Sunday, March 6, 2011
One of the labor-saving devices touted during the early years of the last century was a little treasure known as a fireless cooker. This was a device that allowed the housewife to complete the first two or three steps of a dish and then ignore it for several hours. If it sounds like a slow-cooker, it’s because there are several similarities, including a savings in fuel and the chance for a homemaker to fix a proper (i.e. hot) meal without steaming herself right out of the kitchen during the summer months.
The basic concept called for the dish – let’s say a poached chicken – to be assembled, brought to a boil over the conventional stove, and then popped into an insulated box that would allow it to cook slowly for ten or twelve hours. When it was taken from the fireless cooker, only a few last minute touches would still be needed; say, making gravy or cutting up the meat.
A meal of the afore-mentioned poached chicken, mashed potatoes, stewed green beans and creamed onions could all be prepared in the fireless cooker (if you had one that accommodated four containers). Even desserts and some breads could be made ahead of time – anything that didn’t require the crispness of broiling or frying, in fact.
The Fireless Cook Book, available for free download at archive.org, has recipes as well as instructions on how to make your own fireless cooker. I personally wouldn’t want to try oatmeal that’s been cooked overnight, but I’m considering some of the other recipes for adaptation to a slow-cooker. This one looks pretty good.
Black Bean Soup
1 pt black beans
2 qts water
1 small onion
2 stalks celery or ¼ t celery salt
2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
¼ t mustard
3 T butter
1 ½ T flour
2 hard-cooked eggs
"Soak the beans over night, drain them and add the two quarts of water. Cook the onion in one-half the butter; add onion and celery to the beans, and when boiling, put them into a cooker for from eight to twelve hours. Rub the soup through a strainer, add the seasonings, bind it, and when it has boiled for five minutes pour it over the sliced eggs and lemon in a soup tureen."