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Summer kitchen

April 29, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

When the heat of summer set in, many a farm or plantation moved their cook stove out of the house and into a smaller single room building called the summer kitchen. In fact, the separated kitchen building we refer to as the summer kitchen has been built into homes for centuries. In many areas they remain today. Mention can be found of summer kitchens in probate inventories, letters and diaries. They were also sometimes called out kitchen, and back kitchen.

The kitchen buildings were fully developed by the 1700's as a southern form of architecture. In addition to keeping odors, heat, and the general commotion of preparing the meals in a separate building, it also lessened the danger of fire to the big house.

The summer kitchen was a wonderful structure where the year's canning, preserving, pickling and processing all took place on a wood fired stove that generated enough excess heat to chase anyone out of the main house. Thus the main house remained relatively cool.

While the south's summer kitchens were constructed of brick, as were many of the houses, summer kitchens in this area were usually constructed of logs, and sided with boards. Most summer kitchens had enough room for chairs and a table, which functioned also as a place to prepare foods.

While the principal work that took place in the summer kitchen included cooking, baking and preserving, the building was also used for making soap, churning butter, cleaning eggs, and doing wash. Baths were also taken there as the summer kitchen afforded more privacy that the main house.

The summer kitchen was a wonderful place. Cast iron pots and pans hung from the walls, herbs and vegetables hung to dry from rafters and fresh baked pies and cookies cooled on the table.

As electricity entered the picture, the summer kitchen was slowly abandoned and it became just another outbuilding. Now, however, there is a trend towards outdoor kitchens, which are touted as having all the amenities of an indoor kitchen, but boasting easy cleanup, as the entire area can be hosed down when done!



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