One of the nice things about fall is that once again we start using our wood cookstove. Most people think it is antique stove. In fact, it is a modern cookstove that uses wood and does not have any electric or electronic component. Using it is rather different from using a standard stove, and you have to get used to the way it cooks. Having only such a stove would be awkward and too hot in summer, so we also have a propane stove. However, at this time of the year and in winter, the wood cookstove is what we mostly use.
On days you light it (which is every day in winter), you keep it going all day. This means, for example, that you can always have a kettle of hot water handy for making a cup of tea or coffee. It is perfect for dishes that takes a long cooking time. For instance, a tomato sauce tastes completely different when it has been slowly bubbling for a few hours at the back of the stove, and all the flavours have had time to merge.
One thing you have to get used to is that the top of the stove is not of uniform temperature. In our stove, the firebox is on the left side, so the back of the stovetop on the left side is the hottest spot with the front slightly less hot. The middle of the stovetop is medium temperature and the right side is cooler (that is where your all-day kettle sits - almost boiling). You can also use it to warm things up. It takes more planning than with a microwave, and you use a cast iron pot or at least one with a heavy bottom. When food is ready, the pot can be put on a trivet and stay hot until you are ready to serve.
The stove pipe goes through a warming oven. It is a good place to raise bread dough or to warm up dishes befor you use them. It would also be a good spot to make yogurt. You can control the temperature by opening the door or putting things on trivets.
|Bread dough rising on the door to the warming oven|
The oven is the most difficult part to master. In theory, the heat goes all around the oven, but in practice, the left wall (next to the firebox) is much hotter. This means that if you are baking a cake or a pie, it might be necessary part way through the baking, to turn it around as one side is baking faster than the other. Getting the oven to the right temperature is tricky. It is easy to get it hot, but not so easy to have it stop getting hotter! It takes a bit of practice.
The wood you use makes a big difference. Small pieces will burn fast and produce a lot of heat, bigger ones will last longer but won't be as hot.
It certainly is more complex and less convenient to use than an electric or gas/propane stove. However, on a day like today when sleet is lashing the garden, having a warm kitchen and hearing the fire crackle as you are cooking seems to wake up primitive instincts of comfort. I feel more inclined to do some serious cooking, when the woodstove is hot.