Being a full-blooded Italian and all, not only do I love people and visiting, but I like to see their enjoyment when they eat good food. I inherited that love from my mother, who is the worlds best cook, in my eyes. I always wanted an out-door pizza oven to bake and entertain with and back in the late summer of 2009 I finally got my wish. When Fred agreed to make me an oven, I knew it would not be fancy nor store-bought, but that it would work for me.
He always finds a way to recycle things on our farm. For the pizza oven, he took an old gas stove of mine (we go through them often) and used that for the oven. He and Caleb mixed all of the cement one batch at a time. They used silo staves which we had plenty of, having taken down over 22 silos over several years. We also had some old bricks from who knows where, but they were sitting out behind the barn. I think the only cost that went into the project was that of a bag of cement. Even that was left over from some other odd project. He described to me in great detail how he would go about building this, but I had a hard time seeing what he had designed in his mind’s eye. I can never seem to visualize what he pictures in his mind so easily. The original fire-pit and pizza oven took around two days to complete.
I’m going to post below the photos that had been taken at that time. (Hold your mouse over the photo) If you would like to try to build an oven, this may give you some idea how to go about it. You can switch materials and even style, but hopefully this will spark the idea that will grow into something used for many nice gatherings with good food, friends and conversations, both deep or casual. Even burned pizza tastes good when shared with others! I’m not really sure whether it is the flavor of the foods created here or just the out-door atmosphere spent with friends and family, or maybe the time spent waiting with others to sample the meal as we converse. Whatever it is, building this somewhat homely stove was well worth the effort and has been a great source of satisfaction.
As with human beings, the physical beauty is not nearly as important as what comes from within, and in this case, much good comes from within the hot heart of this ugly duckling. Not to mention, it was made lovingly for me and my family by my husband, the man I love and admire the most, and my young son who eagerly learned, hands on, from his father.
Somehow I failed to photograph the next steps so let me just say that they finished the arch. Use your imagination:) They built up the sides as you can see and on top placed the clay chimney. After the cement was cured, they removed the wooden boards, it’s purpose having been to support the weight of the staves.
You are probably wondering how this unit works. First a fire is built on the left side either on the grates or on the cement floor. When you get a good hot fire going with some red-hot logs, you simply use a shovel and transfer the hot logs to the very bottom part of the oven, the little door that opens. Fill the area and then close the small door, waiting for the top oven to heat. You want to wait until any smoke clears. This takes anywhere from 15 min. to a half hour. In winter time it could be longer because the oven is so cold! The pizza baking time takes anywhere from 8 to 12 min. and that is not written in gold depending on oven temperature.
We also use the entire pit area for grilling, drying peppers, herbs and elderberries, rendering lard, cooking deep-fried onion rings, donuts and “pizza frit”, which is italian fried dough, a specialty my mom taught me to make. We also use it to smoke bacon and ham, render down bees-wax, bake pies, donuts and Stromboli. Otherwise, it is a great gathering place for bonfires, Rosaries and heart to heart discussions over a bottle of home-made wine or more recently home-brewed beer.
The photos below show the addition to the pizza oven/fire pit area that were completed a couple of weeks ago, all in one day. The Twins built up the side bars using silo staves. Then after that was completed, Fred taught them how to cement tiles on top to make it a nice area to work and serve food from. It has been fun using the bars or tables, call them what you like.
We don’t expect the bars to hold up too long but since we didn’t put any money into it, we can always rebuild it again. We’ll see how it holds up under a Minnesota winter. Below are a couple of photos of our family using the fire pit/pizza oven.