Woodstove Cooking

Ellery?Center Teacher Goes Back To The Basics

Kerry Sweatman stirs Prime Rib Soup in a 20-inch cast iron skillet. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

Saying Kerry Sweatman loves to cook from scratch is an understatement. Scratch-cooking to her means going back to the basics. Way back. Her favorite method of cooking is on a coal and woodburning stove. Hers happens to be a 1922 wood stove named Grace. The high school English teacher owns not one, but two circa 1922 wood stoves, both with names, even though they weren’t purchased together. Mrs. Sweatman and her husband, Kevin, drove to Long Island to buy Grace. Patience, a stove that is identical but is cream and green in color, was acquired more recently from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Soon the latter will come into the kitchen, replacing Grace, who will move to the outside kitchen for summer use.

“The first thing I made in Grace was biscuits. Everyone said if I could make biscuits in a wood stove, I can make anything.”

The Ellery Center resident has “a ton of cast iron and stone cookware, including a waffle maker, cornbread pan and muffin pan.

“I use cast iron 98 percent of the time. If it’s a well-seasoned pan, nothing sticks to it. I rinse them with very hot water and no soap and then oil them up again with olive oil, vegetable oil or bacon fat.”

Mr. Sweatman brings a 14-inch by 26-inch Griswold griddle, weighing 21 pounds into the conversation. His wife cooks pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches on the heavy piece of cookware. She makes pizza, among other traditional grilled foods, on the grill in the summer.

The Sweatmans drove to Long Island for this 1922 coal and wood stove, which Mrs. Sweatman calls Grace. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“I’ll tell you she’s a great cook,” says her husband.

She does not like to eat processed foods and tells about learning to cook at her mother’s side.

“My mom taught me how to (cook) when I was in about sixth grade. She cooked everything from scratch. I watched my grandfather cook. He is the one who gave me the idea to make something out of nothing.”

She tells about how her mother, Fay Seastrum, could also “make something out of nothing” when preparing food for five children and her husband. Canning was another skill the mother shared with the daughter.

“We had to help can when we were kids. I now have her canning supplies.”

Kerry Sweatman?s Meatloaf and Lasagna made with homemade noodles. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

She has filled the jars with traditional foods and non-traditional foods, such as pears with hot peppers, habanero ketchup, tomato jam and pepper jelly.

Mrs. Seastrum, also, taught her daughter to make pies when she was in the eighth grade.

Over the years, the daughter has taken several gourmet cooking classes at Jamestown Community College for fun and “learned a whole new layer of technique.”

“I cook with leftovers in mind,” she points out while stirring a 20-inch diameter cast iron skillet full of Prime Rib Soup.

“I did a prime rib roast for Friendsgiving and I saved all of the parts and pieces, including the bone and leftover au jus and the mushrooms I served with it. The potatoes were out of our garden.”

She was happy to find the skillet at a sporting goods store after her family had outgrown the ones she had. She points out how everything used in preparing the dishes pictured came from their farm.

“I don’t like to weed. I’m a naturalist,” she says while laughing. “I find the produce is more bountiful that way.”

The teacher makes her own cheese, including the mozzarella and ricotta used in the lasagna.

“I have parmesan in the basement I made last fall that will be ready in February and farmhouse cheddar cheese that will be ready in January.”

Friend and neighbor, Rita Dunlap, tells about the delicious Baked Brie with Pasta dish her host made a while ago with homemade noodles, Brie and bacon crumbles.

“It was beyond delicious,” says Mrs. Sweatman. “If I could eat that once a month, I would.”

“It was phenomenal,” says her friend.

“It was exceptional,” says Rita’s husband, Larry Dunlap. “Everything that comes out of this kitchen is great.”

The cheesemaker tells about the excitement she felt when the expected white mold started forming on the second batch of Brie, after her first attempt did not turn out as planned. Her triple-cream Havarti and cottage cheese quickly becomes the subject of conversation.

“There’s definitely an art to making good cheese,” the hostess admits.

Along with making cheese, she makes sweetened condensed milk, liquid coffee creamer, butter and yogurt, ice cream, sour cream and buttermilk.

“If you can make it with milk, I make it or at least try to make it,” she proudly states. “I do what I call ‘make it with milk day.'”

“Everything is as fresh as possible.”

The couple raises pigs, chickens, donkeys and have one dairy cow.

“Donkeys are the protectors of the pasture,” says Mrs. Sweatman.

She points out that getting snowed in would not be a worry, as she always

has an abundant supply of food and the sources for more on hand.

When the avid cook is away from the stove, her job and gardening, she likes to read recipes and tweaks them while reading. Aside from cooking and researching what she wants to cook next, she enjoys decorating with her antiquing and repurposing finds. A piano has become a wine bar in the home. The opening between the dining room and living room has been defined with a massive beam from an 1836 barn.

She notes that she prefers decorating with local items.

“That barn was just up the road.”

Other interests she is pursuing are sewing, attending a book club, writing a book and learning to play the guitar in order to be able to play with her dad, Kenneth Seastrum, “who has played forever and plays with Music For Veterans.”

“I share knowledge with my students. They think I’m Amish,” she says with a grin. “I share a lot of cooking, cheese-making and cow knowledge with them.”

Mrs. Sweatman has taught at Fredonia Central School for 19 years.

“I have cooked for every single one of our school’s health and wellness days.”

Her husband works for Safelite Auto Glass. They have three sons and two daughters and three dogs.

Most of the recipes she shares are comfort food dishes her mother taught her to make. The daughter follows her mother’s habit of not measuring ingredients, therefore the recipes come with few measurements.

“My version of Rattle Snake Pasta is a family favorite.”

She gives a tip for making the best meatloaf.

“For the best tasting meatloaf I use several types of ground meat. I usually use three to four varieties and sometimes I use elk.”

She often tops the meatloaf with her homemade tomato jam. Garbage Dogs is her idea for a way to clean out the refrigerator.

“I use as many leftovers as I can find in the refrigerator. Everything I have on hand in the fridge is fair game for this family favorite from the mac and cheese,

meatloaf and lasagna, to cheeses and other leftover veggies,” she says.

Mrs. Sweatman has a blog called Cooking with Grace.

Roast Rack of Lamb

1-2 racks of lamb (rib cage)

Red wine

Fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme and oregano)

Garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

Dijon mustard

Olive oil

Marinate each rack in red wine, fresh herbs, a little minced garlic and salt and pepper. If the lamb is fresh

(recently butchered), it may need to soak overnight in the marinade, otherwise 2 hours or so, turning frequently to make sure all meat is covered. When ready to roast, place on rack(s) in a shallow pan and cover with a mixture of Djion mustard, olive oil and more garlic if desired. Roast until desired doneness, 120 for rare, 145 for medium-well. This can also be grilled. Allow rack to rest briefly before cutting. Serve with rice or potatoes.

Leg of lamb can be done in the same way, but I marinate that in herbed butter milk. Cover with mustard sauce and fresh herbs before grilling or roasting.

Roast Prime Rib

Prime rib roast

Garlic, crushed

Kosher salt




Coat the bone in a prime rib roast with crushed garlic, kosher salt, pepper,

rosemary and/or thyme, enough to cover the top and sides of the roast. Place in a baking dish and roast at 375 or 400 degrees until internal temp reaches desired doneness. Allow to rest before carving. Save bones and drippings from the pan to make a stock for leftover prime rib soup.

Prime Rib Soup

Leftover prime rib, cut into chunks

Drippings and brown bits from roasting pan


Potatoes, diced

Carrots, diced

Vegetables of choice

Canned tomatoes, if desired

(Rib was roasted with a crust of minced garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary or thyme.) Combine ingredients in soup pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are done.

Rattle Snake Pasta (my version)


3 eggs

1 T olive oil

1T water

1 tsp Kosher salt

Cayenne pepper, to taste

2 1/2 c flour

1 lb hot Italian sausage links or bulk sausage

Grilled chicken, optional

Variety of hot peppers, chopped

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix with stand mixer using paddle. Switch to dough hook to bring together. If dough is sticky, add more flour, if too dry add more water. Mix for about 7-10 minutes. It will look crumbly. Finish bringing it together by hand. Wrap in plastic wrap and then let sit for about 30 minutes to 2 hours. Cut into sections to run through pasta machine.

While pasta is resting, brown sausage links with peppers. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

Cheese Sauce:

Butter, melted


garlic powder

onion powder

dry mustard

white pepper

2 c milk

2-4 c shredded cheeses such as sharp cheddar, smoked Swiss, smoked gouda, etc.

Small amount mozzarella, shredded

Make a rue with melted butter, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard and white pepper. Slowly whisk in milk. When milk is warm, begin adding mixture of shredded cheeses. Melt as much as you can into the milk to form a sauce. Add some mozzarella to the top just prior to baking for a delightful bubbly, melted top. Ritz crackers can be crushed and mixed with melted butter for a slight variation on the topping.

Mix the finished pasta, peppers and sausage and chicken, if using together, into

a large baking dish. Cover with cheese sauce and bake until brown and bubbly. Allow to cool slightly before eating.

Baked Brie with Pasta

Pasta ingredients from above

Brie or any triple cream cheese

Bacon, fried crisp and crumbled

Red pepper flakes

Parmesan cheese

Make pasta according to above recipe. This works well with spaghetti pasta. Bake brie, rind and all, until melted and bubbly. Toss with the cooked pasta and top with bacon, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and grated parmesan. Serve and eat while hot.

Garbage Dogs

Good quality all-meat hot dogs

Flour tortillas

Variety of leftovers from refrigerator (macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, lasagna, cheeses, cooked vegetables, etc.)

Grill hot dogs. Place on tortillas and top with leftovers that have been heated.


1 lb each ground pork, beef, lamb and/or venison

3-5 eggs, depending on size

1/2 to 3/4 c milk

1 tsp pepper

T herbs (dried are fine) any combination

1/2 c diced onions

1/2 c bell peppers

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 c bread crumbs

Barbecue sauce, ketchup or Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard

Combine all meat with remaining ingredients. Mixture should be moist, but not soupy. Form into loaf pans and cover with barbecue sauce, ketchup or a mixture of Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard. Bake until bubbly and no longer red in the center when sliced with a knife, about 40 minutes to an hour.

Smashed Potatoes

Boil washed red skinned potatoes with skin on until you can pierce with a fork. Drain and add butter, salt, pepper, cream cheese or sour cream and smash with potato smasher. Add additional milk or cream for desired consistency. Serve with meatloaf, top with gravy from meatloaf pans.



3 eggs

1 T olive oil

1 T water

1 tsp Kosher salt

2 1/2 cups flour

Put ingredients in mixing bowl. Mix with stand mixer using the paddle and

switch to dough hook to bring together. If dough is sticky, add more flour. If dough is too dry, add more water. Mix for about 7-10 minutes. It will look crumbly. Finish bringing it together by hand. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for about 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Cut into sections to run through the pasta machine.

Meat Sauce:

Ground pork, beef, lamb and/or venison

Canned tomatoes



Oregano, basil, parsley and thyme

Ricotta cheese


Shredded mozzarella.

Brown a variety of ground meats. Drain. Add tomatoes, peppers, onions, oregano, basil, parsley and thyme. In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese with parsley and/or oregano and shredded mozzarella cheese. Spread a small amount of sauce in bottom of baking dish. Add a layer of lasagna noodles. Spread with cheeses and then a layer of sauce. Repeat layers. Top with mozzarella and bake.