Before we begin a discussion about cooking we must talk
first about cookware. The most effective for your wood stove
use is cast-iron. Cast-iron includes many sized spiders,
Dutch ovens, bean pots, gem pans, corn cake pans, broilers
and griddles. All are rugged, provide even heat, and are
easy to care for.
If at all rusted, scrub it, wash with soap and water and dry
thoroughly. This, and when new, to remove any foundry oils
and dirt are the only time soap should be used on your
After cleaning the cast iron must be seasoned. Coat the
piece with linseed, suet or lard and place near the front of
the stove to soak in moderate heat for two hours. Apply more
oil as it becomes absorbed. After two hours, let the utensil
cool and wipe off any excess oil.
Make note that cast iron performs best if it is preheated a
minute or so before using. Keep it over a medium to
medium-hot heat, for most kinds of cooking a sizzling hot
utensil is unnecessary.
After use, rub out any leftover tidbits and grease with
scrap linen, or scrape with a spatula if stubborn. Any
unremoved stubborn spots can be scoured with salt. Only if
absolutely necessary should you soak overnight, in clean
water, and scrape clean in the morning.
More on utensils later as we move on to talk about your
Whenever a mother
feels comfortable having her young daughters near a hot cook
stove, she must explain the necessities of handling hot pans
and pots with due care and caution. It will be necessary to
move pots from one kind of heat to another. Each stove will
be different and experience will soon teach a novice where
to place the pots and pans for the desired effect. Good
cooking demands experience and experience is the only way to
Because stoves differ, as well the location of the flame in
similar stoves, we cannot define a hard and fast rule for
which cooking lid one could ascertain to be the hottest or
coolest. But generally one would find the hottest lid sits
over the back of the firebox and the hottest spot would lie
between it and the stovepipe. The coolest would logically be
found on the side opposite the firebox. The midrange lids
may become nearly as hot as the rearmost lids after the fire
has had time to build, and surely very hot after closing the
Many stoves are equipped with one lid that is made of three
concentric rings. This allows any sized pan to set over the
fire when very high cooking temperatures are needed. If the
stove becomes too hot for your needs, place the pot or pan
on either a metal trivet or fire bricks to lift the utensil
away from the hot surface.
When using the oven.
Experience again will teach the use of the damper and how to
control the oven temperature. Much like the top of the stove
one must still get to know the hot spots in an oven. The
side next to the firebox can be expected to be hotter than
the further side and the oven heats from the top down so one
must expect the lowest corner away from the firebox to be
the coolest. Time and experience shall be your teacher.
An easy way to get started is to bake a large sheet of
biscuits. After removal one can judge where the heat is most
and least intense by the brownness of the top and bottom
crust. For large sheets one might expect to turn every so
often for even doneness.
In the absence of a thermometer, there are a couple of ways
to judge the heat in your oven. One would be to place a
blank sheet of writing paper into it for about 5 minutes. If
it is the color of chocolate the oven is the right heat for
biscuits, muffins and small pastry. This temperature is
called a “quick oven”. If your paper is dark yellow, it is
the right heat for bread, pound cake, puddings and puff
paste pies. If your paper is a light yellow it is suitable
for sponge cake.
The next test would be, if the longest you can hold your
hand in the oven is for 20 to 30 seconds, it is a “quick
oven”, for 35 to 45 seconds is moderate and 45 to 60 second
Canning on your cook stove.
The aroma and taste of two-day-simmered tomato sauce is
unsurpassed and fit for a king.
Large copper tubs can be used for the boiling water bath
method as the entire bottom of the tub contacts the stove
and can bring the water to a rolling boil. The large tubs
can handle more jars and will save much time and your energy
by making multiple heating times of the boiling water in
smaller vessels unnecessary. Because constant attention must
be paid to keep the water boiling, the larger batch will
work to your advantage.
When using a pressure canner, a steady steam rate must be
monitored and maintained. Fluctuations in temperature can
allow the recommended pressure to drop too low and require
you to start the process all over again. Preplan where to
set the hot canner when the time comes to remove it from the
If you are unfamiliar with proper canning methods seek a
knowledgeable person or read a book to guide you through the
process. Never rely on recollections of your mother or the
advice of friends with limited knowledge. Following the
proper course will keep your work and hard-earned produce
Drying foodstuff over your stove.
The blanching, sulphuring and anti-oxidants used to prepare
food before drying is a science in itself, and beyond the
scope of this writing, but do not pass up the opportunity to
save precious meat and produce that might otherwise go to
Begin with an old banked fire, with hot coals. Add only one
stick of wood at a time and keep the draft and damper almost
closed. Use the draft regulator to govern the fire and
maintain about 150 degrees of heat. It may also be necessary
to tip the lids slightly to help maintain a constant
temperature. If able to control both, the oven and top
surface can be used to dry. Surface heat can also be
additionally controlled by the use of metal trivets or fire
Corn Meal Mush
All comers will love corn meal mush if it is baked all night
in a “night banked” oven.
While my girls were doing the supper dishes, I would mix one
cup of stone ground corn meal with four cups boiling water
along with one teaspoon of salt in a pan. Cook while
stirring on top of stove until lumps are out but before it
has a chance to thicken, remove it from stove. Pour mixture
into a clean covered bean pot, put the pot in the oven and
leave it there all night. In the morning after the fire has
been mended, remove the pot and enjoy a hot nourishing
Word of Caution
Resist the greenhorn’s temptation to cook meat right on the
surface of the woodstove; it’s a mess for sure.
How to know a young turkey: If the lower joint of the legs
are a dark red it is a young turkey. If they are white it is
an old one. This is a sure sign, not known to fail.
Delicious Cottage Cheese
Place sour milk in a gallon jar with a tight fitting lid.
Immerse jar in your cook stove hot water reservoir for
several hours. Place clean cloth or cheese cloth in a
colander and pour heated curds from jar into colander. Allow
to drain well. Empty curds into a bowl, break up with a
fork, salt and pepper, moisten with sweet cream and chill.
The whey or liquid
which has drained from the curds can be mixed with fruit
juices for a healthy drink or is good used in bread or
Except for starting the fire, always keep the oven damper
closed. This prevents the flames from going up the chimney
and igniting any creosote left since last cleaned out.
“Scrapple” or “Ponhaws”
The following recipe for “Scrapple” or “Ponhaws” was most
likely brought to the valley by Pennsylvania miners who came
to the mining district seeking their fortunes by the lure of
finding riches in silver and lead.
Separate one hog’s head into halves. Take out the eyes and
brains. Scrape and thoroughly clean the head. Place into a
large kettle and cover with 5 quarts of cold water. Add one
large chopped onion. Simmer gently for 3 hours, or until the
meat falls from the bones. Skim off grease carefully from
the surface and place it in your grease pot. Remove meat and
bones, chop meat fine and return to the liquor. Season with
salt and pepper to taste, then add one
teaspoon of chopped sage. Sift in stone ground corn meal,
stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened to the
consistency of soft mush. Cook slowly over low heat for
about 1 hour watching carefully as it scorches easily. When
sufficiently cooked, pour into greased oblong tins and store
in a cool place until ready to use. Cut in thin slices, coat
with flour and fry in hot bacon fat until crisp and brown.
Normally served hot with eggs for a hearty breakfast.
Mimbres, New Mexico