Hi! Mr. Monte here.
To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, this has been and continues to be a very hot and dry Summer here at Serendipity Farmhouse. (Please refer to Ol’ Fuzz Face’s comments on the matter in his post SFH Journal: 2021-07-26 through 08-01 – Hot & Spicy.) As you can see by this candid photo of me, I have taken the appropriate feline approach to ensure that I remain cool and comfortable.
Blondie and Fuzzy, on the other hand, see things in an different way and have chosen to make a period of what should be a time for rest and relaxation into an unnecessarily frustrating time of tension, and drama. Rather than try to make sense of their heat-induced delirium, I will turn the writing of this post over to Fuzzy while I resume my nap.
Despite Mr. Monte’s less than flattering remarks, the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen had a remarkable and noteworthy week. No, I wouldn’t say it was our best week ever, but I would say it demonstrates our unique ability to bounce back from an apparent failure and turn it into a resounding success. Here’s the story.
On August 5th, our weekly menu called for us to use our Sun Oven to prepare Barbecued Chicken according to a recipe in the Solar Chef cookbook by Rose Marie Kern. But my most perceptive Wife noted that tomatoes harvested over the past few days had reached their prime and had to be canned immediately. So, we changed our plans and spent the day preparing a “new and improved” (N&I) version of our long-time favorite SFH Pasta Sauce.
All went well with the initial stage of canning of our “SFH N&I Pasta Sauce.” To our basic recipe we added homegrown garlic, Italian spice and a couple of other twists. The wonderful aroma of the simmering pasta sauce filled the house. Then we performed the required processing of the five pint jars of sauce. We retrieved the jars from the boiling water at the 40-minute mark and waited for the five pings from the cooling jars. Within seconds, we had ping numbers one, two, and three. Number four took a little longer. … … Unfortunately, ping number five never came – the jar had failed to seal. – – Dang!
Then, simultaneously, resourceful Wife and I stumbled across the same idea. – – Tomorrow, we shall use the un-pinged jar of N&I Pasta Sauce in an entirely new SFH Test Kitchen creation – “SFH Heatwave Chicken”! (Providing there is sunshine …)
We purchased our Sun Oven in Idaho. We only used it once, but that was a great success because we lived in high desert with virtually no trees nearby. More often than not, the sky was very clear and our home sat on a point that was nearly a mile high. – With these perfect conditions for solar cooking, we could get that Sun Oven up to over 400°.
A couple of years ago, we attempted to use the Sun Oven to make a pot roast here at SFH. For many reasons, that was an abysmal failure. Virginia has trees and many of them reside right here on our vast estate. Even when the rare sunny day comes, those trees are dedicated to a single cause – – blocking the Sun Oven. There is one Sycamore tree that is particularly nasty and vicious because it knows it commands access to the precious southern exposure. It is a bully of a tree and I have often thought of having our local tree service remove it.
Day of Reckoning
On August 6th, the sun rose and there was some haze in the sky. The forecast indicated that clouds would move in later in the day. Our chances of success were diminishing rapidly and we knew we wouldn’t be free to start cooking until nearly 1 PM. Nevertheless, Blondie and I were committed – we were going to make this work. So, at about 12:10 I set up the oven and began preheating it. By 12:31 it had reached 275°.
Blondie took charge of preparing the chicken by adding some salt and pepper and then the layering the chicken in our untested, untried, and untasted, brand new “N&I Pasta Sauce. When she finished, I carefully took the pot to the oven and placed it on the leveling rack. The glass door was closed and sealed at 12:51 – this cooking game was now afoot.
The red arrow in the graphic taken from the official SFH Weather Station shows that, when we began cooking our SFH Heatwave Chicken, we were already past the prime conditions we had earlier in the day. We decided we would let the chicken cook for four hours at about 325°. The question was would that work? Would we be able to get to the desired 180° internal temperature required for poultry? Only time – four full hours – would tell.
The picture above answers that big question. When the picture was taken, the gauge was still climbing and we knew our chicken was fully cooked. Later, when we sat down to eat. We found that it was not only fully cooked, but it was at the point where the meat just fell off the bone; we didn’t even need our knives to cut the meat.
So, on this 92°+ day, we sat down inside the cool SFH dining room and ate a wonderful meal of solar oven cooked SFH Heatwave Chicken, which was resting on a layer of couscous that readily absorbed the savory flavor of our own SFH New & Improved Pasta Sauce.
There are few failures in the SFH Test Kitchen, but there many ways to find paths to new successes!