Beehive Oven Construction at the Red House Interpretive Center

Red-House-Beehive-Oven-ConstructionIt’s amazing how primitive items like wood, clay, sand and straw can combine to make something wonderful, useful – and, generally, period-specific.
All of the materials mentioned above were used in constructing a beehive oven at the Red House Interpretive Center. The oven is one of three projects underway at the Red House this year that will complement what would likely have been used by some of Cape Girardeau’s earliest settlers.
Andrew Johnson, an Eagle Scout candidate from Notre Dame Regional High School, headed up the oven project as one of his scouting activities. Also helping to build portions of the oven’s set up were were Kelly Johnson, Alex Johnson, Dana Deisher and Stan Downs.
Beehive ovens take their name from their given shape. This primitive oven type has been used by many cultures throughout the ages. Early settlements made a communal oven out of cob, a mixture of clay, sand and straw that hardens as it dries. The cob is formed over wet sand piled into the elliptical shape of a bee hive. The oven’s elliptical shape is essential for building a fire inside the oven without a vent that allows heat to escape. Once a fire is built in the oven and allowed to burn out, the cob has absorbed enough heat to aid in longer cooking and baking times. Some claim that you can use the oven for several days after this initial heating, thereby using less fire fuel during the cooking process.
With the structure and beehive completed, the oven will dry for several weeks. The crew will then “season the cob” and christen it for cooking later this fall. Potential first cooking efforts may include pizza, bread and cookies.
The images below are from the oven’s construction process. For more information about the Red House Interpretive Center, visit cityofcape.org/redhouse or facebook.com/redhouseinterpretivecenter.
Red House Board Co-Chairperson Paul Nenninger also contributed to the content of this blog.