Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Wood-Fired Cooker

With my continuing colds and the deterioration of the weather here, I decided it was time to light the ESSE. This is the first time I will have cooked using wood, barbeques apart, and the first time I’ve burnt plum wood. My neighbour had a lot of problems getting plum wood to burn although Ann and Regis use it all the time with no problems and have a blazing fire.

So it was with great trepidation I lit the first fire; it barely caught. It did produce a lot of smoke to start with, which was great as I took the opportunity to check there were no leaks in the chimneystack where it goes through the loft.

The basic building here can be a bit ‘interesting’. The chimneystack is a stack of hollow square bricks. Fine so far but the path from the kitchen to the roof is not vertical so my chimney has a curve in it. Add to that, when I went into the loft area on moving in, I discovered that the exhausts for both the extractor hood and the propane water heater just passed through the kitchen ceiling and vented into the loft! Hence why I wanted to check out the integrity of
the chimneystack.

All was fine and I went back down to keep an eye on the fire. I reasoned that I needed to build up an ash bed. My neighbour who had the problems with the plum wood insisted you don’t need one but somewhere in the depths of my mind I have the recollection that wood fires need an ash base while coal fires don’t.

After about 4 hours the fire finally caught properly and the oven temperature gauge began to rise. Encouraged by this I started some bread. I still couldn’t get the oven into the hot zone but did manage to bake 3 large loaves and some buns.

By now it was evening and the next test presented its self. Could the fire last overnight? I added a few logs and closed all the dampers and went to bed.

Yesterday when I got up the cooker was cool but the
re was still a good glow in the ashes so I added more wood, opened up the dampers and waited. After about an hour I had a good blaze going again and this time the cooker heated to the top of the hot zone.

Time for more baking and yesterday it was buckwheat pancakes (because I had the flour and it let me see how well the ‘hot’ hotplate worked); some spice biscuits and some gingernuts. All were great, cooking times are a bit hit and miss, generally baking seems to be quicker. I’ve also put a casserole in the slow oven that’s looking good and should be perfect by tonight – the original slow cooker.

So I’m really happy with it, not only do I have hot water all day, it has a back boiler, I have a source of heat in the kitchen, I can cook more or less whenever I want (the other cooker is electric and takes quite a time to warm up as well as being expensive) and it keeps my cup of tea warm too. And if all the above wasn’t enough it can iron too, I think I’m in love!


aims said...

Sounds lovely. Sounds homey. Sounds comforting.

Perhaps I should build myself a fire.

Breezy said...

It's a great way to cook once you get used to it I love my Rayburn. I find I do more baking because the oven is there and hot anyway.

Mickle in NZ said...

it heats the home, the cooking, the water, bakes, slowcooks, roasts AND does the ironing!

My Dad's mother had a new coal range put into a house they bought in the 1950s.There were always 3 kettles on top at varying heatednesses for another brew of tea. this is such a happy memory - just wished I'd watched her cooking.

Deborah, the wood cooker looks wonderful, am sure you'll enjoy.
Huggles from Michelle in NZ.
The blogger Word verification is "ovenele" - can you belive it!

Olive said...

How lucky you are ! I have always wanted to have one of these stoves to cook with.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm envious of your wood cookstove! One of these years, we'll build an addition and actually get a wood stove, I live in hope.

dND said...

Hi all, I've finally made a folder for blog comments in my e-mail programme so I very quickly found out how far behind I was on answering them, my apologies to all.

I really like the cooker although I'm still in a learning curve. I think I need a higher calorific wood as it can take quite a while to come up to a really hot temperature.

The loveliest thing is having the source of warmth - a sort of keep the home firs burning.

Cooking is getting much better again a bit hit and miss with the very variable temperature and I agree with you <Breezy&mt;, more baking because it's already hot so it's oven warmed croissants for me now instead of microwaved!

Aims it does feel lovely and homely and very comforting.

Mickle, it's the ironing bit that has me hook line and sinker and the word verification is quite a coincidence isn't it.

Hi Olive, it was a special treat to me partially justified by being able to utilise a renewable energy source that I can grow myself. That said I've always wanted one too.

dND said...

Hi there HDR, good luck with getting the stove, there is something to them that I think resonates with the self-supporting lifestyle, maybe because it's the feel of a slower pace, no touch of a button or turn of a dial instant heat change here but something more steady.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I too love my woodburning cooker. We live on stews and soups, not that I mind but OH isn't so keen. When we move I'll try the baking bit - my mum hates baking in it, she always burns the cake. Haven't tried the ironing bit though (don't normally do ironing!). Mine likes not too big lumps of dry old wood - old fencing posts are great!

dND said...

Hi FFS. I think the trick with cakes is to know the oven temp and that can only be practice and possibly a cup of water in there too to help the humidity.

I don't usually iron but I've been using it to dry the clothes due to the weather and if you fold tidily and then put the clothes on top pof the plate covers it sort of steam dries the washing and they come off looking ironed.

Thanks for the tip about fence posts, I have a stack of old ones so I'll bring them into the barn to dry out and give them a go.

Barbara Martin said...

To think I was wondering if manufacturers still made these, and here is this post of yours. I'm planning on moving back to the country and this would certainly do the trick for alternative heating when the power goes out. My mother used to cook on one of these when I was 5. I remember being allowed to clean out the excess ashes when the stove was cool.