I’ve been watching the weather forecast all week. It was supposed to be sunny today—a great opportunity to try out my solar oven. I busted ass at work this week so I could take the day off, stay home, and play with the solar oven. I decided I was going to make spiced baked apples, with the potential to mash them into applesauce. Last night I discovered 2 sweet potatoes sprouting in my pantry, and thus it was decided I would also roast these sweet potatoes in the solar oven. My day started out like this:
Stinker and I went on a nice long hike this morning while it was still cool. When we got home I set the oven on the deck to preheat and began to prep the apples:
Stinker waited not-so-patiently for her apple rations beside me, trying not to drool on her feet. I threw the apples into the pot and sprinkled them with a little bit of cinnamon, allspice, sugar, and a drizzle of molasses at the very end. Once I finished preparing the apples, I cut the peels into small pieces and fed them to the chickens. That went over very well. Then I washed the sweet potatoes, poked a few holes in the sides, and wrapped them in aluminum foil:
Then I put the apples and sweet potatoes in the oven. It was 10:15 am, the preheated temperature was 150 degrees F, and the outdoor air temperature was 45 degrees F.
I cleaned up the kitchen and checked back on the oven about 15 minutes later. The oven temperature had not risen, so I decided to add the reflector. After another 15 minutes, the temperature inside the oven had risen to 200 degrees F. This was a good sign. Satisfied that things were cooking along just fine, I went back inside to read the newspaper. About halfway through the newspaper, I noticed a shadow move across the room. WHAT?! What is this, you wretched puffs of condensed water? Get OUT of my sky. You are not going to ruin my solar oven cooking today. Not on my watch. Sadly, the clouds stayed for a while and even got a little thicker before clearing out shortly after lunch, with sporadic appearances here and there. With the intermittent cloud cover, the oven temperature had dropped from a high of 275 degrees F to around 250 degrees F.
Meanwhile, I watered the garden, enclosed a new area for the chickens so they could mow a new area of the yard, put some more spinach transplants in the garden, and transplanted several seedlings into bigger pots. My celery is looking so good! It’s almost pathetic to think I started these seedlings in early February and they are only about 3 inches tall! But they are sturdy and healthy:
I also transplanted some cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Spanish lavender, lady lavender, lime basil, lemon basil, and English thyme. While I was working on transplanting my little darlings into larger pots, I could smell the aroma of cinnamon wafting from the solar oven. When I got my seedlings situated in their new homes, I peeked at the oven again. I could see sweet potato juices oozing out of the aluminum foil—good sign! I removed the reflector, pulled the lid, wrapped a potholder around a sweet potato and squeezed. Soft. YES! I pulled the sweet potatoes from the oven; they were so soft I could cut them with a butter knife:
Now how about those apples? I removed the lid from the apple pot. This is what I saw:
Sweet mother, I’m not sure baked apples have ever smelled or tasted so good. Yes, it took 5 hours, but I cooked my meal (Yes, meal. Hubby is out of town. This is dinner.) using nothing but the sun as a heat source AND, most importantly, I didn’t have to heat up my kitchen or worry that I would burn something in the oven if I got distracted and wasn’t around to hear the timer. In my mind, that’s a nice way to cook. I think the weather is going to be nice enough this weekend to use the oven again, so I’m going to try to bake a rhubarb coffee cake. Stay tuned for results of that experiment!
A note about the oven: one complaint I read about was that condensation can form under the lid, which can reduce the amount of solar radiation penetrating the lid, thus, reducing oven temperatures and increasing cooking time. To help prevent that from happening, I only used 5 of the 6 latches to lock the lid in place, leaving 1 corner loose for ventilation. It seemed to work well. I did notice a little bit of condensation around the outside edges of the reflector, but it was not in a position to interfere with the oven temperature or cooking ability. All in all, I’m quite happy with the results of this first experiment. Here’s to many more!