As this is the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, we have been immersed in our 1914 to 1919 volumes here at the “Friend”. What a treasure trove we found! There were accounts of poison gas injuries; appeals for our brave allies like Roumania and brave little Belgium; patterns to make rifle gloves and household tips for when fuel are scarce, such as this one below . . .
Saving The Fuel – The Hay Box
A few of my housewife readers have written to me recently asking me to explain a little about hay box cookery, and as I know most of us are open to economical tips these days, I thought you would all be interested to hear how you prepare this wonderful “oven”.
First of all you get a sound, wooden case, such as a good sugar box, line it neatly with a good many thicknesses of newspaper, and over this tack a piece of house flannel or any old clean woollen material. The lid must also be lined in the same way, and it should be fastened to the box by leather or iron hinges. A hasp and staple in front will keep it securely shut when in use.
Whatever you are to cook in it, the stew, porridge or soup is brought well to the boil on the fire in a covered pot first, and cooked for a minute or two. The pot is then removed and wrapped in a piece of old flannel or blanket, and plunged into the clean hay, with which the wooden box should have been filled. The hay must be tightly packed all round as well as under and over the pot, but for the top covering it is best to make a hay mattress, as this can be lifted on and off without any litter.
By this method, of course, dishes take twice as long as if cooked in the ordinary way, but they will not be spoiled if left longer. Porridge can be made the evening before and left all night, when it will be quite ready for use the next morning, and will only need a minute or two’s heating up before serving. This heating up may be necessary for stews and soups in cold weather. The saving of fire is very great, especially when gas or oil are being used as fuel.
With modern-day energy bills so shockingly high, perhaps our great-grandmothers had the right idea!