Cooking a chicken in the tin reflector oven

Our two main historic kitchens at the village are Loucks’ summer kitchen, with an 1800’s cookstove and the tenant farmhouse with an open hearth. Each day there is a dinner served around the noon hour in one historic kitchen. This takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Loucks’ farm, where 6 people sit down to eat…two farmers, the cook and invited guests from around the village. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, it is at the tenant farm with the cook, the tenant farmer and two guests eating. On Fridays, the meal takes place at Cook’s Tavern, also prepared on an open hearth. Six to eight people of the village are invited to have either soup in the cold weather or a cold bite in the warmer weather to demonstrate a tavern meal. If you are in a historic kitchen on a non meal day, you prepare an afternoon tea consisting of a historic dessert and a cup of tea. If you are preparing tea, you also make the meat and dessert for the meal the next day in your house. We arrive and set the fires at 9.30 in the morning, so preparing a full dinner from a standing start would be very challenging, and the choices quite limited. Yesterday, I prepared the meat and dessert for Sunday dinner at the tenant farm. I chose to cook a chicken in the tin reflector oven and a raisin pie in the bake kettle.
The first job in using the reflector oven (after giving it a good scrub) is to skewer the chicken on the spit. The spit has two holes in it to so you can put cross skewers through the chicken to hold it in place so it doesn’t just roll around on the spit. You then set the oven about 12 to 16 inches (30-40 cm) from the fire. You have to keep a pretty good fire going while you are cooking the meat and keep turning it every few minutes so it cooks evenly. They did have clock jacks which would turn the spit automatically, but the poor tenant farmers don’t own one, so it is a fully manual operation down there. I cooked it for 3 1/2 hours but it was probably done after 3. Horror of salmonella and all that…
I also did a raisin pie in the bake kettle while the chicken was cooking.

Raisin Pie Filling

2 cups raisins
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp butter

Put raisins in a saucepan with the boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. In a seperate bowl, stir together brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt. Add the dry mixture to the boiling raisins and cook 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and butter. Let the filling cool completely, then put it in a double pie crust and make a decorative pattern of holes in the top crust to let the filling vent as it cooks.
Bake 1/2 hour in the bake kettle or until crust looks done and the filling is piping hot. At home this would be about half an hour in a 350 oven.

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2 thoughts on “Cooking a chicken in the tin reflector oven

  1. NancyMac

    I absolutely love, love, love these stories!!!! And of course the wonderful recipes/photos you share! It is so interesting to learn how things are done ‘the old way’…makes one very grateful for big luxuries like electricity đŸ˜‰

    Reply

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