Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Summer kitchens

My it sure is hot outside! Here in North Georgia, it's been in the low 100's. Kitchens are heating up and are not fun places to work in. Makes you wonder how the old folks managed before a/c.

Well here's how they did it:

Summer Kitchens.

What was a summer kitchen? Basically it was anything from a nice screened-in "room" that was built away from the house to a shady part of the yard. And that shady spot could have been natural from the trees or man-made from a sheet, tarp or other large, shade producing item.

I saw one that was a room with cement floors, a roof and half-walls with screens for the upper half. It had a regular kitchen in it with a large fireplace, full commercial stove, counter space, cabinet space, fridge, a place to hang meat and room for several picnic tables. It was easier to butcher a deer or hog inside the screening that it was outside or in a regular kitchen.
They just plugged in a couple of fans and to work they went. They butchered the animal and proceeded to either wrap the meat for freezing or canned all the meat. When they were done, they took a hose, sprayed off the table tops and the floor and were good to go. You know it had to of cost a small fortune to build it.

Then there were friends of mine.
Hubby liked to take his air boat and kids out to Appalachia bay and net mullet. Then he'd come home and needed a place to clean the fish before he'd present them to his wife for meals or the freezer. Well, with 6 kids an only a landscaping business to support them, money was tight and so he just "made do". All it took was a little ingenuity from him and he had himself a great spot to clean the fish - as well as a spot to clean up after working on his equipment or yard.
He simply built his "kitchen" behind a shed he had and used a salvaged sink with a faucet, a hose, coupler, some pvc he had laying around and a chunk of smooth wood. He used the hose and coupler to hook up water to the sink. He used the pvc to funnel the drained water away from his shed, he propped the sink up on some old blocks he had, the smooth wood he used as his chopping block. The kitchen and fire ring on the back side of the shed were was shaded by some trees.
The fire pit was far enough away from the tree (and it's roots!) so that he could safely make a fire and they would sometimes cook some of the fish over that. They also used the pit for cooking outside - a fun thing to do. The sink was right there to use to clean up. In lieu of camping, they could eat outside and sleep in their OWN bed. Not so many skeeters that way!

Here is a copy of an email that I mailed to one of the Yahoo! groups I'm in. The question was posed about a dangerously hot kitchen and wanting some recipes that they didn't need to cook. My suggestion was as follows:

Here in the Southern US, it gets very hot as well as humid. Inside an old house was no place to cook in the summer. So they had something called a summer kitchen. It was an outbuilding or just a shaded area that was used to cook outside.

You could duplicate that with anything from an overhang on the back side of the house or a screened in porch to a purchased dining fly, to a tarp, to just a sheet or two and some clothes line. You'll also want some kind of a small table or two to set your stove on and to prepare items and hold equipment.

Find or make a shady spot, set up a "Camp stove" - you know the kind with propane or bottled gas. They even have "ovens" that go on top of these stoves. Or use a dutch oven to bake or cook in. You can use one of those on top of the camp stove or use charcoal briquets on and/or under it - I once heated some coals, then set them on a piece of foil on my porch, put the dutch oven over the coals, then put some more briquets on top of the oven. It worked just fine.

Google "dutch oven recipes" and you can find instructions for using a dutch oven and ideas for meals. The MacScouter site below is good! You can use a firepit, BBQ, grill or other source of heat.

You can also:

use a Scout Box oven:
this site has several different ways to make one. Has recipes listed below the instructions for making an oven.

You can also use a Nesco roaster, an electric skillet, a crockpot, or a toaster oven outside, under some shade - on a porch or under a tarp. Just make sure rain can't get to it and short out the electricity.Personally, I wouldn't use anything electrical outside if there was a chance of rain.

Use a "solar oven":
has recipes as well as instructions for making your own.

obviously, this type cooker needs to be in direct sunlight to do the cooking.

(these are all homemade affairs, but you can spend money and buy one of the above rather than make your own. At my house, lack of money is a factor in all that we do, hence the "make-your-own" approach!)

Most "baking" can be done in a variety of ways. The object of baking is that there is heat on top and bottom of what is being cooked and that there is some space between the heat and the food. The object here would be to "bake" a lot on one day and then put it in the freezer. When I heat up my smoker/grill, I cook several things on it, in succession. That way, I'm not wasting a full pan of coals for some ribs. Same with the gas grill. I'll make several meals worth of meat/vegies and then freeze the rest. These can then be eaten thawed or reheated on any of the above stoves or ovens or in the microwave.

And yes, you can cook anything in these alternate ways. You can make pies, cakes, brownies and bread-stuffs as well as meats and vegies. I've cooked biscuits and rolls in a dutch oven. It will take a little tinkering with times to get it right, but then it took the same kind of tinkering to learn to cook with a regular oven/range too. And I've found that when I change ranges/ovens I also have a few trial and error adjustments that have to be made. (My new stove is hotter than my old one was and I've had to learn to set the temp gauge lower than the recipe calls for and also to check one the food sooner than the time indicated.

One comment about charcoal. I've always bought the off-brands of charcoal. Then last year I found one of the "name brands" on sale and bought some of those. What a difference! Even thought the "name brand" cost more, it cooked longer and with a better, more consistent heat.
You will want that consistent heat to gauge how many pieces of charcoal to place under/on your dutch oven. Having said that, the pioneers used whatever they found to heat their dutch ovens and it worked out. You do need to practice with them to get consistent results. I'd suggest you start with good briquets and then, when you get good with those, you can go to a lesser brand or even just coals from wood that you have burned.

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