"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Monday, 11 March 2013

Sunny times...

I have found the perfect summer and winter spot to set up my SunCook solar oven - on the wooden deck outside our bedroom Happy Doors.  The side wall protects it from being blown away by the wind, and it is not too far from the kitchen - certainly no steps to have to carry boiling hot pots up...
The perfect sheltered spot for my solar oven
It's become so normal to use my solar oven that it's been a while since I last posted what I have cooked in it.  So I thought I'd share a few - just a few - of the goodies that I have cooked in my solar oven this summer...
Solar baked Christmas cakes
Firstly, I made our Christmas cakes again - not only for the family, but for every neighbour in our area :)  I think I made 14 in total LOL

RMan seriously enjoys a solar roast chicken...
Solar cooked whole chicken
...which literally falls apart when it's cooked.  All the liquid you see in the pan is the goodness that has come out of the chicken - absolutely no water was added to the pot.
Solar cooked chickens are so tender that
they just fall apart.  All the liquid in the
pot has come from the chicken -
concentrated goodness that makes an
excellent instant gravy
I love that my oven is big enough to fit not just one dish in, but two or three, depending on what I am cooking.  Here I made a pot of ostrich mince sauce for spaghetti bolognaise, beetroot, and a pot of tomatoes, from the garden - I always keep a pot of cooked tomatoes in the fridge - to make a quick sauce, add to a soup, or to blitz up into a dipping sauce.

Here you can see the pots as they went into the oven... 
The oven is large enough to multi-task -
beetroot, tomatoes and a pot of
ostrich mince sauce for spaghetti
... and here are the finished products :)
Cooked by the sun with no hassle
Following my honesty policy on this blog, I have always maintained that it is not possible to burn anything in the solar oven.  And, as far as pots of food, that stands true.

But recently we experienced a heatwave.  At 5.22p.m. in the afternoon it was still 38oC outside...
The temperature outside at 5.22p.m. was
38oC ...
...(and thanks to our double glazing) it was a comfortable 27.5oC inside the house.
Thanks to our double glazing, the temperature
inside at the same time of day
I had placed some halved tomatoes into the oven earlier to make sun-dried tomatoes.  I was so comfortable inside that I clean forgot about the tomatoes, and they burnt!
Oh no!!  My sun-dried tomatoes are burnt to
To a crisp!  As you can see on the thermometer, the temp inside, even with the lid propped open, was at almost 150oC - at 5.30p.m.!!!
A peek at the thermometer - and this is with
the lid propped slight ajar to allow the
tomatoes to dry...
Far too hot to sun dry anything...

So, lesson learnt.  If ever I sun dry anything again, I must keep my eye on the internal temperature.  Until RMan gets round to making me a solar dryer, that is...

That is very high on my wish list.  Very, very high LOL


  1. Thanks for the reminder! I had just mentioned to SM that I wanted to buy a food dehydrator. This would actually be the better buy as I hate to cook in the oven during the summer. (No cookies or cakes at my house till Fall.)

    What brand/size do you have?

    1. Tami - You can always bake cookies / cakes in a solar oven - it produces no heat in the kitchen ;)

      If you're asking which solar oven I have - it is the SunCook solar oven (http://www.sunok.eu)?

      If it's to solar dryer - then I have the plans for the Solar Food Dryer by Eben Fodor - available on Amazon. Just need RMan to cut the wood to size - I'd be willing to give it a go screwing / gluing the pieces together...

  2. Thank you for this. I bought this same model last year, just as North America headed for winter, and so I really haven't used it. I also have NOT yet found a place where cats, birds, and bears will stay out of such a thing and where I can get the food back in the house easily. When Spring finally comes here, I will try it.

    1. Jane - You're welcome :)

      I PROMISE you will sooooooooo enjoy using your solar oven :)

      Cats and birds - not a problem, remember, it gets hot like an oven. Bears - hmmmmmm...

      Please - could you let me have info on the ladybirds?

    2. Dani,
      The process is called Integrated Pest Management or IPM. It differs place to place because of course, we all have different environments and ecosystems. In the American South, we can buy 10,000 ladybugs (look like British labybirds anyway) in a gauze bag. At dusk you cut open the bag, and hose the bag out which causes them to disperse. They will eat the tick eggs and the following year, we have far diminished ticks biting us and our animals. The "dose" is one packet of 10,000 ladybugs for every acre you wish to keep tick free. Of our fifty acres, we treated 3 acres. This method works well and the ladybugs have remained for years afterward. The ticks beyond those three acres are terrible ! I have also used other IPM methods for other issues. Find out what works for which issues in your own area.
      PS... The bears don't care if something is hot. They will occasionally go after gas grills if you are cooking food which includes potatoes and pineapples. They are less enthralled with meat.

    3. Thanks, Jane - have heard of IPM but haven't heard of buying ladybirds but haven't heard of them for sale in South Africa.

  3. Good job .. I'm so tempted to try such an oven in our summer months .. winter .. forget it .. too many cloudy days and we live in such a low solar area. So the Christmas cakes .. are they brushed with brand/rum and left to 'ripen' til Christmas?

    1. Mrs Mac - LOL - dunno about brushed - maybe drowned is a better word...? ;)

  4. I'm wondering - can't you just dry your stuff on screens (with netting) during your hot season? I've dried stuff that way. My cousin (down south) used to lay the cut fruit on a tin roof with muslin cover and dried all the peaches each year. I've hung up herbs and peppers to dry in warm shade. What is the benefit of an actual solar dryer?

    1. Kris - We live in such a windy, fly ridden place that I would hesitate to dry anything in the open. Definitely covering anything with muslin wouldn't work - I'd spend all day just checking that the "tie-downs" hadn't been blown off their intended duty.

      With a solar dryer it is almost like putting food in one of those old-fashioned net door pantries - except this outside "pantry" is absorbing the heat of the sun and will dehydrate the food without the risk of flies, fruit-flies, dog tongues, dust, etc...

      I could even make RMan his favourite - biltong (jerky)

  5. I love the colorful pictures of all your pots inside the oven! And that juicy-looking chicken is making my mouth water. I priced organic chicken at the market on Saturday, and at $16./pound, I had to decline. When the Farmers' Markets start up again in a few months time, I'll be checking meat prices again. I've relied on a crockpot for my occasional meat-cooking adventures, but your solar oven really has it beat for tasty-looking chicken!

    1. Quinn - And trust me, according to RMan, the food (meat) cooked in a solar oven acquires a completely different flavour to that which is cooked on a stove top / inside an electric oven, because the flavour doesn't escape through the excess steam produced during the cooking process. And tenderness - knives definitely aren't needed at a table which is loaded with solar cooked food :)

  6. oh wow! that food looks awesome! sun-dried tomatoes less so.. :-p

    1. Sprig - LOL - no, not terribly pleasant - and I went and did the SAME to 1/2 of my 2.76 kg onion...

      All a learning curve - and NOW I really, really need that solar dryer!

  7. I love your solar oven! I have wanted one for quite some time, but not sure if we would have enough sun other than in the summer. I guess it never hurts to try.

    Very inspirational post!

    1. Katie - Instead of going to the expense of buying a solar oven, why not try what I did:

      http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/2011/02/solar-oven-questions-and-answers.html - the second pic down)

      I turned an old Coleman's cooler box into a basic solar oven, to see what temperature I could achieve - which was a max of 105 - 110oC). If you find that you can achieve a temp of at least that in a makeshift box, then you should be able to use a "pukker" one.


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