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Hay or Cooking Box Cookery

Page history last edited by Ann Vipond 5 years, 10 months ago

The first time I heard about a hay box and what it was for was when my husband Graham mentioned that his Arbroath granny made porridge in a hay box overnight. Recently I was looking through a very old cookery book (around 1935) that had belonged to my mother and found the following:




This method of cooking saves much fuel and time and is invaluable where the cooking is done by  gas, oil or electricity. It is an ideal method for cooking foods which require long, slow, even cooking. It economises labour, as once the meal is prepared and put into the cooker, no further attention is necessary until it is time to serve it. Two important points must be borne in mind:-


1 The contents of the pan must be absolutely boiling when put into the box.

2 The food needs re-heating before it is served.

Fireless cookers can be bought ready made with saucepans to fit, or they can be made at home.  They may be packed with hay, newspaper or wood shavings.


How to make a Hay Box.  A Tate sugar box with a lid is the best kind of packing case to use for making a Hay Box. The lid should be attached by hinges and should have a hasp fastener. Line the box with two or three thicknesses of newspaper or brown paper, cover this paper with felting or with flannel, nailed on securely. Line the lid in the same manner, first with paper and then with felting. Pack the bottom of the box tightly with hay to the depth of three inches. Place the pans or casseroles on this side by side and pack the hay around them tightly to within three inches of the top of the box. There should be a three-inch packing of hay around each pan. When the pans ar  withdrawn there will be a cavity their exact size. Take a piece of flannel or some woollen material large enough to cover the inside of the case and to line the cavities, and tack it firmly round the sides of the packing case. Fit it into the cavities and put a round piece of cardboard the exact size at the bottom of each cavity. Make a cushion of flannel the exact size of the top of the box and stuff it with hay. It must be deep enough to fill entirely the space above the hay.


If two dishes are cooked in the hay box they must be out in and lifted out together, or two separate cushions must be made, so that one pan can be removed without detracting from the heat of the other. Sometimes the pans are placed. One above the other instead of side by side. The pan which contains the dish to be served first should be placed on top. The one left in the cooker must be brought to the boil again and a folded blanket or cushion put over it, or better still a pan of boiling water put on the top, which can be used for washing up.


Larger cookers to hold four pans can be made if a sufficiently large packing case be obtainable.


A cooking box can be made in the manner described above, but, instead of hay, it should be packed with newspaper balls. It can be finished in the same way as a hay box. The top cushion may be stuffed with paper torn into small shreds.


The best pans for use in a Hay Box are fireproof earthenware casseroles or aluminium or enamel casseroles with small handles at each side of the top.


Porridge on the fire for 10 mins, all night in the hay box. Boiling water put into the hay box at night will keep hot until the morning.


Linda Clark May 2017 


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