Thursday, April 30, 2015

Another Link to a Cookstove Friend

I feel bad about not blogging very much lately.  It isn't that we haven't been using the cookstove.  In fact, Marjorie is still very much in daily use, and we haven't turned our electric water heater on yet.  I guess I just have too many irons in the fire.

Anyway, I have been learning how to be a better Google researcher from my team-teacher at school, and to discover just what some of the search tools did, I used phrases, etc. from my blog so that I would see their effectiveness.  One of the queries that I conducted showed me other websites that have links to my blog.  This was very interesting.  I knew about most of the links because I see them come up in the "stats" buttons on the back end of the blog, but a couple really caught my attention.

The first link had nothing to do with cookstoves.  Instead, it was to a very small thread in which two people were discussing the personalities of bloggers using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  Just from reading what I have written on this blog, they labeled my personality with four neat little letters.  The scary part is that after doing some more Googling to find out what the four letters stood for, I discovered that without ever having met me in person, they described my personality to a "T"!  Talk about unnerving. . . .

The second link that I wanted to talk about is much more interesting and relevant.  Woodstove Woody, proprietor of Obadiah's Woodstoves, operates a site called cookstoves.net.  This website is a very large repository of information about the many facets of cooking with a wood cookstove.  One can look at the various photos of beautiful cookstove installations, read the discussion threads and articles, and take a gander at the recipes there.  The site really is jam-packed with data.

Woody and I have conversed minimally via e-mail, but he seems a man of great integrity, and I appreciate his knowledge of the technical aspects of many different models of wood cookstoves.  While I have visited cookstoves.net several times, I did not know that he had linked to my blog until the Google search showed that to me.  He wrote very nice things about my blog where the link appears under the "Friends" tab, so I wanted to return the favor.

Thus, while I'm trying to finish an extremely busy school year, get a garden planted, and keep up with the mowing, you can satisfy your longing for cookstove information by visiting cookstoves.net.  Just be sure to keep checking back in with me because I've still got a lot of information to share!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Baking an Angel Food Cake from Scratch in a Woodburning Cookstove

As the days get longer and warmer and the chickens begin to be more reliable about laying, baking an angel food cake from scratch is a great way to use an over abundance of eggs.  Now, many people think that angel food cakes are one of the most difficult things to bake, but I have had a great deal of success baking angel food cakes in woodburning cookstoves.  In fact, I honestly prefer to bake angel food in a woodburning range over a modern oven.  It seems to me that they remain more moist than when they are baked in our gas oven.

For as long as I can remember, the most frequently requested birthday cake on my mom's side of the family has been an angel food cake.  My grandma Marian is an expert on angel food cake baking, and until recently, she would bake many of these cakes throughout each year for friends, neighbors, and family members.  For my brother and sister and me, it never felt like our birthday until we had an angel food cake with caramel frosting.  Others in the family occasionally requested different frostings, but the cake was always the tender, cloud-like angel food that we all loved.

Directions for baking angel food cakes have changed over the years.  Originally, it was considered best to bake angel food cakes for a long period in a slow oven, the heat of which was gradually increased during the baking time.  For example, Grandma Ruth (my great-grandmother whom I have mentioned frequently on the blog) included these baking instructions on her angel food cake recipe:

"Bake at 275 for 20 minutes, 300 for 30 minutes, and 325 for 10 minutes."

In fact, in the December 1937 issue of Kitchen Klatter Magazine, the following article about baking angel food cakes in a woodburning cookstove was contributed by reader Helen F. Karr of Doniphan, Nebraska:

"I have my fire out and my stove cold.  I put my fuel in and have it ready to light before I start to mix my cake.  I mix my cake just as you do your cake and put it in the pan, then into the cold oven.  I light my fire.  I do not put much fuel in at a time because our stove doesn't take much to heat it.  For the first 15 minutes I just have my oven warm up.  Then increase the heat for the next 15 minutes.  By the next 15 minutes I have my oven about hot enough to bake a loaf cake, then keep it about the same for the next 15 minutes or just a little hoter [sic].  If not done I just let the oven cool down a little.  The heat that is in the oven will finish it.  I don't like to have my oven to get hot too fast."

Sometime in the mid-twentieth century, opinions about how to bake an angel food changed so that directions now call for oven temperatures ranging between 350 and 400 degrees coupled with shorter baking times.  I have used both baking methods and cannot tell much difference in the end product.  I tend to favor the cooler oven temperature method, however.

Before I give you the recipe that I use for angel food, I need to warn you that not even the smallest little bit of fat or grease may come into contact with your cake ingredients or any of the utensils that you use to mix or bake the cake.  The presence of any oils will make your cake fall, and that is the last thing you want after you go to all of the effort to make an angel food cake from scratch!

The recipe that I use for angel food cake is one that I have devised.  I took one of the recipes for angel food out of the Kitchen Klatter Cook Book and altered it until I got the results that I desired.  This makes a very tall, finely textured cake.  Here is what you will need:



Jim's Angel Food Cake

1 1/6 c. cake flour
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 3/4 c. egg whites
1 1/6 c. sugar
1 3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond flavoring

The first thing that I always do is to measure the cake flour and the powdered sugar.  I measure both by sifting them into dry measuring cups and then leveling them off with a table knife.


Of course, most people don't have a 1/6 c. measuring cup, so I just use my 1/3 c. and fill it only halfway.


Once you have measured and combined the cake flour and powdered sugar, you must sift both of them together at least three times.  This is necessary because when you eventually stir them into the egg whites, you want to make sure that they are already evenly mixed.  Once you have sifted them together several times, put the flour and powdered sugar mixture aside.

Now begin separating your eggs.  The number of eggs that you will need is totally dependent on their size.  I just keep cracking and separating eggs until I have the required 1 3/4 c. of egg whites.  Usually, this is about 12-14 eggs.

Caution:  You must be absolutely sure that no egg yolk--not even the smallest little bit--accidentally lands in your egg whites!  The presence of any egg yolk will result in your cake falling.  This is why I separate my eggs over  a small bowl.  That way, I can inspect every white thoroughly before pouring it into the measuring cup.


Save the egg yolks for making homemade noodles or for Sunshine Cake (or both, depending on how many you have).  Place the whites in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and cream of tartar.  Begin beating the egg whites on high speed.


(A silly side note about the mixer in the pictures: This vintage avocado green Sunbeam belonged to Granny, my dad's mother.  I inherited it from her in 1995 when she and Gramps moved into a retirement home.  When I was little, almost every appliance that my mother had was avocado green.  We had an avocado green refrigerator, stove, iron, vacuum cleaner, electric skillet, blender, etc., and I think that it is the most hideous color.  However, I decided that I would use Granny's mixer until I had worn it out.  After twenty years of fairly hard use, it's still working fine, and this is after Granny used it for I don't know how long!)


When the whites become foamy, begin gradually adding the granulated sugar.


Continue beating at high speed, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.



Now for the fun part: figuring out when the egg whites and sugar have been sufficiently beaten.  Some recipes say to beat them until "stiff, but not dry, peaks form."

Grandma Ruth had a different method for determining if the egg whites were beaten enough, and it has worked for me every time.  She would take the bowl of egg whites off the mixer and carefully raise it upside down above her head.  If the egg whites don't fall out, they have been beaten enough.  If, as you begin to tilt the bowl at a dangerous angle, they begin to slide even a little bit, put the bowl back on the mixer and beat them some more.  Then, take the bowl off and try the test again.

Be careful, though!  If the egg whites are permitted to fall all the way out of the bowl, you'll have no choice but to start over completely.


Once the egg whites are done, begin folding the cake flour/powdered sugar mixture into them a little at a time.  My grandma Marian taught me that the best tool to use to do this is a flat beater as you see in the picture below.

This process has to be done VERY gently, being sure to pull the egg whites up from the bottom of the bowl.  The series of photos below shows the motion that your beater should cycle through.





The picture above shows the vanilla and almond flavoring being stirred in at the end.  Grandma Marian always taught me to add the flavorings last so that they didn't lose any of their intensity due to evaporation during the mixing process.

The cake that you see me baking here was for my niece, whose favorite colors are pink and purple.  We happened to have pink nonpareils, so I stirred some of those in to create a pink "fun-fetti" effect.  If you are going to stir in nonpareils, they must be put in at the end with only a minimal amount of stirring because their color quickly begins to bleed into the cake batter.


Gently pour the cake batter into an UNGREASED angel food cake pan.


Run a table knife through the batter to release any air bubbles.


Place the cake in a slow oven (or whatever temperature you have decided at which to bake angel food cakes).


The oven door of the Margin Gem.  Since the temperature gauge
on the Margin Gem is not very accurate, I don't usually pay much
attention to the numbers.  Instead, I pay attention to the relative
location of the indicator needle.  This is what the gauge looks like
when the oven is running at about 325.
While the cake is baking, I gradually add more small pieces of fuel to the fire in order to gradually increase the heat of the oven.  Don't add too many pieces at once because you don't need a raging inferno, and small pieces will afford you more control.

You can see in the picture below, how tall the cake will rise during baking.  Angel foods will shrink back down when they get to the end of their baking time.

An angel food cake baking in the Margin Gem cookstove.

Watch the cake and your oven temperature carefully during baking.  I don't like to let the oven get too hot because then the top of the cake gets too brown for my taste.

I would NOT recommend turning the cake until it is close to the end of the total baking time because you don't want to run the risk of it falling because you jostled it.

You can tell when the cake is done by the fact that it will obviously begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.


When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and turn it upside down.  The cake pan that I use no longer has the three little legs that most angel food cake pans have which elevate them off the surface that they are resting on when they are upside down.  This makes no difference to me, though, because  the cakes are often too tall for those little legs to be effective anyway.  Thus, I turn the cake upside down over a vintage Pepsi bottle that I have saved just for this purpose.   (If you are a Coke lover, you could use a Coke bottle instead, but I wouldn't guarantee the results.  My grandma turns her canning funnel upside down and then puts a wooden handled cookie cutter over the narrow hole and uses that in place of a bottle.)

The cake needs to be left upside down in the pan until you can no longer feel any heat at all when you place your hand on the bottom of the pan.


Once the cake is completely cool, run a very thin-bladed, non-serrated knife around the outer edge of the cake as well as around the center tube of the pan.  I find it best to not move the knife up and down at all, but rather slide it all the way around with the blade completely inserted the whole time.  This seems to prevent the cake from bunching up and creating holes along the outside.


Invert the pan and remove the cake to a cake stand.  

Grandma Marian always says that if you want a particularly elegant angel food, you should rub the brown outer edge pieces off with your fingers.  If you decide to do that, don't discard them.  They are extremely tasty.


At this point, I always frost any angel food that we are not selling.  My favorite frostings to put on angel foods are either caramel (a cooked frosting that I really should share with you) or plain powdered sugar icing with almond flavoring added to it.

To serve an angel food, cut it with a serrated bread knife using a back-and-forth sawing motion rather than a slicing motion.  If you slice, you will mash the cake into a misshapen and unappetizing blob.

Angel food cakes will keep at room temperature for a few days, but you must not seal them completely.  I find that Grandma Marian's method of laying the knife that you are using to cut the cake between the lid and the bottom of the cake stand--thereby creating a little ventilation--does a beautiful job of keeping the cake in its prime.  If the cake stand is completely sealed (other than in transport), the cake will quickly become a soggy mess.

If you have a favorite method of baking an angel food in a wood cookstove, please fill up the comments field with additional information for us all to benefit from.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Making Baked Beans in a Wood Cookstove



Due to poor weather conditions, Nancy and I were able to spend the whole day at home yesterday and today.  Neither of us even crossed the road to get the mail yesterday.  These are my favorite days!

I took advantage of the day at home yesterday by embarking on a new adventure: making from-scratch baked beans.  I love Van Camp's pork and beans (doctored up, of course), so I've never tried baking beans from scratch before.  However, after having read several recipes for baked beans in old cookbooks, I decided that I wanted to try it.  Homemade baked beans have a total cooking time of about ten hours, so they are a dish that is well suited to the woodburning cookstove.

I started by re-reading several recipes.  I first looked at the 1907 Malleable Range cookbook.  This was an antique store find several years ago. 



The recipe for baked beans in this cook book reads as follows:

Baked Beans
   Soak one quart of beans over night, drain, cover with fresh water, heat slowly, add one saltspoonful of soda and cook till, when you blow on them, the skins will crack; drain; boil one-half pound salted pork twent minutes, put one whole onion in the bottom of a bean pot, put in pork, then the beans.  Dissolve one-half teaspoonful of mustard and one tablespoonful of salt in one-half cupful of molasses, pour over the beans, cover with water in which the pork was boiled, cover closely and bake six or seven hours; add water as needed.

I then looked at the Majestic Cook Book.  This was a recent purchase on eBay, where the seller had advertised it as having come from the 1920s.  Judging from both the pictures of the ranges and the ladies' fashions exhibited in the cookbook, it is a good decade older than that.  

Page 79 of this book has a recipe for "Baked Pork and Beans."

     Soak one pint of beans over night.  Boil in the morning, adding one teaspoonful of baking-soda to the water.  When the beans begin to break, skim them into a baking dish.  In the center put half-pound or pork, with the upper surface well-scored.  Cover the beans with boiling water, and bake three hours in a hot Majestic Range oven.  Have the top a rich brown before removing, but be careful that the beans do not get too dry.

Next, I looked at the Sunshine Cook Book that blog reader Gary sent me a little over a year ago.  You can see his Ideal Sunshine range here


The recipe for "Baked Beans" appears on page 14 of this nifty little book.  It reads as follows:
     Three pints of beans and 1/2 pound of salt pork.  Put beans to soak over night; next morning put them in a vessel with a gallon of soft water and 1/2 teaspoonful of soda; let simmer slowly until thoroughly swelled, but not bursted [sic]; then lift them out with a perforated skimmer, into a pan with clear hot water.  Set them on the stove where they will keep hot but not boil; then pour boiling water over the pork; scrape the rind and score it; lay it on a flat stone crock kept for that purpose; put the beans in all around it; add 1 tablespoonful of butter and 2 of molasses; fill up with boiling hot water; bake four or five hours.

My reprint of the 1933 Home Comfort cook book, available online at Lehman's Hardware here, has three recipes for baked beans.  The one that I enjoyed reading the most was a poem:

"Take beans not too old, and without imperfection,
Immerse in cold water to stand through a night;
Then boil in a moderate way, 'till inspection
Shall find them in touch and taste tender and right.
Now transfer for baking, your condiments adding--

Don't leave out the pork!  Such omission were strange--
And last, to conclude the important proceeding,
Let them bake slow and sure in a "Home Comfort" Range.

I remembered that I had seen an old recipe for baked beans in a cookbook that I believe that we received from Nancy's grandma.

Entitled Early American Recipes, this cookbook was published in 1953.  The bottom of the cover page says "Traditional Recipes from New England Kitchens," and the recipes certainly do reflect the flavors of that geographic area.


 I think you can read the recipe from this cookbook if you click on the picture to enlarge it.  It's basically the same as the others.

The last vintage cookbook that I consulted was the 1926 West Pottawattamie County Farm Bureau Women's Cook book. 

On page 109, two recipes for Boston Baked Beans appear.  The first one from Mrs. Henry Herrill reads as follows:

1 quart navy beans
1/2 lb. salt pork
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. ginger
Salt and pepper
Parboil beans.  In bottom of bean pot, put molasses, mustard, ginger, salt and pepper.  Add half the beans, put salt pork in middle and fill with beans.  Add 4 cups water, bake 8 hours, adding more water frequently.

For good measure, I consulted my trusty Kitchen Klatter cookbook too.  It pretty much fell in line with everything that I have documented here.

Thus armed with information, I set out on my adventure.  The first thing that I discovered was that one pound of navy beans is equal to three cups.  I washed the beans and sorted through them to pick out any undesirable ones.  I covered them with water and soaked them overnight.

In the morning, I put them on to boil in the water in which they had soaked.  When they needed some more water, I put a quart of home-canned tomato juice which had been a by-product of making homemade Heinz ketchup.  After a couple of hours of gentle boiling, the skins did indeed break when I blew on them.  I put them into my Lodge enameled cast iron soup kettle.  I added some molasses, some brown sugar, a little dry mustard, a dash of ginger, two slices of onion, and a piece of salt pork.  I stirred it all together and put it into a slow oven where it stayed for the next six hours.  I had to add water a couple of times and stir it.  Toward the end of the cooking time, I added some homemade ketchup too.
The pot of baked beans resting on the open oven door of the
Margin Gem cookstove.
 I had thought that these beans were going to be a good winter cookstove recipe because of their long cooking time.  However, it was a bit chilly here yesterday, so having only a low fire in the stove in order to keep just a slow oven going, as well as having the oven door closed all day, made it so that we didn't get to enjoy as much heat from the cookstove as we might have.  This leads me to believe that baking beans might be a better fall or spring dish.

The results of my first baked-beans-from-scratch experiment were good.  They didn't get to bake for the full eight hours, which I think would have been good, because they were still a bit too firm for my taste.  I still prefer Van Camp's, but I think that I will try to experiment some more and see if I can get closer to what I have in mind.  The beans, with a slice of fresh-baked brown bread, an orange, and a glass of milk from our own cow made my supper last night.

If you have a recipe for homemade baked beans that you favor, please feel free to share it in the comments section below.  I'd love to see what other people think.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Making Waffles on a Woodburning Cookstove


Nancy and I both enjoy a good waffle, and I enjoy waffles made from scratch a whole lot better than those made from a mix.  I still have and use the first electric waffle iron that my mother's side of the family owned.  It belonged to my great-great grandparents and then made it to my aunt Meme's possession.  It is a unique (and a bit scary) looking contraption, but it still turns out a good waffle.  I also have a 1950s waffle iron that I bought on a household auction several years ago, which makes waffles which are in the shape of a half oval.

Several Christmases ago, my sister and sister-in-law got into cahoots and purchased me a new Belgian waffle iron.  At the time, my wife was a bit dubious about this purchase because she knew that I was not about to give up my antique waffle irons, but I really like this new Belgian waffle iron, too.  It is constructed so that you pour the waffle batter in one side, shut it, and then flip it so that the waffle that you just poured is now baking upside down.  It makes a great waffle and is fun to use.

Now, of course, these waffle irons are all very well and good, but they are all electric, and I obviously like to have non-electric options when it comes to cooking.  Thus, I purchased an antique stovetop waffle iron several years ago when I was in college.  I tried it out on the Qualified range a few times, but I could never get it to work right.  The problem that I had was that no matter what I did, the waffle would be undercooked between the pegs.  Finally, after several failures, I examined the waffle iron more closely and noticed that the pegs seemed to be farther apart on this waffle iron than on others.  I sold that waffle iron and began the hunt for a replacement with pegs which were a more standard distance apart.

I finally found one at Carstens Farm Days in September of this year, but it wasn't until last month that I finally was able to take the time to re-season it and begin experimenting.  I'm pleased to report that a successful waffle was no real trouble once I got the hang of things.

The first thing that one must do to bake a waffle on a woodburning cookstove is to build a hot fire.  I find that the fire has to be very hot.  Below, you can see a picture of one of the blazing fires that I used to make waffles.


You can see that I like to use small pieces of wood in order to make a really hot fire.  I find that doing so affords more control.  This is perhaps a bit difficult to explain, but here goes.  When you build a hot fire with large logs or split pieces, it takes a long time to reach the fire's peak heat; furthermore, you don't have much control over the temperature at that point until the wood burns down quite a bit.  When using small pieces to create a very hot fire, you can increase the heat be adding even more small pieces.  If you get the fire too hot, though, it won't take as long for the small pieces to burn away and thus cool the fire.

Notice also in the above picture that in the middle of the right-hand wall of the firebox is a perforated metal bar that extends vertically from below the grate.  These are part of the Margin Gem's air-jet re-burn design.  The reason that I mention these is because the air-jets on the middle right side of the firebox are the ones that seem to get the most air--and consequently create the most heat--so the hottest part of the Margin Gem's cooktop is usually in the area indicated by the red circle in the photograph below.


I usually place the waffle iron there, as seen in the picture below.

The waffle iron in place.
Poor Marjorie!  Every time she gets her picture
taken, she's so full of splatters.  In this case, it
was because Nancy had just finished frying
bacon to go with our waffles.
I also have had success removing a stove lid over the fire, putting the waffle iron over an open "eye" above the firebox like so.

You can kind of see the fire through the gap
between the irons and their base.
Each placement of the waffle iron has its advantages and disadvantages.  In the case of putting the waffle iron on the closed cooktop, it heats more evenly because cold room air is not rushing through the gap between the irons and their base to get to the fire.  However, if you fill the waffle iron too full, the batter will run out onto the cooktop and burn there, creating pretty acrid smoke.  Also, you have to lift the irons to turn them.

If you put the waffle iron over an open eye above the fire, the edges of the waffle do not brown as nicely as the center because of the air rushing by, but any extra batter that jumps out of the waffle iron merely lands in the fire, and the smoke which results is just carried out the chimney.  If the eye of your stove is large enough, you can simply rotate the irons without lifting them, since the edge makes an arc below the surface of the cooktop.

Anyway, once you put the waffle iron on to heat its first side, you need to start mixing your waffle batter.

The waffle recipe that I like to use belonged to my great-grandma Ruth.  I've mentioned her here on the blog before.  When I was home on Christmas break from Iowa State University some twenty years ago, I decided to copy all of the recipes from my mom's and grandmothers' boxes that I figured I would want.  I didn't copy many recipes from Granny, my dad's mother, because she was very much a by-guess-and-by-golly cook--and, by golly, she was a good cook when she wasn't trying to substitute for ingredients that she didn't have.

Grandma Marian, my mom's mother, was a much more precise cook in her day, and she had two boxes worth of recipes for me to look over.  After I picked out the recipes that I wanted, she volunteered to copy them for me, and to tell the truth, that was one of the most meaningful things she could have ever done for me because they are in her handwriting and because she took the time to leave little notes on many of the recipes for me.  Some of the recipes have extra directions or advice, some have opinions, and some have memories attached.  On one recipe, she wrote "This is from the days when we milked," meaning that it was a recipe that was used when every Iowa farm still had at least one dairy cow.

Well, the 21st of this month will mark the fourteenth year that I have kept a dairy cow of my own, and so I feel that I have some understanding of how ample milk and cream can affect one's cooking.  Grandma Ruth's waffle recipe is one such recipe.


Here is what you need:

1 cup flour
1 egg
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. cream
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder

Note that the cream is the only fat in the recipe.

Put all of these ingredients into a small mixing bowl (I prefer to use my 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup as a batter bowl because of its handy pouring spout).  Whisk until smooth, but try not to beat.  Depending on the size of your egg and the thickness of your cream, you may need to add a little more flour.  I usually just put in a sprinkle of salt from the range shaker rather than a whole half teaspoon, and I scant the baking powder by at least a teaspoon too, but you can do what you want to.


Once one side of the waffle iron has heated, turn the irons so that the other side heats before putting any batter in.  Once both sides have been heated, I open the waffle iron and squirt some non-stick cooking spray on both sides of the waffle iron.  I don't know if I will always have to do this or not, but right now the waffle iron is not seasoned well enough to be a completely non-stick surface.  BE CAREFUL, however!  Most cooking spray cans warn you against spraying a hot surface because of the danger that the spray will ignite.

As soon as the waffle iron has been sprayed, I pour the waffle batter in.  If the waffle iron is as hot as it should be, the waffle batter will sizzle as soon as it makes contact.  Close the waffle iron and immediately flip it so that what was originally the top of the waffle is now on the bottom.




When the waffle has baked long enough, the waffle iron should easily open, and the waffle should be easily removed from the waffle iron.

To bake the next waffle, I spray the waffle iron again, pour in the batter, and then immediately turn the iron again.

These waffles served with our homemade syrup are wonderful, and I'm glad that in the event of a power outage, we'll still be able to have them on the menu.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Air-Jet Re-burn Drafts

After my last post about Marjorie singing, a reader used the comments section to ask me what Margin Stoves' "Air-Jet Re-burn" drafts are, so I wanted to take a quick minute to explain them.  From what I have read, studies that were conducted in order to find out how to improve the efficiency of woodburning appliances proved that the highest efficiency was achieved when hot air entered the firebox from above the fire.  In most of the new-style heating stoves that I have seen, the hot air enters through rows of small holes along the ceiling of the firebox.  Our Jotul heating stove is designed this way.  The reason that this design results in high efficiency is because the hot air coming in the "jets" often ignites unburned gases that are the result of combustion (hence the "re-burn" part of the name).  In fact, in our Jotul, you can watch the flames shooting out of the little air jets as this happens. 

Margin stoves are similarly equipped, but because the roof of the firebox is also your cooking surface, the entry point of the hot air is a little different.  First, room air enters the stove from the bell draft on the firebox side of the stove.  It begins to be heated right away.

The "Air-Jet Re-burn" draft is the silver bell draft
between the louvers on the firebox side of the stove.

The air then travels down the side of the stove into the area where the ash drawer is, entering through two holes in the sidewall.

The two holes where the air enters the area where the ash drawer
 sits beneath the firebox.

This picture shows what it looks like when the ash drawer is in place.
Now, in many cookstoves the air would be able to travel up through the grate to the bottom of the fire.  If you have completely cleaned the ashes out of the firebox, this will happen when you initially start a fire in the Margin Gem, too.  However, once the fire has been going for awhile, a sufficient layer of coals and ashes will prevent much air coming up through the bottom of the fire.  Instead, air travels into the firebox through the air-jets in the corners and in the middle of the side of the firebox which is against the oven.  These holes are evident in the picture below.

A view of the Margin Gem's firebox from above.
Note the air-jets in the corners and on the middle
right.
Frequently, when I lift one of the lids to stir, stoke, or view the fire, I can see rivulets of flame coming out of the air-jets as the hot air entering the firebox from them ignites combustion gases before they exit the firebox.  Unfortunately, I haven't figured out a way to photograph this because they don't last very long since opening the lid spoils the draft of the stove.

At any rate, I hope this answers and clarifies what "air-jet re-burn" drafts are and how they function.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Marjorie Sings!

Basically, I cooked all day yesterday, and I had a great time.  In the afternoon, I began noticing that I was hearing strange tones in the Christmas music that I had playing.  I thought at first it was the potpourri pot or the teakettle, but neither of those were making the whistling noise that I could hear.  I finally discovered that the sound was coming from Marjorie the Margin Gem's air jet re-burn draft on the left side of the stove.

We had a stiff southerly wind yesterday (which was very cold with a high of only 19 degrees) that was causing a fantastic draft in the kitchen chimney, and apparently everything was just right for Marjorie to start singing.  It was a pretty steady G4 and fit pretty well with "Deck the Halls" and "What Child Is This?"  I was amused and wanted to document it here.  If you turn up the volume on your computer all the way and advance the video to the :48 mark, you should be able to hear it pretty well (I'll try to figure out how to edit video before I post another one).

At any rate, Happy New Year!

video

Monday, December 29, 2014

Stovetop Potpourri

I hope that you all were able to enjoy celebrating the birth of Christ last week.  I feel a bit guilty about not writing a Christmas post like I have done over the last couple of years, but there just wasn't time.  This year, my school was still in session on the 23rd, and I barely had enough time to get our traditional candies and cookies made before Christmas, let alone have time to blog.

Anyway, many of you who read this post will undoubtedly have a "Well, duh!" reaction to its content.  To tell the truth, I'm having a "Well, duh!" reaction to my own ignorance.  Before I get too hard on myself, though, let me explain a couple of things: 1) My mother does not like home fragrances, air fresheners, potpourris, or perfumes of any kind.  They give her a headache, so I was raised in a home with unscented everything, and I, too, don't much care for overly scented things.  2) Nancy and I are not made of money, so while I believe we still spend too much in some areas of our lives, we try to avoid unnecessary expenses where we can.  Thus, air fresheners, potpourri, and Scentsy pots are not part of the regular housekeeping expenses here.

When we went to Nancy's parents' home (five miles away) for Christmas with that side of the family on December 26th, Nancy's sister Susan had put a little pot of things on the stove that looked like it was definitely not going to be a part of the Christmas dinner menu.  Since no pot of stuff on a stove may go undiscussed in my presence, I inquired as to what it was that I was looking at.  Susan explained that it was a pot of "stovetop potpourri," the recipe for which someone had found on Pinterest and which had become popular among the people she knows in her hometown.

"Turn it on and let it simmer," she said.

I did.  It smelled divine.  Nancy liked it, too.  I asked for the recipe.

We bought a new bag of cranberries the next day--we already had everything else--and Nancy remarks multiple times per day how much she enjoys the scent of this simmering on the stove.

Now see, I would never have thought about using a wood cookstove as a potpourri warmer, but I have to say that I think a cookstove is the perfect appliance for it for several reasons.  For one thing, the stove is going to be going anyway, so there is no added energy expense--which would have absolutely prevented me from doing this sort of thing on a gas or electric stove.  Also, I think that candles actually provide a greater fire hazard than a wood cookstove.

Here is the recipe:

1 orange, sliced
1/2 c. or so whole cranberries
1 Tablespoon whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
2 cups of water

Let this simmer on the stove indefinitely.  As the water steams away, add more.  You can use this as long as you are happy with the intensity of the aroma.  Our first batch has been sitting on the side of the range for three days now, and it still smells great. 

The potpourri simmering on the side of the Margin Gem.


A quick peek at Pinterest revealed that there are many, many recipes for this sort of thing.  This particular combination (which smells just like expensive candles or bags of dry potpourri) is considered a "holiday scent," but Pinterest has many recipes for stovetop potpourri for different times of the year.  I bet this isn't the only recipe that we will have simmering on the stove over the next few months of constant winter firing!