‘FIX-IT AND FORGET-IT COOKBOOK/Feasting with your Slow Cooker” by Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good is a recent offering from Good Books of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, published in 2000.
You may recognize the name of Phyllis Pellman Good; I have reviewed her books previously on the pages of the Cookbook Collectors Exchange. She is the author of THE BEST OF AMISH COOKING and THE FESTIVAL COOKBOOK. Phyllis co-authored several cookbooks, including RECIPES FROM CENTRAL MARKET, FAVORITE RECIPES WITH HERBS, THE BEST OF MENNOITE FELLOWSHIP MEALS and FROM AMISH AND MENNONITE KITCHENS. Phyllis and her husband, Merle, reside in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and are co-directors of The People’s Place, a heritage interpretation center in the Lancaster County village of Intercourse, Pennsylvania. (I’d love to visit it!).
You may also recognize the name of Dawn Ranck. She is the co-author of A QUILTERS CHRISTMAS COOKBOOK and FAVORITE RECIPES WITH HERBS.
It may surprise you to learn that the concept of a slow-cooker really isn’t new. In fact, while researching some years ago for an article I titled “KITCHENS WEST” for the CCE, I learned about something called a Hay Box, surely a predecessor of the slow-cooker we are all familiar with today. The Hay Box dates back to pioneer times, when pioneer women and men were trekking across the plains. Hay box Cooking was practiced extensively by pioneer women in their covered wagons, as well as by ranch cooks on the trail.
A suitable wooden box was prepared by lining it with straw; pioneer women often used flannel and shavings. A nest was left for the receptacle, which was usually an earthenware pot. A stew was partially cooked at breakfast, and as soon as the wagons began to move, the stew was poured into the earthenware pot, and put into the hay box, and covered with the remainder of hay or flannel. The meat continued to cook in the insulated box, and at the end of the day a hot meal was ready for immediate serving.
Various detailed descriptions of preparing meals without fuel can be found other books. During World War I and again during World War II, when rationing was in effect and it was necessary to conserve fuel as well, our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used the hay box method with much success. The primitive hay box evolved into the “asbestos box” and the “copper double-tank cooker”.
The author of one cookbook offering a recipe for a Dutch Oven roast also suggests burying a Dutch oven as a great way to slow cook a dish, claiming it will tenderize the toughest game or beans. The authors tell us never soak or scour your Dutch oven as it will rust (true) and “never blame anyone but yourself if you can’t remember where you buried dinner”. (that’s one problem I’ve never encountered).
“Hay Boxes” were the forerunner of the Fireless cooker, actually a very similar device, which enjoyed a spurt of popularity during World War One and Two, especially in Great Britain and places where fuel was strictly rationed.
The Browns (Rose, Cora & Bob Brown) wrote about the fireless cooker in their book “MOST FOR YOUR MONEY” published in 1938, and M.F.K. writes about the Hay Box in her book “HOW TO COOK A WOLF” first published in 1942.
Under a chapter titled “Handy Hints”, the Browns wrote, “We seldom hear of fireless cookers these days, but at one time no so long ago, they were a part of regulation kitchen equipment, and they cut dollars off the yearly fuel bills. World War propaganda further popularized them, for then all housewives were urged to save coal, not so much for their own account as for the dear Allies…Metals, which are wasted in peace times on all sorts of useless contraptions, had to be conserved to death-dealing ends. So the press carried instructions for making fireless cookers at home. All one needed was a wooden box or paper carton, and a lot of old newspapers to insulate it, layers of paper fitted into the bottom of the box and around the sides, with a cylindrical hole left in the center to receive a boiling pot of soup or stew then wads of paper on top to hold in all the heat for hours. An excellent device for long, slow cooking of cheap foods. Dried beans, peas, and lentils, tendered in their unbroken skins, and cereals, started the night before, are still hot at breakfast time and have attained a jelly-like and delicate consistency which only many hours of low heat can give…”
M.F.K. Fisher, in “HOW TO COOK A WOLF”, observes, “Hayboxes are very simple. They are simply strong wooden boxes, one inside another with hay packed between, and if possible, a stout covering of linoleum or oilcloth on the outside. You bring whatever food you want to a sturdy boil, put it tightly covered on a layer of hay in the inside box, pack hay all around it, and cover the box securely. Then you count twice as long as your stew or porridge or vegetables would have taken to cook normally, open the haybox, and the food is done….”
So, you see, what goes around comes around and there is very little new under the sun. Fast forward, and it’s August, 1970, when the Rival Company acquired the assets of Naxon Utilities Corp. This acquisition provided Rival with an old fashioned looking appliance called “The Beanery”. The Beanery was a simple bean cooker, with a blazed brown crock liner. The people at Rival experimented with this kitchen appliance, making bean dishes and other recipes with meat and vegetables. They were pleasantly surprised to discover that the meat turned out better than beans. They did some work on the little bean pot and an initial order of 25,000 units was produced. By associating the crockery liners with its pot-like shape, the people at Rival came up with the name of Crock-Pot®. It wasn’t long before the Crock-Pot became our favorite slow cooker. And for many of us, the name of Crock-Pot is synonymous with slow-cooker. According to Rival, more than 80 million Crock Pot® Slow Cookers have been sold since 1971. (Some of us even have more than one; I have two oval-shaped 5½ quart slow cookers. We had two others before that, smaller ones that I gave away—which I regret now, when I am no longer cooking for two. And yes, I use them quite a lot).
For many years, the only recipes you would find for slow cooker recipes would be those that came with the appliance (I must have several dozen of these pamphlets). However, in recent decades, as we became busier and busier, juggling careers and raising children, PTA and Little League, the Slow Cooker became more popular than ever.
In “FIX-IT AND FORGET-IT COOKBOOK”, Dawn Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good provide more than EIGHT HUNDRED slow cooker recipes, apparently collected from numerous contributors (the authors don’t explain how they went about collecting the recipes. However, there are eough to keep you cooking over two years, by my estimation. “FIX-IT and FORGET-IT COOKBOOK” provides recipes for a lot more than chicken and condensed mushroom soup! And yes, Slow Cooker cookbooks have come a long way since those 70s pamphlets. Who knew?
Dawn and Phyllis provide us with a great wealth of Slow Cooker recipes, recips for appetizers, snacks and spreads, breads, soups and stews, main dishes (many!) and a lot of desserts. I’m sure you know you can make applesauce and puddings with your slow cooker, but did you know you can also make lemon pudding cake? Apple cake? Hot fudge cake? Harvey Wallbanger Cake? Chocolate fondue? Seven Layer Bars? (yes! in your slow cooker!). There are a wealth of main dish recipes in “FIX-IT AND FORGET-IT COOKBOOK”.
Understandably, main dish recipe is our all-time favorite way of using this kitchen appliance. Look for Paul’s Beef Bourguignon, Beef Burgundy or Chinese Pot Roast, Eleanor’s Corned Beef and Cabbage or Cranberry Pork Roast. You won’t believe all the selections – and they all sound delicious!
“FIX-IT AND FORGET-IT COOKBOOK” is a wonderful addition to our kitchen cookbook favorites. It’s become one of my favorites. I think it will be one of your favorites too!
“FIX-IT AND FORGET-IT COOKBOOK” published in 2001 was a soft-covered cookbook, selling for a reasonable $13.95 when new. Now, here is a curious update – the book was republished in 2005 (Alibris has the best price for the 2005 edition @ 99c); it was reprinted in 2008 and a preowned copy on Amazon.com is $9.74. It was reprinted yet again in 2010; a new copy on Amazon is $8.49, pre-owned $7.85. And oddly enough, Amazon is listing a Fix it and Forget 5 INGREDIENT COOKBOOK for sale pre-owned at $3.39. And apparently, there are plenty of copies to go around.
Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!