I’m stepping out here a little bit and venturing into the art of cooking in a hay box. What is a hay box? Think “slow cooker – unplugged”. Researching the concept of slow fire-less cooking I found that the idea is not new. I’ve been able to find newspaper articles and research papers mention using a fire-less cooker as far back as the 1890’s. The idea is that you get your pot of food (broths, stews, vegetables do best) up to boiling and then put the closed container into an insulated box and let it simmer in its own heat for hours slowly cooking.
In the past the cook would have used hay for insulation, but towels or quilts will work fine too. They would have used a wooden box, basket, drawer, trunk or other closed container to keep in the heat and keep critters out of the cook pot.
For my test I used a cooler for the hay box, and a sheet of insulation that came with a box of frozen food I ordered. (I knew that stuff would come in handy for something!). My pot was too wide, so I had to turn my cooler on its side so the pot would fit inside and the lid would close. A tight fitting lid is needed so steam doesn’t escape. I also used a grill thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. Since I didn’t want everyone getting sick I made sure the stew stayed a consistent temperature. For the most part mine remained around the 150F range for about 6 hours. When I opened the cooler to check it at the end the stew was still steaming and I had to use pot holders to remove the pot from the cooler!
If you want to read more on cooking with a Hay Box here’s an article you can read from the Win the War Cookery Book and a article written in 1907 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Here’s the can cooker that I used for this recipe. This cooker also comes in handy for camping too!
Here’s my recipe for Venison Stew. Enjoy!
|Prep time||45 minutes|
|Cook time||7 hours|
|Total time||7 hours, 45 minutes|
|Meal type||Lunch, Main Dish|
- 28 Oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
- 2 -14.5 Oz Can Stewed Tomatoes
- 8 Oz Package Sliced Fresh Mushrooms
- 32fl oz Beef Broth
- 1lb Venison – Cut in Small Cubes
- 1 packet Stew Seasoning Mix
- sprinkle Salt and Pepper to Taste
- Vegetable Oil
- 2 Bags Frozen Stew Vegetables (The packages I bought were about 16 ounces each. Large chunks of carrot need to be cut into smaller chunks so they cook quicker.)