Our annual update on the progress of our firewood growing trials. All have made very good progress but the Eucalyptus seems to be doing the best at the year 3 point. The hybrid willow would normally be harvested now and it is a perfect size for making wood chunks.
Our little Wood Chunks website has been selling our home grown wood for some time now to the point where our regular customers kindly bring samples of their fare which is very much appreciated (hint, hint) .
Food smoking is an art and from my experience, each ‘artist’ likes to understandably select the materials that they have found gives the best results for them.
Some want small wood chips, others want large lumps or even big logs. Then there is the debate about whether the bark should be on or off and the difference branchwood or heartwood makes to the flavour of the food.
To supplement our home produced wood chunks we have today added a range of wood chips which come in 2ltr re-sealable packs.
Graded to a size between 6mm and 12mm chip size, Apple, Alder, Cherry and Oak chips are now in stock.
Along with all our speciality wood chunks they are available to collect (by appointment – we don’t have a shop) from Hesketh Bank (PR4 6) in West Lancashire but these packs are especially suitable for mail order so it will be interesting to see how this develops.
For more info please visit www.WoodChunks/woodchips.html
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!
For some years now we have been growing a variety of traditional basket making willow for use as wreath bases, twig wreaths and wreath decorations with any leftovers and offcuts being used as fuel for use in wood boilers. Nothing at all goes to waste.
We spotted a number of websites proclaiming hybrid willow and poplar to be a rapid source of wood fuel with some astounding claims on the potential harvest so we decided to conduct our own trial.
We to try a commercial hybrid willow which is planted as Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) for biomass production. It has taken about 6 years to get enough plants propagated to establish a meaningful crop on the different soil types around the place and whilst there will be a another couple of years needed to complete the planting plan, the initial plants are now in production phase. The first patch is now into its third year of growth so if it was to be used for biomass it would be harvested this coming winter.
The stems are long and straight with the average diameter being around 50mm at 1m height. If harvested this winter and left to season, the crop would already be ideal for use as wood boiler and wood fired pizza oven fuel but we intend to leave this until at least 6 years to see if the firewood logs claimed by the sellers of the hybrid plants are attained and produced in any quantity.
The photo below is of a row of established SRC willow which was harvested in February 2015. The 5 months of growth is now at a height of around 2.5 meters (8ft),
Our processed willow is sold through a variety of channels depending on what it is made into:
- Willow wreath bases, sticks and twigs for festive decorations
- Wood fired pizza oven fuel
- Mixed wood chunks for BBQs and fire pits
- Firewood logs for wood burners and wood boilers
The trailers have been on TV for a while now pushing Myleene Klass hosting “BBQ Champ”, a brand new five part ITV series for the Summer where a team of ten contenders compete against each other to become the first BBQ Champ. “Each week, our contenders will prove themselves in challenges that will sort the BBQ champs from the BBQ chumps.” says the PR but what has this to do with Rustical.co.uk ?
Well before it has even started we have noticed a surge in orders for Wood Chunks; the small lumps of wood burnt in smokers to flavour meats, fish, cheese and vegetables.
It might well be co-incidence but a little bird has told me today that the format of the show will include smokers as well as BBQs.
Unfortunately there is not that much that can be done about our stock levels as it takes such a long time to season the wood chunks.
We might get a few new customers off the back of the show but, when it is gone, its gone.