Saturday, 22 October 2016

Haybox Construction - A Really Slow Cooker

I have long been fascinated by the idea of hay box cookery - ever since I was a child and read about it in one of the Fell Farm series of books.         Food could be put into a box of hay and hours later it would still be hot and perfectly cooked?  How could that be possible?   It seemed incredible to me then and I still like the idea now.

I know we don't really need one, the Rayburn does all the cooking while also heating the house and the water.   It is simply to satisfy my curiosity.  

My long-suffering husband is going to make one for me, using the instructions from an old book on Haybox construction and cookery.

This illustration gives one method.   It is slightly different from the old book which I have, but the basic principle is the same.

Image borrowed from:

You simply need a strong wooden box with a tight-fitting lid, make sure there are no open cracks.
The box should  be well lined to keep it as airtight as possible.    You could use old newspapers covered with old blanket and lined with calico - or modern insulating materials.   Definitely not the asbestos sheets which this book recommends!

Pack the box really tightly with small balls of newspaper, almost filling the box.  To go on top of the filling, make two calico cushions which should be tightly stuffed with balls of paper.

The lid of the box should be hinged on one side and the other fixed with a hook so that the inside of the box is as well insulated as possible, so the two cushions should press well down on top of the filling.

The idea is to make sure that the hot food put into the box continues to cook as long as possible in its own heat.     Therefore it needs to be as hot as possible when it is put in.     In general it is suggested that food should be cooked for a third of the time that it would normally take to cook by heat, then it should be quickly transferred to the hay box.    It should then be left in the closed hay box for at least twice as long as you would normally cook it, although you could leave it for longer.

Other uses of a haybox.

Washing - stains can be removed if cloths are put in cold water with a little borax, brought to the boil and then left for six hours in the hay box.

Shaving water can be ready first thing in the morning if it is boiled at night and then left in the haybox.

Chicken Food can be cooked through the night, ready for a warm feed in the morning - just don't mix up which pan has the hens' mash and which one holds the porridge.

Note:  It is essential that the saucepan transferred to the hay box should be nearly full and the contents brought to boiling point before they are put in, which must be done as quickly as possible so that the minimum amount of heat is lost.

I just need to find a suitable wooden box; for some reason he is reluctant to let me experiment on the little wooden trunk which he uses as a bedside cabinet.   Meanie!

It is also worth pointing out that we should be careful about what books we give to our children...

Happy Birthday to my youngest.     Thirty-four years old, today!    See you later.  xxx


  1. That book certainly stuck in your imagination! It is about time your fantasy is realised. I've always wanted my husband to make a sun cooker. When the crisis started here I stockpiled food and a sun cooker would have made us able to live off grid. He unfortunately didn't think the same . Good luck with your project

    1. Hello Linda, It certainly did. It was about a family who had to get by without their parents and with very little money. I believe it was set somewhere up in the Lake District. I've just tracked down a copy of the book so I'll have a read and find out if it is as I remember (fitting it in and around the Elizabeth Gaskell, of course!) and how much time and age has altered it.
      I'm now going off to google sun cookers...

    2. Goodness, that is amazing. We'd only get about one hot meal a year in this country - and that would be on the one day we didn't need it! ;)

  2. I cannot wait to see the results (eat the results)... x

    1. Hello Dom, It will be interesting, that's for sure. Porridge sounds like a good place to start. ...Are you up for the Mince Pie competition? x


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