Argentine "mud" oven
Having been raised in Argentina for ten years, I learned the way of the gaucho and military takeovers. But I also became addicted to food cooked in traditional wood-fired "campo" ovens, which range from simple mud & horse manure models thrown together in two days, up to elaborate brick creations with mechanical doors. You can cook almost anything in them: pizza, bread, empanadas, chicken, pig, lamb, goat, or whatever will fit inside.
For years I studied and photographed these ovens, and finally I couldn't live without one. In Las Vegas there is a strong Argentine community, and I easily convinced my friend Ruben to finance one at his house. For only $450 and three months of weekend sweat, we finally had our "horno de campo," which became an instant hit with our friends. (To see the entire process check out our blog site at: http://nervegna.blogspot.com/)
So now that all the mistakes were made on Ruben's, I'm ready to build my own!
Thanks for your link to your oven project. It looks good. It puts the emphasis on the people-working-together part of the process that makes it fun.
For your second oven I have two small suggestions: putting the vent in the entryway instead of the dome will help you get and keep the heat you need for cooking. likewise a layer of insulation between your two brick layers will keep your wood consumption way down.
Thanks for sharing.
Stryke and I met by email and I am hoping to see lots of recipes and photos. Those empanadas look good!
Thanks for advice
Thanks, dmun, for your words of advice about building my next oven -- they will be taken to heart.
And you're right about the people-working-together aspect of this project. Both Ruben and I really wanted an oven, and we each contributed ideas toward its construction and aesthetics. It made for astronger friendship that is constantly reinforced by great food. However, since he just got married and his bachelor days are over, I now find myself having to sue for visiting rights to our oven!
Next step is to finish the back yard and walls that surround the oven, to do it justice.
Those pictures are, without question, the best non-pizza, wood oven cooking photos I have seen.
Having recently returned from an Italian vacation, I had my fair share of porchetta. I understand that the porchetta is cooked in a wood burning oven there. I am emboldened to try it myself after seeing your shots. Our ovens appear to be about the same size, yours says 100cm right? Mine is 38". How big was that pig.
I also had some amazing goat while I was over there, cooked over a wood burning spit...Have you guys cooked goat or just petted it?
I want that empanada recipe, I grew up in Miami and spent a good deal of time in Puerto Rico as well. We had many empanadas due to the influence of south America (hey, I had an Argentinean girlfriend for a while, HIGH maintenance...no offence of course). So please send those recipes and tips on!
Also, does your oven get hot on the outside when you fire it?
That's a lot of seasoning under the oven. Is that a traditional insulating material? I've never heard of that. I suppose with the tile it should be sealed enough that you shouldn't have to worry about rain affecting that salt layer. Very nice work, thanks for sharing the pictures, especially the Argentina oven pictures at the bottom, very cool.
Argentine ovens are insulated with course salt and/or broken glass. We overdid it on the salt for this first oven, but it is tightly sealed, doesn't leak, and the oven retains heat fine.
Alf wrote a nice posting on traditional insulators a while back (but I would have to look for it!). The old-tech ovens have used sand, tufa, expanded clay, crushed glass, wood ash and salt as insulators -- all of which offer varying degrees of efficiency. As attracted as I am to the old-school, the modern insulators, including Insulfrax, SuperIsol, and even vermiculite (which is basically volcanic popcorn) have a lot going for them. They are efficient and easy to use, and the ovens work better. I don't think they detract from the character of our wood-fired ovens. Old-world meets new-world?
I think the idea of taking advantage of an efficient supply chain has a lot going for it -- from kiln and furnace insulators to Italian precast ovens. On the other end of the spectrum, some Italian builders still quarry their own clay and fire their own bricks in wood kilns. Looking back, that is what the Ford company tried to do with automobiles. Complete vertical integration, right down to the rubber plantations. From an economic standpoint, it didn't work.
Sorry about the long tangent. It got me thinking about old-school ovens in Naples.
I'm all for any insulation that works, new world or old world, as long as the oven works and the taste of the food isn't affected. ˇViva technology!
And to beat all, $450.00 for an oven is not too bad.
J W :cool:
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