Open Hearth Cooking Classes

One of the reasons Aunt Lil’s cook book doesn’t include cooking directions, oven temperatures or times, is because she used a wood stove until she died in 1946. Dan and I would love to find classes on cooking on a wood stove, but haven’t had any luck yet.

Oven being fired in the background

We have found two opportunities to learn open hearth cooking as was done up until the 1860s when wood stoves became the norm. We’ve had great fun doing it.

Our first adventure was at Historic Deerfield, in Deerfield, MA. It’s a long drive for us – 3 1/2 hours. But we felt it was worth it. Early one Saturday we bundled ourselves in the car and made the trek arriving for our 10:00 class. Our group of 10 were going to make a hearty 18th century dinner (which I’d call a lunch, but in New England many still call it dinner).

Our menu was beef stew, mashed root vegetables, bread, applesauce, and Indian pudding with whipped cream. I had a raging cold so didn’t want to infect my fellow lunch mates. So I sauteed bacon for the beef stew over a wickedly hot fire, helped whip the cream, and in general hung around watching. Dan made the bread with another man who luckily was an expert bread maker.

Dan making bread

I’d say the neatest thing for me was watching them heat and cook in the bake oven. I’ve never actually seen that done. I can see now why the ladies did this once a week – quite the production!

There is something magical about food you cook over an open fire and in a bake oven. Everything (well, almost) tasted great. Both Dan and I felt the beef stew should have cooked longer. But everything else was great – especially the Indian pudding. One of my favorite desserts.

The finished meal

Our second cooking class was at the Remick Farm Museum in Tamworth, NH. Just up the road from us, we love this museum. One of the great things about their dinners is that all their meat and veggies are raised right on site. Last night we went to an early 19th c. hearth side dinner. The menu was lamb stew, beef brisket, mashed root vegetables, Irish soda bread, and apple cobbler with whipped cream.  We washed it all down with shrub.

Dutch ovens for cooking bread and cobbler

This was a delectable meal! Dan and I made the Irish soda bread which was baked in a dutch oven over hot coals. The cobbler was also made in the dutch oven, while the stews had been cooking all day prior to our arrival.

Irish Soda Bread

Dan and I enjoying the fruits of our labors

Hope you enjoy our early cooking experiences! We sure did.

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