Dutch Fork: Cooking with Dutch Ovens

In the process called "firing the oven," a blaze was built in the oven space until the stones or bricks were sufficiently heated. According to the recollection of one source, neighboring women knew that the oven was ready to bake when an oak leaf would curl up when placed inside. This was the clear sign for baking to begin. " The loose brick would be placed in the vent; then all the coals were raked out clean. The food to be baked was placed inside on a wooden paddle, up to six feet long. The paddle was then jerked as in pulling a tablecloth from under dishes, and the food remained in its proper place in the oven… When the baking process was complete, the trusty paddle, which often had a planed edge at its end, was wedged under the food to remove it from the oven. These bake-ovens were put to use at various times by different families. Some baked only once a week, which would then usually be a Saturday. More often, the baking was done twice a week. The Shealys baked on Thursdays and Saturdays; the Feagles on Wednesdays and Saturdays.' No one ever fired the oven on Sundays for any reason. (Kilber, 1988)

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