Crew Commentary

Adventures in Solar Cooking Applesauce

Jon Biemer


As crewmembers on Spaceship Earth it is good to actually try some of the things we hear and talk about. So it is that I finally engaged the craft of solar cooking here in Portland, Oregon. Natalia, my solar cooking friend in California, says start with something simple, like applesauce.


August 27, 2020. Motivated by a modest crop from one of our apple trees, I found an applesauce recipe on-line. I put 5 chunked apples in a black roasting pan in an old flexible solar cooker originally marketed to back packers. Willow, my wife, bought it mail-order maybe twenty years ago. The recipe used a lemon, water, vinegar, cinnamon, and sugar. Only I left out the sugar. Not healthy you know.


1:00 to 3:00 PM wasn’t time enough to fully soften the apples. Not only that, I knocked over the pot while hunting for more sun. I tasted the top of the heap. Too sour.


September 1. I put another 5 apples in the pot, this time chopped in small pieces. I skipped the vinegar since I had left out the sugar. And I used an oven bag to hold the heat in next to the pot. This time I cooked from 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM.



Yay, my solar cooker can cook! This effort yielded good texture after using a potato masher as prescribed in the original recipe.  The applesauce was servable with dinner, but not good enough to brag about.


September 7. Confidence high, I decide to use Willow’s recipe: apples, water, cinnamon, and honey. Moreover, I cobbled together an additional two-tier solar cooker using reflective insulated delivery bags, of which we have an excess during COVID 19. I carefully arranged everything in our garden cart and showed the whole set up to the 5-year-old boy next door. However, it was already 1:00 by the time I had everything set up.


Shucks, the apples were still crunchy when the sun went behind the trees. I needed fossil fuel to finish off the cooking. I delivered some sauce next door anyhow; it really did taste good. Shall I try one more time?



September 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15. The forecast was for clear skies – and more solar cooking. But the wind and wild fires changed all that. Smoke hung thick and acrid. The air quality jumped from “good” to “hazardous” – and stayed there. A fierce reminder of Climate Change closed down my solar-cooking adventures for the season.


Guess I’m not ready for eco-culinary prime time yet.  


However, I made use of the fruit from the tree we planted, and I gained some enjoyable hands-on experience with solar energy. I learned that patient respect for the sun is needed; that real cooking doesn’t happen by accident. More sophisticated solar cookers are available. On-line videos assure me that some folks regularly cook with solar. There is even a 100 percent solar restaurant in Chile. Next season I want to hone my skills so I can demonstrate solar cooking at a farmers’ market.