Maine Wood Heat brought three new products to this year’s 32nd annual Common Ground Fair, sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. As well as being one of the founders of the Fair, we have been at the Fair as a demonstrator or speaker every year since its beginning.
The first new product we brought along was the just-released turnkey concept wood fired oven developed by our French partners, Le Panyol. The new model, called the Provence, is currently featured in the King Arthur Flour mail order catalog. The oven traveled to the Fair from Scott Barden and Cate Conway’s backyard, fully assembled and resting comfortably in the back of our old gray Dodge 3/4 ton pick-up truck.
We hired our old friend Ray Sheehan of Ray’s garage to haul our forklift to the Fair where we used it to quickly and easily unload and level the Provence (in much the same way that it can be delivered to a private residence). After adding the enameled chimney stack we were ready to bake. We positioned the Provence at a forty-five degree angle at one end our booth and fired it up early Friday morning.
Scott set a special crib of finely split wood in a method taught by Kiko Denzer at last year’s Kneading Conference and lit the oven (Download our official Le Panyol Lighting Instructions here). Within ten minutes the Provence was burning smoke free and within forty five minutes the interior temperatures had reached 850 degrees Fahrenheit. We were immediately able to start live fire cooking, beginning with roasted squash and potatoes in a large pan. During the Fair, we made pizzas and cookies on the hearth, stews and chicken dishes in a Dutch oven, fried eggs and sausage in a cast iron skillet, and roasted a leg of lamb. We also loaned our copper domed portable Le Panyol oven to friends from Slow Food Portland for a cooking demonstration on the other side of the fair ground.
Scott Barden’s wife, Cate Conway, bakes a wide range of organic whole grain breads in the Provence (conveniently located just out the back door) for the weekly Skowhegan Saturday Farmer’s Market. After a sustained fire she is able to bake three rounds of bread before recharging the oven briefly if she has more loaves to bake. Almost daily in good weather, and sometimes in bad, Cate and Scott cook evening meals in the oven and sit outside with family and dogs and friends. To say the least, we are very pleased with its performance. I’ll tell you more about the remarkable Provence, along with the other new products we brought along to the Common Ground, in another piece soon.