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July 16, 2006

Book Review: The Open-Hearth Cookbook

Filed under: review, books, cooking, food — suzanne henderson @ 10:12 am

The Open-Hearth Cookbook

[The Open-Hearth CookBook: Recapturing the Flavor of Early America|The Open-Hearth CookBook] by [Suzanne Goldenson] and [Doris Simpson].

This book provides a brief, yet detailed, overview of early American cooking in the fireplace. It discusses the cooking implements used for cooking and describes the differences between wealthy households and average households. Descriptions on how to build and maintain a fire, judge cooking temperatures and times, and how to use even a modern day fireplace to recreate meals from the past are included.

I found the details about how yesteryear cooking was accomplished very interesting and motivating for getting a fireplace big enough to try it out. The authors provide descriptions of their attempts to recreate past recipes and also include many recipes that most families, today, could use. There are little bits of information that really make this book an excellent resource for someone looking to bring open-hearth cooking into their home — like detailing the instruments used and stating how antique collectors make it almost impossible, financially, to obtain certain authentic, useful equipment. However, they do assure you that any modern blacksmith would be able to help to make equipment you may not be able to find.

I also enjoyed seeing how the cooking methods did not differ greatly from our stove top cooking today. The authors even explain how we continue to use the same senses to determine cooking temperature and times in meal preparation. They mentioned that the desire for gas ranges truly reflects how we’ve continued these early cooking methods because of the ability to allow our visual and physical clues tell us about the heat versus reliance on a electric cook tops that probably provides more accurate temperature control.

Great book for anyone looking to cook over a fire — be aware that it probably takes a little more effort and a lot more wood than you originally thought. This books goes well with [The Forgotten Art of Building and Using a Brick Bake Oven] by [Richard M. Bacon].