Appalachia Appalachian Food

Cooking on a Wood Stove

smiling elderly lady sitting in chair

Granny Gazzie

When I was a girl Granny Gazzie had a wood cook stove in her kitchen. It set close by her electric stove and she used them both.

I remember peeking into the fire of the cook stove as Granny or Aunt Fay lifted the eyes out.

Granny Gazzie kept left over biscuits in the top warmer of the cook stove and I always made a bee-line to get me one before Sunday dinner was served. She made the best biscuits!

Mamaw Marie’s kitchen only had an electric stove in it that I remember. But it had to have a cook stove at one time because the house was built before electricity came to Wilson Holler. There was a wood stove in the living room. The house was so tiny that the living room and kitchen were pretty much the same room so maybe she cooked on it or it was previously a cook stove.

There are tons of things I wish I could ask Mamaw and Granny Gazzie about. One of my many questions would be about cooking on wood stoves. Especially about canning on wood stoves.

Last week I listened to the fourth episode of Foxfire’s new podcast.

The show shares memories of wood stove cooking from Addie Norton, Lola Cannon, Bessie Underwood, and Sharon Stiles. You can go here to listen to it. You can also go here and scroll down to read a transcript of the podcast.

I so enjoyed listening to the ladies talk about cooking on a wood stove. I imagine Mamaw and Granny Gazzie would have had similar thoughts and experiences. I also greatly enjoyed the young interviewers choice of words. Their Appalachian accents were shining through all over the place 🙂

Tipper

p.s. You can catch The Pressley Girls over the next few weeks at the following places:

July 19, [email protected] 7:00 p.m. Historic Union County Courthouse – Blairsville GA

July 27, 2019 @ 8:00 p.m. Vogel State Park Blairsville – GA

August 3, 2019 @ 8:00 p.m. Mountain Dance and Folk Festival – Asheville NC

August 17, 2019 @ 2:10 p.m. Swain County Agriculture Fair – Bryson City NC

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Tamela
    July 15, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    I have memories of my Kansas grandmother cooking on her wood stove, having ice delivered for her ice box, storing canned goods and root vegetable in her root cellar/storm shelter. The pancakes made on the griddles over the firebox were so light and fluffy! I was in awe watching her stick her arm in the firebox to determine whether or not to add more wood or just stir the fire -I don’t recall her ever getting burned. She did have a hand pump in the kitchen for water – never asked if the house was build over a well. Only had an out house or chamber pot for personal sanitation needs. She had a wringer washing machine that she rolled into the kitchen from the back porch so she did have to carry hot water from the stove so far when she did laundry. She also had an oval wash tub for bathing, again, with water heated on the stove.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      July 15, 2019 at 11:18 pm

      Daddy bought a washer with a gasoline engine somewhere. As usual mine and Harold’s curiosity insisted that we take it apart to see how it worked. As usual we couldn’t put it back together again. That ended the gasoline washing machine adventure.

    • Reply
      Mary Lou McKillip
      August 5, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      Tipper I wish I could go back and eat some of is Julie’s cooking on wood stove like field Fried corn and chocolate gravy and fried chicken

  • Reply
    Cheryl Christensen Bennett
    July 15, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    I have already admitted to not really cooking but when I was first married my husband and I moved to a fairly remote cabin in the California mountains. Although we had electricity, there was only a wood stove for heating and a wood stove to cook on so I learned. Imagine my surprise (non-cooker/baker that I am) the first time I made biscuits and they were delicious!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    July 15, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    I learned to cook on a wood stove back in the 70’s. Best was baking bread and second best was heating up water to wash my hair since we did not have hot water at Cloud Farm.

    It’s tricky keeping the temperature constant, but not too complicated and I am glad to have acquired this skill. We may need it after the apocalypse.

  • Reply
    Crystal Wilson
    July 15, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    I have a cook stove with a reservoir and warmer. I use it in the Fall and Winter. I treat the eyes over the fire box like high on an electric. The further from the fire box the less the heat. The temperature dial on the oven works too. I have a wee cast iron cookove outside. Pressure Canning is tough on a woodstove. Water bath which is what our Grannies did is pretty easy.

  • Reply
    Fay N Pitts
    July 15, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    I remember when the garden produce was ready to can in the hot summer time. The kitchen would be so hot when she used the stove in the summer time. We didn’t have electricity yet in the community we lived in back in 1942. Mama cooked the food and got it ready to go in the jars. A fire was built around the wash pot outside and water was put in the pot to put the cans of food into for the hot water bath. Then old clothes and rags was placed around the jars to keep them from touching and getting broke. For our family of nine people, mama used put up 450 to 500 jars of meat, vegetables, pickles, kraut, jams and jellies and canned fruit every year. She also had lots of dried peaches and apples, as well as popcorn and peanuts to feed our family till we had another garden the next year. I know this was a big job but the children big enough to help pitched in to get the job done quicker. One of my jobs was to was and rinse the jars for Mama and the older girls to fill up. These were good memories and happy times with all of us working together.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    July 15, 2019 at 11:47 am

    My grandmother cooked on a wood stove all her life even though an electric was installed. we would go every Sunday to visit and us boys would split a large pile of pine slabs for her to use. The slabs were sawn into about 12″ lengths and we would split into pieces about 1″ wide. She would use a couple at the time to keep the heat just right.

    I was probably only 10 or 12 at the time. Imagine a kid using an ax today to split wood. the parents would go to jail for child endangerment.

    As everyone says the biscuits from that stove were the best. My mama never learned to make them as good as Ma.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    July 15, 2019 at 11:34 am

    My Granny Salmon’s believed that electricity was the work of the devil and insisted on her wood cookstove. She wouldn’t touch the electric range. She also wouldn’t talk on the telephone. For some reason, she was alright with the icebox (refrigerator).

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      July 15, 2019 at 5:05 pm

      So Hell has electric heat? Who woulda thunk it?

  • Reply
    Brenda
    July 15, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Growing up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, we had a wood cookstove for cooking and a wood heater for heat. My mother cooked breakfast every morning and supper every evening no matter what the temperature was. Being an only child my chore was to carry the stove wood in everyday. We had a large garden and we did a lot of canning all done on the wood cookstove. When I grew up and left home I still would go help her with the canning because there is no better food than what we grew in our own garden.
    In 2009, after my dad passed away, I built her a new house that had an electric stove and I brought the wood cookstove to my house. Now I use it mainly in the winter to help keep the kitchen cosy and I cook a few things mainly for the memories.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 15, 2019 at 10:14 am

    At the old John DeHart place where Daddy built the new house there was an outdoor stove. Just down the road, on the left up in the bank was the old Tom Southards place. It also had an outdoor stove. The stoves were made of rock and concrete with a chimley in back. The stove top was made of cast iron, probably from an older indoor stove. These stoves had fallen into disrepair by the time I came along but there was enough left to understand how they were used. That’s how they did their canning and cooking during the hot summer months. The predecessor to today’s outdoor grill.

  • Reply
    George
    July 15, 2019 at 9:31 am

    George

  • Reply
    Diane Tuttle
    July 15, 2019 at 9:28 am

    After she got an electric stove, my great-grandmother kept a wood stove on her back porch. When the vegetables were ready to can, the men folk would pick up that stove (it took four) and move it to the back yard close to the well. I have fond memories of cousins playing and mama canning. I can’t remember where the men were. Probably recovering from picking up the stove and preparing to move it back to the porch at the end of the day.

  • Reply
    K
    July 15, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Tipper,
    When I was growing up we had a Woodstove too, complete with a Warming Closet on top. Mama could make the best biscuits and Cornbread you ever saw. Me and Harold would sneek out of bed at night and see if they were any leftover of cornbread and pinto beans. We’d get us a plate or bowl of ’em and have us a feast. That was before Dope Heads and such was even thought about. We didn’t even Lock our doors. Mama and Daddy was in the next room, but they didn’t care anyway. They knew it was just us looking for something to fill our craw till Breakfast. Oh, how I wish I could relive those times. …Ken

  • Reply
    Shirl
    July 15, 2019 at 8:44 am

    How in the world did they do it, especially during the summer months? My mom kept the stove going from before daylight until supper was done. Mom never cooked quick and simple things like one pot meals. Most suppers took hours of preparation. Meals like soup beans, fried taters and a big dish pan of lettuce usually had to be started early afternoon so we could be ready to eat as soon as daddy got home from the mines.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    July 15, 2019 at 8:08 am

    My memories of a cookstove go back to canning in the summer kitchen that was attached to the back of the house. It had a large table running lengthwise, a huge sink with a pump, and the cookstove.
    My five aunts, including my Mother would spend all day in there canning what ever was in season.
    It was so hot in there I don’t know how they could stand it. They did come out looking rather bedraggled.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 15, 2019 at 8:06 am

    We had both a gas and a wood cook stove in the house I grew up in. I can’t remember how, or whether, each were used for different things. But the wood stove was kept goibg all day in mid-summer at canning time. The kitchen was hot as blazes and we had a pedestal fan out on the back porch blowing through the kitchen. Me and my brother had to stay within hearing outside to bring wood in. The stove wouldn’t hold much wood so we were kept busy.

    Somewhere along the way the wood stove went away and all the cooking was done on the gas.

    Looking back now I’m amazed at the skill required to cook on a wood stove with different heat intensities regulated mostly by the amount and kind of wood and the timing of adding it. I expect it just became second nature after awhile and didn’t have to be thought about.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 15, 2019 at 7:12 am

    My grandmother, Granny to me and Aunt Dollie to non grandchildren, Had a wood cook stove and an electric stove in the kitchen. She used both but as time went on the electric stove was used more and more probably because of the effort to get the wood in for cooking. I remember that the cornbread and biscuits were better cooked in the wood stove. They seemed lighter and crisper.
    I’ve never cooked on a wood stove but I imagine it would take a little time to make the adjustment. It would also be hot in the summer cooking on a wood fire. People had to be hardier then to survive!

    • Reply
      Mary Lou McKillip
      July 15, 2019 at 3:52 pm

      Tipper I remember the wood cook stove I used to play with this girl on Marble Judy May she had the sweetest grandmother who had biscuit and streak a lean bacon between just saved for us . Oh how I love to visit her

  • Reply
    tmc
    July 15, 2019 at 5:41 am

    I think I remember Daddy saying his Daddy always kept Mamaw a stack of Hackberry wood for cooking his biscuits with, said it made the biscuits taste better. We have a smoker/grill, and I know a different blend of woods does make the meat taste different, like just cooking with just hickory or a blend of hickory, cherry and maple even a small amount of apple flavors it a tad different.

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