Cooking with a Solar Oven

Cooking with a solar oven…a new experience for me this week. I have the Sport Solar Oven, but there are many different brands of solar ovens on the market at all different prices. My solar oven had been sitting in the box in which it came for a couple of years, and I finally found some time to unpack it and try it out. I will also credit a friend in Arkansas, Dr. Robert Allen, who had begun to use his solar oven, as an inspiration for me to get mine out and try it.

I decided to start with a recipe that was totally different from the things I usually cook, so that I would not be tempted, at least initially, to compare the solar oven results with recipes I had been cooking for years. I’ll move to my familiar recipes later, over the course of the summer. I looked over the recipes that came with the solar oven, and when I went to the store I found some beautiful pork chops that were on special this week. So, I decided to try this recipe first.

I started by preheating the oven in the sun while I was doing the food preparation. The temp in the oven was 250 F when I put the food in at 10:00 am. The temp in the solar oven quickly dropped to 150 F, then slowly climbed back up to around 250 F. Between 4:00 and 4:30 pm, the temp in the oven dropped rapidly back to around 210 F, even though there was plenty of sun and the ambient temp was 100 F in the shade of my back porch. The solar ovens stress the importance of the angle of the sun, and I became a believer with my first use of the solar oven. Some of the solar ovens come with reflectors. For my oven, reflectors can be purchased separately. I plan to buy reflectors for use in the winter when the angle of the sun is very low on the horizon, even on the bright and sunny winter days here in the desert southwest.

First layer - pork chops

First layer – pork chops

Second layer

Second layer – cabbage, onions, apple

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Dwarf Peach ‘Bonanza:” What to Do With the Little Peaches You Did Not Thin

Small peaches

Once the risk of a hard freeze is past, the tiny peaches need to be thinned if you want to get large fruit. Otherwise you will get a whole lot of small, but very tasty, fruit. A shame, you might be thinking. That would all depend upon what use you intended to make of the peaches.

These small peaches make wonderful whole spiced peaches to be canned for use in the winter holidays. They are first canned whole (recipe to follow). They can be cut in half and served over ice cream as a holiday dessert. They can be served alone as dessert. They can be used in a fruit compote. Halved, they make a wonderful topping for custard tartlets. Peaches this size can usually be packed 12 to a quart jar. The ‘Bonanza’ peaches will turn the syrup a wonderful shade of red.

Whole Spiced Peaches (for small peaches) – Recipe from the Ball Blue Book

Wash peaches; drop into boiling water for 30 – 60 seconds; immediately plunge into cold water. Peel fruit, but leave whole. Drop into a solution of FruitFresh or similar while all of the fruit is peeled. Be sure to wash before adding to hot syrup mixture.

For eight pounds of peaches, combine
1 cup sugar
4 cups water
2 cups honey
in a large saucepot and cook until sugar dissolves. Add one layer of peaches at a time to the hot syrup, and cook for about three minutes. Pack hot peaches into hot jars. Leave 1/2 inch headspace.
To each jar, add
1 stick of cinnamon
1/4 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp whole allspice
Ladle hot syrup into jars, again leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
Remove air bubbles.
Secure 2-piece lids.
Process in a water bath for 25 minutes.

When cool, be sure to store in a cool, dark spot until you are ready to enjoy these wonderful little peaches.