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How To Start Cooking Over Your Fireplace

To get the most out of your fire this winter why not try cooking with your fireplace!

A wood-burning fireplace is safe for you to cook in, however, a gas fireplace is not. For a gas fireplace, the logs need to be clean and unobstructed to work properly. Grease or food could fall onto the logs and could potentially cause a fire hazard.

Safety for indoor cooking
  • it is important to have the flue open when you start cooking on your fireplace. Leaving the flue closed will allow a build-up of carbon monoxide which is very dangerous.
  • Keep flammable items away from the fireplace as you’ll be interacting with the fire while cooking.
  • Make sure your fireplace is clean and maintained as cooking in an unclean fireplace can cause smoke risks.

You can cook over a wide temperature from 160 degrees for slow roasting to over 750 degrees for high heat grilling.

Cooking options

Cooking straight onto the embers. You can cook whole onions, eggplant, peppers, yams, potatoes and thick steak-like porterhouse, t-bone or ribeye.

  • arrange two parallel rows of firebricks, broadsides down toward the front of the fireplace, shovel a layer of ember between the two rows, then rest a frying pan, griddle or dutch oven on the bricks. The wood smoke will still infuse the food with a smoke flavour if it is in a pan.
Skewers

sausages or kebabs with metal skewers, don’t forget you can cook s’mores this way too!

Dutch oven

You can easily cook soups or stews on your fireplace. The trick is to get your fireplace going that it produces plenty of hot embers. Then you can place the dutch oven on the embers. Remember to rotate to distribute the heat evenly.

A String

This is still used in southern France, a method called la ficelle (on a string). Meat or poultry is put into a compact packaged and suspended from a hook in the ceiling or mantelpiece. The meat rotates near the heat from the fire.

Tips for cooking with your wood fireplace
  • avoid overly fatty foods like rib-eye steak as they will create a lot of smoke when cooking over the fire.
  • Choose the right wood, well-seasoned woods like applewood will give you a unique flavour that you won’t get from an oven. This is also less likely to give off dangerous sparks.
  • Avoid pine or cedarwood, they burn at low temperatures and can leave resin in your chimney. Don’t use regular logs that may include petroleum wax as these are dangerous to ingest.
  • Test the temperature, the heat distributes unevenly – to prevent this use Firemizer and will allow for an even burn.
  • Place a pan to catch drips

How To Look After Your Wood Burner?

As you’ve probably been getting the most out of your fire this winter, to maximize its efficiency you have to look after your wood burner.

Here are some things to look out for and do to keep your fire going for many winters!

coalCleaning

Giving your fire a thorough clean can be just the thing it needs to bring it back to life. It is also important to get your chimney swept at least once a year as they can tell you about any damage. You should also clean the glass, most modern stoves are fitted with airways systems to keep the glass clean. If yours does not then you can use newspaper dipped in malt vinegar or use wood ash. Don’t use any abrasive materials to clean the glass as this could cause permanent damage.

Check for rust

This may not be a problem for a modern stove however it worth saying. If you do spot any rust you can rub the area with wire wool and then reapply stove paint to get it looking as good as new.

Empty the ash pan

When the hot ashes start to pile up they can come into contact with the lower side of the grate and the heat from the ashes could cause it to become distorted and lose shape.

Clean the baffle/ throat plate

This area on and around the baffle plate is the top spot for soot to gather. This makes your stove less efficient by blocking the flue it also could be dangerous. Clean this once a week depending on how often you use your stove.

Leave the door ajar

When the stove isn’t being used it is best to leave the door slightly open. This allows a flow of air through the system which can help stop corrosion.

Use Firemizer

Using this in your wood, coal or multi-fuel stove can help reduce creosote and harmful particulates. As well as reducing your ash content and reducing the number of times you have to empty the ash pan.

What is A Yule log

The Yule log began as a Nordic tradition. The Yule log is the largest log picked and would be placed into the fire hearth. This Christmas tradition is carried out in several countries all over Europe.

  • It is a tradition to light the log with a previous year’s log. Keeping the wood in storage it is slowly fed to the fire through the 12 days of Christmas
  • In France, it is a tradition for the whole family to help cut down the log.
  • A tradition in Cornwall uses a dried out and bark-free log call the mock.
  • Barrel makers in the UK had unused logs that they couldn’t use therefore they gave their customers them for Yule logs.

Similar traditions

Ashen faggot is an old English tradition from Devon and Somerset. A faggot is a large log or bundle of ash sticks bound with nine green lengths of ash bands preferably from the same tree. They would burn this on Christmas Eve and in the heart of the fireplace.

Types of wood

  • The UK  uses oak
  • Scotland uses birch
  • France uses cherry. They sprinkle wine over the log before its burning, therefore, it smells nice once lit

Sprinkle Chemicals on the log to create coloured flames;

  • Potassium nitrate violet,
  • barium nitrate green,
  • copper sulphate blue,
  • table salt bright yellow

However, throwing ashes out on Christmas Day can be unlucky

Chocolate Yule log

Eaten in France and Belgium this is a popular Christmas pudding. Additionally, made with a chocolate sponge, layered with cream and covered with chocolate and decorated to look like bark.

 

How To Roast Chestnuts This Christmas

Get into the festive season by indulging in the best Christmas food. One of those being roasted chestnuts. They can be used for turkey stuffing, cakes or crumbles.

They are at their peak over the festive season. For the best flavour look for the largest nuts and choose those that are shiny and feel heavy.

  1. First, you cut the shell carefully. Make an x shape on the nut but be careful not to cut the nut inside just the outer shell
  2. Heat the oven to 200 degrees fan or gas 6. Roast for 30 minutes until the skin splits open.
  3. Let me cool and then you can peel them. Serve immediately or chop ready to add to another recipe.
chestnuts Roasting over an open coal fire

If you want the ultimate festive experience this is how to roast chestnuts over an open fire.

  1. Prepare the charcoal grill for direct heat. Light charcoal, for a medium-hot fire you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the flame for around 5 seconds.
  2. Use a knife to cut an x into each chestnut
  3. Cook for 20 minutes or until chestnuts have split

To roast them in the fireplace wrap the chestnuts in a foil packet then place into a medium-sized fire. Roast for about 15 minutes then leave them to cool before unwrapping. When the chestnuts are cool enough to handle you can peel them.

 

How to keep your pets safe this winter

It is important to keep your pets safe over winter, as the temperature drops and the chance for snow increases there are things we can do to help our pets.

1. Wrap up before a walk

As you would put a coat on your dog may need one too. Especially if they are fine coated such as a greyhound or staffie.

2. Check their toes

After being outside it is best to check their toes for snow, salt and grit. The snow between their toes can gather together and create ice balls which can be very painful. To help prevent this you can trim the hair between their toes as this can get very long.

3. Fire safety

This time of year the fires will be going and dogs love nothing more than cosying up by the fire. Check out our other blog about keeping your pets fire safe.

4. Keep them warm and dry

Make sure they are dry once inside and have somewhere warm to return to away from cold drafts.

5. Active cats

Your cat may want to stay indoors more over the winter months. If they do like to go outside make sure they have a warm dry shelter outside they can go to or get a microchip cat flap. This will stop other cats from entering your home and allow your cat to come and go as they please.

6. Keeping small pets warm

If you have pets like rabbits, guinea pigs or ferrets that live outdoors think about bringing them indoors in a sheltered area such as a shed or garage. Give them some extra bedding to keep them warm and keep them away from cold drafts.

7. Winter hazards
  • Antifreeze and de-icer used to stop cars from icing up when in contact with pets they can be very toxic. Cats are at the most risk as they like the sweet taste. Make sure you mop up any spills.
  • Salt and grit, this can irritate pets paws, if you salt around your home choose a pet-safe product.
  • Poisonous plants, holly, ivy and poinsettia are all toxic to pets if they eat them.

3 Reasons To Love The Cold

As the nights are darker and the days can seem very gloomy and cold its hard to see the appeal of winter and the cold. However, there are some benefits and true pleasures to be had in the winter months.

  • Cosy by the Fire

This time of year is perfect to get your log burners going and enjoy the warmth. Your fireplace can create a festive atmosphere especially when decorated. Make sure you stock up on wood get your chimney swept a minimum of once a year.

To give your fire that extra bit of Christmas spirit you can add spices to your fire. Cinnamon sticks create a lovely spicy and sweet smell. Just place two sticks with the logs alternatively you could add a few drops of essential oil to your logs, allow them to dry and then burn away.

  • Warm drinks

There are so many lovely hot drinks to enjoy this time of year from hot chocolate to mulled wine. These are perfect to enjoy in the cold gloomy weather and a great pick me up. Here are some classics that’ll get you in the Christmas spirit;

  • Coconut milk hot chocolate
  • Eggnog
  • Hot buttered rum

If you’d like more ideas and recipes click here

  • Food

Winter brings around all the best food that you can enjoy. From roast dinners and mince pies to cheese boards and lots of chocolate. This Christmas why not try something new at a Christmas market like the chimney cakes or strudel.

Do you like winter or summer?

Four Common Mistakes When Using Wood Stoves

Wood stoves are a great way to reduce your heating bill as well as providing aesthetic value to our homes.

However, burning wood takes some preparation and you have to make sure it is ready to burn safely through the winter months.

Below are 4 major mistakes people make with their wood stoves!

Not inspecting & cleaning your stove

You need to make sure your stove and chimney are ready for the season. There are a few things you’ll need to check

  1. Examine the firebrick lining and see if it needs replacing  – the lining will keep the stove from overheating
  2. Make sure the chimney is cleaned. This will prevent chimney fires and help your stove burn more efficiently.
  3. Check the sealed door. You want a tight seal to make sure smoke doesn’t enter your house. The cord that’s around the door may need replacing on occasion.

Don’t neglect these steps as you could be at risk of a chimney or house fire.

Not having enough fuel

Running out of fuel in the middle of winter is not ideal. It is best practice to have too much wood than too little. How much you’ll need will depend on several things;

  • How large your house is
  • The efficiency of your stove
  • They type of wood you’ll burn
  • How often your light your stove
  • Not storing your wood properly

Once you have your wood you need to make sure it is stored in the correct place it could affect the performance of your stove.

You don’t want your wood to get too wet as burning wet wood reduces the efficiency of your stove.

The best practice is to keep the wood out of the way in a dry shed and on a pallet so the air can circulate. Check out another blog about storing your wood!

Not having a backup plan

If something happens to your wood supply then you need alternatives. Some will burn quickly while others with smoulder for a while.

  1. Rolled old jeans
  2. Rolled paper logs
  3. Coffee logs
Bonus mistake

Not using the Firemizer winter pack! This will help you light your fire with an odourless firelighter and firemizer will increase your fire efficiency and reduce harmful particulates. 

Are you prepared for the winter season?

Brief History Of Fireworks

Fireworks originated in china around 1000 years ago by a monk. He was from the city of Liuyang in China, this is still the largest producer of fireworks in the world. A temple was built to worship this monk and the people of China still celebrate the invention of fireworks every April 18th. 

The Chinese believe firecrackers have the power to ward off evil spirits. Fireworks play a big part in Chinese new year as they are said to bring in the new year free of evil spirits.

Marco Polo is credited with introducing gunpowder to Europe in the 13th century. However many historians prefer the theory that the curators bought back black powder to Europe as they returned from wars in the middle east.

During the Renaissance, two separate European schools of pyrotechnic emerged, one in Italy and the other in Germany. The Italians focused on effects and stunning displays whereas the Germans stressed scientific advancement.

The English were so captivated by fireworks in 1487, they were used in the coronation of Elizabeth of York. Their popularity grew in Great Britain during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The queen liked them so much she created a position of fire master of England.

should we ban fireworks? 

Even with all the history and tradition, we cannot ignore the dangers of at-home displays for us and wildlife.

  • The loud sounds from fireworks cause distress for pets and in some cases have been known to cause heart attacks.
  • The fear they cause can often lead animals to flee into roads potentially causing accidents and vehicle damage.
  • Fireworks can also cause environmental damage through fires and the release of harmful chemicals.

Currently, there is not a ban on fireworks. However, some supermarkets have stopped selling them to the public for private displays. However, if you do plan to have a display please follow these tips;

  • Remover bird feeders several hours before lighting. This will stop birds coming into the garden.
  • Wait until late evening to ignite as there will be fewer animals in the area
  • Do not use fireworks near trees, birdhouses or nesting areas
  • Clean up all firework residue as this can be harmful to wildlife and the environment

For more information about fireworks and your pets you can click here 

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How To Build A Bonfire

As the 5th of November creeps up you may want to get ready and have the perfect bonfire!

Bonfire law

There isn’t any law in England and Wales about bonfires however there is a law about creating a nuisance. You can’t get rid of household waste if it will cause pollution or harm to health. Occasional bonfires are fine as long as there are no local bylaws in place that prevent it, you can check with your local council.

You must make sure the smoke doesn’t blow across a road and cause danger to traffic. You can’t burn anything that would cause pollution or harm public health. This includes rubber, plastic, oil etc.

Here’s how to build the bonfire:
  1. Make a circle with bricks or stones. If you want a permanent bonfire pit in your yard, you can dig a hole and then surround it with bricks or stones. Stand the tinder in a teepee shape in the centre of the circle.
  2. Make a teepee out of kindling around the tinder, leaving some gaps for oxygen to escape. This is also a good place to use any firelighters, why not use Firebuilder!
  3. Put some fuel logs parallel to each other on two sides of the teepee.
  4. Repeat this process up to five times, building the teepee in higher and higher layers

Once the bonfire is set up, drop a match into the centre of the teepee (or stick it into one of the gaps) to start the fire. Make sure the match gets all the way into the tinder layer of the teepee.

Be sure to have a supply of water on hand. Put out the fire completely, before going inside.

Watch out for wildlife

Make sure you check your bonfire pile for any animals especially hedgehogs as they love a woodpile. To make sure you avoid harming wildlife build your bonfire the day ou plan on setting it alight.

What to do with the leftover ash

This will be warm for a few days so wait for it to cool down. A small amount of ash can lower the acidity of your compost heap and help create an environment for red worms which help the compost thrive.

 

 

 

 

Outdoor wood storage tips

Outdoor wood storage tips

It is important to have firewood storage as it helps protect your firewoods lifespan but also for your safety too. Fresh firewood can have a high percentage of moisture and burning wet wood can cause creosote to build up as well as being less efficient for your stove.

Storing firewood outside is the best practice as you want your wood to have exposure to adequate airflow.

wood ashYou want to store your wood at least 5 feet away from your home. This is due to bugs will likely start to live in the woodpile. You could invest in a firewood rack, these keep your firewood elevated keeping air circulating around the wood.

An alternative is using a seasoning shed. These are great for drying out wood quicker, it keeps the moisture out and keeps the heat in.

Stacking wood

The best practice is to stack it no higher than 4 feet. If the wood is not fully seasoned stack it bark side down so the moisture can evaporate. If it is fully seasoned stack it bark side up to shield it from rain or snow.

To avoid the wood getting wet you can use firewood covers, a shed.

Keep a small pile of wood inside for easy access however only bring in firewood that you plan to burn that day as unknown bugs could be inside your wood. Don’t forget to use the Firemizer Winter pack! 

For more info click here

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