To the busy housewife who desires to minimise labour and trouble in every possible way, a fireless cooking-box is an invaluable possession. It is quite easy to make and manage, and, once started, it will be found to provide a most economical and effectual means of preparing food.
The first step towards obtaining the cooking-box is to secure a substantial wooden chest. For a medium-sized family this should not be less than one foot eight inches in height, depth, and breadth (interior measurements). The lid must fasten securely with a hasp or lock, and must lie flat, and the wood must be stout and free from knots or cracks. A carpenter would probably make such a box for about ten shillings, but a cheaper method would be to purchase a packing-case, such as are sent filled with goods to grocery stores. However, the plan first named will prove more satisfactory, as the wood will fit together more securely, and the box will be of the exact size required.
It is an excellent plan, should there be any fear of leakage through cracks, to line the box throughout with brown paper, sticking it in place with strong paste. The cooking-box, of course, cannot make heat, but given a certain temperature, it will retain it for a long time, in accordance with the principal adopted in the vacuum flask, only in this case hay is the non-conductive medium. Thus it will be quickly realised that it is necessary to take every precaution against admitting cold air.
A considerable quantity of hay will be required, as it must lie very closely. The method of packing is as follows. Cover the bottom of the box with hay to the depth of about six inches. Then place in position the cooking vessel - for a box of this size it should hold about a gallon - and continue packing ail round the sides of it. The rest of the hay, in order to make it easier to manage when the can is being moved in and out of the cooking-box, should be stuffed into a cushion. This should be made with sides, after the fashion of a mattress, and should measure exactly the same as the interior of the box and about six inches in depth.
The cooking-box will not work properly if it is padded with less than a given amount of hay, and the dimensions here described will allow for at least six inches of packing on every side, as well as at the bottom and top. As soon as the box is stuffed it will be ready for experiments. If it is properly packed it should be quite easy to take the can in and out, as it will have formed a nest for itself with solid walls of hay.
For first trials, an ordinary milk-can with a round handle will answer the purpose very well. To fit inside this may be provided a covered china pot of a smaller size and not so high. This may be used for cooking smaller quantities of food than would fill the can, or to make a second compartment. A wire rack, which will fit over the top of this inner pot and yet allow the lid of the can to close, is a useful addition for holding a pudding-basin or a number of small pudding cups. The Utensils to Use After a little while, probably, it will be found worth while to have special utensils made, and these may be of fireproof earthen-
Fireless cookery. The kind of box required
Fitting in the can. The box must be packed with hay as closely as possible, since the hay is the non-conductive medium
Dishing up a steaming hot dinner from the cooker. No attention need be given to the food from the moment it is placed in the cooker till it is taken out of it ware, aluminium, or any other material which may specially commend itself as suitable. However, the housewife will naturally prefer to try her first experiments with the cooking-box as cheaply as possible, and even with the simple articles mentioned here quite excellent results can be obtained. Any food which has a strong salt or acid flavour should by preference be cooked in the china pot, lest by long contact with the tin it might acquire an unpleasant taste.
Of course, to cook food in the box requires much more time than would be necessary on the fire. This might be a disadvantage but for the fact that the cooking entirely looks after itself. Once the food is put away, it will need no further attention until the time comes for serving it, which is a special advantage of tireless cooking for busy people who are occupied in other ways during the day-time.
Experience is the best guide by which to time the various articles of food. Everything must be brought quite to the boil on the fire before putting into the cooking-box, and certain substances. such as joints of meat, which are close and dense in texture. will require to boil for a little time in that they may be really hot right through the centre. Half an hour would not be too long for a large joint of meat, and then may be set in the cooking-box for twelve hours or more. A smaller joint would, of course. not need cooking so long. After a great time in the cooking-box, it may be found necessary to re-heat the food, but it will keep very hot for several hours.
Food in small pieces, or vegetables, nerd be boiled only for a minute or so before being placed in the box, and here they may remain from two to twelve hours, the length of process being regulated according to the quickness of cooking in the ordinary way. Potatoes would take about two hours.
Fortunately, it is not easy to overdo things in the cooking-box, and it is better to err on the safe side. Puddings may also be cooked in the box, only, should they contain baking-powder or eggs, they must be allowed to boil on the fire a sufficient time to enable them to rise. Hints on Useing the Box
It is very important to make all speed in transferring the boiling can from the fire to the box. Hesitation at this critical time will mean certain failure. It is also neces-sary to fill all the utensils to the brim, so that there may not be a particle of unnecessary air space, and all the lids must fit closely.
Any ordinary recipes may be used. and food cooked in this way will not suffer either in flavour or nourishment. On the contrary. after a long period in the cooking-box, tough meat will become tender and digestible, while vegetables thus prepared are delicious
The cooking-box must on no account be opened while it is working. but must be left with the lid tightly closed until the contents are required for serving.
Removing a joint of meat from the cooker. Meat cooked in this way loses neither flavour nor nourishment