Regulars to my blog will have noticed articles by Sharon Cousins on solar cooking. I’d never given the concept a whole lot of consideration until running back into Sharon on Facebook (though I’d met her at Forward Motion Writing Community a few years ago). Sharon wrote a guest post on the general idea here and another one on the humanitarian aspects here. Keep posted for one more on August 30!
Meanwhile, it seemed to me that the easiest/cheapest way to try out solar cooking was to use the windshield shade method. I paid about $12.00 for a foil accordian folded shade at Canadian Tire, and a couple dollars more for a few inches of stick-on velcro to hold the edges together to form a cone. I also bought two 2-packs of oven bags.
Then I made sure I had an adequate pot: black. I have a cast iron dutch oven, so that is perfect. I was a bit stumped with what recipe, exactly, to try first. Sharon told me to think of it as a crockpot. So I chose a stew to make the first time. I just prepared it as usual: browning the meat, adding vegetables, broth, and seasonings.
Instead of leaving it to simmer, I put it outside in the solar cooker in one of the oven bags.: We’d set it on a small trashcan on a picnic table in one of the few parts of our yard we thought would get sun all day long. About every hour we’d don our sunglasses, grab some oven mitts, and go outside to turn the cooker to keep up with the sun’s position. The whole thing tipped over once, right to the ground, probably due to a breeze. Yay for the oven bag, which contained all the stew. We scooped it back into the pot and put it in a clean oven bag and right back on the cooker!
We added a couple of bricks to the trash can so it wouldn’t topple so easily again. You can see that the pot has a clear lid, which is from a different set I own but happens to fit my cast iron pot as well. Either clear or black works fine, but I wanted to be able to peek in without undoing the oven bag, so I chose the clear lid. The stew was fabulous. Tender, delicious. And the house was cool!
Not only that, but it was completely cooked by about 2:00, so I decided to add dessert to the menu. I couldn’t find any clear directions online for how to do a cake-like object, so I wung it. My husband figured the square inches of my frying pan to be 78″, close to that of a 9×9 pan, so I looked for a recipe that ‘size.’ I settled on chocolate brownies. I should have put them in an oven bag, but I didn’t. We had chocolate fudge–with homemade banana ice cream–so it wasn’t all bad!
This is the pre-cooked version of an asian-style chicken recipe I made the next day. It also turned out really really well. I found this recipe in my crockpot recipe book. Sadly this meal required cooked rice and sauteed kale, which I did in the house, so it wasn’t a total solar-cooked meal. The cooking itself is really straightforward. Basically, you just have to be home to keep an eye on it.
Here’s the finished meal. Awesome! Both these meals were a couple of weeks ago. Sadly the weather hasn’t been perfect on weekends since then, and it’s pretty hard to solar cook when I’m at the store all day. Sharon makes cakes and breads regularly and successfully, and I’m looking forward to the chance to do more experimenting. I’m not sure if I can do these more ‘advanced’ recipes with the windshield shade or if I should upgrade, but for now, I’m having fun exploring possibilities.
Have you ever solar-cooked? Share some recipes and experiences with us, if you have!