Off Grid Cooking Solutions, Part 2, by V.W.

Thursday, Apr 11, 2013

To follow up o my article Off Grid Cooking Solutions, Part 1: One of the first items we purchased for off grid cooking was the humble Dutch Oven.  There are many enthusiasts of this time honored way of cooking.  The Dutch oven is surprisingly versatile as it can be used over a fire, with charcoal briquettes, on a regular kitchen stove, a woodstove, portable camp stove, or the rocket stove.  Because of the fuel consumption required and the logistics of storing charcoal and wood, I am not as interested in using my Dutch oven over an outdoor camp fire or with charcoal in emergency situations.  I feel the Dutch oven is better suited for the rocket stove in good weather or an indoor wood cook stove in areas that have cold winters.

Many people picture a Dutch oven containing a delicious stew or chili.  But it can also be used as an actual oven – producing bread, cake, biscuits, baked pasta, and so on.  As the bottom of the Dutch oven gets quite hot and could burn the bottom of baked goods, I recommend a trivet to be used to hold up the pan that you are using for baking.  A small round wire cookie cooling rack or even three or four canning lid rings placed on the bottom of the Dutch oven work well.  A pie plate or bread loaf pan, whether glass or metal, can then be used to bake in.  In traditional Dutch oven cooking, less heat is needed on the bottom and charcoal briquettes are used on top of the flat lid, providing browning from the top down.  Although the heat source is moved to only the bottom when using the rocket or wood cook stove, satisfactory results may be achieved. 

Although there are many bread recipes, I have recently found one that I believe would be ideal for a crisis.  It tastes good and is easy to prepare.  Many variations are possible.  Although the blog is a little wordy on instructions, it really is simple.  It is called Peasant Bread and reminds me of the artisan bread I have made in the past.  However, the recipe I have for the artisan bread makes a large amount and is to be placed in the refrigerator to be used over several days.  This recipe is a smaller amount with no refrigeration required.   And here is a video that shows a Dutch oven being used to bake bread on a wood stove that could be used with this recipe. 

If you already own a Dutch oven (and many households do because of previous camping trips or passed down from family), why not put it to use in your preparedness efforts?  If you don’t own one, there are garage sales and thrift stores that often have Dutch ovens for sale, and even stores like Wal-Mart carry them.  The flat bottomed Dutch oven can be used with both the rocket stove and cook stove.  Some footed versions (mine is a size 12) would work on the rocket stove, although great care should be taken in order that the pot not slide off the stove, resulting in serious burns.  I encourage you to search the Survival Blog archive for additional ideas and recipes as well as searching YouTube for informative videos, thereby adding to your knowledge and skills in this method of cooking.

Although I did extol the virtues of the rocket stove in part one of this article, I want to touch on two areas not previously mentioned.  First, a pressure cooker can be used with the rocket stove.  Although I have not (yet) invested in a pressure cooker, it is another way to quickly prepare food with as little fuel consumption possible.  The Survival Mom blog has a page that shows how to do this.

Second, I am pleased to discover that a pressure canner may also be used on the rocket stove.  This is possible by controlling the ventilation door and the amount of sticks in the combustion chamber of the rocket stove.  Even in a grid down situation, you could still preserve your garden harvest by canning.  I have also been told that those who own a glass top cooking range should not use pressure canners on the range.  Not a problem!  Gather some sticks, set up a rocket stove under a nice shade tree or in the shade of your home, and can your produce outside!  One benefit is that you avoid heating up your kitchen in high summer temperatures.  Here is a link to a video that shows how this may be done.

As far as actually starting a fire, we have come to enjoy the use of cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly.  They are easy to make, inexpensive (you can get supplies at the one dollar stores) and they burn for several minutes when lit.  To make them you simply slightly open a cotton ball, place a small amount of petroleum jelly on the ball, and then wrap the cotton around the jelly.  We store them in a plastic jar, away from any heat or flame.  Since they do burn for a while, they are an aid when dealing with wet wood or if you are a little inexperienced in getting a fire going.  And why not put that dryer lint to use that you ordinarily would throw away?  Save the cardboard tubes from paper towels or toilet paper.  Cut them in lengths about 3 inches long, stuff with dryer lint, and they are also an excellent way to start a cooking fire.

No matter what, there will always be some who refuse to actually prepare for emergency cooking scenarios.  The one thing that most homes have (at least judged by the many examples at local garage sales) is an oil lamp.  Wal-Mart sells an adequate one for about $6.00 as well as the kerosene to fuel it.  If a home has this item, then a makeshift stove can be fashioned.  Simply remove the glass chimney and place the oil lamp into a pot that is just slightly deeper than the lamp.  Place the pot in the kitchen sink, taking care to have nothing flammable within the area.  Place a wire cookie cooling rack over the pot, light the lamp, and put a small pot on the rack.  You can at least heat up a can of soup to enjoy.  It will take some time as this is not an efficient system. It will warm quicker with a lid on the cooking pot to contain the heat. Although slow, it would be better than cold food on an even colder night.  This would actually be used in a worst case situation.  When one has all these other options to choose from, this would certainly be a last resort.  Yet, it might be worth mentioning to a neighbor to at least have this much available in the home should a crisis occur.

I hope I have given you many options to ponder and that you are encouraged that these cooking methods are easy, affordable, and efficient.  Remember, if you are not financially able to purchase professional products, almost all can be substituted by a handmade version that work amazingly well.  Make a list and prioritize where you want to start and where you want to end up concerning preparedness.  Start today!  Simply look up the links included in both parts of this article.  They really contain valuable information that would add to your knowledge and skills.  It’s really about peace of mind knowing that you can provide for your family, even in extremely hard conditions. 


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