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by Steve Keip
Cooking on a wood stove has a bit of a learning curve as the heat is uneven. Cooking is a continual dance of moving pots and pans on the stove top to find the best temperature for what you are cooking. The area over the firebox will always be the hottest, and the further away you go, the cooler the surface. This particular stove (see below) has a damper that you can use to shift the heat more to the surface or to the oven, depending on where you are cooking. We are fortunate to have a temperature gauge on the front of the oven which seems to be fairly accurate. Still, it takes almost 40 minutes of intense burning to get the oven into cooking range. The oven heats primarily from the top, so cooking must be done on the floor of the oven as opposed to the center rack, or everything will be burned. Once the volume of cast iron, that is the stove and oven compartment, are heated to temperature, it will retain its heat for a long time.
Gorgeous pineapple upside down cake.Because of the smaller size of the firebox, this stove was probably intended as a coal or coal / wood combination burner. The kitchen is painted the deep blue color because it is thought to hide the stains from the coal smoke. Marcella (Schumacher) does speak of coal fired stoves in her book, "Papa, Mama and Me", and of washing curtains and walls in the spring. There is a warming oven on the top of the stove that will do exactly that, keep one course warm while you finish the other items. There is also a water reservoir on the side of the stove that would have been used for domestic hot water, but it is cracked, and no longer functional.
The other learning curve involves building and managing the fire. Open the dampers wide, fill the firebox with newspaper and kindling and light the fire. Never use an accelerant as it can burn too hot too quickly and stress the metal. Build the fire by adding progressively larger pieces of wood until the fire is brightly burning. Adjust the dampers back to about half and continue to build the fire. The fire needs to be fed about every 15 minutes until the stove is heated up, then you can slow down and bit and cook on the embers. The oven temperature gauge is your guide when the stove is ready to cook. If all you are using is the stove top, a much slower fire can be built and maintained. Remember, all surfaces are hot, always have a potholder or pad in your hand when working at the stove!
References & Links
Recipes are authentic to the 1920s and 1930s and have been modified
by Steve Keip.
Foodways of the 1920 and 1930s
Steve Keip provides historical context for wood stove cooking.
Wisconsin State Journal Article
Chris Martell story about Steve Keip and wood stove cooking class.
Note: Photos are of actual foods prepared and cooked using the stove at Schumacher Farm Park.
By Steve Keip and Diane Schwartz
The stove is a model 8-20D Riverside, blue porcelain, manufactured by Rock Island Stove Company, Rock Island, Illinois. It feasure a hot water reservoir on the right and a warming oven on the top.
Our stove was purchased by the Marcella Schumacher Pendall Trust in the mid 1990s in anticipation of restoring the 1906 farmhouse. The original stove had long been removed as the house was modernized over the years, and there are no surviving pictures of the original stove. The new stove stood in the kitchen until May 1998 when it was installed by Ernest Bingham of the Great American Chimney Co. He rebuilt the chimney above the roof top and installed copper shielding behind the stove to ensure that the stove met with modern fire codes and building standards.
The stove is a model 8-20D Riverside, blue porcelain, manufactured by Rock Island Stove Company, Rock Island, Illinois. While we do not have an exact date of manufacture, we can be certain that this model was manufactured during the 1920s because that’s when the Rock Island Stove Company began producing porcelain enameled stoves in a variety of colors. These stoves were designed to be functional and decorative. A 1925 article in the Rock Island newspaper states: "In 1920, the company built a complete plant for doing porcelain enameling, and have since finished their cookers and heaters with this beautiful material in blue, brown, gray and white.” The Rock Island Stove Company was started in 1868 and likely went under in 1929 when the market collapsed. There is no newspaper record for the company after 1929.
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