“You baked that? On your boat?? In a solar oven???”
Whenever I present a double-layer homemade carrot cake like this one I’m sure to be met with incredulous guests. Most cruisers do little baking anyway, so I had them on “from scratch”. Trusting their culinary fortunes to the sun is a real stretch – no way was this delectable dessert baked on the foredeck!
Truth is, the Sea Lady’s galley oven serves mostly as storage for pots & pans. Baking happens on deck, fueled by the toasty Caribbean sun.
This is not a birthday-cake-special-occasion piece of equipment. Propane fuels the morning coffee and little else, save for the rare drizzly day (or for when the cook procrastinates the daylight away). Arroz y habichuelas (Puerto Rican rice & beans) is a staple. Savory sopa de calabaza (pumpkin soup) and spicy jerk chicken show up regularly. Propane-intensive organic brown rice? Savory and fluffy every time after a day in the sun. And there’s seldom a boat in the anchorage that hasn’t sampled fresh-from-the-oven Sea Lady banana bread.
My culinary workhorse is the SOS Sport oven from SolarOvens.org.
It’s lightweight (10lb), and at 12 ¼” high by 27 ¼” long by 17″ deep stows handily under the salon table for passage-making.
Oven temps are typically in the 210º – 260º F. range, maxing out at 300º F. in equatorial zones – hot enough to cook, not hot enough to burn. These temps may seem low, but keep in mind that food begins to cook at 180º F.
Optional reflectors are available to increase the amount of sunshine for the solar oven in less ideal solar conditions. Cooking is done in 9” covered black graniteware pots (two are included with the oven), which serve to increase the cooking temperature of the food inside. With the sun high overhead, banana bread bakes in about 90 minutes, or roughly one-third longer than in a conventional oven.
The included recipe book ranges from starters to soups to mains to desserts, and there are additional solar oven recipes available online. Ratatouille, Tuna Filets with Tomatoes, Olives & Capers, and even the praise-worthy Carrot Cake pictured above – are all in the included recipe book. And I’m happy to report that I’ve found no need to restrict to solar oven recipes – half the fun is trying new dishes and old family favorites.
Let me tell you more about why I love my solar oven:
- Nothing burns. You can put dinner on and leave for a day ashore with nary a second thought.
- Clean-up is a swish (did I mention nothing burns?)
- The galley stays cool
- … and our already-modest carbon footprint – being sailors, afterall - is just that much smaller. How great is that?
If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.
W. Clement Stone
But here’s what I really love about my solar oven.
Every dollar spent on an SOS Sport solar oven goes to a US 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called Persons Helping People (the sponsor of the Solar Oven Society), dedicated to helping alleviate hunger in developing countries by helping people help themselves.
|Firewood Collecting in Burkina Faso – Photo SolarOvens.org|
More than 50% of trees cut globally are used for cooking fires. One family cooking with wood produces approximately 7.6 tons per year of CO2 and damaging smoke particulates.
|Kabul, Afghanistan – Photo SolarOvens.org|
Ovens just like mine show up in Haiti, Cambodia, Afghanistan, the Congo and elsewhere in the world where conventional firewood cooking strips the land bare and ensures that women and children have little chance of breaking out of the daily grind – not if the family is to eat that night.
All in all, solar cooking is good cooking: sumptuous meals, a cool galley, extra propane, and a small contribution to the family cooks around the world that are not as fortunate as this one, swaying at anchor in the sunny Caribbean.
If you’d like to learn more, see www.solarovens.org.
SV Sea Lady
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Update (Sep 2015)
Anne loved her solar oven so much she recommended it to her sailing friends. But in 2013, the Solar Oven Society funding dwindled. After supplying more than 20,000 solar ovens to people around the world over 15 years, the organization stopped production.
Anne Patterson launched Solavore™ in 2015, resuming production of SOS’s flagship oven, the Sport.
With guidance from SOS’s founders and the Sport’s designers, Anne is applying a career’s-worth of business savvy to build a robust, sustainable company that generates not only profits but also social and environmental dividends.
About Anne Patterson
|Anne strolling Zoni Beach on Culebra, Puerto Rico,
while dinner cooks aboard the SEA LADY.
Anne and her husband Ray Seiffert spend their winters in the Caribbean aboard their Peterson 44 and spend their summers in their cottage on Griswold Island, Connecticut – where they also have a solar oven.
More from this website
Slow Cooking (with a Solar Oven) on a Slow Boat:
Cruiser Heather McCarthy answers a few questions about how solar cooking has opened up a whole new suite of cruising food options for her family.
Galley Advice from 18 Cruising Women: 18 cruising women offer tips and advice for setting up your galley and cooking aboard, discuss the gear that they couldn’t live without, and invite you into their galleys.