Adobe oven project at Rock Ledge (you could help!)
Visitors to the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site this weekend (June 10-11) will get to watch the construction of an adobe oven. They can even help build it, if they
Leading the project will be Juan Espinosa, who has built similar ovens in the Mercado of the El Pueblo Museum in Pueblo. The work, requiring about 3,000 adobe bricks, will create a beehive-shaped unit about 4 feet high (atop a 1-foot base) and 5 feet in diameter outside the ranch's Galloway homestead cabin.
Called an horno (pronounced “orno”), this type of oven “had been in use in France and Spain for centuries before the Spanish brought the knowledge of mud ovens and leavened bread to the Southwest in 1540,” according to Cheryl Catalano, Rock Ledge's lead interpreter. She wrote an article on the project in the Annunciator, the newsletter of the ranch's volunteer Living History Association. Over the centuries, hornos became prevalent in many Pueblo Indian tribes, taking on different shapes, sizes and colors (depending on the type of clay in the area), Catalano explained in a follow-up interview. “We can be pretty sure ours will be red,” she added.
For the Rock Ledge project, Espinosa is pre-making the adode bricks. Volunteers are welcome to help mix the mortar (clay and sand) to cement the bricks together. “We'll basically be getting our hands in some mud,” she said. Afterward, the oven “will have to cure for a few days before we can use it. Then we'll fire it up and bake bread and all sorts of things in it over the summer.”
They key to cooking with clay, she said, is to understand that clay retains heat. So the technique is to “build a fire in the oven first, and when it's down to coals and ash, sweep it out, then put in what you want to cook,” Catalano said.
Rock Ledge Ranch is southwest of 30th Avenue and Gateway Road, roughly across the street from the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center.
Westside Pioneer article