Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pizza on the Cob


It's an unbelievable feeling when something you help build finally gets put to use.  The S.S. Cob's maiden voyage was one covered in melted cheese and fresh tomato sauce.  Taking the first bite of pizza that came out of the infamous cob oven was somewhat euphoric, it tasted...

cheesy, flavorful and definitely undercooked because we were still figuring out how to use this thing.  Nevertheless, it tasted like pure victory!

Let's jump back a step here and talk a little bit about how we got to the pizza.  At 9:30am, The Captain lit the inaugural flame and as you can see in the picture below, there was still newspaper attached to the inside layer of cob that was used to create the shell.  He explained that we needed to basically cure the oven before it would be ready for full use.  Curing is the process of burning out all of this excess newspaper, drying and hardening the inside of the oven.  

As Evan taught us during the building process, in order to properly maintain the heat in the oven, we needed a door.  Gregg Twehues, the director of nutrient management at Stone Barns, worked with some apprentices to create this strong, solid, steel door.  Although you want it to fit the hole, it's important to leave some space for fresh air to flow in and feed the fire.

Now that we had our door, we let the oven heat for a few hours before it was ready for cooking and baking.  The fire stayed strong using a blend of biochar (a special charcoal that Gregg and The Captain have been using on the farm to increase soil productivity), leftover oak wood and of course The Captain's burnt hair.  

So what would you do if you still had 3 or 4 hours to kill before the oven was ready to experiment with...?  That's right, we went the obvious route and built a patio.

When dealing with sustainable projects, there is no waste, only potential and there were plenty of leftover materials lying around from building the oven.  Although we are touching right on the one year mark since Matt and I started volunteering with The Captain, his McGyver-esq creativity still amazes me every time.  This guy turns a paperclip, a rubber band and a handful of peanut shells into a full-fledged, gorgeous patio, it's truly nuts, take a look.

A few hours later the newspaper is almost completely gone from inside, we're getting closer.

You can see here that smoke is literally pouring out of the cob shell as the moisture inside is still drying out.

Another key component is a separate door that fits just past the chimney.  Once the oven is ready for baking, it's beneficial to have a door that will minimize the amount of heat that can escape, locking more heat inside the baking chamber.

The sand we used for the oven mold, mixed with a little bit of mortar, was now being used to hold the stones and bricks in place for the patio. 

The summer was full of delicious tomatoes and no better way to store them for the winter than turning them into tomato sauce and jarring them, exactly what The Captain had done.  Using this delicious sauce, some fresh mozzarella cheese and these beautiful and plump Oyster mushrooms harvested from some logs growing right next to the oven, we had our pizzas.

TADA!!!  This is what it's all about right here...just look at that cheese stretch.

Although I was hoping to stay a little longer, the incredible live music of The Punch Brothers and Dave Matthews Band in Philadelphia waits for no one and so I had to leave before getting to sample any of the other amazing pizzas and breads that were being prepared throughout the day.  Nevertheless, looking at the picture above, it was quite the life experience to say the least.