The past few days have taken place in a large cloud of sawdust as we try and catch up on a few bespoke orders for BIG chunky chopping boards.
Thick milled planks are cut to best make use of their individual natural grain patterns. All boards are marked out by hand and consequently no two boards are ever the same.
Our boards grace many a TV studio kitchen and are also used in photo shoots for an ever increasing amount of in house and retail food magazines.
Interestingly, when our chunky chopping boards leave Lancashire and travel down the motorway, somewhere around Watford they become ‘Rustic Serving Platters’ and the price quadruples!
As the trend for rustic weddings has increased so has the demand from caterers and wedding planners (professional or DIY) for these boards. Subject to availability (and enough notice) we also do log rings and slices for cake stands.
For a small additional fee, we can also personalise a board with a text message or logo burnt into the edge or surface of the board.
We can’t do ‘urgent’. We may have something suitable already in stock but if not it takes time to locate suitable logs and get them transported and milled. It then takes at least two years for the milled boards to be air dried sufficiently before they are ready for turning into our lovely rustic serving boards.
Yesterday we finally got around to making our very first homemade pizza in the wood fire oven.
Liam made 1kg of pizza dough and a delicious (secret recipe) tomato sauce and so our first pizza trials began.
The oven was lit with some dry brash and a few sticks to warm it up before it was given a heaped load of mixed hardwood wood chunks available from www.woodchunks.co.uk
The wood chunks worked very well and got it up to a steady 300 degrees Centigrade in short order. They quickly turned to glowing embers but, unlike big logs, they were much more maneuverable inside the oven and could be banked up around the edges with ease.
The oven temperature was much more stable than I expected and it was not as difficult to assess and adjust than I had expected.
The base on the first pizza was too thick but that was easily rectified and we quickly got some first class results.
We still need to work on a stand and get a proper prep table sorted out as I don’t think an old cupboard door balanced on the forklift will meet all the hygiene standards.
With the small bit of left over dough we made a few mini ‘soup loaves’ in tiny bread tins. Lovely!
Having lit some 10 fires of ever increasing size in our new wood oven in order to ‘cure’ the construction (slowly drive out all the moisture) it was nice to declare the oven open and pop in a few appropriately named ‘firecracker’ sausages from Taylors at Lathom.
Many years ago we abandoned the idea of being able to own our own woodland as there is so little of it in West Lancashire in the first place and, of that, it is very rare that it comes up for sale.
But, rather than admit defeat, we bought some arable land and field by field planted our own energy crop; species that thrived on rotational coppicing. In the first instance this was predominantly ash which we grew on from seeds collected from some fine local specimens. As the dreaded ‘ash dieback’ or Chalara dieback of ash (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) to give it it’s proper title, gained a foothold in the UK we thought it pretty pointless in planting any more ash and started growing a wider mix of species such as willow, alder and sycamore. We also trialled a few eucalyptus varieties (from seed) to see how they compared to the vigorous growth of the hybrid willows.
Many claims about the fast growth of hybrid willow exist on the internet and we really wanted to test them out for ourselves. Having grown some willow stools as breeding stock for new cuttings we knocked them back and vowed to document the progress each year up until they made useable logs.
I will keep this post updated annually with progress.