Open hearth cooking

April 27, 1999

Open hearth cookingBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

What's hot?

Open-hearth cooking is hot - really, really hot.

Step into the kitchen of Boonsboro Historical Society's Bowman House on the fourth Sunday of the month from about March through October and you'll find out just how hot it is.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Bowman House, the 19th-century log structure that was the home and place of business of potter John Bowman, is open for tours from 1 to 4 p.m. Denny Warrenfeltz demonstrates open-hearth cooking in the kitchen.


Last Sunday, April 25, his wife, Shawen Warrenfeltz, had started the blazing fire of hickory, oak and some apple wood. Those woods were chosen for the heat they produce. It was intense, filling the entire kitchen with almost unbearable warmth.

But Denny Warrenfeltz loves it. "It's become a passion," he said. "I can cook better over an open fire than I can pop a bag of popcorn in the microwave," he added.

With open-hearth cooking, you don't cook on the fire, but on the coals, he explained. He used a small shovel to drag glowing embers out to the hearth from under the metal grate that held the burning logs. He stepped away, blinking from the intense heat.

Warrenfeltz had a few things going. In a large pan on a metal stand, a length of pork sausage simmered in apple cider. Warrenfeltz baked lemony Common Cupcakes, each in a buttered and floured pottery cup. Several cups were placed in an iron Dutch oven on coals and covered with a lid with more coals on top. Old redware, such as that made by potter John Bowman, never would be used today because of the chance of breaking and the hazard of the lead glazes, Denny Warrenfeltz said.

A crock of Gumbis bubbled on a small metal trivet. Warrenfeltz described the concoction as a "peasant dish" of cabbage, onions, potatoes and bacon he had fried earlier. Any kind of leftover meat could be used in the stew, he added.

Shawen Warrenfeltz had baked a deep-dish apple pie and fried some chicken.

Denny Warrenfeltz obviously can "take the heat" in the small kitchen. He enjoys open hearth cooking - even took a four-day course last summer at Landis Valley Museum near Lancaster, Pa.

Open-hearth cooking combines several of the Funkstown florist's interests: A 27- or 28-year member of Boonsboro Historical Society, Denny Warrenfeltz loves history. He said he's usually a stickler for authenticity. For example, in the time of the Bowman family, people probably would have used dried fruit, because the fall harvest's apples most likely would be gone by this time of year.

Denny Warrenfeltz also loves gardening and cooking with herbs. The Bowman House garden he tends is patterned after a raised-bed garden he saw on his way to the school bus as a child in Boonsboro. On Sunday, he garnished his creations with lemon balm and parsley from the back yard.

Denny Warrenfeltz is planning his menu for Sunday, May 23. He'll probably prepare chicken. He does a wonderful beef with slices of horseradish, but people in the time of Bowman most likely wouldn't have killed a steer or hog at this time of year, because they would have no way to keep it, he said.

He is thinking about a salad of greens - lettuce, spinach and maybe some mustard - with a hot bacon dressing, perhaps some asparagus, May wine flavored with strawberries and woodruff blossoms. He also may make herbal tea.

Warrenfeltz has been wanting to try a recipe for biscuits made with cracklings - the crispy remainder of rendered fat - instead of lard. Dessert may include rhubarb pie or lemon cupcakes or biscuit shortcake with fresh strawberries.

Sometimes the food he prepares is dinner for him and his wife, but sometimes, visitors can sample the old-time food as well as feeling the heat that cooked it.

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