Posts Tagged ‘cob oven’

PIZZA PARTY WITH HOME-GROWN PEPPERS – 3rd wk in December 2014

The mild weather threw open the possibility of firing up the cob oven when friends and parents travelled from Counties Meath and Dublin for a visit to Tacumshin, Co. Wexford. The weather was not warm, however, so the wood fired oven gave off some welcome heat as the pizzas were cooking. Admittedly, most of the pizza toppings were bought in, but the bell peppers were grown in the greenhouse and some of the wood was a remnant of boughs that broke of in the storms of last February.

Lighting up a cob oven takes over an hour before the cooking heat is just right, so no point cooking just one pizza after all that trouble. Having a few guests makes it all very sociable and worthwhile. Each pizza cooks in three minutes so nobody is left waiting too long. Roll on the spring and milder weather for more cob oven cuisine

Enjoying rapidly cooked made to order pizzas from the cob oven are Áine, Barbara, Brendan and their sons with my Dad.

Enjoying rapidly cooked made to order pizzas from the cob oven are Áine, Barbara, Brendan and their sons, Ferdia and Cillian, with my Dad.

– baking bread is the next challenge!

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CURING ONIONS BEFORE PUTTING THEM IN STORAGE – 4th wk in August 2014

Once the harvest-ready onions have been lifted, the damp soil needs a chance to dry off. The skin of the onions also need to dry and harden before they can be safely stored. In fine weather, the lifted onions are often just left on top of the soil for this ‘curing process’ which takes place over a week or so.

Here in Tacumshin, under pressure from young nieces and nephews, a cob oven for cooking pizzas has been built under an open and airy DIY flat roof. The paving slab floor around the cob oven is now an ideal place to lay out the onions open to sun and wind, but sheltered from the odd rain shower.

After a week or so of ‘curing’, one can rub off the dried soil from each onion, pick out any imperfect onions for immediate use and store the rest. Not sure if I’ll have time to plait all 400 onions so that they can

Curing onion harvest,  Jet Set (early), Red Baron (red) and Sturon (good storage onion) in airy dry sunny location  around cob oven.

Curing onion harvest, Jet Set (early), Red Baron (red) and Sturon (good storage onion) in airy dry sunny location around cob oven.

hang attractively in a cool dark shed. However, the main requirement is a dry well ventilated cool place. Onion bags and racks will be useful to help store this precious harvest. I know one man who stores his home grown onions under his bed!

KEY TO A HOT COB OVEN IS WELL SEASONED WOOD – 3rd wk in July 2014

Initially the cob oven is a damp structure just like a wet cement structure. After ten days of summer weather, (the warmer and windier the better,) it is time to scoop out the damp sand which gives the final cob oven its shape.

To speed up the natural drying process (as we needed to do!) small fires can be lit on the fire bricks for short periods to gradually dry the inside of the oven. This we did three times a day for a few days until we prepared dough and pizza toppings – and assembled a pizza making team of teenage nephews!

Voila - Conor Neville prepares to serve the first pizza from the new cob oven to be shared with the brothers Adam and Brian, while Áine checks on the seasoning wood supplies.

Voila – Conor Neville prepares to serve the first pizza from the new cob oven to be shared with the brothers Adam and Brian, while Áine checks on the seasoning wood supplies.

MAKING COB IS A VERY SOCIABLE BUILDING ACTIVITY – 2nd wk in July 2014

Having visited Vivienne and Chris Hayes outside Wexford town to taste the delicious pizzas made in their homemade cob oven, the idea of building our own outdoor cob oven became very appealing. Cob is made from subsoil or marle, sand, straw and water – not forgetting many bare feet and hands. The ‘meitheal’ factor is vital as all the work has to be done in one day so the finished structure dries at a uniform rate.

Saul Moshbacher, plus his WWOOF-ing helper Theo, drove from Feakle in Co. Clare to Wexford to train the willing workers on how to make a cob oven. They brought large tarpaulins on which the mixing could take place. This looked to any passerby like barefoot dancing, but there was thorough mixing of sand, subsoil and water going on. Three layers each 2 inches thick were moulded around a damp sand dome on top of a stone base. The outer layer had straw added to the mix to make it harder wearing.

Once made the cob should really be left to dry

One of the cob mixing teams hard at 'work'. Meet Peter, Niamh, Ailis, Dana and Theo dancing for their supper!

One of the cob mixing teams hard at ‘work’. Meet Peter, Niamh, Ailis, Dana and Theo dancing for their supper!

for several months, but we needed to test it earlier than that in advance of our wedding! So next week’s blog will report on testing the cob oven for the first time.

LEARNING TO DRIVE IN WOODEN POSTS BY MACHINE AND BY HAND – 1st wk in July 2014

Tacumshin is located on a virtual peninsula near Carnsore Point with winds blowing strongly from the east and the south at times. Fencing has to be strong and wind breaks take a battering unless posts are securely driven in.

In building a shelter for an outdoor cob oven this week, four wooden pillars had to be positioned and secured in the ground first. These 11 foot high and 1 foot square pillars of wood had to go down 3 foot before they could be securely cemented in place.

To the rescue came John Coleman and Sons, our friendly agricultural contractor from Piercestown up the road, complete with mini-digger on a low trailer. The digger had an augur attachment which pneumatically twisted its way through the soil creating a 3 foot deep borehole. A neat job quickly done – which saved me buckets of sweat! I’ll need that energy to manually drive in several dozen smaller 6 foot posts to which we will nail wind break mesh fabric alongside the vegetable and fruit beds before the winter winds come around again.

John's mini-digger twists the augur in 3 foot where the first of 4 storm proof posts are to stand!

John’s mini-digger twists the augur in 3 foot where the first of 4 storm proof posts are to stand!