Over the weekend, my family went to a reenactment of the French and Indian War. I learned so much asking the reenactors a billion questions about each skill they were demonstrating.
One of my favorites was the earth oven. I didn’t get to take as many photos as I would have liked, because I had a husband and four children yanking on me from all directions (so much to do, so much to see!), but I took a few shots and was able to ask enough questions to satisfy my curiosity. I basically asked the demonstrator everything I could think of about how they built the oven and how they use it.
The first thing they did was build the frame of the box. As you can see, it was a roughly constructed log-cabin style frame. The sole purpose of this was to raise the firebox to a convenient level. They then filled the box in with dirt.
Next, they placed flat rocks (or maybe one large flat rock) on top of the dirt, to act as the floor of the oven.
To build the oven over the flat rock(s), they used sticks to create a skeleton, bending and weaving them into a dome. They then packed the outside and inside of the skeleton frame with clay (which was dug up locally), leaving an opening for the door, which was framed out with wood.
A structure was built over the oven to protect it from the elements. A fire was started 2 hours before the baking was to begin, in order to preheat the oven. They recommended using oak with maybe a little bit of pine (not too much pine because of the resin), because oak doesn’t impart any undesirable flavor to the bread. Before placing the bread dough in the oven, they scooped the hot coals out and scraped remaining ashes off the stone for a cleaner surface. There was a pit to the left of the photo where they dumped the coals.
I watched as the lady threw a handful of flour into the oven, and then let her husband know it was ready. I asked how she knew, and they said that if you throw flour into the oven and watch it, it should turn golden by the count of 14. Then you know it’s about 300*.
I wish I’d taken a picture of the bread, but there leaning against the post is the wooden paddle they used to place the dough into the hot oven. They were round loaves of what they called “dark bread” (not sure what that means exactly). Once the bread was in the oven, a wooden door was placed over the opening, and the residual heat would continue the baking for about 20 minutes (unless it was windy, then it may take a little longer). The man threw a cloth over the door, probably to help hold in the heat even better.
It fit about 6 good sized round loaves in there (a great way to only have to bake once a week, and all at once!)
I’d love to build something like this myself one day. Imagine how delicious pizzas would be!
My husband and two kids helped me construct one of these ovens several years ago. It is located at our cabin and unfortunately doesn’t get used very much as we are not there as often as I’d like. We moved into our new house/homestead a year and a half ago. My goal is to construct another one here on our homestead. We used the instructions from the book “How to Build Your Own Earth Oven”. It was fun to construct and an adventure learning how to use it. Thanks for the post!
I can’t believe you got to go to F.D. It is one of my favorite places. Everyone here was a little under the weather and I was the only one that really wanted to go so….. anyway was this your first time? Was the cloth vender there? This is now their biggest event of the year and I was hoping it was a success.
Blessings Miracle Farm Homestead
Yes, it was my first time. Jerry took the two oldest kids last year. I really enjoyed it. If you’re talking about the lady who dyes the cloth with indigo, she was there. She showed me how to use a drop spindle. I talked to her for like 30 min, hahaha. I’m sorry you weren’t able to make it.
We have something similar here in New Mexico. If you google “Horno ovens” You can see how they are made and used. It is made with a mud type plaster and the Native Americans used them to bake. Our pueblos still your them frequently.
This is cool, and what an inexpensive way to build an outdoor oven (if you have a big flat rock, lol). Years ago, Todd and I looked at several different plans to build an outdoor pizza oven as an ‘off-grid’ choice for baking bread (and pizza, of course). We never did, but you are reminding me that it’s something we wanted to do. Thanks for sharing!
That is sooo cool! I have a husband and three kids so I can totally sympathize with you regarding being pulled in all directions. Where was this reenactment done? What was it called? I would love to look into it to see if I can take my family at some point. We LOVE historical stuff. Much like you I imagine; when I go to things like this I’m so curious about how they did things back then, I usually try to get their recipes etc. even so I can copy it! HA! BTW, I adore you and your blog! You are so inspirational, all the things you do for yourself and family with what is available to you! I really admire that. My husband and family are so mainstream that it seems I get raised eyebrows at anything I do to be more self-sufficient and/or my other favorite thing saving money!:D I’m curious about one thing though, how on earth do you find the time to do all that AND have this blog!? Seriously. You’re like super-woman!
I’m betting there are historical reenactments in your area. Just do an online search for “reenactments” in your city; oftentimes Spring and Summer are the busiest times for these to take place.
Thank you for your sweet comments. 🙂 To answer your question about how I get it all done… I never sleep. No, I’m kidding, lol. Honestly, there’s a lot I DON’T get done. You just pick and choose your battles for the day. 😉
There are detailed plans for an outdoor bread oven at the end of Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads. I THINK I have the first edition of the book. There are newer editions that dealt with bread machines and additional breads, but I have never used one of those. The plans for the homemade oven are for an adobe oven that uses chicken wire, concrete blocks, and brick. The actual oven space is formed over a barrel cut in half the long way. Hopefully you can find a copy of the book at a library or maybe even online. It is really awesome looking and based upon historical models.