Origin and Form of "Dutch Oven"--Colonial Cookware

kaleokahu | Aug 20, 201508:47 AM     87

Since our previous thread that strayed into this fascinating topic is at risk of being pruned away and lost, I thought I'd start this one.

In that previous thread I raised the question of whether what is now sold as a "Dutch oven" can be considered an oven at all, and contended that now there is nothing "Dutch" (or French), and nothing oven-like about this pan geometry. *That*, in turn, prompted a bunch of back-and-forth, an attempt to define the term by alexrander, and even a bake-off involving two attempts to bake bread on the modern stovetop using a modern (i.e., no feet, no bail, no rimmed cover to hold coals) DO. I declared my attempt a failure; alexrander's succeeded, albeit with some fancy footwork. There also appear to be folks who were willing to say that "Dutch ovens" were originally called that even in forms without legs and with coal-shedding convex covers.

So here's my latest post on that other thread, slightly modified. (PLEASE, MODS, BE GENTLE)

Here's another source for the "classic" hypothesis that DOs (aka "bake kettles") were originally fitted with feet and a rimmed (or concave) cover. I think we can consider it authoritative. http://www.history.org/history/teachi...

There's also this, for those who might think a bake kettle was something different from a Dutch oven. https://books.google.com/books?id=B2R...

"The bake kettle, which in some communities was also called a Dutch oven, was preferred for baking bread. It was a strong kettle, standing, of course, on stout, stumpy legs, and when in use was placed among the hot coals and closely covered with a strong metal, convex [sic] cover, on which coals were also heaped."

I believe this quote was lifted, verbatim (and without attribution) from "The Kitchen Fireside", from Home Life in Colonial Days, by Alice Morse Earle, 1898. See, http://historiccookingschool.com/colo...

Also, as quoted from from Ms. Earle: "The necessity for the stilting up of cooking-utensils was a very evident one; it was necessary to raise the body of the utensil above the ashes and coals of the open fireplace. If the bed of coals and burning logs were too deep for the skillet or pot-legs, then the utensil must be hung from above by the ever-ready trammel."

I also learned of two other fascinating hearth implements in the sources I investigated: (1) The "curfew"; and (2) the spit-dog. A curfew was a metal, quarter-dome arrangement used to carry over a fire until morning. Evening coals were banked at the back of the hearth, ash shoveled on top, and then the curfew placed over the mound. In the morning, wait for it... THE CURFEW WAS LIFTED, and the fire re-stoked Even more amazing to me was that spit-dogs were originally REAL DOGS. To turn the roasting spits, a family without a clockwork turning mechanism actually mounted up a larger version of a squirrel cage wheel, wherein a small, trained dog would walk to turn the spit.

OK, who wants to carry the flag for original Dutch ovens being pots of the modern configuration--legless bottoms and no-coal covers?


PS: I know there were open, reflective sheetmetal enclosures also called Dutch ovens in Colonial times, so let's not waste time with those?

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