Prepare to build the earthen oven
To make the actual earthen oven building day as effective as possible it helps to have all supplies ready. For me this meant getting the base of the earthen oven built as well as having the actual building material available.
The insualtion is a blend of ground, clay and pine shavings. Saw dust can also be used instead of saw dust if you have some of that available. Put the dry mixture on a tarp and mix it together before wetting. When it's well mixed begin to add some water, but don't make it too wet. You just want it to be workable but to hold it's shape.
Start to build the earthen oven
On top of the brick floor a sand dome is built to build the actual earthen oven around, and then the sand is removed. Simple play sand is sufficient. Cover the firebrick floor with newspaper and the outside of the sand dome with damp newspaper to aid in the removal of it later.
I also stood a fire brick on it's side around the edge to have some protection for the earthen wall when sliding the peel in to the oven. If I was doing it over I would actually go higher with the fire brick on the inside of the oven.
Start playing in the mud
Try to keep the mud a consistent moisture so that it dries at a consistent rate. The mud should be wet enough to work and hold it's shape. A good way to test this is to roll a snake out of the mud and let it drape off the side of your hand. It should bend and hang down with some slight cracking but not break off, which means it's too dry.
Remove the sand dome
Be careful when removeing the sand to not hit the mud wall too much. The paper should give some protection to the wall and let you know that your at the edge.
Build a fire
Some things I learned building the earthen oven:
- It takes more mud than you think
- It takes more sand, but you can get it back
- Try to have all these materials available ahead of time, that way you wont have to stop the building process to dig more ground
- Take your time and allocate an entire day
- The bottom of a stream is good place to find clay
- Let the clay dry out and grind it fine to assist with blending
- Make sure the door is wide enough for what you want to cook
- Wear sun screen
Yet to do
Once the initial dome is built the earthen oven is usable, but to make it more effecient a layer of insulation should be added. Without the insulation layer the oven will loose a lot of heat to the open air but adding it allows for much longer cooking from one burn. The insulation layer is the same blend of material as the base layer. This insulation layer is also where you let the artist come out and you can build a fancy earthen oven.
I need to still put my insualtion layer on my oven. It looses heat quickly when the ambient tempurature is low, it wasn't too bad during the summer, but in the winter the cooking time was somewhat short. This will be a spring project.