Dig In: Hydro protest: Cooking slow in a cardboard box

This is the time of year when the closest we get to our gardens is the pantry, which is literally filled with the fruits of our labour.

Mary Lowther’s low energy cooking solution is both inside and outside of the box. It works on a principle similar to that of a slow cooker

Mary Lowther’s low energy cooking solution is both inside and outside of the box. It works on a principle similar to that of a slow cooker

This is the time of year when the closest we get to our gardens is the pantry, which is literally filled with the fruits of our labour.

It is also the time of skyrocketing hydro bills, even for those of us with iniquitous, carbon belching wood stoves, so let us discuss some cooking tricks that use very little electricity, if any.

Many of us will remember the Hydro campaign 20 years ago to encourage us to convert from fossil fuels to “greener” hydroelectric heat. Those of us who followed that advice are now facing ever-rising prices as well as an unbearably self-righteous explanation that these increases are for our own good because we simply use too much power.

I have come to resent every penny Hydro wrings out of my unwilling hands. David insulates himself somewhat from this angst by leaving me to handle the bills so he can claim ignorance of how much that extra heater in the workshop costs. He can wear thermal underwear and multiple sweaters indoors, he says, but he draws the line at the tuque. He has suggested that we can reduce our power bill by running an extension cord from the neighbour’s outside plug.

I, on the other hand, have discovered other methods to reduce consumption; besides, our extension cord doesn’t reach that far. I have disposed of my freezer, rarely use the dryer and have found a few cooking tricks, new and old, that use little or no electricity. Actually, some are just refinements of ancient methods like solar cooking and dehydration, but these rely on the sun so they have limited value right now.

One method that works any time relies on heating the food up first, then placing it into an insulated box to finish cooking. The only electricity used is for heating the food to begin with. I got a cardboard box and stuffed it with dry straw, making a nest in the middle to accommodate the pot, allowing for three inches of straw on the bottom and on all sides. I also stuffed an old pillowcase with more straw for the top.

First I tried stew, browning the meat then adding all the vegetables, broth and herbs once the meat was browned. I’ve found that this method resembles crock pot cookery in that the vegetables take as long as the meat to cook.

I brought the stew to a rolling boil, put the lid on, nestled it into the insulated box and laid the straw-filled pillowcase on top.

Three hours later the stew was done and still steaming; then I brought it back up to boiling on the stove and thickened it. David thinks I’m an extremist.

I’ve also tried rice and Scotch broth. The rice took two hours and came out nice and fluffy.

The Scotch broth needed to be reheated halfway through the process, but turned out well.

Today I parboiled some spareribs in the box for three hours to tenderize them before roasting in the oven.

I find this method so handy and user-friendly that I’m making this box an integral part of my kitchen.

Sure it takes longer to cook and needs a little forethought, but it will keep the Hydro bill lower.

I’ve made another box so I can cook two different things at the same time and if I find I’m using them a lot, maybe I can talk David into making something more permanent for me. I’ll point out that because I’m saving on the stove I’ll be less inclined to nag him about those heaters.

Next week we’ll talk about what to do once the soil thaws.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Just Posted

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

Tim Wilkinson, who will attempt a double anvil triathlon on Vancouver Island on July 3, poses with his training partner, Shadow, who has been dragged up and down the Nanaimo Parkway many times. (Submitted)
Vancouver Island triathlete takes on ‘double anvil’ for charity

7.6km swim, 360km bike ride, and 84.4km run, all within 36 hours

From left: Thomas Kuecks, David Lane, John Ivison, Denis Berger, Rod Gray, and James Kuecks are Cabin Fever. Catch their performance on the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre website. (Ashley Foot photo)
A&E column: Music Festival winners, CVAC awards, and Cabin Fever

The latest from the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment community

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley MLA Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

BC Green Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Himalayan Life helped finance the construction of Nepal’s Yangri Academic Centre and dormitories after a 2015 earthquake devastated the valley, killing more than 9,000 people. (Screen grab/Peter Schaeublin)
B.C. charity founder pledges to rebuild Nepalese school swept away by flash floods

6 years after a catastrophic earthquake killed more than 9,000 people, Nepal gets hit again

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

Most Read