Saturday, May 12, 2012

Solar ovens and cookers

There seems to be a lot of interest in alternative ways to cook, judging by the number of comments and emails I've been getting.  I'm waiting for permission to post some that were written on a review of the book on Amazon.  The reviewer had some good ideas that I'm not familiar with, and I'd love to share that information.
Meanwhile, I'll write about something I've been playing with for the last couple years.  We ordered a solar reflector oven from Amazon and have used it quite a bit.  All you have to do is put the food in it and set it in the sun over the day.  It works like a slow-cooker, so any recipes you have that you would make in a slow cooker, you can cook in one of these.  It's free to use!  It works by the heat of the sun!

 This is Venison stew.  My husband shot the deer (in season!) and we added our own homegrown potatoes, onions, celery, and carrots.  The only thing store-bought was the salt and pepper.
This oven works by setting a black bowl inside a clear glass bowl and putting a clear glass lid on it.  It then sits inside the reflector walls, which reflect the sun's rays and heat into the bowl.  It boils in less than an hour, in our experience, but that could vary according to the sun's intensity and the temperature of the food and liquid when you start.

 Yum!  Potato soup!  It's very cool to dump all the ingredients into the bowl, put the lid on and walk away, and it cooks without any heat source other than the sun.  My favorite thing we made in it is spaghetti.  I broke the dry, uncooked noodles into about 2" pieces and dumped them in the bowl along with the meat, tomato sauce, fresh oregano and thyme from my garden, and some cheap Dollar store garlic salt.  I stirred it about once an hour, and after 3 hours we had the most delicious spaghetti!  The flavors were blended throughout!

In this picture I'm making Chili in the solar cooker.  We spent almost 3 months in a converted Uhaul truck (made into a camper  in the desert last spring, living only on the home-canned and home-dried food we brought along with us as, and a few buckets of flour, rice, sugar, and beans, sort of like a trial-run of bugging out.  We used some of the locally available plants, like various cactus, to supplement, and hunted for jackrabbits for meat to supplement the home-canned venison, chicken, and fish we brought along.   The rest of our food and drinks were all brought with us, including home-canned butter and cheese.  Water is the only thing we re-supplied regularly.
The solar cooker works best during the hours the sun is pretty much overhead.  It works slower when the sun is at lower angles. 

You can buy these solar reflectors for as little as $12.50 on Amazon. 
For that price you have to use your own bowl or pan, but they do work with just about any covered pan, and you don't need the clear glass bowl.  It's more efficient with the clear bowl, but if money is hard to come by, you can get by without it.  I made my own using a cardboard box and aluminum foil, and while it worked best for reheating food, over the course of a day it would cook a meal.

In case anyone is going to ask how we kept the butter and cheese once it was opened, we made an evaporative cooler, which I'll describe and show pictures of in a future post.  It worked very well for those items and condiments, but I wouldn't recommend it for milk and meat.

As always, input is welcome, on this any any other subject related to prepping.

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