French bread ovens in Quebec ~ how to bake your own


One of the joys of blogging is making unexpected links with and learning from individuals and different groups anywhere in the world. Through this site I’ve been e-chatting with Kath and Roger who live just 12k away from our house in Le Chatelier and, by coincidence, we met up at the weekend at Descarte’s Sunday Market ~ it was great to meet up with them in the flesh! Further afield, though, I’ve been communicating with people in Quebec who run the blog A Canadian Family (they write and post images about Acadian & French Canadian Ancestors and The Iroquois of Kahnawake). Then, of course, there is my gourmet friend Colin Dyson who is getting all enthusiastic about building a bread oven later this year at his farmhouse near Montresor.

The flag shows location of Gaspé, Canada. Thanks to Google Maps

Colin knows about my previous blogs about communal bread ovens in the Touraine and thought, rightly, I’d be interested in his plans to build an open air bread oven from scratch. So, imagine both our surprise as, when he and his family visited on Sunday to have dinner, we viewed the latest posting from A Canadian Family which was all about the tradition of making and using open air French-style bread ovens in Gaspé , Quebec! They look so like the ones we can still see locally. Here’s an image from their site:

Thanks to 'A Canadian Family' for use of this image

If you want to join Colin by building your own open air bread oven then there are lots of instructions on the web e.g. click here or for a video of the type of earth oven that Colin’s interested in building click here.

Finally, from A Canadian Family’s blog, here’s an excerpt from, Treasure trove in Gaspé and the Baie des Chaleurs by Margaret Grant MacWhirter, Telegraph Printing Co, Quebec, 1919, a handy guide to constructing bread ovens if I ever saw one:

“Gaspé, as in many parts of the surrounding country we find the old-fashioned bake-ovens. A foundation of stone was built according to the size required, and covered with a smooth surface of brick or sandstone. An arched mould of earth was next built and covered with a composition of clay, sand and marsh hay to the thickness of six inches. When finished, the earth was removed by slow degrees, and a fire built inside. When the earth was all removed the inside of the top was well baked. A stove door is often used to close the open end. When bake day arrives, a fire is made in the oven; by frequent stirring, this becomes converted into red-hot coals. When the inside of the oven turns white, the coals are removed; the heat of the oven is tested by inserting the hand, and keeping it in, till twenty is slowly counted. The story is told of a woman more devotional then mathematical who repeated the Lord’s Prayer. The bread is placed on a wooden shovel and pushed in, and the door tightly fastened. In an hour the bread is ready for removal — beautifully baked — and it is asserted that no range oven can rival the taste of bread thus cooked in a clay oven.”
(You can view the whole book in digitalised format  courtesy of Berkeley Library, University of California)
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About Jim McNeill

I am a blogger on 'The Social History of the Touraine region of France (37)' and also 'The Colonial History of Pennsylvania and the life & Family of William Penn'. I am a Director of Sweet Training Learning Consultancy Ltd. I'm about to open L'Union Bar in Paulmy, Loire Valley, France (37) in 2012 with my wife, Sandra.
This entry was posted in 20th Century, Bread making and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to French bread ovens in Quebec ~ how to bake your own

  1. Colin Dyson says:

    Definitely have to get it together now Jim. Nice Post. Love Colin

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