

Presto! Pretty fancy homestead eating!
Pork Roast Dinner

 1 pork roast of the desired size for
your family
 Several dried sage leaves or bay
leaves
 Several split cloves of garlic or
minced garlic or garlic powder
 Sprinkle of salt
 A couple sprinkles of pepper
 4 potatoes, quartered (skins on or
off, your choice)
 4 carrots, sliced in half crosswise,
then sliced in half lengthwise
 Water

Pierce a few holes in your pork
roast on all sides, and tuck in them
the sage (or bay) leaves and alternately,
the garlic (split cloves, minced
or powder).

Now, in a hot cast iron Dutch oven
or fairly good-sized cast iron skillet
situated over the hottest place on
your stovetop, sear all sides of the
pork roast. Make sure that all of the
surface is very nicely browned and
sealed.

Remove the roast from the cooking
vessel temporarily, and drain
off the fat and juices, transferring
them into a pot to make gravy later.
Refrigerate and chill this pot, so that
you can skim off the heavy grease
layer from the top before you start
the gravy. Replace the roast in the pot
or deep pan, add water to about 1-2
inches from the bottom, pop a secure
lid on it, and move the cooking vessel
to a place on your stove-top where
the water/juice mixture is allowed
to bubble somewhat but not hardcook.
Let the roast cook for at least
an hour or so, and check periodically
for doneness with the pierce of a
sharp knife (down to about halfway
through the meat). Once the juices
are running pink (not red) add in the
veggies and allow the roast to cook
for about 1 hour more. Add more
water if needed.

Keep covered and allow to simmer
until the juices of the pork roast run
clear and the vegetables have reached
a fork-tender point. While the roast is
finishing up, whip up your favorite
gravy mixture with the juices and
drippings you've saved (with the
grease layer already skimmed off!)
on your stovetop.

Cut the pork roast into serving
slices and serve with the veggies and
gravy either drizzled over the slices
or served in a gravy bowl.


Pizza on the woodstove? No way!

Hey, this is one I learned during the long-term ice-storm power outage, when I was trying to use up all my frozen goods before they went bad. Now, we did have the tremendous record-breaking ice storm so I could store my meat buried in the ice (tons of it everywhere), but the doughy-stuff (like pizza), I knew had a very short shelf life.

After my experience (and success), I think all of my pizzas will be cranked out on the woodstove.

In the traditional oven, I have a tendency to not watch the little suckers too carefully, and they have a tendency to get overdone. On the woodstove (popped into a cast iron skillet with or without a lid from time to time, depending upon the pizza type) they turn out perfectly! Sometimes I buy the generic frozen pizza on sale because I could never create them as cheaply from scratch, and then add my own ingredients. Also, I mystery-shop on the side, and freeze the ready-made pizzas I have to purchase (and am reimbursed for) just for my opinion on the taste sampling. Other times, I buy the basic pizza crusts, freeze them, and build my own! Here's what I did with each variation.

Frozen, purchased, ready-made: In a large cast iron pizza-sized skillet, I placed the pizza (which I allowed to thaw to room temperature, courtesy of the woodstove) covered with a secure cast iron lid, on the hottest part of my stove top for 5-7 minutes, then quickly popped it over to the very coolest part of my stove top to melt the cheese. Covered all the way through, an already-done frozen pizza was better than an oven re-heat could even come close to!

Grocery store frozen, never-been-cooked pizzas: I did these technically the same way as the ones above, only left them on the hottest part of my stove top a little longer (I kept checking the bottom crust--with a flashlight--to evaluate its ready-to-burn properties), and then transferred the covered skillet to a lower-heat location. At that time, by the way, I topped it with some frozen cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes that were ready to spoil, and it turned out absolutely perfecto.

Bare-bone pizza crusts: These I placed in the same pizza-sized cast iron skillet on the hottest part of my woodstove. Only this time, I cooked the crust on both sides--bottom side first, top side second. Then I topped the bare crust with all of the ingredients I could find, and didn't care to let spoil (those same frozen tomatoes, some frozen jalapeno peppers, frozen bell pepper slices, plus generous sprinkles of dried Italian herb mixes, and cheese, of course), and allowed this to heat on that high point for another couple of minutes. Then I transferred the skillet to a lower heat level to finish it off.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
Dove to love--simmered to
top-of-the-woodstove perfection!

 8-12 dove breasts, cleaned and
skinned
 4-6 strips of bacon, cut in half
lengthwise
 Generous tidbits or sprinkles of
lemon juice (or lemon pepper), garlic
(minced or powdered)
 1/4 onion, very thinly sliced
 Crumbles of dried bay leaf or dried
sage, if they are available
 Sprinkle of salt and pepper
 Water
 A sprinkle of the dried herb of your
choice (bay, sage, or basil would be my
favorites)

In each dove cavity, place a small
slice of the onion, a sprinkle of lemon
juice (or lemon pepper) and some
garlic.

Wrap each dove with one of the
length-wise bacon strips, covering as
much surface as possible. Secure the
bacon strips with either a toothpick
or some string.

Place your doves in a circle in a
cast iron roasting pan or skillet, and
place over the hottest part of your
stove top. Sear them only for a short
while on all sides, just until the bacon
is about 3/4 done.

Sprinkle the doves with the salt,
pepper and dried herbs, and allow to
cook for just a few (2-3) minutes on
that hot stove top.

Pour in some water, about 1/3 to
1/2 way up the height of the doves,
cover the skillet with a secure cast
iron lid, and move the skillet to a
cooler place on your stove top. It's
okay if the liquid bubbles. It's not
okay if it's boiling like crazy and
burning the bottom of the doves.

Once you equalize the stove top
cooking temperature to a low simmer,
check periodically for the moment
when then you can separate the top
of the dove breasts from the center
bones.

Serve hot and immediately. These
are so incredibly delicious!


BY GAIL REYNOLDS MISSOURI

GAIL4FOOD@MOKANCOMM.NET
COPYRIGHT 2007 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:The homestead kitchen
Author:Reynolds, Gail
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2007
Words:4282
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