Building a Brick Oven at Pennsic

Pennsic is a two-week-long SCA camping event held in August that has about 10,000 attendees. People are organized by camps, and I used to camp with Camp Crook’d Cat. In Pennsic parlance, it’s is located on the Serengeti on a road called The Strand near the solar showers. The camp focuses on cooking period meals over a campfire and in a brick oven. These photos were taken on Setup Sunday of Pennsic 45.2016-08-01-10-57-14

Camp Crook’d Cat builds a raised firebox that holds both simple fires and the Camp Oven. The firebox makes it easier to cook without bending over the flames on into a firepit.

This firebox is a wooden box is constructed and filled with dirt. It adds to fire safety by keeping the flames away from the grass, and provides a level space to build the oven floor. The oven floor and roof are made from paving tiles, and the sides are built with brick.

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Making sure the floor is flat is critical for even cooking, so we use a carpenter’s level to check the paving stones’ alignment. We make sure to check both paving stones as they are added to the oven.

 

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Finally, the oven floor is complete. Note how the tiles butt against each other, with no cracks running the length of the oven.

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The first row of bricks for the oven walls are leveled, and carefully measured against the oven doors. Sometimes we can use doors for a few years.

 

 

 

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Because the Pennsic site is on top of a bed of clay, we can use clay and water to cement the bricks. Mudding the bricks is very similar to frosting a cake. As each row of brick is added, we check it with a level and use extra clay and small stones to ensure the walls are even.

 

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The third layer of bricks juts into the oven to form a shelf for trays of bread. Cakes, pies and other baked things also use these shelves.

 

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Every row requires verification that the oven is being built evenly. It’s annoying, but uneven ovens don’t bake at a constant temperature. (The one picture I wish I could share would show the walls having its alignment tested. This also helps the oven bake evenly.)

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The top of the oven is completed with large paving stones. Mudded bricks cover the crack on the top of the oven, ensuring even heating throughout.

 

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Here’s the completed oven, waiting for logs to be shoved inside so it can heat. Doors at both ends allow the cooks to shove burning logs into the oven at both ends, which makes heating the oven safer for the cooks.

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Sekanjabin – Medieval Gatorade

Sekanjabmin is a Middle Eastern drink made by adding syrup to water. It combines sugar and vinegar to replace electrolytes lost through sweat.  The first time I made sekanjabmin, I followed Cariadoc‘s drink recipe.

At Panteria last weekend, I had the privilege of trying a much more flavorful version of the drink. The bar owner gave me his recipe:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a simmer.
  2. Add 8 cups of sugar and bring the water to a boil.
  3. Add 1 cup white vinegar (apple cider vinegar is also good).
  4. Simmer the mixture just below a boil for 30 minutes.
  5. Add a handful of flavoring (orange, lime, or lemon zest and juice) and keep the mixture at a simmer for another 30 minutes.
  6. Strain the mixture into a container, cool, and serve.