Adventures in Solar Cooking Applesauce
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.