What the heck is thermal heat retention cooking?
In its oldest form, it is digging a hole in the ground and burying hot food without further heat input. We did this when I was growing up, always at the beach, in dry sand.
We lived on the Oregon Coast when I was young and spent our summers camping on the riverbank. Once school started again, it was back home to cool wet winters. The only heat source for our two story house was a wood stove in the living room. Our German Shepherd, Shadow, tired from his summer duties of herding me around and keeping me from drowning myself, collapsed next to the wood stove to enjoy the bliss of warmth and long naps during his watchdog break.
We never had our winter wood supply topped up after idling about all summer on the riverbank. Oops. We made up for those summer lazies by going to the beach on the weekend!
In timber country like Oregon, wood always washes down the rivers and up onto the beaches. Poor folks like us went to the beaches and hauled home driftwood to burn in our houses for heat all winter.
Mom would put together a one pot meal of soup, stew, beans, whatever she had at hand. Add in a loaf of home baked bread and camp coffee pot (nasty stuff), and we were bundled up and ready to go.
Dad built a good fire to get us started, and mom would put the soup pot on. While it was heating up, dad was in action digging the hole in soft, dry sand to bury the pot. Once it was boiling good and hot clear through, dad put the lid on and transferred it to the hole. He sealed the top with Aluminum foil to keep the sand out and the heat and moisture in.
We spent a few hours dragging driftwood back to the fire while my dad used his chainsaw to cut up logs. It all got tossed in the trailer to be taken home. We generally set up camp next to a likely log or logs to keep it simple.
I have more memories of playing in tidal pools and wading in the surf than sweating over driftwood… but that can’t be accurate… right? I am sure that I was daddy’s little helper with the wood collection.
Our dinner didn’t need attention and mom helped us with the tidal pool inspections, I mean driftwood gathering. She knew the names of everything in those little pools. Mom loved the ocean and being on the beach more than anyplace else. When she wasn’t on the beach, on the river with a fishing pole in her hand was a happy second choice.
Mom and I hunted for especially beautiful shapes in the driftwood, and hid those in the car trunk so dad wouldn’t chainsaw them into stove sized chunks. They decorated around our garden. We brought home pretty stones, shells and sea glass along with firewood. A couple times we found green glass floats used by Japanese fisherman.
My sister loved the freshwater streams running into the ocean and stomped through them, shrieking when the water washed out from under her feet like quicksand. She bravely escaped those perils.
When we were tired, cold, and hungry, we made dad quit cutting driftwood and got him to dig out our meal. Mmmmmm. It was always hot, delicious, and ready for eating.
We built up the fire and sat our lunch pot back on the edge. Mom made a fresh pot of [dreadful] camp coffee and sliced homemade bread, while dad and I found and cut sticks for toasting bread over the fire. I don’t recommend it, I lost more than one piece of bread to the flames. Shadow rescued every dropped piece right out of the fire! He never gave them back to me, he ran like a dog. Mom always swore I did that on purpose. I was innocent! However, the second piece always toasted safely.
After we ate, dad would come play on the beach with us. It mostly involved him chasing us down making monster faces. He always caught us, screaming like banshees, grabbed us and tried to throw us to the sharks. It was the proper end to vile and worthless children like us. Hah! Mom rescued us every time and carried us back to shore. That’s the olden days.
The newfangled thing is to build a box and do this inside your house. Doesn’t seem quite the same, but it sure is a good way to cook without having a burner on for hours. Slow cooking keeps flavor locked in and soups and homemade bread are my favorites, still.
I guess I gotta move with the times. I put on a pot of my very own bolita beans this morning and left it boiling about 15 minutes. While it was boiling I made a nest out of my feather blanket and lined the cavity with two bath towels and one Mylar blanket inside it all. I carefully placed my big pot of beans in there and covered it completely with Mylar. Then the towels and last a feather pillow.
In about a half hour I will open it up and have dinner. That is a lot of beans, and my plan is to pressure can the rest in pint jars. Makes a quick addition to a lot of meals when you don’t have time to cook a fresh pot.
The feather blanket, towels, and mylar isn’t a fancy set up and it makes my bedroom messy. I have a wooden toy box with yarn in it. I may use it for the next pot of soup instead of my crock pot. It will look better.
I added a sand box to my house plan. Just a little concrete box with clean sand. That way no mishaps with my cozy feather bedding and no junky mess inside my little house. I will cover it when not in use, a to keep the sand dry because wet sand does not work.
Thermal heat retention cooking is a good way to save money on long cooking foods, and does not require stirring or addition of water to keep from burning. Use a bit less water, it is not evaporating out. If cooking over a fire, it needs very little cook, and if you have ever chopped wood, that is a good thing.