Summer of Solar Cookin’


Homegrown Neighbor here:

I was lucky to recently receive a really nice solar cooker from a family friend. Apparently it had been sitting in her garage for a while, and I was happy to take it off of her hands.
The model is called an SOS Sport. It is a box style cooker with a black interior and clear, insulated lid. It also has a removable reflector to help concentrate the light in the box. The reflector is helpful, but I’ve seen the temperature get up to nearly 200 degrees without it during the middle of the day. It came with two round 3 quart pots, so it can cook up quite a lot of food.
Summer is here and it is nice and sunny in Southern California. And way too hot to turn on an oven. So I am embarking on a summer of solar cooking fun. I’ve made a few peach cobblers in the solar cooker, but mostly I use it to cook beans.
I love beans. They are inexpensive, hearty and filling. I keep my pantry stocked with at least two or three different types of dried beans and lentils at all times. I’m usually away all day at work and too exhausted at the end of the day to do much cooking.
I often slump into a chair in the garden at the end of the day, gazing at the veritable cornucopia of vegetables before me, wishing someone would harvest them and make me dinner.
The solar cooker is perfect for someone like me because I can load it up in the morning, leave it all day, and when I come home I have a great meal hot and ready. So it is kind of like a crock pot or slow cooker, just using solar energy instead of electricity. I’ve made a lot of black beans in it, but I’ve also used it to cook pintos, adzukis, mung beans and white beans. I usually grab a sprig of an herb or a bay leaf from the garden to throw in the pot.
Here is what I made today:
Solar Powered Navy Beans

2 cups navy beans
a handful of celery leaves
5 garlic cloves, whole
1/4 cup pickled red onion (just sliced red onion soaked overnight in white wine vinegar- delicious with everything)
Lots of water- maybe 4-5 cups
You want to make sure to use plenty of water. Beans absorb a lot of water as they rehydrate and the solar cooker looses some moisture as it cooks. So err on the side of extra water.
I’m not much of one for measuring. The great thing about making beans, soups and stews is you can add a pinch of this and a sprig of that and adjust the flavoring as you go. It is very forgiving.
I put the pot in the solar cooker around 10 a.m. and got home around 6 p.m. The pot was still nice and warm but not too hot. The beans were the perfect eating temperature. I had a lovely dinner and I’ll have leftovers for several days. I love easy meals. I’m going car camping next week and I’m thinking of taking the solar cooker with me. I think I’ll try a vegetarian chili for the camping trip. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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11 Comments

  1. I’ve been wanting to make a solar cooker for a few years now, but still have other, more pressing projects to get done first, but I’m still going to make one!

    I have a black enamel covered pot that I found in an antique store that I’m saving for my solar cooker- it should just the right size and shape for a loaf of bread!

    Some day, in the future beyond peak oil, solar cookers will be everywhere…

  2. If you type ‘solar cookers’ into the search box, you will find many more Homegrown Evolution posts on solar cookers including a few DIY designs.
    Also check out http://www.solarcookers.org.
    I’ve tried to make several different models, with varying success. I was lucky to get this nice pre-fab one for free.
    It works really well.

  3. I love baked beans and Boston baked beans are my favorite (sugar and molassas, what’s not to like). I grew up around Boston and I’m old enough to remember my parents bringing a bean pot to the bakery the night before. They would put the pots in their ovens after the bread was cooked (usually about 6 AM) and they would stay in the oven until my father picked it up for dinner that evening. In fact I can remember sitting in a high chair eating my third helping of beans. I still love beans but so many people don’t, go figure. The other local treat we would always have with Saturday’s dinner of beans was canned brown bread. Awesome! I don’t know if you have ever had canned brown bread because you just don’t see it outside of New England but it’s worth a try. I have seen recipies for it so you can make it yourself.

  4. It’s actually not a bad price for this kind of oven. The Global Sun Oven is more expensive–would like to see the two compared. I’ve been trying to build an oven like this but it’s kind of tricky. Panel cookers are great–see our post on the Cookit solar cooker, but they don’t quite get the heat that a solar oven can deliver.

  5. You can find solar cooking plan and ideas at solarcooking.org. Solar Cookers International is a non profit that has been working for over 20 years to bring solar cooking to all!

  6. I attended several solar cooking potlucks in AZ this summer to get some ideas about the various types of ovens. An elderly lady in Bisbee, AZ has one like this, but says if it gets too hot (like it DOES in AZ) it melts since it is plastic. There are tons of plans for building your own in the internet. My daughter’s boyfriend made one out of a box and aluminum foil…like the recycleing ideas best! That includes freebies from neighbors…good score!

  7. Hello. Nice post. I too use the SOS Sport on our deck in West Seattle, hitting 250F easily. We cook many stews, veggies, quesadillas, fish, and baked desserts (just made a blackberry / blueberry bread and a carrot / coconut cake this afternoon. Delish! It is an excellent solar oven — and light-weight. I highly recommend. :) Best regards, Jonathan — http://www.designtrek.net

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