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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

Since our woodstove has been on for days I started to think about the benefits of having one, aside from the obvious. You can put your boots and gloves nearby to dry. Woodstoves are like large trivets to keep things warm.

With a large pan of water set on top, it can become a humidifier for the room. You can do all these things at once, too, which makes it even more versatile. Our first woodstove, which we still have, but not hooked up, is a large six-burner with a wood or coal burning side box and two ovens. It was actually used for cooking and heat in our first home.

I baked bread in it while a soup, stew and other foods were cooked on the burners. It was very easy to control the heat by lifting off the burner lids or placing them back on. Ah, yes, many fine memories from those innocent days. We brought it along, of course, to our present home. We also have a six-burner restaurant stove that a chef friend gave to us in pieces when we moved.

This house was a "restorable, handyman special, fixer-upper" so there was little time for gourmet cooking. The old woodstove that had served so valiantly in our small first house became a source of heat in this one for a time. There was so much work to do everyday that I found feeding the small firebox every 20 minutes or so too distracting, like a ball and chain.

Running out to the store or town on errands meant it would go out and had to be started once again. I will say that the food cooked on it and in it was memorable. It is rather like the way food tastes better when cooked outdoors in summer.

Roast Leg of Venison

3 - 5 pound leg roast of venison

4 cups of cider, hard or sweet

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

Salt and pepper

2 large onions, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 cup of beef or venison stock

Seasonings:

1/2 teaspoon ground sage

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Marinate the meat in the cider overnight. Drain and reserve the cider.

Pat dry and roll in the flour, salt and pepper. Brown in the butter on all sides. When brown, place the meat and all other ingredients in a Dutch oven plus the remaining cider. Cover and place in the oven for two and a half to three hours.

If your woodstove has an oven, use the recipe above turning the Dutch oven half way around every half hour.

Spiced Chicken Cakes

4 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon ground thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 cups cooked chicken, fine chopped

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons parsley, minced

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons milk or chicken broth

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Saut? the onion in two tablespoons of butter for about five minutes, then add the thyme, cumin, chicken, flour, parsley, mustard, salt, pepper, milk or broth and cook for three or four minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the egg and cheese. Chill this mixture in the fridge overnight or in the freezer for 20 minutes. Now shape the mixture into oval patties. Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter (or use a bit of corn oil) over medium heat and brown the croquettes for three or four minutes per side.

You can use leftover turkey instead of chicken. These cakes reheat well so you can make them ahead easily. These cakes are good with or without gravy. They can be reheated and kept warm on the woodstove while you make the side dishes.

Woodstove Baked Apples

6 apples, cored

6 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon

6 thin pats of butter

Mix the sugar, raisins and cinnamon together. Butter a round, flat baking pan or non-glass pie tin and place the apples upright on it. Fill the holes with the mixture and add a pat of butter to each. Put a little water on the bottom of the pan to keep the apples from burning. Cover lightly with foil and bake on top of the woodstove for about 30 minutes.

Soups, stews and chilies can all be enhanced with a 'topping.' I have made popovers or dumplings to drop onto bubbling stews or pan roasts. These toppings can be added about an hour before the meal is done. Remove any lid to let the dumplings form a slight crust.

Drop Dumplings

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons shortening

Enough milk to make a soft ball of dough.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and drop by tablespoons into a bubbling roast, stew or chili.

Notes & Tips

*A woodstove can be a great dehydrator for making jerky (dried beef).

*For a nice aroma in the house, put orange peels on the stovetop. Not too big, so they don't catch fire.

*One thing you must watch out for with woodstoves is little ones bumping into or playing near them. Minor burns should be treated with cold, not ice water. Aloe vera gel, direct from the plant or purchased can be applied to form a protective coating on the skin and aid in healing.