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Old 08-20-2017, 02:08 PM   #1
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Name: Kelly
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slow cooking history lesson

I follow the blog of a fellow model maker who lives in London. His hobby is "mud larking". That means he explores the shorelines of the Thames and other rivers looking for interesting and ancient artifacts that turn up in the muddy banks of the river. As part of my interest in old buildings from that area of the world I enjoy reading about how things were done in that time, not just structures but also the contents of buildings and methods of work including domestic. Recently I helped him identify some round disc shaped objects that had a hole in the middle as being drop spindle whorls used for hand spinning fibers into yarn.

So he sent me another mystery to solve. A photo of a number of slightly over 1 inch in diameter ceramic balls that he keeps finding in one location. My answer back was had he ever heard of the story of "stone soup"? The tale is about being so poor that there is nothing of substance in the soup other than stones. Being modern we are at a disconnect as to why people would have such a tale. But in actuality the stones were put into ceramic pots to provide the heat for slow cooking. Then of course the pots were put into some type of insulation such as nested into a box of straw. Now we have people making insulated blankets for slow cooking. However those makers of the cookers don't realize that there should also be a long lasting heat holding source inside of the pots for the most effective cooking of the contents, stones or what they evolved into, reusable ceramic balls. These ceramic cooking balls have been found in archeological digs around the world including the digs at James Town in the USA, keywords "cook stone cuisine". I guess you could have a potter make you some if you want to use an insulated slow cooker pot. They will help things cook faster and stay hot longer than just pre-warming the food and the pot. Of course they should be removed before serving the meal and also be larger than 1 inch so that they are readily visible and not bitten into if one is overlooked before serving. What is an old way of cooking can become new again

The photo of the ceramic balls my mud larking friend found on the bank of the Thames.
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Old 08-20-2017, 08:18 PM   #2
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Old 08-20-2017, 08:55 PM   #3
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Cooking Stones

Fascinating history. Thanks for sharing.

But now I need to travel with a pile of stones in my Trillium???
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Old 08-21-2017, 05:28 AM   #4
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Very interesting K C. You have to admire the ingenuity of our ancient ancestors. In fact heating rocks and dropping them in a container is still taught as an alternative method to boil water in a survival situation for cooking or purification. It works when you don't have a metal pot that would stand up to fire or direct heat such as a wooden bowl, hollowed out log, or a bamboo tube.

These rocks appear to be carved or shaped to facilitate retrieval by cordage, probably to re-heat when they cooled off? That indicates someone in the village or tribe making and selling them (barter) to his neighbors.

Fast forward a few thousand years and imagine someone on a forum trying to explain 20th century Pet Rocks to members. I predict much more head scratching and disbelief among the readers.

Thanks for sharing this with us!

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Old 08-21-2017, 09:26 AM   #5
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Stone beans

When I worked on a forest service crew years ago we used to buy the large cans of pork and beans for cooking on a sandbar. We removed the label,and opened the beans . We would then place the can vertical in a larger pot . Then we would find a river stone about the size of a large baking potato and put it in the fire, once it got very hot we used two sticks to pick it out of the fire and lower it into the can of beans. As it dropped to the bottom the beans would boil over into the pot. We'd wait a few minutes, things would cool off to edible temps, dibs were called to scrape the scalded beans off the inside of the can. Tasty. Never worried about germs with that red hot rock.
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Old 08-21-2017, 10:47 AM   #6
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Pressure Cooking Soup

Dave, I'm going to try your Stone Beans cooking next deer season. We hunt in MI's Upper Peninsula. When it's really cold; my brothers and I have been using a method for cooking soup since our Dad passed it down to us in the '50's. I'm sure my Grandpa taught him. You simply put a full unopened can of soup in, or next to the fire, and watch it like a hawk. When the lid swells up, grab the can and shake it quickly to distribute the heat thru the soup. The swelling goes down, and you repeat this every few minutes until the soup is hot. It will not blow up if only the top swells. If the top swells and goes unnoticed, the bottom will pooch out, followed in seconds by a hot soupy explosion. In all the years of doing this, I can count on one hand the number of days I wore soup back to my stand after lunch.

Sorry if this method doesn't use stones or rocks. Also, if there are any lawyers out there; you didn't hear it here. This is a picture of my brothers demonstrating this highly skilled method of pressure cooking soup. Do not try this at home!!

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Old 08-21-2017, 12:35 PM   #7
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The ceramic cooking stones were likely popular as some rocks will split apart when placed into a fire.
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