Ah – the irony. Well over a month ago when I discovered that ash dump doors are considered to be a disposable item,vynehorn
and I set a date to try some hearth cooking in Ziggy. We figured that April would probably be a little warmer than we ideally would like, but should still be cool. So we picked a date, I ordered spare doors and a pot lid lifter, and she looked through period recipes. The result?
Record setting heat. It was 91° at Bradley Airport on Saturday. Perfect weather to have a roaring fire going in the house, eh?
Nonetheless, we opened all the doors and windows and plunged onwards. I’m glad we did – it was an enormously fun day. We learned a lot, and everything we made was edible, although it all needs tweaking. Bob started the fire for me at about 9:00am. That’s a little later than I had wanted, but I wasn’t moving very quickly and when he offered I jumped at it. Here’s where I give huge kudos to my husband – in the heat he tended that fire for us all day. I’m now even more happy that we took that class on hearth baking at Sturbridge. Aside from learning some techniques, it also demonstrated the (or maybe "a") correct way to use andirons. Now, I’ve never successfully built a fire in a fireplace. I’m a woodstove girl. But it's now pretty obvious that everything I thought I knew was wrong. That fire required very little tending beyond the occasional addition of fuel, and was a classic "Christmas card" fire without any outside intervention.
Anyone want one of those fireplace grates from Home Depot?
We made four dishes – I couldn’t tell you what the book they were from was. Perhaps vynehorn will post her version of "how I tried to kill myself with heat on Saturday" and will mention the resource. Regardless, there was a dish of young fava beans with sautéed apples and onions. We boiled half of the beans on the stove and half in a three-legged... pipkin?... made bythatpotteryguy
Forgive my lack of knowledge of the correct terminology - I’m new at this. We set that in the coals, and it boiled beautifully. We didn’t cut a green stick for the handle. I want to do that next time, but this time the welding gloves were quite sufficient. The apples and onions were done in a cast iron skillet on coals. The skillet was a bridal shower gift fromgalingale
finally getting used. Now that everything is okay, I can finally mention that I made a terrible mistake with the cast iron. I had the skillets setting on the woodstove in the kitchen over the summer. They rusted. I scoured them out and re-seasoned them Saturday morning and all was well. Oops. I won’t be making that mistake again. The dish was good, although after we mashed the beans they were alarmingly grey. People don’t generally want to eat grey food, so we’ll need to investigate different types/colors/sizes of fava beans.
The second dish was a cheese gnocchi. We did that one on my stove, as I don’t yet have a pot to hang off of the crane. That obviously needs to be the next acquisition. Those came out really yummy, and I want to make that one again just for dinner sometime. Third dish was an onion torta. We built the torta in one of the deep dish pie pans also from thatpotteryguy and baked it in the dutch oven. It came out well, but since none of us are fond of the taste of saffron it wasn’t a favorite. I think that I would want to try it again without the saffron, and possibly cook the onions ahead of time. We went with the redaction as written, but we think that now we want to look back to the original and make some changes. I remembered to get a picture of that one:
Our last dish was a dried fruit torta, and we did that in the electric oven, partly because the recipe sounded really good and I didn’t want to mess it up, and partly because we only had one deep pie pan on hand that would fit in the dutch oven. That recipe also needs some finessing, but was very good – good enough that I would consider making it for the holidays. Once we took the onion torta out of the dutch oven, we let the fire start to die, and eventually I scooped all of the coals out of the fireplace and into the woodstove to shut down the heat. The fireplace bricks were still throwing heat several hours later, and I now know where that flue is located in the exposed brick stack upstairs because those bricks were noticeably warmer when I laid my hands on them.
This whole process baffled the cats, especially Becket. He kept looking at the fire with a "but how do I get underneath it" look on his face (he spends most of the winter under the woodstove.) Eventually it got too warm even for them, and they disappeared until it started to die down. I worried a bit about how attentive Becket was getting at the end. He’s accustomed to spending time IN that fireplace, but he didn’t try anything foolish. This time.
Like all liquids, cats expand when heated:
Naturally, I neglected to get any pictures of the food/implements in situ. The best I have is the open dutch oven and the remains of the dying fire.
Regardless – photographic proof that I have had a fire in Ziggy. We’re going to have to do more of this. Maybe in October. In the meantime, I have all summer to acquire some more tools. Just to start with, I’m going to see if I can get my dad to make me a metal peel for moving the ash and coals around. We did okay with the charcoal scoop, and I had a bucket full of ashes from the woodstove. But a peel would be nice. I also want a trivet for setting stuff over coals instead of on them. A pot for the crane is a must have, and a less massive pair of andirons. These came with the house, so I’m not complaining. I’d really like a pair from www.historichousefitters.com. They’ve got everything I could possibly want – all I need is an open checkbook. But I can get andirons from them with spit hooks, which would be awfully nice. I also want a short-handled hearth broom for cleaning up the ashes afterwards. My Pennsic broom came from www.justameretreefarm.com and it’s lovely. I’ll probably order their European Hearth Broom. I like supporting quality handcrafters. Potholders – I need to make some wool filled potholders also. I see I should start a list.
It’s a small hearth, so we’re going to be limited in what we can do. When the house was built they just took the standard fireplace and added a crane. Realistically though, it’s as large as the house layout will support. I figure that we could probably have three things going at any one time – one pot on the crane, and two things in coals at the front. Four if I get a spit set up. But that’ll be pretty crowded, so that’s the absolute maximum. Nonetheless – it’s cool to be able to do, even if the facilities are tiny. I was also encouraged by how far forward we were able to bring things to cook without getting any noticeable smoke in the house. I would call it a success. It was definitely a lot of fun. Perhaps if we catch a clue, we could do workshops next winter...