Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We can't make propane

I think I am having a bit of a temper tantrum.  I am irritated at the price of propane and have vowed to use as little of it as possible.  I have come to the conclusion that we can cut wood, we can make electricity, but we can't make propane! The only two appliances that we have that require propane are our hot water tank and our gas range.  If I could cut our propane usage in half, that would be quite an accomplishment, so I thought I would turn the propane range off - literally.  Our range has a gas turn off valve where the pipes connects to the back of the stove, and I have turned it off!  After all, I do have a wood cookstove, and it is winter, so I have decided to cook and bake exclusively on my Pioneer Maid.

Having done quite a bit of cooking on my stove, it is not really too hard of a transition, besides, I think the signs of the time indicate that I might need to put my cook stove into full time service soon anyway.

One difference I have noticed between gas/electric ranges versus wood ranges are the temperatures and times required for cooking and baking.  Generally, I bake things at a lower temperature for slightly less time than in a conventional stove.  I bake biscuits at about 325 degrees and bread at 300 degrees.  If I can only hold my hand in my wood cookstove oven for about 6 or 7 seconds, the temperature is just right for baking biscuits, but if I can keep my hand in the oven for about 10 to 11 seconds, it is just right for yeast breads.   Roasts bake longer at a lower temperature and turn out wonderful, turkeys brown up beautifully and the stovetop area farthest away from the firebox makes a fabulous crock pot setting.

I have been doing everything on my wood cookstove - everything from heating tea water in the morning to making dinner in the evening.  Have I mentioned that I LOVE my stove?

Tonight's menu included Joe's Special (with revisions, of course) and Buttermilk Biscuits.  Joe's Special is an all-in-one stovetop dish with burger, onions, broccoli (the original has spinach) and eggs.  It is very simple - just brown hamburger, drain, add butter (about a cube) and diced onions, cook until onions are limp, toss in chopped up (bite sized pieces) broccoli, stir together and add about a dozen eggs scrambled with a little milk.   Stir and cook until eggs are done.  Thats it.  It is somewhat of a family favorite.

Joe's Special

I promised GertyGoose my biscuit recipe, so here goes!

Enola's Buttermilk Biscuits (Wood Cookstove Version)

1 2/3 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 C. butter
3/4 C. buttermilk

I always make buttermilk rather than buy it.  Just pour your milk into a bowl and splash a little lemon juice or vinegar in and let it clabber.  I just use a tablespoon or so and set it aside while I am mixing up the rest of the biscuits.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add buttermilk all at once.  Stir just until moistened.  I often add a little extra milk so that the dough is not crumbly.  On a floured surface, pat the dough out to about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick.  Cut into biscuits.  Pat out remaining dough and cut more biscuits.

Try to handle the biscuit dough as little as possible.  Your biscuits will rise higher with less handling.  Pop biscuits into the oven as soon as they are put on the baking sheet.

Bake at 450 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.  Or, if using your wood cookstove, heat until you can hold your hand the oven for only 6 to 7 seconds, bake until one side gets a little brown, turn the baking sheet and bake until all biscuits are evenly browned.

Oh, and I always double or triple this recipe!

Making buttermilk

Butter chunks in with the flour mixture

Using a pastry cutter to cut in butter

Mix just until moist

Pat to about 1"
Have big help cutting biscuits out
Turning the baking sheet in the oven

I will continue to share my wood cookstove adventures - the good, the bad and the ugly.  When the world goes to pot, at least I'll be able to cook a mean meal!


  1. Do you can atop your woodstove? I'm wondering how one controls the temperature enough for this. Thanks!

  2. I live in an all electric house and like the rest of the modern masses' I live out of a microwave. I never married and I do not have any children so my idea of cooking is heating up a can of soup or making a sandwhich. I admire the tradional homemaking skills that are being foregotten in our society and if I found a woman that could cook and maintain a home, I probably have to marry her.

  3. Just found your blog and read about 6 months worth last night. I love it! We are gently preparing. Getting ready to move to a different place and I hope to be able to transition right into some more "stable" things....we are currently all electric, city water, etc. but anyway, just wanted you to know I love your recipes. I think I will try the biscuits for supper tonight. I've never been able to get the right but I think practice may make perfect :)

  4. THANK YOU!!!! They look awesome and I can't wait to try your recipe. The only problem I will have is my stove. If I turn it up past 400 it runs away... you know does the whole F4 thing... they have no idea why I have had 2 stoves do that to me. ARGGGG OBTW I made the Old timey cookies and my word they were good! My grandfather (82) was like you need to make more of these and so I did! Thank you again

  5. Hello, I am fairly new to your site and I am wondering how do you keep your butter and milk cold? And your broccolli is it frozen or refridgerated some way?

    Ever Curious, and Thank you for sharing!!

  6. hello love your blog. I am looking forword to all that you will be cooking and makeing on your stove. i have woodstove for heat, and a gas stove. for cooking and baking. i do read a lot on wood cooking, bacause one day i might have to cook on one. waiting cheryl s. e. wisconsin

  7. Little suggestion that you might want to an electric tea kettle for boiling water. I can't tell you how wonderful it is, and how fast it boils water! (Just minutes!) Handy when you're cooking and realize your recipe needs a bit more water, but no time to boil it.
    I use it EVERY day for my tea/coffee and I'd say it is probably the most used appliance in my kitchen. I'd never wanna be without one now.

    Oh, and I sure feel your pain about the propane prices!
    We used wood exclusively, last year for heating our home, because of it.
    We've taken to filling up 25 gallon tanks that last about 2 weeks for hot water and cost about $50 to fill up. Much easier on the budget!

    Donna G.

  8. Trish;
    Yes, I can on my wood cookstove. Keeping the temp steady is actually easier than on gas or electric - you just move the canner closer or farther away from the woodbox!

    I know a few of those ladies, if you are interested!

    Although we live off the grid, I do have a refrigerator. It is an electric Sun Frost, designed for low power usage. We could easily live without refrigeration in the winter (if we had to) and we have plenty of solar in the summertime!

    I do have an electric tea kettle. It is a Hobbes that I have had for years. I use it when our battery voltage is high. If we dip below about 23.5 volts, I have to suffer and actually wait for my kettle to boil. I love my electric kettle. As I said, I can cut wood make electricity, but I just can't make propane!


  9. Love your blog, we are having a wood stove installed next week for heat, we live in an all electric house but hope the wood stove will cut our heating bill and maybe I cancook a little something on it

  10. But you can gather Methane - from critter exhaust. B-)

  11. Enola Gay, you are a real treasure. Sharing all this information and answering individual questions is uncommon at most blogs. Thank you for being so generous with your time and knowledge.

    Those biscuits look absolutely delicious. In fact, I bet they are the best I've never tasted. LOL I've got to try the recipe, so if you hear some grumbling from this part of the country, it's just me getting frustrated because I'm a horrible cook...a good eater, but a horrible cook. Your instructions, however, are so thorough that I think even an inept cook like myself can handle it.

    NoCal Gal

  12. I don't know how this would work for you but have y'all looked into making your own biodiesel? I've seen a website before where a family was doing that. Is that practical for living off the grid? I'm pretty new at all this prepping and will be the one in my house that it'll probably fall to for a while. My dh's father didn't know any handyman skills to pass down whereas my daddy did. I still don't know very much, my fault, so I hope we can learn together (dh & I)!

  13. my home is all electric with a wood burning fireplace...after a particularly bad ice storm, and risking life and limb to bring in wood i had the fireplace converted to propane. then a year later i had a propane gas cookstove installed. my tank holds 200 gal. propane. in the winter, i run my ceilling fans and use the fireplace to heat my entire house-it'll burn ya out if you are'nt careful. of course, i cook with propane year round. on average, it takes about 18mos to use up 70% of the propane in the tank. it cost 200.00 to add to the tank (which at filling had 30% left in tank. anyway, here it is alot cheaper to use propane then it is to use electric furnace and cookstove. i also notices that there is alot of variance in what different propane gas companies charge, so it does pay off to shop around some.

  14. Hi there,

    This is an older post so I'm not sure if you'll see this comment, but have you considered a solar water heater instead of the propane/gas one you mentioned? The solar models are relatively inexpensive (as solar/renewable tech goes) and once you get it set up it'll provide most of your hot water. You'd still keep the current gas heater in the loop for cloudy/especially cold days, but in temperate days it could really cut down on your gas costs. A lot. It'd pay for itself in a few years.

    Just a thought.

  15. Score! I'd never made biscuits before, but thought I'd try to do something productive tonight rather than feeling sorry for myself about my husband's recent job transfer and drastic cut in pay. Happily, they were easy-peasy, and quite tasty; they made a wonderfully simple, light dinner for my brood, teamed with canned fruit and a glass of milk. Also, great tip about "making" your own buttermilk! And what fun, standing in my kitchen, thinking that I was making the same biscuits here in central CA that you make way over in your neck of the woods. Thank you for taking the time to share your life with us.

    (Isn't it time we had an update on your oldest? ;) )


    I have been very blessed by your writing. I also follow Michael Yon. Please take a look at his article about how people around the world make their own natural gas with simple bio digesters, and use the solids as compost. This could be a great way to increase your energy availability off grid.