Wednesday, May 22, 2013

So What is a Cob Oven Anyway ?

Chef Ben loads up w/ his venison sausage
For those of you who aren't familiar with what a cob oven is,  or how to build your own, no it is not a bread oven constructed from discarded corn cobs :)    It is, however, a labor intensive way to build your own oven - outdoors from free, or low cost local materials - sand, clay and straw.

Farmer Al and his first pie
For the past year we have counted down the days until our cob bread oven was ready for a test run, and with some farmer friends from the surrounding community up for cooking in our wood burning oven, we had our first bake your own farm pie event last friday.   The handful of photos here say it all... Not only was the pizza probably some of the best most people have had, the oven also provided some amazing ambience (and sounds!) - experience a  close up video of a pie baking inside the cob oven.

Venison sausage, mozarella and homemade Old School tomato
sauce on a spelt crust with ramps and portabellos. Seven year old
Coleman Benner claims he was "in heaven" as he sampled the leftovers.
How to build a cob oven ? - It isn't for the faint of heart.   Our over-sized earthen oven required hundreds of hours of hard labor...stomping sand and clay particles together (with straw for the outer layers) to form the monolithic cob material that gets applied in layers to the dome.

We fired the cob bread oven for about five hours prior to cooking, then moved the coals far to the back, leaving plenty of cooking surface on the fire bricks, onto which we slid the pies with an aluminum "peel".  This was retrofitted with a long handle from a broken farm shovel (saving things on a farm is always a good idea).  The personal-sized pizzas take only about three minutes to cook and are typically turned once to ensure even cooking.

It was soon noted that some people mastered the art of working the pizza peel better than others.  The first pie didn't get enough cornmeal on the peel, and stuck, creating a pizza in the shape of an ice cream cone!

Cob oven cooking is very rewarding not only because of the outstanding flavor of the bread, pizza, or most any food, but also due to the complet experience of building the fire, sliding the baked goods in and out, and the bonding and community experience that takes place with friends and family outdoors around the earthen oven.

We have now scheduled our fall Farm Getaway that will include an intensive session on how to build your own bread oven for Sunday, September 29th, 2012.  You can learn more about the event and how to sign up here  Space is limited, and interest is high, so we suggest making your reservation as soon as you can to ensure a spot.  We will be building pizzas from scratch and making cob, so come hungry and bring some old boots!

The farm of course did not stand still while the pizza oven fired and "part time" musicians jammed away on a variety of instruments.

The big project at the moment continues to be finishing the 96' x 28' high tunnel that was a grant from USDA.  June 1st marks the deadline for the completion date and we are down to the wire.  Dave and Al have been teaming on this to get it completed, and with Dave now finishing up the end wall frames, it appears that with the arrival of our two farm apprentices - Katherine and Tyler next week, that we will have enough hands to get the plastic up over the entire frame.
The ultra-quiet Honda EU 2000 providing power to tools in the
  field and backup for frig. and freezers should the grid go down.

Unfortunately even though this covering is no
longer really needed this time of year it was still required for reimbursement.   The goal is to be able to start plants much earlier and grow them much later, and to also be able to have better success with warm weather crops such as tomatoes, cukes and melons (our peppers don't seem to need much help)

We have a lot of chicks in various stages right now to expand our flock.  18 "mutts" hatched from the incubator ten days ago and are growing like weeds, another 30 eggs are in the incubator, and a broody hen is still sitting on a clutch of eggs. Looks like in two weeks we will have a total of 60 more young chickens.

Farm food alert:  This time of year a favorite spring treat is rhubarb.  We like to cook it down with strawberries and raspberries, adding some of our maple syrup and some honey for sweetness.  This fruit sauce can then be used for pies or simply with yogurt and granola for a delicious dessert or breakfast item.  Tart rhubarb has some very healthy compounds and is often used as a "spring tonic" for a variety of ailments.  Get your rhubarb fix now before it gets too tough!

Our dear friend, Mary Walter who grew up in the family homestead before she spread her wings and traveled the world, stopped by one sunny afternoon with her relatives Jane, Jason and Norm (all in from the west coast).  All had fond memories of the farm as children and were pleased to see all the continued work on the property.  Mary returned to Binghampton, NY later that day with a dozen free range eggs and a smile on her face.  It was agreed that her next visit would have to include a farm pizza.

Until next time, keep your taste buds tantalized with local, organic food, and support your local farmer (or your local outdoor pizza oven) ...

Your friends at Old School Farm

Jane, Mary, Jason and Norm visit the old homestead

Asparagus gets zapped by hard frost
Snow peas with 7' trellis

High Tunnel nearing completion

Our seedlings started slowly but are coming on w/ the help of natural light and fish emulsion

Tomatoes seedlings - a gift from Roger Hill

Parsnips that self seeded along the house foundation - easier than planting!

A descendant of one Olives old Lilacs

Jane and the flock

Jason and Jane are befriended by Uncas

Boys and their chicks

The week old brood

Black mint - great for sun tea

1 comment:

  1. Nice oven! We're gonna start on ours soon... "hundreds of hours of hard labor"... sounds perfect.


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