Sunday, September 7, 2008

Oven Takes a Hard Turn

As you see in the preceding slide show, our cob oven project has taken a radical turn since I last posted about it. The original idea was to build a 8X6 foot base with a fire brick deck then plop a 39 inch exterior diameter cob oven on top. The remaining deck surface would be reserved for food preparation and staging, and perhaps a charcoal grill. Well, we are no longer making a cob oven. Instead, we decided to build a much bigger oven out of brick and mortar.

Trent decided that if we were going to go through the trouble of building something as prominent as an outdoor oven, we may as well make it as durable as possible. So we are making it out of firebrick and mortar instead of clay, sand and straw. Since Trent is paying for the thing and it is on his farm, I could not exactly argue with him, but building the new version is proving to be more of a challenge than I'd signed on for. Building a cob oven is like finger-painting.

You make a dome out of sand, cover it with cob, let it set, cut out a door and you are done. Elementary school kids can -and do- make cob ovens: masonry ovens are for adults only.

I'm loving building this, believe me, but laying block and brick requires far more precision than the kind of masonry I'm used to doing. (Dry-stacking and occasionally mortaring field stone for walls and bedding stone for decks and paths.) But we're cool. At almost 3 foot wide and 4.5 foot deep , the new oven is going to be comparatively huge. Certainly big enough to roast a 6 month old hog or bake a half dozen pizzas at once.

Perhaps it is obvious that I have not been doing much cooking at the farm these days. Neither have I made any salumi -which is beginning to freak me out because soon we will be sold out of the last batch I made 5 weeks ago. I hate not having anything hanging in the aging room, but I suppose I'll get over it. Besides, I'm so psyched to get the oven built that I bolted down to my shop last night after dinner and built the jig for the arches that will comprise the ceiling vault.

You can see the jig in my shop in the next slide show. I'll anticipate your questions about the heads on the shop wall by telling you that I found the goat head on the sidewalk outside of a high school (where I taught biology) in Queens, NY. The robotized chimpanzee head was a Christmas gift from my wife and children.

Hey, why are you laughing? Doesn't everyone have goat and monkey heads in they shop? [sic]


MessyONE said...

Famous last words?

I've always found that the biggest jobs/messes I've found myself in start with, "How hard can it be? They did it!"

The oven's looking great.

Tags said...

Yes, the oven is looking great.

Are you guys gonna make blue cheese potato salad with all those spuds?

And BTW, who inserts [sic] into their own writing?

Bob del Grosso said...

"who inserts [sic] into their own writing"

People who knowingly write scag and want to make sure that readers know that the author knows he wuz f--king around.

John said...

If you haven't spoken with Jonathon White over at Bobolink dairy about his outdoor oven, you might want to do that now. It's fabulous, as is their farm. Wood fired, naturally raised dough, yum...

redman said...

this project is really killer, Bob. Good inspiration for something I'd like to build someday. Is the interior of the oven going to be dome shaped? Is that important?

Bob del Grosso said...


The interior ceiling will not be dome shaped but it will be curved. A dome is better for lots of reasons but as long as the ceiling is curved the heat will be more even and less inclined to pond up in corners.

Looking into our oven from the mouth, you will see that it looks like an upside down capital "U" The jig I built is for laying up the bricks on the ceiling (the curved part).

I would have loved to have built a true dome, but such stuff is beyond my skill set right now. Perhaps when I build and oven for myself I will try that.

Bob del Grosso said...

thanks John, I'll have a look.

Scotty said...

Boy, that's a change from when I was there ten days ago, but as tough as the work is, I think Trent made the right decision. I cannot exactly say why, but I have a gut feeling it will work out for the best.

Of course as I have a couple of links for you last batch of salume . . . .