The Big Build…continued

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Welcome back!

Last time we left off with the foundation structure built. Our next step was to top it off with the 4×6 boards and use the Liquid Nails to adhere them to the landscape bricks. We then put a layer of pavers on the side where the oven would sit. This was to add an extra layer of protection between the floor of the oven and the wood underneath. Even though there would be a 3″ layer of insulation there as well, at temps over 700F, it’s a good idea to keep wood as far away as possible! The floor of the oven is actually rated to go as high as 2400F, but that’s just crazy!!

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We leveled the pavers with shims and moved on. The oven we purchased, from The Bread Stone Ovens Company, came with everything we needed for the installation, except the wire to wrap around the dome before applying stucco. The day it arrived was so exciting! I’ve never received a crate before 😉 It was like Christmas unpacking that box! Everything was safe and sound and we couldn’t wait to get it all put together. We purchased the 700B raised oven which gave us 3″ additional inches of height on the entry arch. This would allow us to cook a turkey or anything else that is a little taller. It has also been very nice to have that extra room, in general, just for cooking pizzas…especially since I can be a bit of a klutz.

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I’m going to be sharing a lot of pictures in this post because I would have loved to have had a reference like this when we were going through this process. While we received excellent written instructions with the oven, it still would have been nice to have someone else’s experience to follow, even if it wasn’t 100% the same as mine. My hope is that this helps someone along the way.

The base insulation was next. We laid the sheets of insulation on the foundation, placed the floor of the oven on them and traced the outline, then cut the insulation to shape with a jigsaw. Very easy to do and we finally had a visual of the size of our oven on the foundation!

11811408_10207456854239637_7638284752344252385_n 20617_10207456854639647_3075535056676744370_n 11828661_10207456854679648_5512146073423739757_n 10463048_10207456855239662_5047820529939188715_n 11822315_10207456857119709_5922893116350830467_n11873643_10207456855759675_2929664194139626250_nThat’s Carolyn, cheesin’ it up!

The base came in several pieces. The two pieces of the actual base are held together by twisting the wires on the sides. Then the fire bricks are placed inside. A bead of “cement” (provided) is run along the edge of the base and then the 3″ riser was added. This “cement” doesn’t actually adhere anything, so be aware when it comes time to use it on the front arch. We lost a whole day waiting for the arch to adhere to the dome only to learn that it never would with the “cement” that was provided. We ended up getting some flame retardant adhesive at Lowe’s to use for that part. Anyway, the next step was to get the dome from our garage and lifted up on to the base. The dome itself weighs over 500lbs, so we enlisted the help of the men in our families. There are sturdy wires looped in the concrete covering the dome and these are used to insert 2x4s to make lifting easier. Though easier is a relative term; the guys in our family who helped us with the lift would beg to differ, I’m sure!

11224306_10207456854199636_5486203460678553076_n11870687_10207514955012120_6275459335653620652_n11229548_10207514955052121_5665151623362838793_n11888078_10207514956012145_4663733650698646073_n11863392_10207514957652186_3728019014271112582_n11855706_10207514958692212_4086598232339753226_n11846746_10207514959612235_751961645149475637_n11201496_10207514961132273_1860611633022067029_n         11902266_10207514961292277_7161549371127330379_n 11892076_10207514969652486_5639014471257419985_nAnd there we are, all smiles…

We held the arch up to see what it would look like and then used bungee cords to hold it while the adhesive set overnight.

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After the arch was set, I installed the chimney, but for some reason I don’t have any pictures of that.Next was insulation, a layer of kitchen aluminum foil, and wire to cover the entire dome. Yes, kitchen foil. The instructions said foil and I was thinking it must be some sort of foiled insulation; I just couldn’t figure it out, so I called the company and he informed me that it was regular old kitchen foil. By the way, I had to call the Bread Stone Oven company a few times during the installation and they were so helpful every time. I even asked a bunch of questions by email and always received prompt, informative responses. I highly recommend this company for your wfo needs.

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Then stucco and we’re done!! We put a heavy plastic sheet over the foundation to avoid stucco getting on the oven or the pavers. Mixed up the stucco, added the coloring powder and began troweling it on. We didn’t have wire on the front of the oven and this made it very hard to apply the stucco. I ended up applying it with my hands and smoothing it out as much as I could. I would recommend putting some sort of wooden structure around the front, along with wire, before stucco to make it look better. I do like the rustic look of our oven though. Also, you have to do at least two layers of stucco. The second one is much harder to apply, in my opinion. We chose to leave the surface rough, but you could smooth it out with a soft trowel if you choose. Neither of us had done anything like this before, but it was much easier than we anticipated. Don’t ever be afraid to try something new.

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So, that brings us to the end of the building process. We began cooking in our oven the weekend after we finished everything and have used it almost every weekend since. Total building time took around 14 days over 9 weeks from the first shovel in the ground to the first fire.

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You need to cure the oven before baking in it by building a series of small fires and increasing the size/intensity of the fire. This is done to get all of the moisture out of the bricks. You’ll want to do this if your oven sits for an extended period of time without use, as well.

UPDATE: The section under the opening did not fare well for us over the winter. It all cracked and crumbled away. In the spring, I removed it all and replaced it with some old fire bricks we had laying around. I really like the new look a lot more.

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And this is the oven today…we added a board around the front and side and painted the pavers. I’ve installed some hooks on the board for my paddle and to hang towels. We also added an umbrella at the end of the foundation because the sun sets on that side and it just beats down on us when we’re cooking.

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Thanks for sticking with me through this process. Join me again for more wood fired cooking!

Easy Roasted Tomato Sauce

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It’s that time of the year where most everyone’s gardens are overflowing with amazing produce. Our “urban” garden is no exception…we’ve had a wonderful harvest so far of Roma beans, jalapenos, hot & mild banana peppers and, of course, tomatoes! We planted four kinds this year, 4th of July, Better Boy, Carolina Gold and the Italian and culinary tomato of choice, San Marzano.

So, what to do with all of this bounty? I say, “stock that pantry!” There is not much better than having a meal in the middle of winter that tastes of summer. By canning and/or freezing, you can have that fresh-picked flavor all winter long.

A couple of years ago, we found a recipe for roasted tomatoes on a great blog, FoodieCrush and our pantry has never been the same. This is the ONLY pizza/pasta sauce we use in our house now and it is so easy to make. You just need a bunch of tomatoes, good flavored extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, lots of herbs and a few hours to cook low and slow in your oven. I can’t begin to tell you how much flavor you get from these simple ingredients.

If you don’t have a garden, visit a local farmer’s market or co-op. If the absolute only option for you is a grocery store, try to buy organic. You really want the freshest, most flavorful tomatoes you can find. Great in, great out.

You’ll need enough tomatoes to fill at least two baking sheets, approximately 5-6 pounds. Wash and core the tomatoes and fill those pans. Add at least 5-6 whole cloves of garlic to each pan and drizzle with olive oil. Then add herbs of your choice…we use basil, oregano and thyme…and salt liberally with coarse salt. Add fresh ground black pepper if you like and/or some hot pepper flakes, if you want a little kick to your sauce.

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If your wood fired oven (wfo) is large enough to accommodate both baking sheets, this is the perfect opportunity to use the residual heat from the previous night’s cooking. By the morning after, my oven is usually still around 250-300F degrees depending on how chilly it was overnight. If the oven is still around 300F, you may want to check these tomatoes after around 3 hours to ensure you don’t cook them too much. If you didn’t use the wfo the night before or you don’t have one yet, you can definitely do these in your kitchen oven. Place the trays into a 250F degree oven for around 4 hours, until the tomatoes are soft.

tom4 tom6  tom5 Just look at all that flavor!

After removing from the oven, place the tomatoes into a stock pot, making sure to scrape down the tray to get all of those tasty juices. DO NOT skip this step because you feel you’re putting too much oil into your sauce…you simply can not wash that succulent juice down the drain!

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Use your immersion blender to combine everything into a smooth sauce. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender. Just be careful because the liquid will be hot. This recipe makes around 15 pint jars of sauce. You could also place the sauce into freezer bags and freeze flat. They’ll keep up to 4-6 months in the freezer; however, we prefer canning because you don’t get any extra water from freezer burn and canned sauce lasts longer. I also think it tastes fresher than from the freezer.

Important Canning Tip:

  • Make sure to add 1/4 tsp citric acid powder to each pint jar before filling if you are canning via water bath. You could also use 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice, but I feel that does add a flavor change. There is no impact to flavor with the citric acid powder.
    • The Penn State University extension shares why this is important:  “Tomatoes were once considered an acid food that could be safely canned in a boiling-water canner. However, because of the potential for botulism when some newer, less acidic tomato varieties are canned, certain precautions must now be taken.

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I do hope you will try this easy recipe so that you too can enjoy the flavors of summer all year round!


EASY ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE

Yield: 15 pints

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 pounds medium or small tomatoes, stems and cores removed
  • 1 medium head of garlic, peeled (you can chop the garlic if you want but I keep the cloves whole and add 5-6 per pan)
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 4-5 springs fresh thyme
  • ⅓ cup fresh oregano
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper and/or red pepper flakes, if desired

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  • Place the tomatoes on large baking sheet with a raised 1-inch lip. Add the garlic cloves and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Use your fingers to mix well to coat. Top with torn basil leaves, a couple sprigs of thyme and some oregano. You can also add a bay leaf to each pan if you wish or maybe a few sprigs of rosemary. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, if using.
  • Bake for 4 hours or until tomatoes are soft and bursting.
  • Blend to desired consistency.
  • Freeze or can following proper canning methods.