Foraging for cooking fuel and haybox bean soup

Everywhere I look I see fuel!

I went foraging for fuel for my new EcoZoom rocket stove a couple of days ago.  I hauled in a long, skinny maple branch that had fallen a couple years ago in an ice storm.  Brought it into the shop and cut it into 1 ft lengths with hubby’s miter saw, then split (as best I could) the thicker end into kindling.  Everything’s wet from the recent rain so I hauled my treasure into the house to dry out (there is no part of the house that is off limits to my projects!)

I got the brilliant idea that the rocket stove and the hay box were a match made in heaven.  Since I needed something more challenging to cook with both, I decided to make a pot of bean soup.

It took 30 minutes to bring the room temperature ingredients and cold ham hocks to a boil from the time I started the fire in the stove.  About 8 quarts.  Rushed the pot to the haybox (which was about 40 degrees to start!) and let the soup cook for three hours. It was 165 degrees. At that point I needed to add veggies, so I prepared the food, started the stove again, dumped the veggies in the pot and heated it to boiling again before putting the pot back in the box. It’ll simmer for another hour or two to cook the veggies.

So, except for a flick of the lighter, there was zero energy cost to slow cook a giant pot of bean soup.  (don’t remind me about using the miter saw!  LOL!) And I barely skimmed the top few sticks off the top of the fuel box.

There are worse things than tending a fire on a cool, cloudy Fall day.

Edit to add:   After two more hours in the haybox, the carrots and celery were cooked al dente, the beans were perfect and the ham hock meat was falling off the bone.  This is really a delicious recipe and the “alternative” cooking devices did not disappoint!



  • Comments (7)

    • 2

      Barb, I am inspired. I looked up hay box cookers (I had heard of them elsewhere on this site before) and found a wealth of information on how to make one.  I’ve found a use for a comforter whose filling all drifted to the edge. Yeah! And for urbanites who may not have the space or materials, I also learned there are modern versions that use a vacuum insulated exterior.  

      • 2

        Thanks Alicia!  I am going to try for a pot roast today.  I have been stumped to this point cooking a thick cut of meat because I got the idea the food has to be submerged in water for enough thermal mass.  I definitely don’t want boiled pot roast, I want it to be more “braised”, so I have rich stock to make gravy.  One YouTuber claimed to make “roast” chicken in his haybox, but it was really just stewed. I just watched a video of cooking a pot roast in a Wonder Bag and it looks really do-able.  I have a fair number of links to original thermal/fireless cookbooks if you’d like to see them.  There is a learning curve!

        Since there’s not likely to be much fresh meat in a grid down situation, I think making the bean soup was really great because beans take such a long time to cook.  It would save so much power to be able to cook beans, the prepper’s friend (!) in a thermal cooker! And they can be made with almost all scrounged materials!

        One thing I’m working on is how to heat soapstone bricks to make “radiators” for a thermal cooker instead of relying on water for the thermal mass.  Not pursuing it too actively at the moment, but it’s on my list of projects.

      • 1

        In a grid down situation, I will have a lot of meat to eat up from the freezer, likely faster than I can get through it all.  So learning how to do meat and seafood is probably a good idea. Redneck’s red beans recipe is a good starting place.

        I saw that “roasted” chicken in a haybox video too and had the same response. To get the braise maybe add broth or a canned soup. And it may take another boil cycle. My midwestern mom put cream of mushroom soup over a chuck roast in a slow cooker.        I loved it and was my go to for years. 

      • 2

        I’ve slowly been turning all the meat in the freezer into heat-and-eat vacuum sealed individual meals.  I’ve got pot roast, roast turkey, meat loaf, spaghetti sauce, assorted soups, stew, and plain old hamburger and pork chops that only need to be fried.  Also meal sized packets of gravy and cranberry sauce!  Now I’m regularly reaping the benefit of short bursts of cooking by tossing a sealed bag in simmering water, so “first in, first out” is quite enjoyable!  And the vac sealed food tastes freshly prepared.

      • 1

        I was working on a home maintenance article for The Prepared and came across the tip to have your freezer set for 0 degrees. Any lower and you can build up frost due to the freezer not being able to expel moisture and it also leads to the freezer burn taste in food. I stuck a thermometer in my freezer because I have been experiencing both of those symptoms and it was right, my freezer was set to -5F. I adjusted the thermostat and it is now set to 0F. I haven’t seen a buildup of frost anymore and should save a little on electricity not having to have the freezer set to so low. 

        I mention this to encourage you to check your freezer and not have all that hard work you are going to not taste as well if it gets freezer burn.

      • 2

        Thank you Gideon!  And yes, my freezers are set below zero.  I’ll fix that today.  You must, my friend, invest in those little external freezer/fridge thermometers! :o)  You can watch them like a hawk when the power goes out and see when the freezer needs a little kick from the generator!

        I have also noticed a spread of temps above and below whatever temp the freezer is set at, by watching the external thermometers.  There’s probably a good 3-5 degree swing in both directions.

        One of our freezers is essentially an antique, that works better than new freezers, but it does build up a bit of frost, so this will be helpful!

        And on the plus side, vacuum sealing seems to eliminate freezer burn and off flavors.

      • 1

        I do want those external freezer thermometers with an alarm. Still on my wish list!

        I’ve heard vacuum sealing eliminates freezer burn. Also another thing I would like to add to my food storage supplies in the future.