Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dakota Rocket Silo

We've been looking for a way to move canning operations outside during the heat of the summer.  Not only does it help keep the house cooler, there's just something especially liberating about processing food outside.  Maybe it's because there's so much more room than in our tiny kitchen.  Maybe it's because we use combustion heat directly, which is more efficient than, say burning coal to produce heat to boil water to generate electricity that generates heat on an electric stove.  Or maybe it just feeds the soul of our inner caveman...

Anyway, until recently, we had no such capacity around The Lab to do outdoor canning.  Then we cobbled together a couple projects to remedy the situation.  On the docket for today: the Dakota Rocket Silo.  It's a combination of one well-known homestead technology (the rocket stove), and a similar, but lesser-used technology (the Dakota fire hole).  Essentially we built a Dakota fire hole and added a cinder block chimney to turn it into an underground rocket stove.  But anything related to underground rockets has to be called a silo.  Hence the full name.

Profile view of what the Dakota Rocket Silo (DRS) would look like if we sawed right down the middle of it and a couple feet deep into the yard.

Here's what it looks like in real life.  The two pieces of angle iron hold the pot off the cinder blocks so the air can still flow well.  Wait!  No!  Katie, that's not a biffee!! (EDIT: Katie says, "You can take that part out right now, buster!")

Before starting a fire, it's a good idea to make sure the bricks are level--we don't want a pot full of hot jam becoming unbalanced and tipping over!  Then we'd have to lick off the grass.

...Fire in the hole!

How long does it take to boil a quart of water?  When the DRS is still heating up (and making smoke), a little under 12 minutes.  Once it's good and hot, considerably less than that.  Accompanying the fire is a wheelbarrow full of old fence wood and our mobile kitchen.  All in all, not a bad way to start a Thursday.  Ok, Jake.  Time to go into work.

Later that night...

Hey, look! A successful batch of plum jam, cooked outside over a wood fire. It was so tasty, Katie let herself be persuaded to have a piece of toast, even though it was way past her bedtime.  We didn't take any pictures during this batch, but we learned quite a bit.  We'll do a follow-up post on that soon, but for now, suffice it to say that cooking jam outside by flashlight, and then coming back into a nice cool house is one of the more awesome sensations we've had all summer.

Have you canned outdoors?  What is your setup like?  Let us know in the comments below!

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