The winter has been long and cold. Well, maybe not for native Wisconsinites, but it has been for these Virginian/Coloradans. We’ve gone through almost 4 cords of wood keeping the house mildly warm (between 60-65 degrees is normal for us) and just ordered another cord. We are hoping this will take us through the last of winter but we’ll see.
Because we are burning the wood stove every day, we figured we might as well use it to do as much as possible for us. The money is being spent on that resource (the wood) anyway so the more we take advantage of it, the less other resources (like natural gas and electricity) are used.
We have been using wooden drying racks to dry the wash every day. I haven’t run the dryer once since the beginning of October. Okay, that might have something to do with the fact that the dryer is currently broken. But in my defense, we know how to fix it for about $30 and have opted not to because, hey, drying by the fire is free!
We’ve also started using our wood resource to help with cooking too. Now, many people still cook with wood but normally they have a wood cook stove with an oven, burners and better heat control then a typical stove used for heat. But my frugal side wants to try it anyway so I can skip paying for the gas to run the stove when the wood is already burning. It works really well for easy things like boiling water for tea or cooking beans so we’ve decided to experiment a little.
A few nights ago, we wanted to make baked potatoes. Master Chef Google suggested that we wrap them in foil and nestle them in the hot coals. Given the way our stove is built, we didn’t think that would easily work. I had vision of flaming potatoes smashed between logs. We considered putting them in the ash pan in the bottom of the stove but it isn’t tall enough. Plus I was afraid that they would get kind of, um, ashy.
The only real option seemed to be cooking them in a cast iron pot on the stove. I started by putting them in a skillet that would hold all the potatoes, but realized that it sits flat on top of the stove. That makes the bottom of the pan very hot and could burn the potatoes. There is no way for me to control the heat this way. So out came my trusty cast iron dutch oven. It has little feet that lift it up off the stove and allow air circulation to reduce the chance of burning.
We poked a few holes in the potatoes and coated them with a little olive oil and sea salt. Each potato was double wrapped in aluminum foil. We put them into the dutch oven and set it on top of the stove with the lid on. Every 30 minutes or so, we rotated and flipped the potatoes to make sure they cooked evenly. Around the two hour mark, they were ready.
The next hour was spent topping everyone’s potato. Of course, we all like them with different things but in the end, they were delicious. And I got more bang for my wood dollar since I didn’t have to also fire up the gas stove.