One of the small appliances in my kitchen that I really rely on is my slow-cooker. It allows me to slave over a hot stove all day long without slaving over a hot stove.
Did you know there is a non-electric alternative? Known as "straw box cooking" or "fireless cooking," an insulated box holds your cooking pot while the food inside the pot cooks. In the original form, straw was stuffed around the pot inside the box as insulation. I'd read about it in an old book, and when we had an ice storm a few years ago that knocked out our power for over 68 hours I was ready to give it a try, DIY style.
The weather forecaster had warned us that this might be "one of those storms," so I was prepared. I started lamb stew in the slow-cooker that morning, and when the power went out I quickly moved the "crock" of hot food into my improvised straw box cooker: an ice chest/cooler lined with a blanket, plus a folded bath towel in the bottom of the chest. I put the lidded crock of hot food on top of the folded towel, covered the crock with the blanket and tucked it all around the sides, then closed the cooler lid.
|Line the cooler with your blanket.|
|Set the folded bath towel in the bottom of the cooler and|
nestle your cooking pot inside.
|Cover it all with the blanket and shut the lid tight.|
Next time I'll add another fleece blanket to the top before shutting;
the goal is to stuff as much insulation inside as possible.
By dinnertime the stew was finished, hot and ready to eat. Success! The next day we heated our food to a boil on the camp stove, then moved the whole pot to the cooker. Success again!
The folded towel on the bottom of the cooler insulates the bottom of the pot. A really thick layer of newspaper (like a Sunday paper) would also work. The blanket helps hold the heat, and closing the lid of the cooler tightly creates an insulated box.
Just bring your food to a boil before placing the cooking pot in the ice chest. We used a camp stove to do this. You do need a source of heat to do this, but the fuel needed is minimal because once you've moved your meal into the ice chest you won't need any heat at all to continue cooking your meal.
|This is all you need to cook in a "straw box".|
Wouldn't it be great to take camping?
When your meal is finished, leave the top of your ice chest open for a while to dry it out; it's steamy and damp inside. Air out your blanket and towel before storing to prevent mildew.
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My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
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