When I read about retained heat cooking, I knew this was a frugal solution to the dilemma of finding time to prepare healthy meals on a busy homestead. Soup or stew is boiled for about 15 minutes and then the pot is placed in an insulated container and left for the day. The food cooks slowly, much as it would in a crock pot and there is nothing scorched or stuck to the bottom of the pan. This cooking method is perfect for days you know you will return to the house tired from a full day of gardening, fencing, lambing etc.
My first attempt was on a day I had to build pens to hold sheep for the shearer, get ready for lambing and separate chickens into breeding groups. Irish stew sounded like the perfect dish to experiment with.
Before beginning, I searched for containers to hold my pot. They had to be big enough that insulating material could be packed around the stew pot. Insulation can be provided by hay, straw, wool, blankets, sleeping bags etc. I chose a pasteboard box for the inner container to set into a quilt lined laundry basket. Clean, short wool fibers left behind from my wool combs along with a small wool comforter would provide the insulation.
I browned the lamb shanks added water, vegetables and seasonings and boiled for 15 minutes. During this time I prepared the insulated receptacle. At the end of the cooking time, the pan was sealed with aluminum foil to retain heat and was set down into the box.
Wool was packed around the pot and between the box and the sides of the laundry basket.
A pillowcase stuffed with wool was laid down on top of the lid.
The quilt was then drawn up over the box to keep the stew nice and cozy.
The comforter was added to the top for extra insulation.
I was surprised that even some hours later I did not feel heat had transferred to the outside of the quilt. Six hours later we unwrapped delicious, steaming hot Irish stew. All I had to do was cut the meat from the shank bones, thicken the stew and add a little Kitchen Bouquet. The resulting stew is the featured picture at the top of this post. It was a satisfying, stick-to-your-ribs meal at the end of a day of physical labor.
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