An open tradition

November 24, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

The fireplace in the kitchen of Kristin and Rob Grosh's 1780 stone farmhouse near Smithsburg is 12 feet wide.

The family doesn't build a lot of fires in the winter because the double flues pull the heat out of the house. But the fireplace roars in the spring and fall.

"I love the smell of a fire," Kristin Grosh said.

She will cook parts of her Thanksgiving dinner at the open hearth. The food is cooked - not in the fire, but on the coals. The turkey is more moist, she said. The food doesn't taste smoky at all.

She'll do the turkey in a reflector oven in front of the hearth. It's similar to a rotisserie, Kristin Grosh said. She'll put the turkey on a spit and turn it with a hand crank about every half-hour. The open hearth has no temperature gauge, but that's not a problem. It takes about the same amount of time as it would in a regular oven. The bird should be browning nicely. If it gets too dark, Kristin Grosh sets the oven back from the fire.


She's been doing open-hearth cooking for nearly 15 years. It frees up your oven for other dishes, Grosh said.

She took a class in the technique several years ago at the Renfrew Institute for Cultural & Environmental Studies in Waynesboro, Pa., and has learned a lot from Denny Warrenfeltz, longtime member of the Washington County and Boonsboro historical societies. Warrenfeltz catered a dinner at the Groshes and has done open-hearth cooking demonstrations at the Boonsboro Historical Society's Bowman House. Kristin Grosh taught a class for the Washington County Historical Society.

She encourages people to try the open-hearth method. It doesn't have to be in a 12-foot fireplace in a historic home. Open-hearth cooking can happen in a new fireplace in a new home.

"It doesn't have to be a sloppy thing," Grosh said.

She's found many of her open-hearth cooking tools at Market Fair, held annually in April at Fort Frederick State Park. There also are catalogs that offer reflector ovens and cast-iron utensils. Kristin Grosh has long-handled skillets and a not-too-deep Dutch oven with a cover and legs. Coals are placed on top of the cover and under the Dutch oven for baking pies and cakes, she said.

The Groshes invite friends to camp out by the creek that runs through their land. The pots and pans also work nicely on a bonfire, Kristin Grosh said. She made a very nontraditional foccacia with pesto for a Mother's Day campfire gathering.

There will be 19 people - all family - at the Grosh home tomorrow. That number will include nine children ages 3 to 12, the Groshes' 10-year-old son and 5-year-old twins among them.

"It's special to have Thanksgiving because it's such an old tradition," Kristin Grosh said. Tradition will extend to the kitchen with parts of the feast prepared at the open hearth.

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