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Archive for the ‘Wood Fired Oven Project’ Category

Excavating Shaggy Parasol Mycelium

04.20.12

When we bought the property we’re now on I started digging up lawn almost immediately. What once was 99% lawn is now maybe 5-10% lawn. I’ve become pretty adept at destroying lawn. 5 years ago, when I started digging up soil that looked like that in the photo [currently excavating for the big-ass wood oven project] – white, granular, entirely different in texture – I thought it had something to do with the previous owners having a dog. I thought it was dog-poo-destroyed soil. Proof, once again, that I’m not always right.

As it turns out, the white stuff is mycelium [mycelia plural more appropriate?] of the shaggy parasol [lepiota rachodes] mushroom. It’s the vegetative part of the fungus that grows in the soil, the ‘mushroom’ bit we think of being the fruit. This white fuzzy, mold-looking stuff permeates the soil, decomposing things, and fruiting when and where it reaches some critical mass. The fruiting locations almost seem random to me in my yard, often fruiting a good 12-14′ feet away from where it fruited last. So far, I’ve dug out 2-3 wheelbarrows full of soil heavy in mycelia. I’ve been dumping it in other areas of my yard, covering it up, with hopes that it will produce more mushroom fruiting. I already get mushrooms in my front ‘forest garden’ due to having moved similar soil there in past years.

It strikes me as odd that me, of all people, happened to have purchased a property whose soil was rich in edible wild mushroom. Strange, no?

The big masonry kitchen project shows its face again

04.11.12

Some of you might remember this. 2-3 years ago, I came up with the mad idea of building a huge-assed [17+' wide] masonry wall of kitchen awesomeness in my back yard. Did all the research. Drew all the plans. Had them approved by the city and the gas company [crossing a gas line, not because anything's gas fuelled]. Then, decided that tackling it the year we had a newborn in the house was likely not the responsible thing to do. So it got shelved.

I then built ‘the temp‘, re-purposing the stack of cinders and bricks intended for ‘the big project’ to make them less in the way and more useful. Turns out the temp was a resounding success. 3 hour time investment gave me a wood oven and wood fire grill that will have lasted 15 months or so. But alas, the heat took its toll on the pavers in the design [see photo top left], which has compromised the structural integrity, as well as the usability of the temp. The temp will be seeing its last day standing today.

Which leaves me with two masonry-wood-fire projects. 1 – the big project. The shovel has hit the dirt to dig foundation. I have no idea when I’ll finish, but am taking the first steps in the journey. Keep telling myself Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s a bit daunting, but very exciting. 2 – the temp 2.0. I need a setup in the interim built elsewhere in the yard where it won’t be in my way. I believe it will be a cob oven and smaller wood grill. We’ll see what comes of that project. I see muscle soreness in my future.

Episode 28 – Bin Food

01.19.12

This is a follow up to Episode 27, the reaction to which I must pause to thank you all for. I was more than slightly apprehensive in the days just prior to shooting it, fearful that if it didn’t go well, it could reflect badly on the subjects of the story. Turns out the result has been an outpouring of praise, appreciation, and value for the transparency, respect, and approach. I’m very grateful for you all and for having a brilliant individual to interview.

This is far…lighter, although still a serious topic near and dear to me: food waste. I left that day with 60-70 lbs of off-cuts from only 1 of the 5 cows killed, and it wasn’t even all the off-cuts. 100 lbs of edible ‘waste’ from one cow might be a good rough estimate. I’ll repeat myself to death that it’s the consumer demand that drives this waste. I’ll lump myself in there. I didn’t grow up eating heart, tripe, kidneys, caul fat, oxtail, etc – so I’m still learning about all this stuff too. But I now render all my lard from our annual pig, and easily use it all up. And I thoroughly enjoy roasted pig head which I would never have considered a few years ago. Pig skin crackling makes a regular appearance in my kitchen. There’s still a lot of an animal that I could learn to use better. So in this one, you get to see me make a dish with a bin cut that quite frankly should not be.

How did it taste? The flavour was intense and outstanding, and the mouthfeel unparalleled. For stews, I’m not sure there’s a better cut of beef. If the local restaurants don’t scoop this reject cut, I might, it’s that good. And for those that ‘don’t have the time’, please note how long it took to prepare.

Fire, Brick, Water, and Wheat

11.30.11

I couldn’t not take photos of these breads yesterday. It being a busy fall with harvesting, butchering, etc, I haven’t fired up the wood oven nearly often enough. There’s something meditative about watching a fire that’s akin to getting lost in music. Add to that the satisfaction of baking up lovely loaves of tasty bread while tending the oven, and it’s the kind of activity that can make your day.

This bread is the same pain a l’ancienne approach as I wrote about here. Having taken a quick look at that post I noticed that I’ve modified the loaf shape due to the design of my wood oven and how I’m baking them off. With hot coals still in the oven during baking there’s uneven heat making a baguette style loaf shape impractical – one end being done far before the other. So instead I’m free-styling them into whatever shape comes from cutting the dough into a few manageable pieces that can be turned easily in the oven if need be without removing them. It produces a puffed up mini-loaf that cut in half is fantastic for sandwiches. Kinda like pita meets pizza crust meets ciabatta bun. First course for dinner last night was herbed fried ruffed grouse breast, mayo, and carrot & pickled onion slaw stuffed into a half of one of these loaves. Tasty.

Celebrating Spring Thyme

04.03.11

Irvings Farm Fresh Berk Loin Chop, Garden Thyme, Garlic + Lola Canola Honey mustard

GEH Potatoes, Onions, Mo-Na Mushroms, Garden Thyme

Bacon Deserves Some Respect

03.15.11

I know, I write about bacon a lot. And I know, bacon’s so last year, right? Wrong. Putting bacon in all kinds of stupid stuff – that’s so last year. But top-shelf bacon is, and will be so long as man and pork collide, a force of awesomeness to be reckoned with.

For those of you who have been paying attention, this is indeed the bacon cured by my 3-year-old. A week in the fridge, and a couple hours over some wood fire smoke – daddy did that part [see bottom photo]. So simple. So tasty.

For some reason though, this bacon is among the best I’ve ever produced – and I’ve made a lot of bacon. We are literally swooning over it, and it’s not for lack of cured pork in our diet. I’m going to give the credit to Nature’s Green Acres for raising some high-maintenance but ridiculously beautiful pork belly. You can see me butchering this very slab of pig’s belly here.

This beautiful piece of pork has fired me up to asking we quit wearing bacon, crafting with bacon, putting it in desserts, and any other bacon-nonsense – and give it back some of its well deserved respect and dignity. Really.

An Afternoon with Bread

02.04.11

Life’s pace slowed for a moment today, so out came the flours. I made 3 doughs. 1] 50% Highwood Crossing Unbleached White, 50% Gold Forest Grains Whole Wheat. 2] 50% Highwood Crossing Unbleached White, 50% Gold Forest Grains Rye and 3] 100% Highwood Crossing Unbleached White. So a white, a whole wheat, and a rye. All with roughly 80% hydration, 1ml salt and active dry yeast per 100g flour.

The whole wheat seemed to proof the fastest, and was the most slack. Next was the rye, and then the white – which is odd, perhaps attributable to the white flour being cold [straight out of the cellar].

Below is a photo essay illustrating the doughs post ferment/pre final rise; the probe thermometer reading internal loaf temps inside my temp wood fired oven [grateful, as they cooked faster than anticipated]; the finished loaves [the white a tad small as some dough was nicked to make a small pizza for lunch while the oven was really hot]; my use of the coals when pulled out to bake: grilled some bugers for dinner; and lastly, a quick shot of the oven walls white from exceeding 600F [I think], burning off any residual soot.

Dry Stacked Oven Design Error & Tasty Bread

01.18.11

Having spent a slightly embarrassing amount of time over the past couple weeks researching my large-scale project, I stepped outside today, and chuckled at my error in my dry stack oven build. I think that’s an age thing. Laughing at one’s mistakes. So on to V2.0. The error: my door and chamber top ratio was close enough at 60%, but my door closed post chimney, resulting in all the hot air zooming out the very efficient chimney, even with door on. I need to knock the height down pre-chimney, not post, and have the door close the oven ‘box’. Not provide a heat escape. Oops.

So what I did, seen below in all its sophistication, is knock the chimney down a few courses, and plop a couple spare pavers atop the  chimney opening. Can still use it as a chimney while firing if desired – it still functions. I fired the oven for a good 5 hrs today, and with the chimney plugged it got vastly hotter than I’ve ever seen. Shocker. Like. Hot. The photo top left is of the snow adjacent to the oven [yes, the snow's up about 3-4 feet on the oven, and I'm sick of snow] – I was surprised that despite the oven being super-hot, it only melted a couple-inch-gap away from it through the course of the day. The stick in the photo is one of my fancy fire pokers. Came free with the oven.

The subsequent photos: 1] what to do with the coals pulled from the oven pre-bake: use them to grill. 2] the baking of a bread recipe I’m mucking about with [used Sunny Boy organic white flour]. Despite the abundant flaws and inefficiencies, the eaters in my family give this bread extremely high marks in the awesomeness department.