Sunday, July 12, 2020

Summit Ranges from the Andes Range and Furnace Corporation

The posts I wrote about Kalamazoo and Quick Meal cookstoves a while back have proven to be some of the more popular posts on this blog, so I thought I'd share another piece of my cookstove library with you.  The following images are from a booklet published by the Andes Range and Furnace Corporation of Geneva, New York.  No date appears anywhere in its pages, but from the styles of wood and coal ranges that it advertises and from the fonts used, I would date it from the late 1930s to perhaps 1940.

The cover of the brochure on Summit ranges.
A little internet research tells me that the Andes Range and Furnace Corporation began as the Phillips & Clark Stove Company and moved to Geneva from Troy, New York, in 1885.  Phillips & Clark started the Andes line, and it became so popular that the company changed its name to the Andes Range and Furnace Corporation in 1924.  Sometime in the 1930s, the Andes Range and Furnace Corporation merged with the Summit Foundry, which signaled the beginning of their production of enameled ranges.  The company went out of business in 1951 (from Geneva by the Geneva Historical Society).

Even if I hadn't provided the address of the company, the experienced wood cookstove enthusiast will recognize that these ranges were made in the northeastern part of the United States.  The big giveaway is that the oven doors swing to the right rather than opening down.

No prices are listed anywhere in the brochure, but it appears to me that they started with their finest range.

The next four pages advertise their "Homestead" model ranges.  The first two pages show Homestead ranges with what are called "hearths."  These are the shelves on the left side of the range by the lower drafts.  Again, these were much more common on stoves in the Northeast than those in the Midwest.

The following two pages have Homestead ranges without hearths and with slightly different appearances.  The other features are the same.

The next pictures are what make me think that the date of this brochure is the very late 1930s or 40s.  Sleek, boxy, cabinet-style ranges like this came into fashion around that time.  Notice that these oven doors are also all hinged to open down.

These next pages are stamped "DISCONTINUED," and you can see that the styles of the ranges are a little more old-fashioned in nature.

And now for the piece de re´sistance: the double-oven ranges.  How I would like to cook on a range like these sometime!

Something I notice about several stove catalogs of this vintage is that their household ranges were modernized in appearance and enamel, but their "hotel" or "restaurant" ranges remained unchanged from the styles that were popular at the turn of the twentieth century.

The remaining pages of the booklet advertise their small line of coal and wood heating stoves and then has reprints of some of the pictures for the Royal, Manor, and Villa, which were also available as oil-burning ranges.

If anyone who reads this post has one of these ranges or can put a more definite date on this booklet, please use the comments feature below to let us all know.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Oven Canning Dry Goods in a Wood Cookstove

I don't think I'm an alarmist, and I really wouldn't even consider myself a prepper, BUT...

I'll admit that when everything fell apart in practically the blink of an eye back in March, we were thankful that a) we had a well-stocked fruit room, pantry, and freezer, b) that for years now we have made it a practice to have more than enough toilet paper on hand at all times, c) we had kept a complete year's worth of garden seed (hadn't planned that intentionally--just a happy accident this time), and d) we had more than enough work, projects, puzzles, board games, and other activities to keep us so busy at home that there has been no time for boredom.

I don't have a crystal ball that lets me see into the future, and I think I'm like the vast majority of people who, if they are being truly honest, don't know which "experts" to believe regarding what the coming months of the continuing Covid Saga will look like.  And so, while most things are readily available again, we are slowly replenishing our stockpiles of a few things "just in case."

When we were at our local Sam's Club a few days ago, they had 25 lb. bags of long-grain white rice for under $10.00.  I don't know that we even eat five pounds of rice in a year, but we do like it, and in some kind of major catastrophe, it could be a welcome thing to have on hand.  As a regular habit, we keep rice in the freezer for a while and then transfer it to an antique two-quart canning jar that we use it out of.  However, we are in the season where our garden is steadily contributing to the contents of our already-full freezer, so we didn't want to sacrifice the real estate there to a large bag of rice.

I remembered reading an article in the May/June 2012 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal about oven canning dry goods.  I hunted up that article and reread it; then I did some further online research about oven canning flour, rice, beans, and such.  In a nutshell, the idea is that you heat the dry goods inside open canning jars for a length of time and at a temperature sufficient to kill any of the insect larvae that are inherently present in such foods.  The temperature needs to be low enough that you don't toast the food, of course.  Then, you put a hot canning lid on the hot jars of hot food, and the canning lids seal as a vacuum is created while everything cools.  This would allow us to store the rice on a shelf in the fruit room rather than in the precious space of the chest freezer, and it would be safe from both pests and environmental issues (aside from earthquakes).

However, another discovery that I made in my research was that there are no hard and fast rules for dry canning.  Each video I watched instructed me to use different times and temperatures ranging from a half-hour to an hour and a half at anywhere from 215-250ºF.

Initially, I thought I'd probably do this job in one of our modern stoves because I've never tried to maintain such a low oven temperature in a wood cookstove.  Being able to digitally set an exact temperature on our newer Frigidaire gas range was particularly enticing.  I wasn't excited about turning on one of the ovens in the air-conditioned house, though, and--truth be told--it seemed pretty hypocritical when I'm always saying that you can do anything on a wood cookstove that you can do with a modern gas or electric stove.

Then I remembered another truth that the modern appliance companies don't want to talk about much: oven temperatures in modern ovens are really not all that steady--especially in gas ovens.  I know this for a fact because when our gas oven is first turned on, it gives a reading of what the current oven temperature is.  Sometimes, I've accidentally turned it off and then had to turn it back on right away, and I can assure you that when you are choosing an oven temperature on a modern oven, you are choosing an average temperature.  Thus, I figured that oven canning in a wood cookstove was certainly possible and struck out on a new adventure with the Hayes-Custer out in the summer kitchen.

The first thing I did was wash a bunch of one-quart canning jars.  Then, to make sure that they were completely dry inside, I put them on a jelly roll pan in a slow oven for fifteen minutes.

After that, I removed them from the oven and filled them with the dry rice.  

It seems important to note here that one of the jars in this first batch had a regular mouth on it and the Atlas insignia on the bottom, though it didn't have the traditional "Atlas Strong Shoulder Mason" embossed on the side. We have used it for wet canning before, so I thought it would be fine for this application.  Not so.  The empty jar came out of the oven with fine lines that looked like crazing on the inside.  I ran my finger against the inside of the jar, and it came out with shiny glass powder on it. Obviously, the jar's useful life is over.  I know that there were lots of regular mouth glass jars which were used to package coffee, salad dressing, and other foodstuffs years ago, and many of them have been successfully used for home-canning against the advice of the jar companies and the USDA for a long time.  However, it appears that oven canning may be particularly hard on this type of jar, so I would advise strictly using canning jars.

Once the jars were full, everything went back into the oven.  I'm not going to share the time and temperature that I used (I'm not throwing my hat into that ring!), but I will tell you about regulating the oven temperature:

Longtime blog readers will no doubt be tired of me preaching the value of using little pieces of wood for building hot fires for high oven temperatures, but the same is true for maintaining the temperature of a slow oven.  The difference is that you just don't put so many pieces on the fire at once. Instead, let each piece burn down quite a bit before you add another.

Actually, there is another method for maintaining a slow oven, too: once you have a well-established bed of coals but before the oven is very hot, add a single large piece of wood which is dense and will burn slowly for a long time.  I used this method with a piece of black walnut on the second batch of jars, and it worked great, too.

As a side note, I think it would be rather difficult to do much other cooking while simultaneously oven canning just because you are keeping such a cool fire.  The fire might be perfect for stews and the like, though.

Place the lids and rings that you are going to use in a shallow baking pan. During the last fifteen minutes of the time that the jars of dry goods are in the oven, put the pan of lids and rings in the oven to heat up as well.  A nice feature of oven canning dry goods is that you can use canning lids that have already been used once.  I used half new lids and half used lids to see how it would go, and everything sealed just fine.  Tattler lids are not recommended for this application.

When the jars are ready to be sealed, take one jar out of the oven at a time.  Fix the lid and ring on the top and place the jar in a draft-free place to cool and seal.

In case you are curious and for my own record-keeping, 25 lbs. of rice fills 15 quart jars.

On that same day, I also canned our first small picking of green beans (on the right in the picture below), and then I tried something new and canned hamburger patties.  I've canned meat on a wood cookstove several times, but I've never canned hamburgers.  The idea came from Linda at the Youtube channel "First Coffee Then Life Sustainably Off Grid & Happy." We'll see what we think when we open them.

I will take the rings off the jars of beans and meat before putting
them on the shelf, but I can see no reason to remove the rings from the rice.

Everything I have read about oven canning dry goods tells me that the shelf life of foods stored in this way is anywhere from 20 - 30 years.  I know it won't take us that long to use this rice!  Another advantage is that as long as you've got plenty of jars (we do), have kept a few used canning lids and your firewood is free, storing rice in this manner costs only your time.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Cooking Beef Tongue on the Wood Cookstove

I know this post won't appeal to everyone who reads this blog, so my feelings will not be a bit hurt if you skip over this one.  I think it's kind of a timely post, though.  Because of Covid-19's effect on the meatpacking industry, meat prices and availability have fluctuated hugely across our nation.  In our area, the retail price of beef was particularly volatile for a while, and farmers worried about whether they would be able to market their hogs and cattle.

A result of this was a surge in demand for the work that our local independent butcher shops do.  Last I heard, both of our nearest meat lockers are booked for custom processing through January of 2021, and I understand this to be a fairly universal situation in our state.  Thus, I imagine that there will be a lot of people who will be putting a beef tongue in their freezer over the next several months.

Now I know some people just cook tongues for their dogs, but I like tongue, and I dislike the idea of wasting good beef on pets.  Besides, the dog will get a few pieces of this meat anyway since there are parts of the tongue that have a little too much connective tissue to be palatable.

Here is one way to prepare it:

1) Place the beef tongue in a pressure pan.  Tongue can be a little tough, so the pressure cooker helps tenderize it.

2. Season the tongue generously.  For this one, I used seasoned salt, Mrs. Dash, onion flakes, and bay leaves.  If you'd rather, I think the bay leaves could be exchanged for a heavy dose of garlic with excellent results, too.

3. Cook the tongue for one hour at ten pounds of pressure.  I was not maintaining a very hot fire when the following picture was taken, so I just left the pressure cooker directly over the firebox for the whole time.  The fire wasn't hot enough to make the pressure regulator jiggle constantly, but it did keep it jiggling the required two to three times per minute.

4. Once the pressure has been released, remove the lid of the pressure cooker to remove the cooked tongue.

5. The next step is the one that will be most stomach churning for the faint of heart: you have to peel the tongue.  The outer layer of a bovine tongue is incredibly rough (as you know if you've ever been affectionately licked by Old Bossy), but once the tongue is cooked, the outer skin is easily removed.

6. Unfortunately, the shape of the tongue is still recognizable.  Nancy finds this particularly unappetizing to look at, so it is best to slice the tongue and rearrange the pieces on the plate.

7. At this point, I also removed the parts on the bottom of the thick end of the tongue which are heavy on the connective tissue and set them aside for the dog.  You could eat the tongue like roast beef at this point, but we were taking this one a step further.

8. Since I was going to put sauce on this meat for barbecue sandwiches, I chopped the slices into smaller pieces. 

9. I put the sauce onto the meat and returned it to the stove to come to a boil while I toasted the homemade hamburger buns.  I put different sauce on the meat than I usually do, and we didn't like it as well, so I'm not going to share that part of the recipe with you.

10. Enjoy the finished product!  Anyone who was not in on the preparation of the meat would never know that they are eating tongue.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Using the Hayes-Custer Range in the Summer Kitchen

As I've mentioned before, we moved our summer kitchen closer to the house in April of 2019.  However, I didn't get a cookstove hooked up in it last summer because I was so busy with all of the rigamarole of publishing my novel.  This year, because of all the Covid-19 stuff, I've had a lot more time at home, so with the help of my brother, I was able to move the Riverside Bakewell to a different corner of the summer kitchen and put the Hayes-Custer on the hearth.

First, some of you may be wondering why I traded the beautiful green and cream Riverside Bakewell with its spacious warming ovens for the beige Hayes-Custer which is only outfitted with a high shelf, especially when I tell you that the baking ovens and cooktops are the same size.

The Riverside Bakewell--former occupant of
the hearth in our summer kitchen.

Folks, it all comes down to this:

The right oven door hinge broke some years ago, and while the stove still heats, cooks, and bakes just fine, this is a major inconvenience, and it's also rather dangerous since one has to balance the hot oven door on one's knee in order to transfer anything into or out of the oven.

Besides, I also wanted to be able to share the experience of cooking on a different cookstove with all of you.

You can read about the acquisition of the Hayes-Custer at this post, and you can read about the history of the Hayes-Custer Stove Company here, so this post is about the range itself and its actual use.

This stove has done 100% of the cooking, baking, and food preservation here since its installation on June 12th.  While food preservation has so far only been canning pickled beets, blanching peas for the freezer, and a batch of mixed fruit jelly, there is a lot more of that to come.  The meal preparations have only involved breakfast once because I've been eating a lot of toast and cold cereal on these warmer mornings, but dinners and suppers have been a little more elaborate.

So far, I would say that the stove performs just fine.  I do have to rotate things which are baking, but I've got some chimney improvements to do which may change that.  I'll let you know.

The fire you see burning in the stove is of wood, but yes, you
do see coal in that hod in the lower right corner of the picture.
I'm trying to learn how to burn coal, but it is proving to be quite
the learning curve.  I'll let you know if I ever get it figured out.

In the picture below, you can see some homemade hamburger buns which were toasting over the fire, waiting for the barbecued beef which is in the pot to their right.  The hamburger buns were baked in the Hayes-Custer and rotated once.  You can see that the bottoms were sufficiently browned as well.

One of the things that I like about this stove is that it has a pouch feed with a door which lifts up.  The Riverside Bakewell has a pouch feed, but it opens down.  The Qualified Range has a pouch feed too, and it opens up, and I really prefer this arrangement.  The Margin Gem doesn't have a pouch feed, and I would have to admit that I miss it.

You can also see from the picture below that the hole for the lid lifter in the "T" has worn through, and I have stuffed it with foil so it doesn't spoil the draft.  There is also a chip out of the cast iron to the right of the pouch feed door, which I have also temporarily patched with foil for the same reason. This is not scientific stove repair, but it is certainly affordable.  (Actually, the foil had even been used once already.)

While putting the stove back together after moving it, I noticed something unique about the pouch feed door.  The left hinge pin is constructed such that it has a tab on the end that juts out to the left.  This seemingly little thing is actually quite thoughtful on the part of the Hayes-Custer designers. The Qualified Range is not equipped with this extra tab, and I've had the pouch feed door fall off a few times during particularly athletic episodes of adding fuel through this door.

You may have noticed how rusty the top of the range is in the two pictures above.  I had removed all of the rust with my grill brick and given it a good coating of vegetable oil once the stove was in place, but I've had some hot fires since then, so the oil burned off over the firebox quickly.  Then, even though the summer kitchen is an enclosed building, the windows are open nearly all the time, so the humidity can get pretty high in there.  Hence, the rust came back in a hurry.

You can see in the picture below that this stove has seen some intense heat. Below the pouch feed, a repair has been made using stove cement. I imagine that this injury is the result of an extremely hot coal fire at some point in the stove's history.

The Hayes-Custer firebox is 7" deep x 8" wide x 18" long and is equipped with duplex grates.

Another interesting feature of this stove is that the only place which tells you who the manufacturer was is the outside of the front firebox door.  In a day when most stove makers were prominently autographing their ranges, the Hayes-Custer company was concealing their information pretty well. You can also see from this picture that the handle has broken off the front of the ash drawer.  This makes ash removal a little more difficult than it need be, but I've learned that by prying with a small flat screwdriver or the handle of a pair of pliers, you can create a gap between the top of the ash pan and the opening to get your fingers into and pull.

Although I haven't measured its capacity, the reservoir on this stove seems HUGE.  It must hold at least ten gallons.

Of course, when I run into a vintage stove, I can't help but wonder about its history.  Was this range a household's only heat during the notorious winter of 1936?  How many Thanksgiving dinners did it turn out?  In this stove's previous home, it had not been used since the 1970s when an ice storm knocked out the electric power for a week.  It kept its owners warm and well fed during that time.

No matter what its history, it is certainly working hard in its present.  And I'm pretty sure that I'm the first person in its list of owners to ever bake a frozen pizza in it!  Don't be too harsh on us.  During Covid-19 Quarantine, we've eaten exactly two frozen pizzas, but we've had three from-scratch homemade ones, complete with sauce which was home-canned.

You can see the raging fire that was burning in
order to achieve the quick oven needed for baking
a frozen pizza.

The finished frozen pizza.
I don't know what the temperature inside the summer kitchen reaches, but I can assure you it is beastly hot.  However, doing all of the cooking out there has enabled us to go without turning on our house's air conditioning so far this summer.  In addition, there is very little cost involved in collecting the fuel for this stove since I'm able to use small sticks and other poor quality scrap wood I've picked up in our pastures.  And while the Lord has so far protected us from dire financial consequences during these uncertain times, it does seem prudent right now to trim costs wherever we are able.

Stay tuned for more posts which feature this stove, since it looks like it's going to have a busy summer.

In the meantime, if you are interested in the Riverside Bakewell, let me know--since I'm interested in having the floorspace back.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Using My Brother's Vintage Montgomery Ward Cookstove in Our Summer Kitchen

So, way back in 2013, I blogged about my brother's new-to-his-family cookstove in this post, and for nearly seven years, I've been looking forward to hauling this little cookstove over to our place and hooking it up in our summer kitchen.  Since we moved the summer kitchen much closer to the house last spring, we had disconnected the Riverside Bakewell cookstove that was in it.  I wanted to perform a little cookstove rotation anyway, so this was the perfect time to try this little baby out.

When I say "little baby," I mean it.  With the cast iron eyes and "T" removed from the cooktop, I am able to carry it by myself.  Kevin was surprised to find that I had carried it out of the loft of his shed without assistance.  This stove is 26" wide by 21" deep, and it is a back-breaking 25" tall, but don't let its diminutive size fool you.  This stove performs very, very well.

As I have mentioned before, there is no joy in cooking with a wood fire for me unless the stove I'm using has an oven, so I was particularly interested in how this stove would bake.  At first glance, the oven seems tiny, measuring 17.75" deep, 13.5" wide, and 9.5" tall.  In the picture below, I tried to give you a little perspective by holding my spread hand in front of the oven door.  I'm not sure it was the most effective photography technique, though.

Also, it is the first oven on a woodburning cookstove that I have used to be heated using a configuration similar to the one illustrated in the bottom drawing below.  The oven damper is operated by a small lever near the upper right hand corner of the oven door.  For kindling the fire, the damper is turned to the right.  For baking, the lever is turned to the left and thereby diverts all of the smoke and heat from the fire around the oven box.

Well, the stove was installed in our summer kitchen from June 5th to June 12th.  During that time, I did absolutely all of our cooking on it, and I was thoroughly impressed.  You can see from the pictures below that baking was no problem at all.  I did rotate a few things, but this is not uncommon in wood cookstove cookery, and I was pleased and surprised to note how well the bottoms of things had cooked (this can sometimes be a problem on some wood cookstoves).  

The first thing that struck me about the operation of this stove is how quickly it heated.  With the first fire I built, I had the oven temperature up over 400ºF within 15 minutes.  The firebox is small, but not overly so, and during the whole time that the stove was in use, I only used small sticks and wood chips picked up from the floor of the shed where we keep the wood splitter.  Even though the stove is nowhere near airtight, I would say that it was remarkably efficient as I was surprised at how much cooking I could do on so little fuel.

While the stove was in service here, I baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole, bread, hot dog buns, a sour cream cake, a meatloaf, and brownies.  The only thing that didn't turn out well was the brownies--and that was due to a little nephew messing with the timer, not any problem with the stove.

The size of the oven was not as limiting as I thought it would be.  The brownie recipe calls for them to be baked in a 10" x 15" pan, and it fit and worked perfectly.

I have already blogged about cooking our supper of shrimp scampi and capellini pasta, but that was a supper for only two people.  

Our supper of shrimp scampi and capellini pasta
cooking on the tiny Montgomery Ward Cookstove.

I wanted to stretch the capacity of this little stove a bit, and since my young nephews claim the stove as theirs, I wanted to teach them how to use it, too.  Thus, we invited my brother and his family over for supper and therefore served supper for eight cooked on this tiny cookstove.  We had Lamb Loaf Supreme (a recipe out of a vintage pamphlet from the Martin Meat Market which used to be in our hometown--I wasn't impressed, so you won't get to see the recipe here), mashed potatoes, and fried cabbage.  As you can see from the picture below, we had sufficient room on the stove to have been able to cook more food if we had wanted to.

The one characteristic of this stove that I didn't care for was the fact that the sliding draft on the left side is located at the same level as the grate so that when you rake the ashes down or maneuver the dump grate, ashes jump out of the stove onto the floor--a minor inconvenience but worth mentioning.

Overall, the experience of cooking on this stove was fantastic.  Its ease of use and fuel efficiency were quite impressive.  If given the choice between this stove and no wood cookstove at all, I would be glad to have this Montgomery Ward Economy Cookstove.  

One thing I couldn't help but wonder about was its room heating capacity. Our summer kitchen is only 10' x 12', and the weather was hot here the whole time the stove was in use, so I have no idea how warm it might keep a home in the winter.  My romantic side thinks it would be fun to test this stove in some kind of small cabin in the middle of a blizzard, but that will only happen in my imagination.

If you are local to the greater Omaha area, an identical stove is currently for sale on Craigslist at the following link:

After supper with my brother's family, we let the fire go out and exchanged this little cookstove with the Hayes-Custer that I brought home in March of 2018 (more on that stove will be coming).  The next day, I gave my brother's little stove a coat of stove black to retard rust, and he has taken it home now.  I feel better knowing they have it back.  In the event that some humongous disaster occurs, I know that they will be able to stave off starvation with this little marvel.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Making Popcorn on a Wood Cookstove

I like popcorn, but Nancy LOVES popcorn.  Her grandparents, with whom she frequently stayed, would have popcorn for Sunday night supper.  Her grandmother made it in the bottom of an old pressure cooker which she shook over a burner of her propane stove.  We are a little more uptown with a Lindy's stainless steel stovetop corn popper that we purchased at an Amish store, but we still use a stove rather than a microwave or electric popper.

Making popcorn on the gas stove is very easy, but there was a bit of a learning curve for us when it came to popping corn on the wood cookstove.  Here is the key: you've got to have a REALLY HOT fire burning in the stove in order to get the best popcorn.  Thus, at the risk of sounding like a broken record on this blog, we use lots of small sticks to build a raging inferno when we are going to make popcorn.  You can see one of the fires built for popping corn during the Covid-19 Quarantine in the picture below.

You can't tell it well from the photo above, but I try to keep the bulk of the fuel toward the front of the firebox so that the hottest part of the cooktop is the front left lid.  This is the easiest spot to place the popcorn popper since you have to be able to lightly hold the handle with one hand and turn the crank with the other.

Nancy puts a little canola oil in the bottom of the popper along with two kernels of corn, places it on the fire and begins turning the crank.

When she hears the two kernels pop, she knows the oil is the right temperature.

Once the oil is hot, she adds a scant cup of popcorn, shuts the lid and begins turning the crank in earnest.  She says the popcorn is done popping when she can no longer turn the crank.

Within minutes, she has a popper full of delicious popcorn, which she pours out into one of our large stainless steel bowls.  She then seasons it as she desires, and we scarf it down.  If you want, you could use the recipe at this link in order to make caramel popcorn.  Either way, the popcorn is delicious.