I have wanted to experiment with fireplace cooking for some time. The idea of warming the house and cooking a meal seemed very novel to me. Not having grown up in a pioneer family, we usually reserved our alternative cooking methods for the outside grill. However, not too long ago, the normal way of household cooking was in and on the family hearth. The first “stove” was invented a little more than three hundred years ago and it certainly didn’t gain popularity for quite some time. Even the most modern ancestor, the wood stove wasn’t in general use until the 1800’s in Europe and America….but look how far we’ve come!
As part of my practice of simplifying our lives and turning off the modern world periodically, I have discussed with my partner taking a night a week or a night every two weeks where we don’t use modern conveniences. This gives us a much needed escape from the overwhelming stimuli of modern life that do nothing but promote consumerism and serve to disconnect us further from the earth.
One aspect that could prove difficult is the process of cooking dinner. While we could grill out, it seems that could be difficult if it is raining or blowing volumes of snow in the winter time (we do not have a gas grill). Fortunately we have a fireplace! This gives us the ability to warm our home, provide light and a resource to cook a comforting meal.
One recent cold December evening, we had our technology free night. We read by oil lamp and I cooked a hearty stew in our fireplace. Cooking in the fireplace can require quite a bit of specialize equipment since most home fireplaces are designed to be simply a decorative accent and not a makeshift kitchen. We will be using a modified camp set up on a future night, but I thought to simplify this by just using a cast iron footed Dutch oven.
I assembled the ingredients and lit a small fire in the fireplace to “pre-heat” it. I built a nice medium fire as I chopped and prepped the stew. After about 45 minutes the fire has heated the brick and built enough embers to cook in.
The ingredients for the stew are very simple. Beef, onions, carrot, celery, potatoes, seasoning and red wine. Trim the meat well since you won’t be able to drain it off. Add all the ingredients in the pot and season well. I moved the fire to one side of the fireplace and placed the pot in the fireplace; surrounding it with hot coals to buffer the pot with heat. The stew takes about two and a half hours in the fireplace (a bit longer than one the stove top, but much quicker than a slow cooker).
The stew was delicious served with buttered, crusty bread! Cooking this way was very interesting to me and also taught me that if we were deprived of our modern conveniences for a period of time, even in the winter, we would still be warm and well fed!
Happy Gardening….and Cooking!