Yes, it’s that time again.
It’s solar cooking time.
I’m not a hot weather person by nature. Give me blowing snow and 15 below any day–any day!–over the temperatures we’ve been having the past week. I guess my Iowa blood just never did adjust to Kansas City.
So when the outdoor temperature shows signs of becoming unbearable, I try to make it fun.
I cook. In a box. In our driveway.
The solar cooker pictured above is our “deluxe” model. Mike made it according to instructions in a now-out-of-print book called Cooking with the Sun, by Beth Halacy and Dan Halacy (1992, Morning Sun Press). It has real wood, glass and audio insulation we had to special order from Corning. (Not because our cooking sings. Other types of insulation warp and melt in the heat or may give off unwanted gasses.)
Inside is a cheese and lambs quarters quiche–my first solar meal of the season.
I started solar cooking a few years ago as a goofy experiment. My first cooker was a small cardboard box inside a larger one, fitted with bubble wrap for the insulation and a reflector which is a bent piece of cardboard propped up by a wire coat hanger. Over the years, we’ve kept experimenting and refining. I have one cooker which is essentially a piece of folded cardboard with silver reflective backing. On that one, you put the food in a dish in the middle, inside an oven bag.
But this one is the best one because it has a hanging rack that adjusts when you tilt it and because it is the most like a regular oven. I’ve measured temperatures of 325 to 340 in there and the food gets nice and brown, if you leave it long enough.
I’ve cooked all kinds of things, over the years. Seasoned hamburger balls for gyros, corn bread, cherry cobbler, fish en papillote, chicken and rice (hint: use Uncle Ben’s converted). I just never get tired of opening up the lid and seeing the steam roll off. (Although my family does get tired of me talking about it.)
Solar cooking is only tangentally related to gardening. But it kind of goes along with the whole “saving the earth” thing. And it’s a fun way to cook those vegetables while reducing your carbon footprint even more. Speaking of which, here’s a plug for Solar Cookers International, a group that encourages solar cooking here and to improve life in developing countries. SCI sells the reflective cardboard cookers, books and other supplies.
This weekend I’m hard at work coming up with more recipes that can be adapted to the cooker. Looks like it’s going to be a hot summer.
Posted by: Roxie