Cooking School: Lesson 2, Week 2

We are starting the second chapter of this book: Cookery. The dates listed are the dates for the lessons. Any section not covered with a date will be included on the date given after that section. This way, I can condense the sections and get through this quickly but efficiently, skipping nothing. This entire lesson will take 7 weeks versus the 11 weeks as originally taught. When we are finished, I am hoping we all have a good understanding (including myself) of cooking, itself!

As a reminder, the sections (and dates) are:

  1. Cookery w/recipe Baking Bread (Saturday, April 27th, 2013)
  2. Fire
  3. How to Build a Fire w/recipe Potato Soup (Saturday, May 4th, 2013, Sunday, May 12th)
  4. Ways of Cooking
  5. Various Ways of Preparing Food for Cooking w/recipe Broiled Fish (Sunday, May 12th, 2013)
  6. How to Bone a Bird w/recipe Mashed Potatoes (Saturday, May 18th, 2013)
  7. How to Measure
  8. How to Combine Ingredients w/recipe Boiled Eggs (Saturday, May 25th, 2013)
  9. Ways of Preserving w/recipe Hash
  10. Table of Measures and Weights w/recipe Scalloped Eggs (Saturday, June 1st, 2013)
  11. Time Tables for Cooking w/recipe Blanc-Mange (Saturday, June 8th, 2013)

Chapter 2, Section 1: Fire

“Fire for cookery is confined in a stove or range, so that heat may be utilized and regulated.”

We’ve come a long way from cooking over a fire. We use ovens that are, at times, more sophisticated than a super computer. I’ve seen some that you can tell what is cooking and it does the work. Me? I’ve got a 1970s oven and stove in my house. It was there when they built the house and it’s there today. It still works – with little quirks – and I enjoy what I can make in it. Speaking of which, it’s time to clean it again.

The book defines a cooking stove as a large iron box set on legs. It would have a fire-box and the sides were lined so the heat could travel around the food safely. I’ve cooked on such a contraption when we went to the mountain cabin a little ways north of us. It’s great fun although it does take a bit of work to do it correctly! I’m not entirely sure the thermostat still works on the oven part as the temperature never rose about roughly 150 degrees.

Dampers were used to control the supply of air and heat and were used as an outlet for smoke. I’ve played with the damper but haven’t mastered it, as yet. When I do, I won’t have to get up every hour to feed wood to the fire when we stay at the cabin. I’m anxious to get back there this summer and perfect my cooking skills on it. If I had the funds, I’d buy an old wood stove, set it in my back yard and practice on it there.

The book continues with a discussion on the different types of stoves:

  • Portable Range: cooking stove with one door with an under-oven (for warming)
  • Set Range: Built into a fireplace. Typically two ovens, one on each side of the fire box.

Chapter 2, Section 2: How to Build a Fire

“Before starting to build a fire, free the grate from ashes.”

Following that is an extensive description on how to clean the ashes from an old stove without having them scatter throughout the house. I’ll skip that part – I’m pretty sure we’re all aware of the methods, especially if we have our own fireplace at home.

Steps to building a fire:

  1. Cover grate with pieces of paper twisted in the center and left loose at the ends
  2. Cover paper with small sticks or pieces of pinewood
  3. Over pine wood, place hard wood and two shovelfuls of coal (we don’t use coal now, but we can still follow the above directions)
  4. Strike match; light paper

From there, it discusses the ways of heating up the stove. Again, we’ll skip that part as we don’t typically use this source of cooking in our lives. If anyone is interested, I’d be glad to go into detail. Just let me know!

Things to remember:

  • Oxygen is necessary to keep a fire burning
  • Fire creates CO2 – make sure you have plenty of ventilation
  • Never fill the firebox more than 3/4ths full – doing so will cause more wood to be consumed
  • Empty ashes daily, take out any good pieces of wood/coal to reuse

To keep a fire overnight, remove the ashes and put in enough coal to fill the box. Close the dampers and lift the back covers enough to admit air. Don’t lift the cover on the fire-box – that will allow poisonous gases to enter the room. These are actually some good tips for me. When we get a chance to go back to the cabin, I can practice and learn how to keep the cabin warm all night without getting up so much!

naia signature

*All quotes (noted or not) are from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book c1904, my own personal copy, unless otherwise noted.

** All opinions stated here are my own, not medically backed, unless otherwise stated.

Recipe: Potato Soup


  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 quart milk
  • 2 slices onion
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • few grains cayenne
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water; when soft, rub through a strainer. Scald milk with onion, remove onion, and add milk slowly to potatoes. Melt half the butter, add dry ingredients, stir until well mixed, then stir into boiling soup; cook one minute, strain, add remaining butter, and sprinkle with parsley.

That actually sounds good. I think I will try it. I purchased some small potatoes and will be giving an update on this recipe. It’s getting warmer around these parts but soup is soup. I’ll just kick on the A/C to try it.

Categories: Basics of Cooking, Cooking School | Leave a comment

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