Mason heaters and cooking

So… the solar superstorm is still a coming…Well, right now we are enjoying the snow storm, which has taken half America out. Interesting is that we seems to have third day in a row snowing blizzard here and besides people getting tired of it there seems to be nothing scary about it. It is slightly wetter than we would like, but normal.

However, the promises of solar superstorm do sign me one thing: it is time to do the printed backup files. Even though I have read a lot about what kind of machines might be affected, quite many scientists do point out that info carriers might be affected, so it’s better to have my darlings on paper. Makes me sleep much better knowing I won’t have to start from zero to recreate them. God knows I’ve had to do that for more than once.

So what else could be done?

I’m not gonna do some doomsday prepping despite the lingering in me that I need to prepare. Though I keep reading those sites, half of them give me giggles more often than I would like. Often they are small things, daily duties that are unavoidable, but have significant difference to the quality of your life. Most of them seem to be my daily life already, in moderate way.

Things like if you take tree branch and slice it to make trivets- is it recycling?

Net basket is fantastic way to toss your roots in it and wash them naturally outside. However your no-pluming-included washing experience turns into total waist of water if you use your hose to “shower” them clean. My grandmother always used the rain water gathering water tank to do that. She just sank the basket in there several times and moved it around. After she had washed the veggies, she would then use the same water to water the plants. In spring she did it in the morning, summertime she did it in evenings. While she watered the plants, the veggies dried in the same basket sitting on the lawn. So it was unsettling to see this as “water saving tip”. Yes, it saves water, but only if you don’t do it with hose.

Many, who have proper masonry heaters at home, talk about building extra stove outside just in case for power failure. Why? Many of such also express their fear for climate change. Here’s the little insight. We had to live over a month without electricity some years back, thanks to company, who messed up. It was in the middle of a summer, so lighting up the fireplace was out of the question. We live in a house with massive stone walls, so unless you need to keep it dry, you don’t warm the fireplaces in summer. We had grill outside and so for over a month we lived on grilled food. What we learned from it, was the unfortunate truth that though my family loves grilled food, we get sick of it quite fast. The other truth was that grilling outside with even the light rain can be nuisance of its own, especially if you didn’t have any other alternatives. I can’t imagine doing it in autumn with heavy winds or in winter with minus 30 C outside. Learn from us – rethink that plan. It can seem fun for few day plan, but longer than that can be hard to endure.

Besides, if you have Finnish fireplaces or masonry heaters – get yourself either cast iron casserole cooking pot or ceramic casserole cook pot. Ours is at least 4 liters big. It was a gift for my parents and we love it to no end. It is one of those items that has no price and it is worth its weight in gold. Because of the size of it, you can hide entire meals in it and be done with it until dinner time.

If you plan to have a masonry heater, ask about the possibility to cook in there. In planning stage it is possible to add bread oven, too. This means your fireplace itself should be slightly bigger so you can fit your cook pot in it. If you already have fireplace, then choose the pot size accordingly. On a slidenote, I don’t think the fireplace is the right word here. It should be sort of like an oven.

The process itself is simple.

  • Plan little ahead. Note how long your oven takes time to completely finish burning. Prepare the dish in the pot so it can be put in the oven in time.
  • Careful with the edges! After all, we are talking about hot iron next to your hands! Use pot holders!
  • If you know you will cook in it, you can’t do fire with toxic things like plastic, rubber or anything that isn’t firewood, paper and match. If you burned some rubbish there before, then clean it up before you do the fire up. Sounds like a lot of work? Well, I don’t want this into my food, do you?
  • If you need to cook for the same night. The oven is on highest temperature right after fire has ended. Then push the charcoal (turned black or with very little red left) in the back and on the sides and simply put your pot on the cleaned bottom. Completely close the oven like usual and after about half an hour check on it. If it shows signs that one side is getting too much heat, turn the pot around. Usually the dishes are ready in 1,5 hours or 2. So if you want to serve it for dinner, plan ahead a bit.
  • If you are cooking stuff that you’ll need for holidays or next day, you don’t need very hot oven. So you can put things in slightly later if need and just leave them there over night. There are many things you can prepare this way, it’s like the slow cooker of your grandparents. Few years ago we put some sauerkraut in the oven, like we do every Christmas, and totally forgot it. It was nice and tasty surprise. So you can forget it there – besides slightly burnt edges, they tend to turn out fine.

 Foods you can prepare this way include pretty much everything. For quick cooking, you can cook anything starting from casual casseroles, small groats (buckwheat, rice…)  to smaller pieces of meat. We often have cooked veggie pot with few thicker slices of meat on top. I quick fry the meat beforehand so it wouldn’t loose it’s juices so much. Any big grain porridge that asks for longer period to cook will benefit from this as well, especially if you cook them for about an hour or hour and a half. For overnight you can leave anything that is big and needs slow cooking and benefit from simmering. Things like big roasts, sauerkrauts, big grain porridges (groats like wheat, barley), beans and peas, strong root vegetables (turnips, rutabaga, big onions, beetroot) and of course big roasts. Crock pot recipes should all work perfectly for this old-fashioned cooking, but what else was it than our grandmother’s early version of slow cooking? Ingenious version, too.

The fact that you don’t need to check on it as often as when you would be doing it in the pot, gives you free hands to do what you need while the meal cooks itself. We use it a lot to prepare holiday meals in advance and in big quantities. I can’t even imagine if I’d need to watch over them boiling in the pots. In winter I use it at least twice a week if the fireplace is heated enough to cook – no extra firewood used on cooking and no extra space lost for special wood based oven (which, by the way, have their own advantage – give anyone in my family a choice and we’d have both).  So, ideal for anyone, who is concerned about fuel use.

There are few foolproof recipes that you can twist according to your needs. I cook for family of 4 + dogs and take in consideration that it usually should last for tomorrow’s lunch, my quantities tend to be big.  They might also seem underseasoned, but that’s our taste – we like the taste of the real thing under it too.



Big half of cabbage (if you count per person then 1/8th of the head per person)

8 potatoes (2 per person)

4 big carrots (2 small per person or 1 big one)

3 onions (half normal sized one per person)

1 normal rutabaga or 2 bell peppers

4 garlic cloves

2 pieces of meat per person

Black pepper


Herbs of your choice (till, onion tops, basil, oregano)


I start by pealing all the veggies. Then I cut the meat and fry it on a very hot pan so both sides go brown. You don’t cook them, you just close the juices in. Put some salt and pepper on them and set them aside. Cut the veggies in bigger slices and toss them in the pot. No need to cut the garlic – it will melt in the sauce. Add handful of salt and a black pepper to taste. Any other herbs you’d like. Add the oil you fried your meat in and toss everything few times so the seasoning is well spread. Place the meat on top, close the pot and put in the oven for 1,5 to 2 hours.

 The beauty of this dish is that you don’t really need recipe. Toss together veggies that are in season and add few slices of meat. The thumb rule is to put the vegetables under and meat on top. This gives it more roasting time while all the juices fall through the vegetables. This way you don’t need to add any more oil than what comes from the pan and no broth cubes.


 2 versions of sauerkraut

Version 1: you’ll need 3 kilos of sauerkraut and a big carrot and some sugar. You clean and grate the carrot. Then you lay in layers the sauerkraut, some sugar on top and some carrot. 2-3 layers are enough. Let it stay in the oven overnight – mm! Sweet and juicy!

This is winter side dish, so to preserve it for few months, put it in clean jars while it is still hot and keep in cool place. It lasts until mid March without any problems.

Version 2: you’ll need 3 kilos of sauerkraut, 3 to 4 handfuls barley groats, big piece of fatty pork and a carrot. Dice the meat, then do as previously – layer them in the pot, and forget in the oven overnight. To preserve through season – hot in jars.


Groat porridge


400 grams of barley/wheat groats or rice/buckwheat (I keep to rule 100g per person)

1 liter of water

A slice of meat per person, chopped.

1 carrot

1 onion

(1/2 broth cube)


Black pepper

(sip of light soy sauce – fancy stuff)


Chop the onion and the carrot to small dices. I try to keep the quantity so the pile of onions is always 1/4th higher than the pile of carrot. This keeps it from going too sweet. Dice the meat and give it a quick fry. Season it a bit. Then put it all in the pot, mix it up and poor over with water. Taste and add salt according to your taste. Should be slightly saltier than what it should taste like. Put in the oven and check after an hour. It should look nice and grainy.


Saturday roast

 3 kilo well grown through pork with thick fat layer

1 teaspoon of sugar

2 teaspoons of salt

½ teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon of proper mustard or 1/3teaspoon of grinded juniper berries


I know it’s like a nightmare of every proper diet keeper, but without the fat, your roast will be try and hard to chew. If your piece has thick skin on it, cut it up to look like this. This will let the fat run out and glaze your roast. Besides it looks cool. Mix the seasoning together and massage it in. Oil the pot bottom a bit and put it in. Leave in the oven over night. You can check on it after few hours if you have very hot oven, but otherwise it can go on melting itself to beauty and doesn’t need any care. It will cool down by morning, too. So later you have no other worry than heating up the amount you need and the rest can wait its turn in the cold.


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Filed under Basic recipes, Family Recipes, survival of the fittest, Toidukultuur

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