Hearth cooking sounds so romantic. The fire crackling, the smell of wood smoke, the cast iron pots bubbling over a real fire.... but look at that woman. She's bent over a fire, the smoke and flames are in her face and she has to hover over it to make sure that it's not scorching. Not so romantic - but still it looks better, doesn't it? Modern technology doesn't seem to have the same aesthetic value. The picture above, by the way, is from the Howard Hall Farm in Athens, New York which offers green and pioneer skill classes as well as historic restoration.
It's getting colder and as inconvenient as it might be to cook in your fireplace, its important to know how. Here's a quick run down of the basics:
First build a fire. This post would be really long if I told you how to do that. This is a post about cooking over a fire, not making the fire. Maybe another day.
You should let it burn for a while until it has some good hot coals. To find out how hot the fire is, hold you hand about 3 inches above the spot you want to cook over. Count the seconds until you have to move your hand away because it is too hot. If you can't even last one second, it is about 400-500 degrees. Two to three seconds and it is around 400-450 degrees. Six is too cold. If you're like me and your hands are tiny and wimpy, the fire may be slightly cooler than this estimate. Experience and burned food will educate you quickly.
You can support your pan or pot with three large stones around the fire, or hang it up above the fire, or you can use a Dutch Oven. Check out Lehman's for cast-iron griddles, cast iron kettles with legs, a fireplace cooking crane, and other fireplace cooking accessories.
Dutch ovens are probably the most versatile and easy way to start cooking over fire. You simply burn the fire down to hot coals, and put the coals evenly all around and on top of the oven. When your done, you don't wash it with soap - you scrape out the food and rinse it with hot water. For soup you would use it the same as a crock pot - it can take about 4-8 hours. Other things like eggs and toast and bacon and tea are all pretty simple - the fire is hot and you put things on there until they are cooked. The tricky part is how variable the heat is, but with experience it gets easier.
It's fun to do this with your kids every now and then, and it teaches an important skill. Letting your kids be around and safely use fire is much smarter than telling them to not play with matches.
3 hours ago