Cooking with a Windshield Shade

After scooping off the cream the skim milk is used to make soft cheeses

We have been enjoying the great quantity of milk on our little off-grid homestead since the addition of Buttercup, our new Jersey cow.  Now I allow the children to drink fresh whole milk whenever their hearts desire (almost) and we no longer purchase butter, cheese, or any other dairy products.   We’re buying less store-bought food for the dogs and cat because they get milk every day as well.

With the extra milk we’ve been making lots of butter, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, ice cream, kefir, ranch dressing, whipped cream, and buttermilk muffins and pancakes.  When I scoop off the cream I like to make cottage cheese or ricotta with the remaining skim milk.  But making cottage cheese the quick way with vinegar) means using the gas stove for at least 20 minutes on high to bring a large pot of milk to the right temp.

It bothered me that we have loads of free energy around us every day and I’m “wasting” our propane on food we’re making ourselves to save money.  How does that work?  Thanks to the internet I found a really simple idea about harnessing the sun’s energy and tried it.

Can you imagine cooking with an accordion windshield shade?  When I first came across this idea last year I had gone to Goodwill and found a shade and small grill rack to make this particular solar oven, but I hadn’t had time to try it.  Now I fastened the shade’s sides together with clothespins to make a cone shape.  The instructions say to sew velcro on the edges to secure it but I wanted to try it first before investing much in it.

My cone-shaped shade held together with clothespins

I stuck the cone-shaped windshield shade on the five gallon bucket and placed a metal grill rack on it (a square cake rack would do).  This secured it to the top of the bucket, making a sturdy place for my pot of milk.  It also allowed the sun’s rays to shine under the pot and reflect all around it.

The metal rack holds the cone on the five-gallon bucket

The cone sits on the bucket with a stick helping to prop it open

The instructions say to use a plastic baking bag around the pot to create a greenhouse effect.  In order to bring the pot to a high heat and keep the heat around the pot, a baking bag or other plastic or glass enclosure would make it a lot more efficient.  But I wanted to monitor the temperature of the milk and didn’t want it to get too hot anyway, so I decided to skip the bag.

I could have placed my gallon jar right on the metal rack, but sunlight kills some vitamins, including B vitamins in the milk.  I usually make cottage cheese in a large stainless steel pot (Lifetime cookware), but in this situation the shiny exterior would deflect the sun’s rays away from the pot.  I could have used a black cozy around the pot or painted my jar black.  But since I didn’t need a really high heat for cottage cheese the simplest thing seemed to be to place my jar inside something black.

We have two granite buckets for milking the goats, and it worked perfectly to place the jar inside one bucket and use the other one in an inverted position as the lid. I made sure the jar lid was loose to allow air to escape while heating.  I didn’t want an explosion!  Once everything was assembled I propped the sides open with a stick and aimed the cone toward the sun.

A gallon jar of milk in the black bucket

An inverted bucket serves as lid

My first try took nearly six hours to bring the milk to the desired temperature because every time I checked on it the wind had blown the windshield shade around and messed things up.  After two hours I got the stiffer and sturdier shade out of our Suburban and tried again.  It was also taller and worked much better.  Now the Suburban has inherited the small flimsy shade.

Once I reassembled everything with the new shade we began to make progress.  A few hours later the milk had reached around 125° F and was ready to make cottage cheese!  I was so tickled that it had actually worked!

I periodically used a candy thermometer to check the temperature

It worked!

I called Silver Oak and told him that I had just made cottage cheese without using any fuel, and he was quite pleased with his wife.  🙂  The next several days I made a batch every day.  It usually took between three and four hours to reach the desired temperature, and I turned it more directly toward the sun about twice during that time.

The cottage cheese is ready for salt and other seasonings. The whey will be used to soak oats overnight for breakfast the next morning, or for cooking, or to feed the chickens.

Now that I’ve successfully used the sun in this simple way for making cottage cheese, I hope to learn more and reach higher temperatures.  This method is valuable in that the materials used would be quite easy to transport or include in a bug-out bag in an emergency.  There is so much to learn, and lots of ideas out there being used around the world.  Here is one place to start.  Next I want to try using an old tv dish to make a parabolic solar cooker.

Last week the weather changed a bit and it was very windy for several days, making it difficult to set up the windshield shade cooker.  So I mostly made ricotta cheese which requires no heat, and was able to save cooking fuel that way.  The adventure continues as we work toward our goal of living sustainably.

Blessings,

The Best Way to Learn Sustainable Living

PS. We are still experiencing computer difficulties which reduces the amount of posts I am able to write.  Most of us are sharing one computer right now, which puts the squeez on things.

Linked w/Barn Hop, Morris Tribe, White Wolf Summit Farmgirl, Growing Home, Frugally Sustainable, Live Renewed, Our Simple Farm, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives Thursday, My Simple Country Living, Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

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20 thoughts on “Cooking with a Windshield Shade

  1. Wow! That is amazing and so exciting!

    I felt myself getting more and more excited to see if it would work as I was reading this post!

    Your family continues to amaze me with all that you’re doing to become self-sustaining. God is truly blessing your efforts.

    And, oh, for a glass of fresh milk!

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    • If you ever get a chance to stop by for a visit you’ll be allowed to drink all the fresh milk you want! 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement! If you try a solar cooker let me know how it went and how you did it.

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  2. Hey D’s sister is making cheeze and asked me if I want any of her whey… I’d like more info on whey and how to use it. Before this year I thought it was the leftovers that should be thrown out:( Where did you get your info, or maybe you want to make a post of what you all use it for and the benefits, just a thought.

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    • That would make a great post! But till then I’ll answer quickly. Whey has tons of nutrients, so we use it for ourselves as much as we can and make sure the chickens or other food-producing animals get the rest. It makes a great soup base, or we use it instead of water when cooking rice, pasta, stews, etc. When we soak grains like oats overnight we include whey. That’s a start.

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  3. Hi Rose Petal,

    How very fun and exciting! Don’t you feel so smart when you figure something like this out?!?! Do you have any plans of trying to make a solar dehydrator? The solar oven is something I have been dreaming about trying for some time, but have never had the gumption to actually try it. I love the idea of harnessing the suns energy, we as a society are so dependent on “normal” electricity. I want to come to your house if we have a power outage! I guess you could use this method to make yogurt as well? Loving all your posts! Thanks for the info you are providing!

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  4. Honestly, your family is awesome!!! I love reading about all of your adventures. I wish TLC would do a reality show about how you live and what you do. So many people could learn from you by actually seeing you in action. Plus, it would actually be a show on tv that is WORTH watching!!! Getting a dairy cow is one of our goals for this year. I sure like hearing about yours!
    Continued blessings!!!

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    • It is quite a circus around here at times, so I suppose it would make for good entertainment for the bored. Ha! Thanks for your kind words. Hope getting that cow goes well!

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  5. Such a joy to read your updates. I get over whelmed by the whole process and can never filter through all the info on the internet for the reliable posts. It makes it easier when you find a site like yours where someone has done all the research and testing and you know you can trust what is said.
    You’re my hero.

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  6. You amaze me. You can do ANYTHING. I loved this post. I just made my first goat cheese last weekend on stovetop and I can’t even imagine trying to do it without a stove. I am going to look for one of these windshield sunvisors to try this solar oven experiment. I’d like to see how hot the oven can get and sustain for a while. Thanks for this great idea.

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    • It really isn’t that difficult. The hardest part is remembering to set it up early enough in the day (like 10:30am) to make sure there is enough good sunlight to give it the time it needs. If I really could do ANYTHING I would have all kinds of things growing in our greenhouse right now (that is sitting here still under construction)…it’s still a dream. 🙂

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